I have four kids at home and hundreds at the office. Besides having our own little focus group of 9- to 16-year-olds, we routinely host panels where moms and kids share their thoughts, opinions and ideas about important projects. 

Here is a rambling of things all of my children have taught me:

Kids like to participate in panels. They like to talk, especially when someone actually listens. They are with peers discussing products that are important, fun and delicious to them. The accompanying pizza, gift cards and snacks don’t hurt either.

A grown-up asking a kid his or her opinion of a product that’s specifically made for kids makes perfect sense but rarely happens. Instead, the grown-ups usually take shortcuts and decide what kids need/want/like all by themselves.

Kids have no trouble telling the truth concerning what they like/want/need, and even more so what they don’t, especially when you ask them. They are entitled to their own opinions, and when shared, it can be both validating for them and enlightening for the adults.

Fool Me Once…

Don’t try and trick them. If it’s not something good or something fun, kids don’t want it and moms won’t buy it, no matter how inviting the package. Attention getting claims and designs are easily ignored.

Kids sense phony. They resent being talked down to or overlooked. They respect honesty and are loyal to the people and brands that take the time to listen to them.

About toys: It’s about what’s in the box, not what’s on the package. If the package speaks to what the toy is and does, kids will hear it. If they can’t tell what it is, they’ll move on. If it looks babyish, they’ll move even faster.

About candy: Keep it true and simple. It’s all about the taste and fun factor. Delicious package design for boring products will work … once. The most fun panels are when the groups get to pick whatever candy or gum they want — keep it — and eat it. It makes them as happy as, well, a kid in a candy store. Time and time again kids will either pick their favorites, what their friends get, or try something new since it’s risk free (it’s not their spending money!). 

About personal care products: Kids don’t really care (especially boys) until they’re teenagers, then they care a lot (especially girls). It’s all about the scent, brand, quality — usually in that order.

About health and beauty products: Something worthwhile and popular but that feels like it’s made expressly for an individual seems to be the trend. Teens are more aware of quality and price than simply just the label or brand. They’ll purchase the more expensive nail polish, make-up and hair products if it works, looks and smells better.

Goodwin knows kids because we listen to them, all hundreds (and four) of them. Whether the grown-up is a parent, a designer or both, it pays to listen to the youngest consumers of the family … and it's pretty worthwhile for clients, too.