One of my favorite annual Toy Fair events is the Toy Trends Briefing. It isn’t a flashy booth promoting a company’s new toys, but it is the best overview of toy trends for the current and coming years. Often times, when we talk about toys, we talk in assumptions. We feel that there is a large demographic of toy-buying adults (indeed, we’re a part of it!), but we can’t often quote statistics to back that up. That’s where the Toy Trends Briefing comes in.
The Toy Association surveyed 1,000 parents and found that, of them, 89% will be toy shopping for other adults this holiday season. This means that 890 of every 1,000 parents won’t just toy shop for their kids, but spouses, coworkers, and friends, too. Of the fathers in the group, 53% will buy toys for themselves, and, for mothers, that number is just over 40%. In other words, toys are big with adults. The Toy Association calls this the “Cool to be a Kidult” trend, in which toy companies intentionally gear products toward adult collectors to capture the large share of the market illuminated by these statistics.
Another trend is the “Conscientious Consumers” trend, where parents value toys that highlight diversity, equity, and inclusion. A good example of this, which was featured by the Toy Association in the briefing, were the recent Naturalistas dolls. This line, made by Purpose Toys, will release a Black doll whose hair you can style. The doll teaches kids to love natural hair by representing hairstyles that many Black children have. Statistically, toys like these are on-trend and profitable, as they are bought by a large demographic of consumers who look specifically for diversity in their toy boxes.
Additionally, the “Pop Culture at Play” trend is super hot right now, with 39% of parents stating that they want to buy toys similar to those they played with in their own childhoods. This speaks to the consumers purchasing dolls made for the Barbie film, new He-Man toys that resemble the ’80s line, and G.I. Joe Classified figures that replicate original characters in a larger scale. But it isn’t only nostalgic properties that are popular right now. Any toy that is rooted in a pop culture property, even new ones like Bluey and Sesame Street, are seeing robust sales. Next year, Jazwares will celebrate Hello Kitty’s 50th Anniversary with a new plush and other toys. These 2024 items will likely fit well within this trend, being bought by the thousands of Hello Kitty consumers riding the wave of excitement brought by this golden anniversary.
The Toy Association’s Toy Trends Briefing brings context to the entire show by naming the terminology used to describe the toys featured on the floor. This depth of insight allows even the most casual collector to have a behind-the-scenes window into the reasons why certain toys are made and others are not. Toy trends shift each year, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing which ones dominate the next Toy Fair!
Jonathan Alexandratos is a NYC-based toy writer. They focus on toys, pop culture, and the intersection of both.