Play: The Perfect Getaway

Kristin Morency Goldman

“The Great Play Escape” will be one of the top toy trends of 2022 according to the Toy Association. Toys that travel well, and toys with themes that simply “take you away” are expected to be hot sellers this year. They include a mix of portable toys and games for families on-the-go, and vacation- and international-themed toys, puzzles, and games that take players on imaginative adventures.

“Genius of Play research revealed that 76 percent of parents believe play provided a positive escape from the reality of the pandemic,” explains Kristin Morency Goldman from The Toy Association. “We expect kids and ‘kidults’ to continue to turn to toys and games to de-stress.”

Many products that embody the Great Play Escape Trend can be found in this issue of edplay. Read about Mindware’s new puzzles that take kids to a coral reef or to a “Museum at Midnight.” See the new 3D Gringotts Bank puzzle – part of the Harry Potter Diagon Alley series from Wrebbit 3D. Discover Munchkin Deluxe, a dungeon adventure in which players compete to kill monsters and grab magic items. Then take a look at the new releases from AirFort, including the new AirFort UFO – what a great place for escape.

The trend also covers NFTs, AR/VR, and toys tied to online and video games that transport players into the digital world. “They tap into the metaverse and the endless opportunities it presents,” says Kristin. As an example, she pointed to the new Squishmallows world on Roblox, where fans can collect virtual Squishmallows, play mini-games, interact with other Roblox users, and customize a Squishmallows-themed home.

Trends based on the toys manufacturers are making

The Toy Association’s team of trend experts meets with hundreds of toy companies throughout the year to preview what’s new and next in the world of toys and games. Their work culminates in Q1 when the team unveils the trends they’ve spotted, along with product examples from Toy Association member companies. A Q4 trend update will be presented in October.

“Our trends are supported by an array of innovative products from companies of all sizes,” points out Adrienne Appell, executive vice president of marketing communications for The Toy Association. “In addition to escapism through play, this year’s hottest trends will encompass sustainability and social justice themes, and next-level sensory toys. A strong focus across all trends will be on intergenerational and creative play driven by STEAM learning.”

Here are three more toy trends they presented.

“Next-Gen Creators”

From role-play toys and fashion and food play, to artistic and building toys that inspire budding content creators, toys that encourage kids to create and share their own content (think stories, artwork, builds, videos, and photos) are on the rise in 2022. More toys will allow kids to flex their imaginations and customize their own play experiences. It’s also a trend that encourages intergenerational play – kids and parents can play, create, and build memories together. It taps in to crucial STEM skills.

“Sensory toys 2.0”

Spurred by the growth of viral videos on platforms like TikTok, autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) has become synonymous with creating warm fuzzy moments of Zen out of everyday events. Even though this trend is driven by social media, it’s grounded in physicality. In 2022, there will be even more toys that engage the senses in exciting ways, predicts The Toy Association, including light-up playthings that let kids express their changing moods, classic brands reinvented with new fidget play, and toys that provide calming social-emotional comfort to kids.

Toys for social/environmental good

From sustainability and the protection of endangered species to social justice issues, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion, products that talk the talk and walk the walk are resonating with consumers across all industries. As this trend continues to grow at a rapid pace, toys have become proven tools for engaging kids in critical issues. Expect a surge of toys in 2022 that not only incorporates more sustainable materials, but also emphasizes a commitment to teaching kids how to be better global citizens. In fact, a recent Toy Association-commissioned survey revealed that 78 percent of parents said the sustainability of a toy for their child was important to them.

Entertainment update

The pandemic has continued to take its toll on traditional viewing habits as more studios opted for hybrid releases through most of 2021. While the toy trend team has seen a shift back to the “only in theaters” release model, they expect the brands that come out of non-linear channels (Disney+, Netflix, HBOMax, YouTube, Paramount +, and more) or that take a hybrid approach, to continue to dominate the toy aisles. In addition, social media influencers continue to reach beyond their channels to create new partnerships in the toy space and offer licensees immediate access to built-in audiences.

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