With the advancement of technology and the affordability of tablets, it may be tempting to forgo the toys and place your kids in front of an electronic device for entertainment, but experts say that toys are a better choice. “The best toys are those that support parents and children playing, pretending, and interacting together,” says American Academy of Pediatrics Chairperson Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, who co-authored a study on appropriate toys for children. “You just don’t reap the same rewards from a tablet or screen. And when children play with parents the real magic happens, whether they are pretending with toy characters or building blocks or puzzles together.”
But keeping up with the latest toy trends can be tough for those who just want to find the best toys to give kids. What’s in and what’s out? What are the type of toys that kids are likely to want to play with this year?
Fortunately, The Toy Association shed some light on this dilemma at the 116th North American International Toy Fair in February. Their team of experts met with hundreds of toy companies, tracked the latest advances in toys, and sampled thousands of toys to come up with the top toy trends of the year. Read on to learn about this year’s top toy trends and watch the Toy Association video below to see demonstrations of the specific toys that will be available in each trend.
Watch kids unwrapping their gifts at Christmas or on their birthdays and it’s easy to conclude that much of their joy comes from revealing the toy inside the package. Once opened, it’s often on to the next! The unboxing trend makes that surprise element of unwrapping an integral part of the toy. Toys that take advantage of the unboxing trend emphasize the “experience” of getting the toy as they combine the packaging and the product into one experience. Toys with a surprise inside are examples of the unboxing trend, such as the popular Hatchimals. And the much-anticipated Blume dolls, due out later this year, may be the next craze in this popular trend.
Compounds (Dough, Slime, Sand, etc.)
Creative compounds, including dough, sand, putty, and other newer materials that kids can shape, pull, and manipulate may seem like a basic concept, but such toys feature a surprising educational element. “Being able to get their hands dirty—literally—is a terrific way to get kids to explore their creativity and find unique solutions to challenges that are presented to them,” explains the Toy Associations’ Toy Trends Spokesperson, Laurie Chartorynsky. “These are skills that kids will surely need later in life.” Some experts suggest that the popularity of putty-type toys, such as slime, may be a result of kids wanting a way to calm themselves in a world with many noisy distractions and increased stress. Fortunately, these types of toys are inexpensive and parents can even make fluffy slime at home with their kids.
In an age of countless apps and videos, it may be surprising to learn that toys from simpler days are trending with kids now. Throwback toys include characters celebrating milestone anniversaries (the Little Mermaid turns 30 this year!) as well as iconic toys that parents may remember from their childhood, such as Scooby-Doo and Batman, who celebrates his 80th anniversary this year. In honor of her 60th birthday this year, Barbie released a new line of more diverse dolls plus a collection honoring twenty influential women. Those classic board games, such as Sorry! and Scrabble, are making a comeback as well, and they offer a great way for kids and adults to connect. There are plenty of retro toys available for all ages and occasions. And for added fun, some of these throwback toys are getting revamped and re-imagined, such as Mr. Potato Head, which will have movable parts and interactive features!
The “foodie” toy trend may reflect a growing interest in healthy foods and food sources among parents, but kids are showing increasing interest in food-related toys. Kids are particularly enjoying scented toys, and many newer toys, including charms, characters, and other collectible items feature a variety of scents. Play food toys can help introduce kids to cooking and home economics as well.
Inspirational and Aspirational Toys
Perhaps one of the most educational toy trends is what the Toy Association calls inspirational and aspirational play. Toys that encourage kids to pretend to be in various careers can inspire their future. “Whether its role-playing as a chef or learning to code and build a robot, these playthings incorporate features that enhance learning, such as innovative technology,” says Chartorynsky, “and they nurture a child’s natural curiosity that will motivate them to try new skills or learn a new hobby.” The Toy Association’s STEM/STEAM report concludes that “toys play a crucial role in teaching STEAM concepts to kids by helping develop these necessary skills and competencies through play,” according to the Toy Fair press release. Find out what your child’s career aspirations are, and then find the best aspirational toy to inspire that dream.
This is a big year for movies, which means it will be a big year for movie-related toys. The sixth toy trend features the toys that come out with popular new movies. Kids are excited about The Lion King and Aladdin live-action remakes. And there is sure to be a lot of interest in the upcoming Frozen sequel due out this year. Kids can relive their movie experiences through the related toys they’ll likely request, including play sets, stuffed animals, action figures, and even tech toys. These toys may aid kids in remembering the movie plots and in imagining future stories associated with their favorite character.
To see some of the exciting new toys for each of these trends, watch the Toy Associations’ video below, which includes some fun toy demonstrations!
Video courtesy of The Toy Association, used with permission
Keep these trends in mind when you are shopping for the little ones in your life. And follow the guidelines found in American Academy of Pediatrics 2019 report entitled Selecting Appropriate Toys for Young Children in the Digital Era. “In general,” according to the report, “the best toys are those that match children’s developmental skills and abilities and further encourage the development of new skills.”