John Baulch: The Play for Change Awards – What are They and Why You Should Get Involved

by John Baulch | 15 May 2024

Industry Commentary, Op-Ed



The Play for Change Awards – What are They and Why You Should Get Involved.


As they enter their fifty year, Toy World Publisher John Baulch – chair of the jury - explains the thinking behind the awards and details how toy companies can enter.


Five years ago, Sanjay Luthra – Executive Vice President & Managing Director of Mattel EMEA and Chairman of the Toy Industries of Europe (TIE) – invited me to lunch. It’s always great to chat with Sanjay about what’s happening in the toy market, and to get his perspective on the latest developments across the toy community – so much so that we nearly always exceed whatever time has been allocated to our meeting in his diary. This day was no exception, as Sanjay – with his TIE hat on - wanted to tell me about a new initiative he was excited about: the launch of a brand new set of awards.


The main industry awards – such at the UK Toy of the Year and US TOTY awards – are well-established, successful and have a solid foundation and reason to exist. They predominantly exist to recognise sales success from the previous year and reward the best-selling toys, as judged by leading toy industry players and bodies.


Sanjay had identified an opportunity to introduce a completely different set of awards, based on purpose and making a meaningful impact on the toy community and, ultimately, society as a whole. Awards not based on how many items had been sold, but on the great work toy companies are doing to make the lives and futures of children better.


And so, the Play for Change awards were born. Sanjay also asked I would serve as chair of the judging committees, helping to bring together the diverse individuals who make up the different juries for each category – and I was more than happy to agree. Five years later, the awards have become an established part of the European toy community, and it has been interesting to see some domestic award ceremonies introduce similar themes and categories to their own awards. Good ideas travel fast in the toy world. Of course, we should always celebrate sales success and acknowledge best-selling toys, but we should also celebrate companies that are going the extra mile in other areas such as social responsibility and shaping children’s lives for the better. .


The Play for Change awards welcome applications in three categories: Diversity & Inclusion, Sustainability and Life Skills. The Diversity & Inclusion category recognises toys and initiatives which promote diversity in terms of gender, race, status, religion and ability, fostering an inclusive play environment where every child feels represented and valued. Sustainability celebrates efforts to reduce the environmental impact of toys, from eco-friendly materials to innovative packaging solutions and sustainable processes, or to inspire children to become stewards of the planet. The Life Skills category will be awarding toys and initiatives which equip kids with essential skills for the 21st century, such as emotional resilience or coding, preparing them for success in an ever-changing world.


This year’s awards introduce a significant change in eligibility criteria to allow for a wider range of entries. Toys and initiatives launched on the European market from 1st January 2023 up to the moment of application in 2024 are now eligible. Toy suppliers can submit their entries from now until 21st June. Winners will be announced at a ceremony in Brussels on 5th November. Full category details and entry requirements are available at


My message to any toy company that is operating in the European market is simple: give me and the jury hard decisions to make. We know there are lots of toy companies doing great work in these areas – we want you to tell us all about your own initiatives and why you believe you should be a winner this year. In the past, we’ve seen major global toy companies and smaller localised companies being successful – scale and budget are not the over-riding criteria for winning an award. We want to acknowledge companies of all sizes which are making important strides in these fields – if you’re doing great work, we want to hear about it.

awards play for change

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