All these trends are the reflections of what is happening in society. They summarize some of the main characteristics of the new toy developments that will be in the market soon.
Archery and Darts
Let’s you think of darts as a grownup bar game, companies like Zing, Nerf, and a new one called Kooba are bringing it to the kiddie set. Suction cups and magnets make toy versions safe and soft for little ones to play with, and it’s a great exercise in hand-eye coordination. For the third year running, archery also continues to be a major trend. Nerf is
still improving upon, and adding to, its Rebelle line of Hunger Games-inspired bows and arrows geared toward girls, and it’s not alone. The skill that many of us learned at sleepaway camp will continue to make a big statement in the big kids’ toy market in the coming year.
RC gets a makeover
Remote-controlled vehicles have always been popular among a wide age group. However, cars and helicopters are not only shifting gear but using innovative methods of control. For instance, car speeds for the capacitor- powered Wave Racer (to be released
this summer) can be determined by how fast you can wave your arm over it. The Toy Fair featured helicopters that can be flown by using unique voice commands. That’s right: Knight Rider, eat your heart out.
Jurassic World’s arrival on the big screen this Summer has spurred dinomania in the toy market, from little kids who’ll probably have to wait to see the flick at home in a few years to tweens who’ve already been brushing up on their Jurassic Parkknowledge. Mattel’s Imaginext Ultra T-Rex (shown here) is best described in one word: massive. Vex IQ showed an equally large dinosaur for those looking to hone their Engineering skills, and Dino Construction Company’s hardworking vehicles are geared at preschoolers and all operated by prehistoric drivers. Lego also showed a number of dino-themed playsets, including several officially licensed Jurassic World toys.
High-tech — from birth on up
As expected, we saw plenty of playthings, and even baby gear, focused at tech-savvy kids and parents. Fisher-Price’s SmartConnect bouncer and mobile can both be operated from Mom or Dad’s smartphone or tablet, allowing you to customize your baby’s music, motion preferences, and more.Many new toys shown offer additional play options on corresponding apps, and augmented reality continues to be a popular theme. Perhaps the star of the high-tech offerings, however, was the WiFi-enabled ello Barbie, who (thanks to a partnership with ToyTalk) can have two-way conversations with your child and has around 10,000 phrases in her arsenal.
Open-ended and full-family play
A really pleasant surprise this year was the recurring theme of open-ended play that involves the entire family. Wise Alec (shown here) is the brainchild of a schoolteacher who had the brilliant idea to create a board game that can be completely customized to include (and challenge) everyone from preschoolers to teens. Other brands offered creative, innovative family board games as well, with plenty to choose from at Educational Insights. Brackitz, an open-ended building set, was a new favorite this year (and it’s made in the US!), and blocks were a recurrent theme throughout the fair. Learning Resources’ Create-a-Maze was another fun toy with endless possibilities for solo or multiperson play.
Dolls which aren’t “one size fits all”
Say what you will about Barbie, but this year Mattel has gone to great lengths to further her positive influence on the girls who love her. Princess Power Barbie (shown here) features a superhero spin, and this year’s Career of the Year doll, a film director, allows Barbie to swap out her heels for flats after a long day on set (hallelujah!). We absolutely loved what we saw of Manhattan Toys’ new line of three unique SCOUT dolls (SCOUT stands for smart, curious, open, unafraid, and true), which look like real girls and have really dynamic personalities.
And coming exclusively to Target this Spring are the Vi and Va Latina dolls, who place emphasis on heritage and the importance of family.
In line with the popularity of STEM and other educational toys, we found robots to be a popular theme in what brands are creating this year. From the enormous Zoob Galax-Z to Razor Junior’s Robot Kix scooter (shown here), the futuristic theme is omnipresent.
Learning made fun
It’s no surprise that STEM-focused playthings are here to stay. GeoSafari Jr.’s Jungle Crew Lab Set (shown here) encourages preschoolers to
embrace science from the start, and even Crayola went high-tech with its new Color Alive animation studio, which works with an app to bring kids’ creations to life. Even professional skateboarder Tony Hawk has partnered with engineering and robotics toy company Hexbug
with a new line of skateboard-inspired Circuit Boards. And while girls could certainly embrace any and all of these science-themed toys, Roominate and GoldieBlox are two of our favorites that are geared specifically toward them.
Embrace the process
For all the high-tech and advanced toys on the market, there was also a noticeable return to DIY and teaching kids to be a part of the creative process. This August, an officially licensed Girl Scout Cookie Oven will allow budding bakers to make their own variations of the beloved cookie concoctions. Alex Toys has launched a Guy Gear line of craft kits that are targeted at boys (think Bro Bands friendship bracelets and a duct tape wallet). As always, we were wowed bySeedling’s beautiful offerings — from a solar system kit to make-your-own floral crowns.