It might only be February, but many retail buyers have already firmed up their Christmas orders, with many focusing on family-oriented toys, like Brightlings, which is meant to appeal to mothers and daughters.
What children will want for Christmas is determined 14 to 18 months in advance by designers, engineers, marketers, trend experts, and retail buyers, said Adrienne Appell, director of strategic communications for the Toy Industry Association. According to Appell, this year’s trends will be dominated by multi-player and family-oriented toys. “Millennial parents are embracing that play isn’t frivolous,” she explained. “Play is very important. It helps kids build skills.”
The family-friendly toy surge may reflect fears that kids are overdosing on technology. “There’s a parental pushback against screen-based games,” said Gerrick Johnson, a toy analyst with BMO Financial Group. “It’s ‘Go outside,’ ‘Come to the kitchen table.’ Anything that will get them off the screen.”
The new, popular toys aren’t entirely devoid of technology. Brightlings’s face is a screen, but it exists only to express emotion. Wicked Cool Toys, the company behind Cabbage Patch Kids, also introduced a doll with a screen incorporated into the face, called Baby So Real, which has LCD eyes and LED cheeks to display more than 20 emotions. She can be used by herself or connected to an app.
“Technology and interactivity have given toys that were traditionally for playing alone some diversification,” Appell said. The Toy of the Year award winner, a 25-piece veterinary play set from Just Play, takes a similar approach: There’s an electronic stethoscope and a light-up X-ray, but the faux EKG machine is “kid-powered.”