New ways to explore the unboxing craze, putty and creative sand, as well as toys that look to inspire children for the future have been highlighted as a few of this year’s biggest trends in toys.
The key categories for the toy industry this year were highlighted at a special event hosted by the Toy Association and held at the 116th North American International Toy Fair earlier this week.
“Parents and kids today are looking for toys and games that are fun, engaging, and keep them coming back for more, but that also enrich the play value to help build lifelong skills,” said Ken Seiter, executive vice president of marketing communications at The Toy Association.
“The toy industry is doing an amazing job of providing innovation along with classic toys and games to deliver cutting-edge playthings to the toy aisle. The top trends announced today reflect a continued demand for toys that include a surprise element, toys that tap into nostalgia, playthings that encourage kids to try out different activities and explore new worlds, and unique licensed-based toys that enhance developmental skills through play.”
The Toy Association’s team of trend experts predicts that 2019 will see some of the ‘most creative and imaginative new products to hit store shelves in recent years’.
The team meets with hundreds of global toy companies throughout the year to track the latest developments in toys and youth entertainment. At Toy Fair New York, the team aims to comb through thousands of products on the show floor before making an official announcement of the year’s hottest trends at a “Toy Trends Briefing” for media, buyers, and other show guests.
Key to the trend hunters’ findings was the concept of unboxing 2.0, the next level in the unboxing phenomenon that has swept social media over the past couple of years.
The organisation believes that unboxing will go to a whole new level in 2019 with added play patterns and features that extend the elements of surprise by encouraging new ways to play with the toy, making this trend more than just unwrapping and collecting.
This is done when the unboxing play becomes “part of the story,” such as a secret decoder or unique packaging that transforms into storage or playsets, etc.
Compound Crazy: Dough, Slime, Sand and More….
The slime and compound trend is predicted to continue through the coming year as companies look to bring new elements of creative play through the sector, including creating your own and discovering new play patterns for the product.
According to The Toy Association’s Genius of Play initiative, creative play provides children the freedom to explore new possibilities and to learn to think outside the box, enabling them to practice original thinking and devising unique solutions to challenges they face – a skill kids will likely need later in life.
"This element of educational value is sure to get parents on board with the craze for compounds," said the organisation.
2019 will usher in big anniversaries for some of the entertainment world’s most beloved characters and movies, as well as iconic toys and games that will ignite a wave of nostalgia for parents and grandparents back to their childhood.
Batman is turning 80 years old this year, among many others. Parents are looking to share toys and characters that played a big part of their childhoods with their kids and this will include classic low-tech playthings.
From trendy foods to farmer’s markets to food trucks, there are a myriad of scrumptious and creative ways that food and drink items have made their way into the toy aisle as popular playthings.
This is a reflection of the strong priority that millennial parents have placed on being health conscious and fundamentally aware of where their food is sourced. It is also apparent that both girls and boys are equally interested in toys and games that reflect the foodie culture.
In addition, from fruity to spicy to even off-putting or gross-out smells, scented toys have become a must-have item for kids, who find it fun to pick a scent that appeals to them and to collect characters, toys, backpack charms, and other playthings that consist of a favourite smell.
Inspirational and Aspirational Play
Whether it’s a fashion designer, a chef, or learning to build a robot, there is a growing trend of toys, games, and activities that can help prepare and inspire kids for the future.
These playthings incorporate features that enhance learning, such as using innovative technology, nurture a child’s natural curiosity, and motivate them to explore skills and interests that could potentially lead to their future career path.
According to The Toy Association’s Decoding STEM/STEAM report, toys play a crucial role in teaching STEAM concepts to kids by helping develop these necessary skills and competencies through play. In addition, the report said toys can motivate kids to get excited about new areas, make mistakes without fear, and help facilitate collaboration among peers.
Licensing continues to be a major part of the US toy business, representing about 30 per cent of all toy sales in the region.
In 2019, the entertainment industry has a number of family-friendly movies sure to delight the kid in all of us. From live-action remakes such as The Lion King and Aladdin, to Toy Story 4 to the next Star Wars and Avengers instalments, not to mention the hugely popular Frozen is finally getting a sequel in 2019, it should be a busy year not only on the big screen, but also for licensed toys and games.