Trend Spotting

Toys ignite a child’s imagination offering limitless possibilities. They also reflect cultural and societal trends unfolding within a generation.

At The Toy Association, we track what’s happening in the toy business, in other industries, at retail, and with kids and families to uncover the hottest trends shaping how children like to play.

Our team of trend experts meets with hundreds of toy companies throughout the year to preview what’s new and next in the world of toys and games. Our work culminates at Toy Fair New York, when the team hosts a presentation for media and play professionals unveiling the year’s top trends with product examples from the show floor.

Watch the Toy Fair Trends Video

Watch the Mid-Year Trends Video


Mid-Year Trend Update

Generations of Play Update

More families are playing together out of necessity amid stay-at-home orders, school closures, camp cancelations, etc. Parents are turning their homes into play centers, and their backyards into mini aquatic parks and playgrounds. Even adults without kids are using play as a diversion and stress reliever – and to socialize with friends from afar (think: Zoom game nights with friends). NPD’s mid-year sales figures for toys reflect this trend, with categories like games and puzzles (+37 percent) and outdoor & sports toys (+27 percent) showing strong gains in the first half of 2020.

The Genius of Play’s research has shown that play can be a valuable coping mechanism for all ages during stressful times. Even as stay-at-home orders lift and businesses and schools reopen, we expect the “Generations of Play” trend to grow, with many having experienced first-hand how playing together can unite family members of all ages and bring happiness into the home. Examples: toys that are skill-building, toys that offer extended play value, playthings that incorporate learning, active/outdoor toys, board games & puzzles, coloring books and crafts, toys based on family-friendly properties, etc.

Educational Toy Trends

Naturally, educational tools, resources, and toys have soared in popularity, with many parents now wearing the “teacher hat” due to school closures. Parents have been stocking up on materials to homeschool their kids and are turning to toys to enrich their children’s learning and development. Incorporating “fun” into at-home learning is an absolute necessity since it can break up the monotony for both parents and kids and keep kids motivated and engaged while apart from their teachers and friends. Examples: arts & crafts, science kits, STEM/STEAM toys, tech/robotics, role play toys (cooking, baking, gardening, etc.)

Parent-Driven Purchases

Parents are in the driver’s seat when it comes to picking out toys and games. They are often shopping alone (whether online or in stores), thus limiting the number of impulse purchases stemming from kids’ overt asks at the checkout counter, and do not spend a lot of time browsing. Money might also be tight, so they are focused on practicality and functionality rather than frivolity. They are making well-thought out purchases for toys and games that will keep their kids occupied for longer and engage them in educational/hands-on play. Examples: building toys, family games, active toys, creative toys, etc.

Kids’ Wish Lists

In Q4, parent-driven purchases will take a backseat as kids begin making their holiday wish lists. In light of this, we expect to see a resurgence of some of the formerly popular categories like collectibles, plush, action figures, and dolls.

2020 Toy Fair Trends


Where kids are watching is influencing every aspect of their lives, from their interests to what they buy and how they play. Digital-first brands originating from nonlinear platforms (like Netflix), social media, and esports platforms are infiltrating the toy aisle via action figures and dolls, unboxing toys, board games, role play items, and so much more. This trend includes digital toys that cross into the physical world and encourage active/social play and traditional and nostalgic toys with a digital twist.


H2O Play

Toys that transform before your very eyes using one simple ingredient – water! – are making a splash this year. Water is readily available, safe for kids to use on their own, and easy to clean, making it an increasingly popular addition to toys in several categories. This trend includes unboxing/surprise toys that use water to reveal a hidden message, color, or character; arts & crafts that use water to create beautiful designs that wipe clean or dry and fade for no-mess, repeat play; aquatic-themed toys (like mermaids, sharks, boats, etc.); educational toys that teach kids about underwater life; and, of course, bath and outdoor toys.


Kid Powered

The sky’s the limit with “Kid Powered” toys, which put the power of play in kids’ hands, helping them build creativity, leadership, discipline, confidence, and critical thinking skills. These open-ended toys are more inclusive and let children control and customize how they play. They can be found across a range of categories, from tech toys to building and coding kits, to science experiments, arts & crafts, dolls, and more.


Boom, Smash, Crash!

A new wave of activity toys for kids are helping them push their physical boundaries. From toddlers to tweens, kids are gaining independence, developing gross motor skills, engaging in friendly competition, and finding more excuses to get up and moving – whether playing inside or out!


Generations of Play

When play is infused into family life, everyone has more fun! Whether you’re six or 60, play is beneficial, and when younger and older generations play together, the benefits are even greater. According to The Toy Association’s Genius of Play initiative, when children play with adults, they display higher levels of language development and problem-solving skills, while parents and grandparents get a chance to reminisce about their own childhoods and enjoy play’s many benefits, too. 2020 will see a rise in family games, outdoor toys, engaging crafts, and nostalgic brands that have cross-generational appeal.


Entertainment Update

2020 won’t be a huge year for family films at the box office – but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be a big year for entertainment. Although movies have historically driven licensed toy sales, more recent avenues for kids’ content (think Netflix, Disney+, social media, etc.) are bringing digital-first characters and stories into the toy aisle, as well as giving nostalgic properties a second life. Get ready to see some of the hottest licenses for 2020 and how they are expected to impact toys and games – from action figures, dolls, and playsets, to plush, board games, and everything in between.