Predictions: Top toys of 2018

February 26, 2108

“Surprise” trinkets that are revealed when they are unboxed, collectible knickknacks, nostalgic brands, and games that teach children to be better global citizens are just a few of this year’s most popular playthings—divulged on February 18 by The Toy Association at its 115th North American International Toy Fair in New York City.

The Toy Association says its team of trend experts meets with hundreds of global toy companies throughout the year to track the latest developments. At the Toy Fair, the team combs through thousands of products on the show floor before making an official announcement of the year’s hottest trends.

According to the association, the top trends of 2018 will include the following:

  • The big reveal: The act of removing a surprise toy from a blind bag is just as exciting as the toy, itself, and all part of the fun. The toy industry has capitalized on this social phenomenon and the mounting popularity of collectible toys (sales for collectible playthings grew 14% percent globally in 2017), by introducing a variety of toys across several different categories that focus on the act of unboxing. Some are mini “surprise” collectibles in blind bags (which have the added bonus of being affordable, making them attractive to parents and easy for kids to buy with their own pocket-money); others are larger toys that focus on the tactile aspect of opening and putting together the toy as part of the play experience.
  • Millennial nostalgia: Millennial moms and dads make up the majority of young parents in America today. Although this generation has been defined by its obsession with technology, Millennials also believe it’s important to engage with their kids on an unplugged level—and are turning to classic toys and retro brands that are the equivalent of “mom’s chicken soup.” This trend is supported by the fact that classic toy categories continue to perform very well: In 2017, U.S. plush sales grew 8% and doll sales were up 4%.
  • Games galore: Growing interest in board games over the past few years has led to phenomenal growth in the games and puzzles category, with U.S. sales up 23% and 3%, respectively, in 2016 and 2017. Game play is appealing to all ages and a variety of interests, thanks to niche games, licensed games, cooperative games, quick games, new takes on old classics and innovative board games.
  • Pet play: Playing with pretend pets—whether they are furry plush or interactive digital pets—is a growing trend for children who are eager to care for their own pets, but not yet ready for the responsibility of a real, live animal. Pet toys run the gamut from fantastical creatures (such as unicorns and dinosaurs) to cats, dogs, horses, and other pet toys that feature realistic details, grooming and food accessories, and online worlds that bring toy pets to life. Included in this trend are “anti-virtual pets” that interact with kids in a funny way by being grumpy or gross, and collectible or wearable pets that are fun for kids to trade and display.
  • Inspiring imaginations: There is something to be said for good, old-fashioned imaginative play that inspires children to picture themselves in adult roles or future careers, create new worlds, and explore their talents. From role-play and dress-up items, to arts and crafts and food play activities, these sets will continue to grow in popularity.
  • Toys that teach: “Play with a purpose” is a buzz-phrase among educators and parents, and the toy industry has stepped up to the plate to create teaching toys in a major way. Although science-related STEM toys have been a mainstay the past few years, these toys are now engaging kids in several different ways and often incorporating new technologies and licenses to get kids excited about learning.
  • Tech and entertainment: The Toy Association is always asked about the latest tech toys and hottest properties on the market, so the trends team continually tracks innovative technologies and new licenses. This year will see the release of many PG movies, including Aquaman, A Wrinkle in Time, The Incredibles 2, Wreck-It Ralph 2, Duck Duck Goose, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Madagascar 4—all of which will influence the toy aisle, as well as new TV shows that will spawn creative new toy lines. In terms of tech, the team expects to see more affordable and user-friendly virtual and augmented reality toys; interactive robots with new features; and RC flyers (like drones) that are easier to handle and fly.

“The toy industry continues to do an incredible job of keeping pace with innovation and trends seen beyond the toy aisle in order to bring kids and families exactly what they are looking for: Play that is engaging, enriching, addictive, and fun,” says Adrienne Appell, leading trend specialist at The Toy Association. create and explore new worlds and build lifelong skills through play.”

Research contact: aappell@toyassociation.org

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