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

Toy Fair Recon 2017 – Major Trends in the Toy Industry

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Thu, Mar 02, 2017 @ 09:18 AM

The YouthBeat team once again attended Toy Fair in New York, and it was another exciting year!  There’s a lot going on in the toy space, and here are a few of our favorite themes:

  • Danger is fun! Our subscribers have heard us talk about Millennial parents’ greater acceptance of a little bit of risk in their children’s play.  There was no shortage of toys that will feed into this.
    • Our favorite was Fiesty Pets--they look cuddly until their heads are squeezed, then “Rawr!”
    • Marshmallow guns and bows and arrows aren’t exactly new, but they are as prevalent as ever and super fun to play with, even if the child just wants to have a snack.
  • Clean sandbox play. Think of it as an evolution of kinetic sand.
    • Floof (a snow version), Mad Matter (colorful dough to play in), and Sands Alive (snow or sand) all offer the ability to mold and create without getting too sticky or dirty.
  • Bubbles, in any form, never go out of style.
    • Zuru makes large plastic ones that envelop each player, for fun Sumo-style wrestling.
    • Candylicious Bubbles was there with their blow-able and edible bubbles and toys. Yum! 
    • Their parent company, Little Kids, was there with their 25-year-old brand Fubbles and a costumed Fubble giving out free hugs!
  • Mystery and surprise are still thrilling.
    • Half Toys open up to reveal a skeleton inside, which can range from a dinosaur to a human. Perfect for a budding scientist. 
    • Surprizamals are miniature, adorable plushes that are a mystery until opened—and highly collectible.
    • Sourcebooks is offering a range of “How to Catch…” mystical creatures books, including elves, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and new this year, a Leprechaun.
  • Do-gooding is rising to the forefront.  We saw several companies with overt “giving back” components—not necessarily new programs, but more prominently proclaimed than in prior years. 
    • One of our favorites was Bears for Humanity. For every purchase of one of their animals, they donate one to a child in need.
    • United Healthcare Children’s Foundation is another great example. They run a book program in which proceeds from book sales go to grants for families with disabled children (things like a specially equipped ski so the child can ski with his or her family). 
    • Many other companies are using sustainable materials, to “give back” a healthy planet to all children, regardless of whether they use their products.

The exhibition floor contained plenty of drones, robotics, and other electronic toys.  And there is plenty of time for kids to engage with digital entertainment too.  But the toys that really stood out and touched our hearts this year are the ones that offered good old-fashioned fun, excitement, and kindness.

Tags: toys, Youth, youth research, kids, kids tweens teens, kids tweens teens market research, toy trends