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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Educational toy sales up as sellers target niche market

Educational toy sales up as sellers target niche market

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Parents look to skills-based toys in an effort to provide their children with creative games they can learn from

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

A toy store in Phnom Penh offering mostly imported goods.

PARENTS in Cambodia are turning in greater numbers to educational toys and baby products to help with development and learning, say sellers in the fast-growing niche market.

Sok Rattana, 27, said he spends as much as US$50 a week on toys for his son in the hope of improving his school performance.

"I buy toys that can make him clever, such as jigsaw puzzles, calculators and flash cards with words in English so that he can use his brain to play and think," he said, adding that he has already seen positive results.

"I think it is not a bad idea to spend money on toys for kids because there are so many kinds of educational toys, and I can decide which toys are useful for my kids," he said.

Chy Meng, managing director of BMG Corp, a wholesale distributor for baby product manufacturer Farlin, said the baby and child toy market has grown because parents are paying more attention to child development. He said the products can "shape the babies' minds".

Booming market

Phnom Penh has seen a boom in baby product and toy sales in the past four years. The number of stores has grown from virtually none to about 20 today - and international brands are finding their way to store shelves in Cambodia because parents are demanding better-quality products, Chy Meng said.

"The Cambodian market will no longer be a secondhand products market ... or a place to throw away unwanted products from overseas," Chy Meng said.

His company sells nine different brands of baby products imported from Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and it controls about 40 percent of the premium baby product market, with about 150 selling points in shops and markets nationwide.

Sok Piseth, general manager of Toys & Me, said that he jumped on the children's toy bandwagon last year because Cambodia did not yet have a shop that sold educational toys for children.

"My shop sells toys that can help develop children - educational toys that kids can learn from," he said.

"Toys can make Cambodian children smarter and more flexible in their minds because when they play with educational toys, it is good for their cognitive growth," he said.

Toy prices vary from a few dollars to a few thousand.

"Parents don't hesitate to buy, even though it is expensive, because they see that the quality of products is good and [they] are beneficial for their children," Sok Piseth said.

"They think that good quality toys are safer and better for their children than the cheap ones," he said.

Dr Hem Sok Han, a paediatrician at the National Pediatric Hospital in Phnom Penh, said that educational toys help improve children's ability to learn.

"It is true that the kids who like to play with toys are smarter than the kids who have never played with toys," he says.

But Chhour Y Meng, director of the National Pediatric Hospital, said no current studies support the view that toys make children smarter.

"We have many ways to make children smarter, such as proper diets and the ways in which parents participate in their children's education. It is not simply focused on toys," Chhour Y Meng said.

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