Tech Toys, TOTYs & Trends

Trendspotting is an indispensable purchasing tool. It can help you envision the future, make smart choices and separate potential bestsellers from all the noise. “I don’t set trends. I just find out what they are and exploit them,” said Dick Clark, who built a successful business empire by recognizing music and entertainment trends early on. You can do the same with toys, and upcoming trade shows provide the best opportunities.

“Though you’ll have to wait until Toy Fair to see and hear all about them, we can tell you that we’ve come across some exciting preliminary trends that we predict will be all the rage in just a few months,” says Marian Bossard, TIA’s vice president of global market events.

No surprises here – tech toys are tops. “We’ve seen a lot of exciting advancements in tech, such as self-flying, multifunction and mini drones; robotic toys that teach kids how to code, program and build; and toys that mash-up innovative and affordable technology with traditional playthings to provide kids with a truly 360-degree, interactive experience,” she told us.

The November release of TIA’s Toy of the Year nominees (the list is on offers a taste of what she’s talking about. Even though only one of 13 TOTY categories is specifically for e-connected toys, “they definitely bleed into other categories and into kids’ playtime way beyond what children and their parents probably realize,” points out Lisa Orman, founder of the KidStuff/TechStuff Public Relations firm. Illustrating her point, nine TOTY categories, including E-connected, feature at least one tech-toy contender. “Boy, Educational, Girl, Infant Toddler, Innovative and Outdoor all include tech-toy nominees. Plus – if you consider RC vehicles and Nursery Time Elmo ‘tech’ – then the Preschool and Specialty categories are in there, too. I doubt tech toys will sweep all of those categories, but they are likely to dominate.”

VTech and Activision have been leading the toys-with-technology scene, but Lisa thinks we’ll soon see more traditional and specialty toy manufacturers joining in. “For example, Bears for Humanity is including Smart technology into their organic cotton teddy bears in 2016,” she notes.

Based on what she sees from her tech clients, Lisa predicts that Toy Fair will feature more robotic toys, more toys that are influenced by the Maker Movement (“both in and out of tech”), and more toys that let kids connect with their friends. “Educational technology is very hot, too.”

Lisa reminds us that “parents value traditional toys and traditional play for their children. They are trying to balance the kinds of toys their children are exposed to. They want to be sure that the tech toys their children play with are entertaining, high quality and safe; plus teach something during play (if possible), and help their child grow up to be comfortable in a tech-focused world.”

If you go to New York, don’t miss the free Toy Trends Briefing on Sunday, February 14, at 4 p.m., Hall 1E, Room 1E21 at the Javits Center. Using examples from the show floor, TIA’s experts will highlight the year’s hottest trends and where to find them at Toy Fair.

The Spielwarenmesse trend forecast

The annual Nuremberg Toy Fair takes place from January 27 through February 1 in Germany. With more than 2,700 exhibitors displaying 1 million products – 75,000 of them new – it’s a place where trends begin. In December, the folks at Spielwarenmesse identified three for 2016; trends they say will transcend culture and language.

Train Your Brain 

You’ve probably seen the ads from Lumosity pitching brain exercises for adults, but as Spielwarenmesse points out, children’s brains can also be trained for increased smarts. In fact, toys and games that do that “are in greater demand than ever,” says the trend forecast. “They teach children solution-oriented thinking, how to understand routines and to recognize patterns.”

They point to a study conducted by the University Of Oregon, which showed that children can increase their intelligence and attentiveness with just a few play sessions on concentration. But kids are still kids, which is why it’s important to introduce brain training to them through fun and games. “Even a game that calls on
players to master various tasks using building blocks stimulates the imagination and solution-oriented
thinking,” says Spielwarenmesse.

Everyday Hero

This trend is all about toys that help to develops children’s emotional and social intelligence. Through play, kids can make friends, better understand their emotions and develop empathy.

Dress up and role-play toys are in this category, especially the ones that help children become “kidpreneurs,’ to plan what their company should look like, what it should be called, and how it should be marketed. “Early on in life, children can learn through play how to be a hero of everyday life, or how they can pursue their own dreams: from social projects and empathic interaction to the
realization of a great business idea,” says Spielwarenmesse.

Design to Play

Designs from the 1950s and ’60s, and from Scandinavian countries are moving into toys from the home sector, says Spielwarenmesse, driven by parents. “Clear, simple lines and wooden products, like those popular in Nordic countries, or influenced by Pop Art and other artistic movements, are reflected in the toy trends for 2016.”

If they are made from special materials that look and feel good, that’s even better, because Design to Play toys are also used as decorative elements. “Home décor blogs, online shops and furniture stores are exploiting this trend and adding well-designed toys to their product ranges,” says the trend forecast.

Toys in this category help children develop an understanding of shapes, colors and raw materials. “They help children learn which colors go together or what symbolic significance they have in everyday life.”

If you go to Nuremberg, make sure to visit the show’s TrendGallery for product presentations, live events and discussions. For more information, visit

by Jenn Bergin and Tina Manzer

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