Supersized and classic toys, innovative RC vehicles, custom-built creations and zombie-inspired playthings are among the top industry trends of 2014, according to experts at the Toy Industry Association (TIA). The trade group unveiled this year’s hottest playthings during a packed seminar for media and buyers at TIA’s 111th American International Toy Fair.
“Personalization and open-ended play are definitely the buzz words of 2014,” said Adrienne Appell, TIA trend expert. “Whether kids are building with classic blocks, designing their own dolls, playing in virtual worlds, or ‘mashing up’ play patterns, toymakers are giving them more freedom than ever to play exactly how they want. Best of all, these value-packed playthings come at a variety of price points – we are seeing a great selection of both splurge-worthy items and very affordable toys to fit any budget.”
A summary of the six top trends follows:
LARGER THAN LIFE
Large-sized toys are becoming increasingly common in just about every category, from plush and play sets to RCs and building toys. As a counter-balance to the micro-sized trend seen in years past, these toys engage kids in imaginative role-play activities and make impressive gifts for special occasions. They don’t all come with hefty price tags, either – the value-conscious shopper will find many “BIG” toys at affordable prices.
Includes: dollhouses; inflatable toys; cars, trucks and trains; plush; and baby doll carriages, cribs and other role-play accessories.
Playtime will shift into high gear thanks to an influx of innovative remote-controlled vehicles for various ages and at varying price points. Older kids with a ‘need for speed’ will have plenty of options to choose from, including helicopter RCs and vehicles that launch projectiles. Animal-themed and licensed RCs based on popular entertainment properties will engage younger children and promote active and imaginative play.
Includes: traditional RCs with added features, such as the ability to fly higher, drive faster or launch projectiles.
FULL “STEAM” AHEAD!
Educational toys, games and crafts that teach kids STEAM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) are heating up in the toy aisle and getting kids of all ages, interests and abilities excited about learning. Toymakers are increasingly incorporating storytelling and other artistic components into science, engineering and building toys to get more kids than ever on board with STEAM.
Includes: hands-on science kits and innovative tech toys that inspire kids to think outside the box; and arts and crafts that introduce kids to STEAM concepts and skills at an early age.
FRIGHTFULLY FUN: ZOMBIES, MONSTERS AND MORE!
Vampires were hot … but now zombies and monsters are all the rage, thanks to a rise in popularity of zombie-themed movies, TV shows and video games. Ghoulish action figures and dolls with relatable characters and back-stories are less frightening for younger kids, while older boys and girls will get a kick out of ‘gross out’ toys. These toys not only have the ability to transport children to mysterious worlds – they also teach them that it’s OK to be different and stand out from the crowd.
Includes: classic toys with a zombie twist; gothic-style fashion dolls and accessories; detailed figures for older collectors; and trivia games for fans of popular movies and TV shows, like The Walking Dead.
RETRO / BACK-TO-BASICS
Retro and back-to-basics trend is alive and well this year thanks to a huge abundance of classic toys and games slated to hit store shelves. Today’s parents and grandparents fondly remember these playthings from their own childhoods and are excited to share them with the little ones in their lives.
Includes: re-releases and refreshed retro toys; low-tech / back-to-basics toys that reflect the enduring popularity of classic play patterns over time; and old-school family games that foster intergenerational play.
2014 will take building to a whole new level. In addition to building and construction toys, this trend extends across several toy categories – from arts and crafts to action figures – and encompasses playthings that allow kids to create, customize and personalize to reflect their unique tastes, styles and imaginations.
Includes two sub-trends: “Mash-up” toys, which incorporate many uses or ways to play in a single toy or game, giving kids the freedom to choose how they’d like to play; and “Fashion Forward” toys, which include DIY sets that allow kids to create their own accessories, fashion dolls that can be styled in a personalized way and realistically-designed dollhouses and building / play sets.