Can you imagine having the job of toy trend specialist? According to Reyne Rice, who tracks international toy trends for the toy and youth entertainment industry, it’s “the best job in the world.” Last week, Reyne was on 24/7, scouting the 108th American International Toy Fair for the hottest new toys and playthings that kids of all ages will be playing with in 2011.
Many of the toys on display are under wraps until they make their way into stores later this year, but I’ve posted some fun snapshots which showcase the whimsical flavor of the annual show.
More than 100,000+ products were on display at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City during Toy Fair week. There’s literally something for everyone and Reyne notes that the top trends target every type of child – from those who like to learn through games and creative crafts, to those who have a “need for speed” and enjoy active play – and truly reflect the advancements being made across other industries, like technology and science. “Toymakers are influenced by so many outside factors,” said Reyne Rice, TIA toy trend specialist. “It’s always remarkable to see how toys reflect what is happening in the world today and meet the demands of families who want to play in new and challenging ways…”
- Kids will become evermore engaged with their playmates and their own dreams and ambitions this year as “Simply Social” toys and games flood retail outlets. This new trend includes e-connected toys, cooperative game rules and pro-social play products:
- Social Networks
Lots of apps are based on classic toys, but now an increasing number of physical toys are being introduced that originated with or will work with apps. This sub-trend also includes virtual worlds and toys that have an online component.
- Social Face-to-Face
Reducing the “wait time” while other players take their turn, “all-play” games engage each competitor throughout the gaming experience with consensus play, team play, cooperative play rules and other techniques.
- Socially Aware
Integrating a pro-social play pattern, a steadily increasing number of toys are teaching kids about the world around them and how to be a better citizen (think: eco-friendly, charity, values and manners and about other languages and cultures) and are showcasing “everyday heroes” such as firefighters, teachers, moms and dads, and others that kids look up to and learn from.
- Social Networks
While parents have begun loosening their purse strings a bit, affordability and the “pennies-per-play” model are still a major priority for parents when shopping for toys.
The “Cent-sational” trend category includes: an expansion of affordable collectible items for boys and girls; “mini” toys (i.e., smaller versions of products already on the market) at “mini” price points; and broadened product lines with toys for every wallet size. This trend also includes games that are constructible, meaning they allow kids to build and re-build their games, creating a new play experience each time.
The “Performance Play” trend capitalizes on a mounting desire among parents and the government to get kids up and moving to counteract childhood obesity; it also includes play that “exercises” the brain.
Brain-challenging toys and games that encourage logical thinking, strategy and mind puzzles; sports, dance and role play products that foster active play; games that incorporate motion-sensor technology; and enhancements to classic racing and competition play patterns that emphasize the “need for speed”.
- DESIGN, DISCOVER and LEARN
Toymakers have brought learning through games, puzzles, experimentation and technology to new and creative heights for 2011. Educational toys have been transformed into play products that are captivating and nurture a child’s imagination:
- “Camouflage Learning”
Just as parents might put “spinach in the cookies” to entice their kids to eat healthily, many toy manufacturers are expanding their brands with new toys and games that engage kids in interactive, “hands on” experiential play patterns that make learning fun. Toys in this category involve experimentation, knowledge-building games, and tech tools like handheld gaming devices and digital cameras.
- Geek Chic
In conjunction with an increasing nationwide focus on the importance of education in Science, Tech, Engineering and Math (STEM) concepts, toymakers are helping to make learning “cooler than ever” with expanding product lines designed for kids of all ages. Toys in this category include trial-and-error scenarios, spy gear and model-building.
- Constructibles and Crafts
A host of new construction sets and an increasing number of three-dimensional game-play are challenging kids to think spatially, while the arts and crafts play pattern holds strong with a broad range of products for kids to get in touch with their creative side.
- “Camouflage Learning”