A Softer, Gentler Toy Fair

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Tue, Mar 06, 2018 @ 01:59 PM

Toy Fair 2018 was last week in New York, and was a pleasant surprise to YouthBeat (who is led by a somewhat tech-wary adult).  We’re excited to share some of the themes we noticed:

  • Everything Isn’t Electronic
    • Sure, there were amazing drones and robotics and remote-controlled cars and coding-based games, but they didn’t dominate the trade floor as they did in 2017.
    • Plenty of blocks, plushes, board games, and other traditional books and toys are still available for toy stores to purchase and stock. Check out Surprizimals, the mystery plush that is collectible.
    • Bubble Paws are our favorite new product from the convention—children (or adults) don plastic “animal paws” with holes embedded, dip them in bubble solution, and swipe the air to make a bubble frenzy!
  • Bracelet Comebacks
    • In an era where “A” for “Arts” has been left out of STEM, YouthBeat was delighted to see a range of materials for child self-expression—in the form of bracelets, just when we thought we were long overdue for a wrist trend.
    • Some new products that sparked our interested is the Kudo Banz product: Child-driven wearable rewards. Here’s how it works:
      • Children wear the band and earns rewards of their choosing throughout the day.
      • Once they earn three rewards, parents get notifications on their phone through the connected app and they can bestow extra gifts like extended story time at night.
    • Other companies like Frogsac are offering jewelry, charms, pins, and patches to help kids create a pastiche of self-expression.
    • Another of our favorite new products is Flow Rings. They offer glitzy, kinetic fun in the form of bracelets.
  • Fantastical Fun
    • In a world where active shooter drills and politics on the TV can seem scary, safe and fun playful fantasy still abide for young children.
    • This year turned up many unicorn items as well as sparkly, glittery toys and play items. You can even buy a unicorn Pillow Pet!
    • Leading this trend, Glitter Girls dolls include “glitter on every bow and shoe.”
  • Gross Goings-On
    • Along the fantastical theme, children still enjoy the humor in bodily functions and external snotty, slimy vibes. These are developmentally necessary, helping kids see and test social limits, as well as express irreverence that isn’t yet the rebelliousness of teenhood.  Plus, a gross surprise is unexpected and fun!
    • From the makers of Slimeball (“Slime or Be Slimed!) comes Skunkball (extend your paddle rally or be “Skunked!”)
    • Hog Wild: “Throwing Stuff that Sticks since 1996” poppers have been popular around the YouthBeat office. Watch out or you’ll get popped!
  • Parent Pertinent
    • Many toys, especially those converging digital and tactical elements, espouse “purposeful play.” It’s good to see digital designers creating products and apps not just because they can, but because they will have real developmental benefits for children.  Similar to what YouthBeat saw at the Consumer Electronics Show last month, tangible and physical elements are complementing digital ones in new toy offerings.
    • For Millennial parents who value sustainability (isn’t that all of them?), companies like Para Kito offer essential oils that are natural mosquito repellants for fun summer nights.
    • There’s a lack of pretense that toys are just for kids these days—adults were seen around the showroom enjoying everything from the new Razor Trike to Fat Brain Toy Co.’s Door Pong (invented by Alexander X., age 10).

Our POV is that we appreciate the thoughtfulness we saw on the showroom floor this year.  Homegrown toy companies are creating meaningful ways to play, not just jumping on bandwagons or innovating for the sake of novelty.  The joy of childhood is squarely in the spotlight this year, and we encourage our client brands to strike a similar tone.

Tags: kids tweens teens, trends, YouthBeat, youth marketing, 2018 trends, kids tweens teens market research, technology, toy trends