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 New York Toy Fair, when the team hosts a presentation for media and play professionals unveiling the year’s top trends with product examples from the show floor.

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2019 Trends

Unboxing 2.0

Unboxing continues to be a big trend as kids love the surprise element of unwrapping a toy and enjoy searching for rare or limited-edition versions. Unboxing goes to a whole new level in 2019 with added play patterns and features that extend the elements of surprise by encouraging new ways to play with the toy, making this trend more than just unwrapping and collecting. This is done when the unboxing play becomes “part of the story,” such as a secret decoder, or unique packaging that transforms into storage or playsets, etc.


Compound Crazy

Creative and reusable compounds like slime, kinetic sand, dough, putty, and others are popular not only on their own such as in playdoh sets or part of the slime craze, but also within the unboxing trend, where compounds are being seen as another layer kids have to “dig through” to get to the prize – adding even more suspense to the toy. Activities that are compound-based are a good way to get kids to tap into their creative side, allowing them to familiarize themselves with different textures and styles of design and construction.


Throwback Toys

2019 will usher in big anniversaries for some of the entertainment world’s most beloved characters and movies - Barbie (60), Sesame Street (50), Little Mermaid (30), Sponge Bob (20) - as well as iconic toys and games that will ignite a wave of nostalgia for parents and grandparents back to their childhood. Parents are looking to share toys and characters that played a big part of their childhoods with their kids and this will include classic low-tech playthings.


Foodie Fun

From trendy foods to farmer’s markets to food trucks, there are a myriad of scrumptious and creative ways that food and drink items have made their way into the toy aisle as popular playthings. This is a reflection of the strong priority that millennial parents have placed on being health conscious and fundamentally aware of where their food is sourced. It is also apparent that both girls and boys are equally interested in toys and games that reflect the foodie culture. In addition, from fruity to spicy to even off-putting or gross-out smells, scented toys have become a must-have item for kids, who find it fun to pick a scent that appeals to them and to collect characters, toys, backpack charms, and other playthings that consist of a favorite smell.


Inspirational and Aspirational Play

Whether it’s a fashion designer, a chef, or learning to build a robot, there is a growing trend of toys, games, and activities that can help prepare and inspire kids for the future. These playthings incorporate features that enhance learning, such as using innovative technology, nurture a child’s natural curiosity, and motivate them to explore skills and interests that could potentially lead to their future career path. According to The Toy Association’s Decoding STEM/STEAM report, toys play a crucial role in teaching STEAM concepts to kids by helping develop these necessary skills and competencies through play. In addition, the report said toys can motivate kids to get excited about new areas, make mistakes without fear, and help facilitate collaboration among peers.


Explosive Entertainment

In 2019, the entertainment industry has a number of family-friendly movies sure to delight the kid in all of us. From live-action remakes such as The Lion King and Aladdin, to Toy Story 4 to the next Star Wars and Avengers installments, not to mention the hugely popular Frozen is finally getting a sequel in 2019, it should be a busy year not only on the big screen, but also for licensed toys and games. Licensing continues to be a huge part of the toy business, representing nearly 30 percent of all U.S. toy sales. These playthings continue to be enhanced – infusing popular licensed properties in all types of unique products from plush to playsets to tech toys.