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Toy Association reveals top toy trends for 2021

Rediscovering Play, Not Just for Kids, Mixing in Music, Zen-Sational Toys and Socially Conscious Play are among top trends.

The Toy Association has unveiled the top toy trends that are expected to drive industry sales in 2021.

The announcement was made during The Toy Association’s virtual Toy Trends Briefing, which can now be viewed online.

Normally held at Toy Fair New York (which has been postponed until February 2022 due to the pandemic), The Toy Association’s Toy Trends Briefing annually attracts media, buyers, and other industry professionals who want to see the latest developments in toys and play.

New for this year, the discussion included an overview of the state of the toy industry from The Toy Association’s Steve Pasierb, president and ceo (pictured), and an analysis of the US toy market from The NPD Group’s Juli Lennett, senior vice president and industry advisor for toys, who both helped set the stage for what is expected to unfold in 2021.

The top trends identified are:

Rediscovering Play

The pandemic has meant that families have been rediscovering the joys of spending time together and find value in bringing play into their everyday lives. In 2021, families will be seeking new toys that promote togetherness, as well as inclusive playthings that can be enjoyed by kids of varying abilities and interests. This trend includes educational toys and activities that families can use to help their children learn new skills and subjects, family games and puzzles with cross-generational appeal, outdoor and active toys, nostalgic brands, cooking-themed and role play toys.

Not Just For Kids

Toys and games have been a means of escapism for adults and offer a way to reconnect with their own inner child. This trend includes games fueled by adult topics, social media trends and other fads, collectables and building toys that appeal to hardcore fans, crowd-funded toys and toys that invite casual fans into the fold across a wide range of fandoms.

Mixing in Music

Driven by social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok that have become incubators for viral music and dance crazes, toys that get kids moving and grooving are expected to grow in the toy aisles. This trend includes toys inspired by music-infused social platforms, channels and programming, innovative new audio players that encourage screen-free play, toys that encourage kids to mix and make their own music, unboxing toys that incorporate music into the reveals and, of course, classic musical toys.

Zen-sational Toys

According to The Toy Association’s Genius of Play initiative, families surveyed nationwide said playing together was the best way to help kids process their emotions. This year will see a growing demand for toys that help develop children’s social and emotional learning (SEL) skills, toys that promote mindfulness and self-care, comforting plush toys and dolls, plus sensory/fidget toys that offer moments of zen.

Socially Conscious Play

As families look for new ways to become better global citizens, toymakers are responding with toys that foster social responsibility and awareness. This trend includes dolls that promote diversity and cultural awareness, eco-friendly designed toys (and packaging) that also teach kids about sustainability, plush that promote the protection of endangered species, toys that give recognition to the essential workers critical to society, play-sets with farm-to-table elements and STEAM toys that feature renewable energy sources.

“This year’s biggest trends underscore the ongoing impact of the pandemic on play; the toy industry’s growing commitment to helping kids become better global citizens; and the many social, emotional and cognitive benefits of mindful, musical and ‘kidult’ toys,” said Adrienne Appell, senior vice president of marketing communications at The Toy Association. “The pandemic did not stop our trends team from virtually previewing hundreds of innovative new products as we set out to determine what will be topping kids’ wish lists between now and the holiday season.

“We are so excited to share a sneak peek at what kids and adults will be clamoring for as we dive deeper into the impact of COVID-19 on the future of play.”

The Toy Association also highlighted that, with many theatrical releases moved to streaming services or taking a hybrid approach in 2021, licensed toy sales will be driven by what’s happening on non-linear channels (such as Disney+, Netflix, HBO Max and others) and in the absence of live events, video gaming.

This shift will also create new opportunities for original IPs bolsters by social media platforms to cut through the noise and make an impact at retail.

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