Toy Fair 2018: High-Tech STEM and Classic and Retro Toys are What’s Hot

By Elena Epstein

This month we spent a few days at the annual International Toy Fair in New York, and what fun we had!

The Javitz Convention Center in Manhattan was overtaken by the spirit of play. Imagine a space the size of seven football fields filled with the latest toys and games. STEM/STEAM-related toys that teach coding and robot building were a big trend. Toy makers are focusing on creating engaging toys that also teach kids strategic thinking and spatial understanding. We also saw a whole other spectrum of super-silly and gross-out games this year, which are expected to be a huge hit. Lots of bathroom humor coming our way.

Retro toys including My Little Pony, Lite Brite and Beanie Babies are making a comeback, banking on plenty of nostalgia for Millennial parents. And our kids’ current obsession with “unboxing,” “surprise” and collectible toys is expected to continue as well. According to the Toy Association, sales of collectible toys grew 14 percent globally in 2017.

“The top trends reflect a continued demand for collectibles, family games, creative toys and tech-infused products that allow kids to create and explore new worlds and build lifelong skills through play,” says Adrienne Appell, trend specialist at The Toy Association.

The popularity of classic toys, including dolls and plush toys, is expected to continue to grow as parents seek out non-tech toys to balance our constantly plugged-in daily lives. Families’ need to unplug has also lead to the huge growth of old-school board games that encourage family time. Hot this year are niche games, licensed games and classics with a twist.

Pretend pets – whether the furry plush kind or the digital kind – are another popular trend. We saw lots of dinosaurs (even some sparkly ones), sharks and adorable huggable monkeys and cute squishy pet pillows.

Toys that inspire imagination, such as doll houses, play kitchens and outdoor barbeques, dress-up items, building kits and arts and crafts that offer endless opportunities for creative play are super popular. According to The Toy Association’s Genius of Play initiative, studies show that kids who play make-believe games have enhanced language and problem-solving skills and can better regulate their emotions.

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