The Toy Association trends team unveiled the hottest toy trends of the 2021 holiday season, offering an inside look at some of the fastest growing fads in the toy & play space – from innovative takes on fidget toys to toys that promote kindness and sustainable lifestyles. Families are encouraged to get their hands on coveted items as soon as possible, with industry-wide shortages caused by global supply chain bottlenecks expected to worsen as the holidays draw near. The announcement was made during a virtual Q4 Toy Trends Briefing hosted by The Toy Association, which can now be viewed online; the video includes specific product examples to illustrate each trend.
“Trends in the toy and youth entertainment space are evolving quickly, particularly in the COVID-19 era which has more families turning to toys and play to unwind, destress, and connect with each other – an underlying theme of each of the trends we announced today,” said Adrienne Appell, senior vice president of marketing communications at The Toy Association. “From ‘Fidget Fever’ toys that help ease anxiety through fidget play, to ‘Catering to Kidult’ toys that give older toy consumers a means of escapism, the hottest trends of this holiday bring all ages together through play – allowing kids, teens, and adults to reap the many social, emotional, and cognitive benefits of toys and games.”
The Toy Association trends team virtually previewed hundreds of products that will be hitting shelves this holiday to determine what will be topping wish lists, taking into account how the 2021 toy trends announced by the team earlier this year have evolved. In dozens of late summer and early fall meetings with the team, companies showcased their many innovations and latest licenses in dolls and action figures, collectibles, unboxing toys, educational & STEAM products, tech-infused toys, and more – but the worldwide shipping crisis has put a serious strain on many small- and mid-sized businesses, which means it might be more difficult for families to get the toys they want in the coming weeks.
“There is so much creativity and innovation coming out of the toy industry right now, but shortages will be a real issue this holiday season which is why we can’t overstress the importance of getting out there early to shop for toys and games,” added Appell.
A summary of the top trends follows:
Many of the hottest toys on the market right now highlight how playtime can be a multisensory experience. Part of the larger Zen-sational Toys trend we identified earlier this year, fidget toys like slimes, putties, and other compounds continue to be popular with the added bonus of helping ease stress and anxiety − a bonus SEL (social-emotional learning) skill development. Popit fidget toys − bolstered by social media − are the latest viral fidget toys on every kid’s wish list. As we continue to track the evolution of this trend, we expect to see it play out across multiple categories, from games and preschool toys to STEM/STEAM toys, collectibles, and more.
CATERING TO KIDULTS
Today’s toy aisles prove you don’t need to be a kid to enjoy toys and games, and the pandemic only heighted the demand for playthings that cater to an older group of toy consumers as we first identified with our Not Just for Kids trend at the beginning of 2021. Retailers are setting aside more dedicated shelf and online shopping space for grown-up toy lovers, and toymakers are rolling out products with cross generational appeal to get the whole family playing together. In further recognition of this trend’s staying power, the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards has debuted a new Grown-Up Toy of the Year category for 2022. This trend includes retro toys relaunched for a new generation of families, collector-driven action figures and games, as well as toys driven by old-school properties making a comeback. It also taps into the direct-to-consumer movement of fan-driven and backed toys.
BUILDING A BETTER TOMORROW
There is a growing movement of today’s young parents looking to be more eco and socially conscious in the products they purchase and the companies they support. In the toy aisles, this translates to toys made of more sustainably sourced materials coupled with messaging that encourages kids to be more socially responsible individuals. In response, toymakers are developing products that highlight their own commitments to going green and giving back to other social causes families care about. First identified by The Toy Association’s trends team earlier this year, this is currently one of the fastest growing trends in the toy & youth entertainment space and is sure to impact purchasing habits this holiday season.
HOT FOR HOLIDAY
Movie toys took a back seat to evergreen branded toys last year, but we’re predicting the influx of more ways to consume entertainment in 2021 (i.e. more streaming services, hybrid film releases, social media, and online gaming) will fuel growth of licensed toys once again for holiday. This will be most visible in categories including collectibles, dolls, action figures, playsets, and roleplay and dress-up. Also be on the lookout for toys infused with innovative new play features—from unique unboxing experiences to cool techy traits.