// Toby Watts, aged 5, joins Ikea ranks with the important job of testing all new toys before they launch
// Over 500 young candidates applied for the role of chief play officer at Ikea
Ikea has chosen lucky five-year-old Toby Watts to become its very first chief play officer.
Toby, from Warwickshire, will be given the important job of testing and trying all new Ikea toy launches in 2021.
After advertising the job on LinkedIn in December, Ikea UK was overwhelmed with over 500 adorable applications from budding toy testers aged 4-12 across the UK.
Toby won the hearts of Ikea staff, who collectively made the decision, with his creative video in which he recites a poem about his love for playing.
In the video, Toby says: “I love making and baking and drawing and roaring.
“I love hiding and riding and seeking and finding.
“I love building with bricks and creating with sticks.
“Cars, trains, boats and planes.
“And I’m always ready to play lots of games!
“Let’s use our imagination to make a creation!”
As part of its mission to encourage play and creativity, Ikea “hired” Toby to offer invaluable insight into what children respond best to when playing.
It comes as research from the Swedish furniture and homewares retailer shows children are spending 254 hours less playing each year than their parents did at the same age.
Despite 70 per cent of parents agreeing that play is very important to their kids’ development, the pressures of daily life seem to be getting in the way, with 86 per cent wishing that they had more time to spend playing with their children.
What’s more, it seems the Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on children’s attitudes towards play, with almost three fifths (59 per cent) of kids playing less now than they did before the pandemic.
Almost three quarters (74 per cent) of parents say they’ve noticed a change in their child’s mood, with 28 per cent saying they seem less playful.
“From the 500 wonderfully creative applications we received, one thing is apparent: we have made the right decision in recruiting a young chief play officer,” Ikea children’s business leader Thomas Parker said.
“The creation of this role puts the focus back on play and gives the power of creation to those who really know their stuff: children. We are delighted to welcome Toby and we look forward to working together this year.”