With the pandemic continuing to impact play & family lifestyles and U.S. toy sales experiencing another year of double-digit growth, The Toy Association has unveiled the top toy trends that are expected to drive consumer spending on toys in 2022. The announcement was made during The Toy Association’s Toy Trends Briefing, which can now be viewed online.
“After previewing hundreds of innovative toys over the past several months, The Toy Association’s trends team determined that this year’s hottest trends will encompass sustainability & social justice themes, escapism through play, and next-level sensory toys, with a strong focus across all trends on intergenerational & creative play driven by STEAM learning,” said Adrienne Appell, executive vice president of marketing communications at The Toy Association. “These trends are supported by an array of innovative products from companies of all sizes that engage children in play that is both fun and beneficial to their social, cognitive, and physical development – and for adults, provide a much-needed escape from the stress of day-to-day life.”
Normally held at Toy Fair New York (canceled this year due to uncertainties tied to the pandemic), The Toy Association’s Toy Trends Briefing attracts media, buyers, and other industry professionals who want to see the latest developments in toys and play.
A summary of the top trends follows:
From role play toys and fashion & food play, to artistic and building toys that inspire budding content creators, toys that encourage kids to create and share their own content (think stories, artwork, builds, videos, and photos) – are on the rise in 2022, with more toys that allow kids to flex their imaginations and customize their own play experiences. It’s also a trend that encourages intergenerational play, allowing kids and parents to play, create, and build memories together, as well as one that taps into crucial STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts & math) skills.
The Great Play Escape
Hit the road (or take a mental break) with these toys! Whether you are heading on a family vacation after two years of being cooped up at home, or simply looking to decompress from day-to-day life, these toys focus on pure escapism. Toys under this trend include a mix of travel-ready toys and games that are great for taking on-the-go, and vacation- and international-themed toys, puzzles, and games that take you on imaginative adventures. With Genius of Play research showing that 76% of parents believe play provided a positive escape from the reality of the pandemic, we expect kids and “kidults” to continue to turn to toys and games to destress. This trend also transports players into the digital world, tapping into the metaverse and the endless opportunities it presents – from NFTs and AR/VR, to toys tied to online & video games.
Sensory Toys 2.0
Spurred by the growth of viral videos on platforms like TikTok, ASMR, which stands for autonomous sensory meridian response (and has nearly 270+ billion views to the hashtag as of this writing), has become synonymous with creating warm fuzzy moments of zen out of everyday events. Despite social media driving this trend, it’s one that is grounded in physicality and in 2022 we will see even more toys that engage the senses in exciting ways. The trend includes light-up playthings that let kids express their changing moods, classic brands reinvented with new fidget play, and toys that provide calming social-emotional comfort to kids.
Toys for Social and Environmental Good
From sustainability and the protection of endangered species to social justice issues, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion, products that talk the talk and walk the walk are resonating with consumers across all industries. As this trend continues to grow at a rapid pace, toys have become proven tools for engaging kids in critical issues as we collectively try to build a happier, healthier tomorrow. In 2022, we’ll see a surge of toys that not only incorporate more sustainable materials but also emphasize a commitment to teaching kids how to be better global citizens. In fact, a recent Toy Association commissioned survey revealed that most parents (78%) said the sustainability of a toy for their child was important to them.
The pandemic has continued to take its toll on traditional viewing habits, as more studios opted for hybrid releases through most of 2021. While we are starting to see a shift back to the “only in-theaters” release model, we expect the brands that come out of non-linear channels (Disney+, Netflix, HBOMax, YouTube, Paramount +, with more launching) or take a hybrid approach to continue to dominate the toy aisles. In addition, social media influencers continue to reach beyond their channels to create new partnerships in the toy space and offer licensees immediate access to built-in audiences.
A video of the Toy Trends Briefing can be viewed online (ToyAssociation.org/trends). With the toy, play and retail landscape continuing to shift at an accelerated rate, The Toy Association’s trends team will present a Q4 trend update later this year.