From spooky, sustainable, and anime-inspired playthings, to holistic toys that give young minds and bodies a boost, The Toy Association has unveiled the top trends expected to drive consumer spending on toys, games, and youth entertainment products in 2024. The announcement was made during The Toy Association’s annual Toy Trends Briefing, a virtual press conference that gave retailers and media a first look at the latest developments in toys and play.
“With budgets continuing to be carefully curated, today’s toy shoppers seek more than just playthings; they seek enduring play experiences — and the toy industry is delivering,” said Adrienne Appell, executive vice president of marketing communications at The Toy Association. “This year’s top toys will prioritize consumer budgets, durability, and sustainability, while also emphasizing how toymakers are broadening their product ranges in ways that lean into cultural trends and make play more accessible for all ages and abilities.”
The Toy Association’s team of trend experts meets with hundreds of global toy companies throughout the year to track the latest developments in toys, play, and youth entertainment, as well as parallel industries. The press briefing represented the culmination of this work and featured many sneak peeks of top products that will be hitting stores in time for holiday ’24 from companies of all sizes.
A summary of the top 2024 trends follows:
(1) Eco-lasting Play
Forty-five percent of parents under the age of 40 consider a toy’s environmental impact when making buying decisions, according to a Toy Association survey of U.S. parents. In 2024, toymakers will prioritize sustainability, not only as a commitment to using eco-friendly materials, but also as a holistic approach aligned with these evolving consumer values. And what consumers care about most when it comes to sustainability and purchasing products is durability (58%), according to a Deloitte 2023 Sustainable Consumer report.
Beyond being environmentally friendly, this trend centers on toys and brands that stand the test of time, emphasizing craftsmanship, heirloom qualities, extended play value, and a toy’s ability to adapt and grow with children as they age.
(2) Eerie Enchantment
Mystical, magical, and supernatural toys transport kids and kidults on an enchanting journey, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. Thanks to a resurgent cultural interest in spooky, mystery, and horror genres across movies, TV, and literature, expect to see an array of toys that leverage new technologies, hidden features, secret codes, and unfolding narratives that tap into our natural curiosity, explore the thrill of the unknown, and lead kids to new discoveries. Among the properties driving this interest is Wednesday, a license to watch this year and the top-viewed English-language Netflix series (racking in 341 million hours watched in its first week, surpassing Stranger Things’ previous record of 335 million hours, according to the streaming service).
(3) Vitamin P(lay)
In this era of mindful parenting, the toy industry is stepping up to the plate to offer a diverse range of toys that aid both mind and body. Fusing emotional intelligence, screen-free active play, and sports-inspired fun, this trend is set to redefine the landscape of children’s play, as toymakers deliver more toys that not only promote physical fitness but moreover stimulate creativity, healthy emotional expression, and social interaction. This trend recognizes holistic child development and play’s role in the equation. In fact, some U.S. states are now mandating play-based learning, with research indicating that “playing with a purpose” leads to a deeper understanding of the curriculum. Bolstered by expected fanfare surrounding the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, we also anticipate sports toys to surge in popularity.
(4) Anime Mania
A fervent global fandom is bringing anime to the forefront in 2024, and its impact on the toy space is expected to reach unprecedented heights. Teens and kidults are engaged in the anime community through conventions, online forums, and social media, with fans actively participating in discussions, fan art creation, and cosplay tied to anime content. This enthusiasm coupled with increased accessibility of anime through streaming channels (Crunchyroll, Netflix, Max, etc.) has propelled the genre from niche to mainstream, creating a cultural ripple effect that extends beyond entertainment and kidult audiences into various consumer product categories, including children’s toys.
Last year, Netflix adapted One Piece into a live-action series; Bandai opened a flagship Tamashii Nations store in Times Square that sells a diverse selection of figures, including many popular anime characters; and the marketing teams at Disney and Spy X Family in Japan teamed up for crossover promotions of their films Wish and Code: White. In 2024, expect to see more crossover partnerships and toymakers leveraging the distinct, beloved stories and aesthetics of anime to create toys that resonate with hardcore and casual fans alike.
(5) Entertainment Update
Last year was a powerhouse year for kids’ entertainment and toyetic content, but in 2024 we’ll see more toys inspired by evergreen characters of the past and small screen entertainment that has cross-generational appeal. With new preschool entertainment rolling out, keep an eye out for toys inspired by both edutainment and entertainment properties that entice little ones as well as many anniversary celebrations. Toys inspired by social media trends, video games, and digital worlds (i.e., Minecraft and Roblox) will also continue to carve out a bigger piece of the pie.