US Toy Association announces top toy trends of 2021

Published on: 17th February 2021

The Toy Association has predicted the trends expected to drive industry sales in 2021, reflecting in part the ongoing impact of the pandemic on play.

After a year that saw US toy sales skyrocket with millions of families stuck at home, 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.

“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.”

Normally held at Toy Fair New York (postponed until February 2022), The Toy Association’s Toy Trends Briefing annually attracts media, buyers and industry professionals  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 president & CEO, Steve Pasierb, and an analysis of the US toy market from The NPD Group’s Juli Lennett.

The following top trends were unveiled:

Rediscovering play
One silver lining of the pandemic is that it has helped families rediscover the joys of spending time together and bringing play into their daily lives. In 2021, families will be seeking 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, family games and puzzles, outdoor and active toys, nostalgic brands; cooking-themed and role play toys.

Not just for kids
The growing “kidult” trend was fueled by the pandemic, with more adults than ever turning to toys to bring some joy and levity into their lives. 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; collectibles and building toys; crowd-funded toys and toys 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 are expected to grow. This trend includes toys inspired by music-infused social platforms, channels and programming; innovative new audio players; toys that encourage kids to mix and make their own music; unboxing toys that incorporate music into the reveals and classic musical toys.

Zen-sational toys
Toys aren’t just for fun – they also serve up a healthy dose of emotional support and wellness in times of stress and uncertainty. 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; and sensory/fidget toys.

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 toys and packaging (that may also teach kids about sustainability); plush that promotes the protection of endangered species; toys that give recognition to essential workers; playsets with farm-to-table elements and STEAM toys that feature renewable energy sources.

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 (Disney+, Netflix, HBO Max, and others) and, in the absence of live events, through video gaming. This shift will create new opportunities for original IPs bolstered by social media platforms, such as TikTok and YouTube, to make an impact at retail alongside traditional entertainment licenses.

A video of the Toy Trends Briefing can be viewed online. With the toy, play and retail landscape continuing to shift at an accelerated rate, The Toy Association’s trends team will present a mid-year trend update this summer.



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