Toy retailers have fallen on hard times in recent years, and it may not all be attributable to the “Amazon effect.” What kids want for their amusement, and what their parents approve of, keeps shifting.
At the 116th North American International Toy Fair in New York, sponsored by The Toy Association, vendors explored 2019’s trendiest toys and found they are very different from previous generations, when a toy’s popularity might be stoked by TV shows and saturated Saturday morning advertising.
The emphasis is now on creativity -- something parents want and kids seem to like. Toys on display included assortments of putty and slime, and some were even built around the young adult fad of “unboxing.”
Unboxing involves opening a product package, such as electronics or clothing, and capturing the act on video, then uploading it to the internet. According to Yahoo Tech, the first unboxing event occurred in 2006 when video of a consumer unboxing a Nokia cellphone was uploaded to YouTube.
According to the Toy Association, the unboxing process has been incorporated into children’s play, with kids unwrapping a toy and finding new ways to play with it. In many cases, the unboxing play becomes "part of the story," such as when the toy is a secret decoder or when unique packaging itself becomes the toy, transforming into storage or playsets.
Popular toys in 2019 also come in the form of creative and reusable compounds like slime, kinetic sand, dough, putty, and others, such as Playdoh sets. The idea is to introduce children to different textures and styles of design and construction. The objective, says The Toy Association, is not just to amuse children but encourage them to think outside the box.
"Parents and kids today are looking for toys and games that are fun, engaging, and keep them coming back for more, but that also enrich the play value to help build lifelong skills," said Ken Seiter, executive vice president of marketing communications at The Toy Association. "The toy industry is doing an amazing job of providing innovation along with classic toys and games to deliver cutting-edge playthings to the toy aisle.”
In fact, there are some throwback concepts to be found in the toy aisle. Look for updates of classic toys that were favorites of parents and grandparents like Chinese checkers or Etch-A-Sketch -- toys that are definitely low-tech. One of the main characteristics of today’s generation of toys is the absence of screens or electronics.
“The top trends reflect a continued demand for toys that include a surprise element, toys that tap into nostalgia, playthings that encourage kids to try out different activities and explore new worlds, and unique licensed-based toys that enhance developmental skills through play," Seiter said.