From the metaverse to pint-sized fitness, these toy trends are on the rise…
- Millennial parents’ fitness and wellness choices are seeping into their children’s playtime as they look for mini-exercise toys
- As the metaverse expands, families are becoming more comfortable with virtual worlds being a part of playtime—and popular toymakers and toy brands are meeting them there
- Two years into the pandemic, toys that provide stress relief to kids and help them navigate their moods are popular as ever
During the holidays, Millennial parents told us what the hottest toys of the season were but toy trends beyond the hot seasonal playthings are keeping things interesting in the industry. YPulse told you at the beginning of 2020 that Baby Yoda and fandoms, and eco-friendly everything, were some of the top playtime trends that were poised to take over that year—and two years later, those trends are still as hot as ever. The Toy Association let us know that toys for social and environmental good and “entertainment update,” which refers to toys and merch related to popular TV show and movie releases, were among the trends they predict will be prevalent this year. But what other playtime trends are expected to take off? Looking at predictions from toy experts combined with our own observations, we think these three trends will continue to grow this year:
1. Mini-Fitness & Exercise Equipment
YPulse’s fitness research found that 41% of Millennial parents prefer to work out at home post-COVID, with Millennial parents more likely than non-parents to say they participate in Peloton classes. But of course, on top of balancing their job and finding time to work out, parents also have to take care of their little ones. Because of this, toymakers have been launching their new mini-exercise bikes, so kids can work out alongside mom and dad. While Fisher-Price released their own several years ago, Little Tikes released the Pelican last summer, a “Peloton-like” stationary exercise bike for 3-7-year-olds that includes a screen attached for viewing videos. While some child development experts are questioning the idea and believe that kids riding a stationary bike can lose the learning experiences that come with exploring their neighborhoods or being outdoors, Little Tikes doesn’t think the Pelican will replace a regular bike, and wanted to incorporate fun exercise into kids’ daily activities and give families “the option for a safe and engaging experience alongside mom and dad’s stationary bike.” In fact, we told you that outdoor and active toys were on many kids’ wish lists during the holidays—and the need for them are clearly still prevalent in the new year. Toy brands have been releasing everything from obstacle courses, to exercise dice, and mini-punching bags so kids can safely workout with their parents. For instance, Fisher-Price released a Baby Biceps set, which features 4 gym-themed infant toys, which includes a mini-dumbbell with clacker beads, a pretend protein shake with that jingles, a lightweight kettle bell has rattle beads inside, and a BPA-free teether handle.
2. Metaverse & Virtual Reality Games
The Toy Association predicts that “the Great Play Escape” will be a top toy trend, which includes everything from travel-ready games, to international-themed toys, and even toys that transport kids into the metaverse. But we’re expecting the metaverse to have a much stronger impact in kids’ lives this year especially as families become more comfortable with playtime in digital worlds. We told you that entering the metaverse begins at an early age as kids play virtual world games including Roblox, Fortnite, Minecraft, Animal Crossing, and World of Warcraft. In fact, YPulse’s recent Metaverse trend report found that the majority of Millennial parents say their kids play virtual world games. Toymakers and toy brands are also starting to enter the digital landscape to meet kids halfway: when we interviewed Squishmallows last year, the co-president told us that they had many plans in store to expand the brand—and at the end of last year, the brand officially entered the metaverse with the creation of the Squishmallows Roblox universe that allows fans to collect virtual plush, hang out with friends, compete in mini-games, and customize their own Squishmallows-themed home. Additionally, the toy company announced a new Jazwares Game Studio to create more virtual play opportunities for kids. And with half of Millennial parents saying that their child has had a playdate in a video game, Squishmallows has clearly hit the mark by creating a place for these playdates to take place while promoting their toys. But Squishmallows isn’t the only toy brand dipping their toes into the metaverse: Some, including Pinkfong, Hasbro, and Mattel, are taking a different approach by getting into NFTs. In January, Barbie collaborated with French luxury brand Balmain on a 50-piece collection that included three NFTs of one-off looks, which also came with a physical, doll-size version. Meanwhile, MGA Entertainment released NFTs in packs of L.O.L. Surprise cards last year. The toy brand released a digital token for kids to collect, dubbing it an “MGA coin,” designed to incentivize them to interact with the brand online through apps, websites, games, and on social media. Kids are able to win tokens by completing tasks in games or hitting “like” on a post, which can then be used for discounts and more benefits. To ensure safety within the digital currency program, they introduced a tool where parents can reward their kids with MGA coins for completing chores and good deeds to make it easier for kids to enter this digital space. The MGA coin could also potentially tie into future NFT promotions.
3. The (Continued) Rise of Stress Relief Toys
YPulse’s State of Mind research found that 42% of Millennial parents are interested in toys or games that help their kids deal with stress or anxiety. Pop-Its were the “it” toys of 2021—and they’re still popular this year. In fact, one of Amazon’s current top-selling toys is a rainbow pop purse. Squishmallows are basically giant stress balls “disguised as animals,” while another line of plush toys dubbed Moon Pals has promised “deeper sleep,” “better cognitive functioning, and “reduced anxiety” in its marketing. Then, of course, there’s fidget toys, which have been around for years—and one clinical psychologist from the Child Mind Institute confirms that fidget toys “predate the pandemic by years.” While there’s no denying that COVID increased its sales, sensory toys that help kids express their changing moods have replaced fidget toys and taken over in recent years. The Toy Association refers to these types of products as “zen-sational” toys, which “promote mindfulness, self-care, and encourage kids to process their emotions in a healthy way” and include pop toys, fidget spinners, essential-oil-infused “therapy dough,” emotional-support activity sets, and puzzles that focus on empathy. And companies are releasing even more toys this year to reflect that: B4Adventure is coming out with a play stones sensory steps set that allows kids to stimulate sensors within their muscles and joints to spark activity between their brain and skin, while Playmonster is bringing back its Playskool Glo Friends collection from the ‘80s and updating it with fidget features to help children develop their social emotional skills. Meanwhile, Dream6USA is introducing a new line of Play Plants Bonsai Puzzles, which lets kids change the color of the leaves depending on their seasons or their own moods.