2023 Toy Trends Briefing
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Seventy-nine percent of U.S. parents view play as an important form of self-care. And while 77 percent of parents used toys during the pandemic to help their child with social-emotional learning, most are still doing so today (92%). Self-care can look different to each person, from trying a new sport, to crafting the perfect charcuterie board, to meditating. In the toy space, this concept is taking shape across a range of products that instill healthy habits – from mindfulness and good sleep habits to increased social emotional awareness through nurturing play – as well as toys that introduce kids to new hobbies and help families find joy through classic play.
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We now have enough data on the kidult consumer to know that play isn’t just for kids – as The NPD Group recently reported, kidults (ages 12 and up) are currently the biggest driver of growth in the toy industry. While adults have been turning to play to destress and incorporate more fun into their daily lives since the onset of the pandemic, this year we expect to see a surge in tween and teen toy buyers. Thanks to social media, this demographic sees a cool factor to collecting, customizing, and displaying toys on social platforms. The toy industry will respond to this demand with more toys that cater to the tween/teen demographic and beyond, including fidget/sensory toys, collectibles, arts & crafts, and tech toys.
Today’s shoppers are savvy, and authenticity matters more than ever to these conscious consumers. In the toy space, shoppers will be on the lookout for toys that offer deep play value while supporting companies that are enacting positive change in the world. In 2023, expect to see toys that incorporate various ways to play for all ages, including the elderly; new tech enhancements that enhance fun and learning; and toys that not only teach social responsibility, diversity, and sustainability, but are made by companies that engage in such practices behind the scenes. Companies will forge or expand partnerships with verified experts in fields related to education, diversity, and sustainability as the toy industry goes the extra mile to “be authentic” and deliver what truly matters to families.
From jumbo-sized plush and oversized versions of classic games that have a novelty factor, to tiny craft projects and micro-sized, functional collectibles and playsets, this year’s Macro to Micro trend is driven primarily by social media, where unique and quirky toys have the potential to go viral and bolster consumer demand. While novelty and online shareability are a plus, these playthings are also sought after for their distinctive play elements – including collectability, new gaming mechanics, and highly stylized details.
With more touchpoints for brands and content than ever before, fandoms for many shoppers have evolved into lifestyles. In 2023, expect to see this idea play out with more toymakers digging into a wider array of fandoms and reaching into verticals for their brands. From tapping into gaming and anime themes, to leveraging “core” aesthetic trends on social media, to hitting a nostalgic note with re-launches from past decades, like the 90s and Y2K, this is a trend that will engage multiple audiences, from nostalgic kidults with deeper pockets to younger kids engaging with their favorite characters and shows through streaming channels, digital worlds, and physical product. For brand owners, focusing on different fanbases offers new opportunities to expand their revenue streams.
With licensed toys and games accounting for 31% of total toy sales (The NPD Group), The Toy Association continues to track highly anticipated movie and TV/streaming releases that will have an impact on the toy market. This year will see studios capitalizing on evergreen toy and kids’ entertainment brands with refreshing new takes for the “big screen” (Barbie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Super Mario Bros., and more) as well as sequels, trilogies, and spin-offs of fan-favorites (Indiana Jones, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, etc.). In toy aisles, this will translate to fresh new playthings and opportunities for innovation on shelves in 2023. Streaming services, digital worlds, and gaming will also continue to invite toymakers to bring today’s most popular properties to the toy aisles.
After two years of living through a pandemic, today’s consumers are more driven by the experiences they have than ever. While today’s kids are growing up as digital natives, their parents care about the memories their children are making in the real world. This holiday, look out for screen-free toys that allow kids to customize their play experiences, playthings that bring digital worlds to life, and ones that super-size and innovate classic play for the whole family. This trend also encourages hands-on play and skill-building.
Seventy-three percent of U.S. parents appreciate that today’s toys are more progressive and diverse than when they were kids, and 68 percent expressed interest in purchasing toys that expose their children to diversity and teach inclusion. Additionally, a whopping 92 percent of parents who turned to toys that help support their children’s social and emotional learning during the pandemic say they are continuing to do so. Now, when you shop your choice toy store, you’ll be met with toys that are sustainably made, speak to important social issues like climate change, create a more inclusive world, and support children’s mental health.
Kids continue to take a cross-platform approach to media consumption and 66 percent of parents now report that social media and digital content influence the types of toys their kids want. For toymakers, this means new licensing opportunities and a springboard for emerging trends in play (as seen with fidget and sensory play videos on TikTok). From Netflix, Disney+ and YouTube, to the growing mainstream popularity of gaming, there are seemingly endless new channels of opportunity for toymakers to tap.
Play is for everyone — and the numbers prove it. Children won’t be the only ones making out toy wish lists this year, as toy-spending trends indicate adults (kidults) enjoy playtime just as much as kids. Parents who reported purchasing toys for themselves rank board games (52 percent) and collectibles/fan items (48 percent) among their most sought-out categories. Additionally, 67 percent of U.S. grandparents report looking for toys they can enjoy with their grandkids when gift shopping. Playthings with cross-generational appeal will continue to resonate with toy lovers of all ages this holiday.