If there’s one place I should be right now, it’s in New York for the 113th North American International Toy Fair. Instead, I’m covering virtually from Rock Father HQ in snowy Northern Illinois, and tonight comes news that the Toy Industry Association (TIA) has released their list of the Top Toy Trends for 2016. Working with toys (toymakers) year-round myself, I’m in complete agreement with this year’s list – one compiled in the weeks leading up to Toy Fair, as global toy companies identify what families will be playing with in the year ahead, leading into the all-important holiday season – something I watch with great interest as I compile my annual Holiday Wish Guide. Check out what’s hot this year…
A summary of the five top trends follows:
- TECH: Drones, Robots and Toys-To-Life
In the air and on the ground, drones allow kids to do amazing things, like control multifunction nanodrones and launch them from the palms of their hands. The hottest robots of the year will be customizable and teach kids important concepts, including coding, engineering, problem-solving and building. Younger children will also find them as, or with, their action figures, puzzles and bath toys. The Toys-To-Life mash up innovative and affordable technology with traditional toys to provide a truly 360-degree interactive play experience. As tech continues to innovate we are seeing the enhancement of classic play patterns, in many different toys and categories.
Includes: robots/robotic pets, RCs that interact with smartphones, apps that allow kids to play with physical toys in new and different ways, smart tablets for toddlers, augmented reality, wearables, flying nanodrones, etc.
- FAMILY MATTERS
Millennial parents have grown nostalgic for their own childhood board games, puzzles and other traditional toys, and want to share in those unplugged experiences with their children. We are also seeing a growing number of toys that incorporate technology while also promoting socialization, face-to-face interaction, and family bonding for all. Whether online or offline, these toys help bridge the gap between generations by helping families create lasting memories through play.
Includes: family and board games; craft activities; outdoor games; etc.
- ULTIMATE CREATOR
Elaborate culinary concoctions, Pinterest-worthy designs, and stop-motion movies are just a few of the many creative projects that the “Ultimate Creator” will be found working on. Toys and crafts under this trend teach children to skillfully cook, design, build, grow, and create physical and digital masterpieces that they can proudly share with family and friends. Many teach techniques and skills that can be applied throughout life – including videography, sewing, dip-dyeing, crocheting, watercolor painting, laser cutting, embroidery, and more.
Includes: stop-motion technology and videography sets; food and baking sets; jewelry making, building sets, etc.
- BRAIN BOOSTERS/STEAM
Educational toys are “STEAMing” ahead, and toys that teach or reinforce Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) continue to be top contenders in the toy market. Parents and educators appreciate these toys because they help prep kids for school by building important spatial, reasoning, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. “Brain-boosting” playthings that fall into this trend also encourage kids’ proficiency in subjects beyond STEAM, such as language and history, and support children as they grow and gain new abilities. From enhancing kids’ communication skills to improving their logic, the latest cohort of educational toys encourage kids to explore, experiment, design and discover … all while having fun!
Includes: classic toys with an educational twist; infant/pre-school learning toys; science and engineering kits that teach coding and advanced mathematical concepts; activity-based books and educational board games that teach language and culture; toys that encourage parental/educator involvement and teaching; etc.
- COVETED COLLECTIBLES
Collecting has long been a favorite pastime for children, but in 2016 you can expect to see these affordable and/or coveted toys everywhere. Collecting is an art form for kids who are on the hunt for the perfect item to complete their set. For other kids, collecting is all about socialization – they love to share and trade characters, pets, cards and other minis with their friends. Collectibles teach children patience and perseverance (due to “the hunt”), organization, and negotiation skills (when it comes time to trade).
Includes: novelty toys; high-quality miniature versions of existing lines; franchise collectibles; etc.
To learn more about the benefits of play, check out http://www.thegeniusofplay.org/