2022 Toy Trends Briefing
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Toys that encourage kids to create and share their own content (think stories, artwork, videos, and photos) – are on the rise in 2022, with more toys that allow “Next Gen Creators” to flex their imaginations and customize their own play experiences. While this trend focuses on creating new content and skill-building through construction, drawing, coding, photography, filmography, etc., it is also a trend that encourages intergenerational play, allowing kids and parents to play and create together.
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Hit the road (or take a mental break!) with these toys! Whether you are heading on a family vacation after two years of being cooped up at home, or simply looking to decompress from your day-to-day life, these toys focus on pure escapism. Toys under this trend include a mix of compact, travel-ready toys and games that are great for taking on-the-go, and vacation- and international-themed toys, puzzles, and games, that take you on imaginative adventures. With Genius of Play research showing that 76% of parents believe play provided a positive escape from the reality of the pandemic, we expect “kidults” to continue to turn to toys and games to destress. This trend also transports players into the digital world, tapping into the metaverse and the endless opportunities it presents – from NFTs and AR/VR, to toys tied to online & video games.
Spurred by the growth of viral videos on platforms like TikTok, ASMR, which stands for autonomous sensory meridian response (and nearly 270+ billion views to the hashtag as of this writing), has become synonymous with creating warm fuzzy moments of zen out of everyday events. Despite social media driving this trend, it’s one that is grounded in physicality and in 2022, we will see even more toys that engage the senses in exciting ways. The trend includes light-up playthings that let kids express their changing moods; classic brands reinvented with new fidget play; as well as new toys that continue to provide calming social-emotional comfort and support to kids.
From sustainability and the protection of endangered species to social justice issues, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion, products that talk the talk and walk the walk are resonating with consumers across all industries. As this trend continues to grow at a rapid pace, toys have become proven tools for engaging kids in critical issues as we collectively try to build a happier, healthier tomorrow. In 2022, we’ll see a surge of toys that not only incorporate more sustainable materials but also emphasize a commitment to teaching kids how to be better global citizens. In fact, a recent Toy Association commissioned survey revealed that most parents (78%) said the sustainability of a toy for their child was important to them.
The pandemic has continued to take its toll on traditional viewing habits, as more studios opted for hybrid releases through most of 2021. While we are starting to see a shift back to the “only in-theaters” release model, we expect the brands that come out of non-linear channels (Disney+, Netflix, HBOMax, YouTube, with more launching) or take a hybrid approach to continue to dominate the toy aisles. In addition, social media influencers continue to reach beyond their channels to create new partnerships in the toy space and offer licensees immediate access to built-in audiences.
Many of the hottest toys on the market right now highlight how playtime can be a multisensory experience. Part of the larger Zen-sational Toys trend we identified earlier this year, fidget toys like slimes, putties, and other compounds continue to be popular with the added bonus of helping ease stress and anxiety − a bonus SEL (social-emotional learning) skill development. Popit fidget toys − bolstered by social media − are the latest viral fidget toys on every kid’s wish list. As we continue to track the evolution of this trend, we expect to see it play out across multiple categories, from games and preschool toys to STEM/STEAM toys, collectibles, and more.
Today’s toy aisles prove you don’t need to be a kid to enjoy toys and games, and the pandemic only heighted the demand for playthings that cater to an older group of toy consumers as we first identified with our Not Just for Kids trend at the beginning of 2021. Retailers are setting aside more dedicated shelf and online shopping space for grown-up toy lovers, and toymakers are rolling out products with cross generational appeal to get the whole family playing together. In further recognition of this trend’s staying power, the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards has debuted a new Grown-Up Toy of the Year category for 2022. This trend includes retro toys relaunched for a new generation of families, collector-driven action figures and games, as well as toys driven by old-school properties making a comeback. It also taps into the direct-to-consumer movement of fan-driven and backed toys.
There is a growing movement of today’s young parents looking to be more eco and socially conscious in the products they purchase and the companies they support. In the toy aisles, this translates to toys made of more sustainably sourced materials coupled with messaging that encourages kids to be more socially responsible individuals. In response, toymakers are developing products that highlight their own commitments to going green and giving back to other social causes families care about. First identified by The Toy Association’s trends team earlier this year, this is currently one of the fastest growing trends in the toy & youth entertainment space and is sure to impact purchasing habits this holiday season.
Movie toys took a back seat to evergreen branded toys last year, but we’re predicting the influx of more ways to consume entertainment in 2021 (i.e. more streaming services, hybrid film releases, social media, and online gaming) will fuel growth of licensed toys once again for holiday. This will be most visible in categories including collectibles, dolls, action figures, playsets, and roleplay and dress-up. Also be on the lookout for toys infused with innovative new play features—from unique unboxing experiences to cool techy traits.