What are kids asking Santa for this year? Whatever it is, parents just hope it’ll make it under the tree in time. With millions of families sheltered at home in 2020, U.S. toy sales took off. According to The Toy Association, the toy industry saw a 16.7-percent increase in sales, compared to 2019.

The demand for toys is still sky-high, and with pandemic-related shipping delays, parents had to shop earlier this holiday season. The NPD Group found that, compared to last year, the toy market was up 12 percent in value through September. Compared to 2019, sales are up 27 percent.

Playtime is transforming and will continue to do so in 2022. Adrienne Appell, senior vice president of marketing communications at The Toy Association, said in a press release, “Trends in the toy and youth entertainment space are evolving quickly, particularly in the COVID-19 era, which has more families turning to toys and play to unwind, de-stress and connect with each other.”

But toys aren’t only for kids. Appell says, “From ‘fidget fever’ toys that help ease anxiety through fidget play, to catering to ‘kidult’ toys that give older toy consumers a means of escapism, the hottest trends of this holiday bring all ages together through play—allowing kids, teens and adults to reap the many social, emotional and cognitive benefits of toys and games.”

In the new year, distributors can expect some toy trends to continue. Here are The Toy Association’s top five trends for 2021.

1. Rediscovering Play
A silver lining of the pandemic was families rediscovering the joys of quality time and play in daily life. In 2021, families sought out toys that promoted togetherness. Family games and puzzles with cross-generational appeal stood out.

Product Idea: Spice up a classic game with this giant tic-tac-toe. This game comes with 10 custom-shaped and imprinted playing pieces, plus a rope outline. There’s a four-color imprinting process on pieces, and they can be ordered in custom shapes.

Promo Toss  /  PPAI 429354, S2  /  www.promotoss.com 


2. Not Just For Kids

More adults than ever are turning to toys to bring joy and levity into their lives. Fueled by the pandemic, the “kidult” trend is growing. Toys and games offer a means of escapism and a way to reconnect with one’s inner child. Collectables for fandoms and buildable toys are the most popular.

Product Idea: This little guy folds up into a cube and is quite posable. The robot cube is eco-friendly and made from the wood of the Chinese Guger tree. Due to the handmade nature of this natural wood product, absolute uniformity of size and color cannot be guaranteed. Because of the small parts, the robot cube is not intended for use by small children or pets.

Alpi International, Ltd.  /  PPAI 111221, S6  /  www.alpi.net 


3. Mixing In Music

Inspired by viral music and dance challenges on social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok, toys that encourage kids to move are becoming popular. Along with classical music toys, those that encourage kids to mix and make their own music or unboxing toys that incorporate music will grow.

4. Zen-sational Toys

Not only are toys fun, but they also offer emotional support and wellness in times of stress and uncertainty. According to The Toy Association’s Genius of Play initiative, families surveyed nationwide said playing together was the best way to help kids process their emotions. There’s increasing demand for toys that help develop children’s social and emotional learning skills. Hot products include comforting plush toys or sensory/fidget toys promote mindfulness and self-care.

Product Idea: Lily the Lamb will make the perfect addition to any promotion or campaign. This six-inch tall plush toy is made with soft and curly Sherpa plush. Display a logo or message on Lily’s t-shirt, available in white, red, blue or black.

Soft Stuff Creations, Inc.  /  PPAI 413041, S2  /  www.softstuffpromo.com 


5. Socially-Conscious Play

As consumers look to become better global citizens, toymakers are creating toys that foster social responsibility and awareness. Plush animal toys are now promoting the protection of an endangered species or kids are learning about sustainability from eco-friendly designed toys (and packaging). Teaching toys are here to stay.