You know that special feeling of emotional exhaustion you get after an hour at the toy store with an indecisive child? (Yes, I’m a sucker.) Imagine that but for 15 hours, and you will know the simultaneous overwhelming and wonderful nature of New York Toy Fair. I spent a day and a half watching grown men and women play with the newest (and also oldest) toys out this year, and now I kind of want all of them.
Since I know that toy choice overwhelm is a thing for grownups too, I will spare you and save much of the fun intel I gathered to roll out throughout the year. But to get you prepared for what your kids might be begging for soon, here’s a quick overview of the trends that toymakers are betting on for 2020.
Baby Yoda is everywhere
Sorry, “The Child,” as I was kindly corrected multiple times over the past few days. Thanks to the Mandalorian’s secrecy, we still won’t be able to own these toys for a bit longer, but they were adorable to behold, however briefly. In August, LEGO will release a BrickHeadz versions of the little guy, and in September there’s an impressive kit for the Mandalorian’s ship, the Razor Crest, which does also include the Child and his foster dad.
Hasbro’s animatronic version of The Child doesn’t come out until December, but he’s already sold out. (“It” doesn’t seem like the right pronoun for this, sorry!) I am ready to search out the black market. He is CUTE.
We’ll have a much shorter wait for Mattel’s plush version, which (who?) comes out in May. Pre-order him here.
Toys that won’t fill the Earth with plastic
Every time I have bought my kid one of his beloved L.O.L. Surprise! Dolls I have wanted to weep about the amount of wasteful packaging involved in creating that all-important “unboxing” experience. But now the surprise is for me, because MGA Entertainment, which makes L.O.L., announced last week that it’s taking steps toward being more sustainable. First, the company partnered with TerraCycle, so that now you can mail the packaging to be recycled for free. By this summer, the company said all L.O.L. accessory bags will be made of paper and degradable resin, and by next year all of the dolls’ packaging will be degradable.
MGA’s Little Tikes brand is one of several looking for a more sustainable plastic option for little kids toys. Little Tikes’ new GoGreen line is all made of recycled plastic. Some of Mattel’s Mega Bloks are made of plant-based material now, with the goal of making the entire Bloks brand plant-based, recyclable, or made of 100 percent recycled material in the next 10 years. That’s already the case with Green Toys, the toddler brand made entirely of recycled plastic.
The real world & digital world can live in harmony at last
Toymakers are listening to all of that parental anxiety over our kids being too addicted to their screens — but not so much that they’re tossing their digital content entirely. Instead, in nearly every booth I visited, there were toys that integrated an app, online game, or electronic gadget to go with the real-world product. There are Hot Wheels cars with chips to measure their speed, virtual reality goggles to help kids conduct science experiments and learn magic tricks (see: Professor Maxwell’s VR Science Lab), and an app for future engineers to make meticulous plans for their GraviTrax marble run.
Surprises and slime are 4-ever!
I know “blind” boxes (those toys hidden in clever packaging until you buy them) are meant to encourage kids to collect all the toys, but they might serve another purpose too. Skip all the hemming and hawing at the store and buy one of these, sight unseen. My favorite surprises of the moment are the Blume Dolls, colorfully coiffed, spritely girls that pop out of a flower pot when you water them. In 2020, they’ll be getting Blume Baby Pops and Petal Pets. There’s also Mattel’s deadly cute entry into the category, Cloudees, which invites kids to add water and create cloud fluff before they unveil their new tiny pets. My Little Pony is also in on the reveal “magic.”
For the kids who prefer slime and war to birth and flowers, this fall, Skyrocket toys will release Mutaters, “alien-created” bio-mechanical warrior figures housed in a containment unit that requires a decoder to unlock before you can play with the monstrous mutants inside.
Parental nostalgia will go on, too
How many kids do you know who are really excited about Scooby-Do, Back to the Future, or Ghostbusters? Not a lot. But their parents might want to share their childhood fandoms, which is the logic many toymakers are banking on.
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