At the recent KIDS’ TIME show in Poland, we were fortunate enough to attend a highly informative talk on global toy trends from leading toy trend-hunter and media spokesperson, Reyne Rice. Below we bring you a summary of her session.
She explained how today’s tech savvy children are exploring toys from an early age that incorporate artificial intelligence and augmented reality, that not only engage them in learning activities – but also provide an immersive experience. At the same time, environmental and sustainability concerns are driving the toy market in 2023. With an increasing awareness of the impact of plastics and non-recyclable materials on the environment, manufacturers are keen to add eco-friendly toys made from sustainable materials to their lines.
Reyne started her presentation with an explanation of how members of the committee come up with the trends before outlining the key areas of interest for 2023 – and beyond.
“We start looking at them in the summer of the year before the fair and then we all put them together. What are the popular trends in our own countries, in our own regions? And after that, then we consolidate and find which ones are more common across all the areas.”
Key trend #1 ‘Meta toys’
These are all about entertainment and licensing and, for the first time this year, there was an entertainment and licensing presence at the fair. Available on mobile phones, iPads, laptops, even VR headsets, the Metaverse is essentially a virtual reality world and there are multiple ways to engage within the metaverse. Using an ‘avatar’ – a personal representation of yourself – users can go to school, to work, they can play and socialise, go to concerts and hang out with friends, all within a game or other online environment.
For instance, Roblox is currently the biggest metaverse for kids with Minecraft offering another online opportunity for children to play and interact together. The metaverse offers brands a way to expand their brand loyalty – eg. Lego has partnered with Epic Games “to give kids access to tools that will empower them to become confident creators and deliver amazing play opportunities in a safe and positive space.”
Key trend #2 Retro Licenses
These are the brands that we played with as children, that we might now share with our own kids or even grandchildren – toys, games, figures etc. Again, there are tie-ins with the metaverse with My Little Pony partnering with Roblox. Other legacy brands include number one global toy brand, Lego (now worth $7.4 billion), Barbie, who has been around for over 60 years, and educational preschool brand, Fisher Price, founded in 1930.
Key trend #3 Educational toys
Post-Covid, as children are able, once again, to explore the world, there are opportunities for new games – interactive and board – around nature, travel, culture, pets, discovery and science.
Key trend #4 Green & sustainable toys
A hugely important trend, this was broken down into four different areas:
- Made by nature – toys created from natural materials – traditional wood, bamboo, rubberwood, cork, organic fabrics. These toys tend to have a very limited colour palette – and this is what consumers are asking for.
- Inspired by Nature – these include environmentally-friendly toys made from either bio-based or renewable raw materials – e.g. using corn to make bio-based products.
- Recycle and Recreate – toys created from recycled materials, upcycled and re-usable sources which all support the circular economy.
- Discover Sustainability – Learning through play inspires and educates kids to see how they can be a part of making a difference in the world.
“The rise of eco-friendly toys and initiatives are key to teaching children about sustainability, encouraging them to develop a social conscience and to embrace a circular economy.”
- Baby rattles and teethers made from 100% FSC wood sourced from sustainable forests (such as Einhorn, Germany) and others made from medical grade, BPA-free silicone which are safe and easy for babies to chew on on.
- Thailand-based, Plan toys, founded over 40 years ago, has always promoted sustainability by using sustainable factories, while US company, Begin Again Toys, creates products from corn starch, maple wood and natural rubber.
- Sophie la girafe (France), which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, uses natural rubber sourced from renewable Hevea trees in Malaysia.
- Choosing the right materials can also have health benefits: with more and more babies experiencing reactions to certain allergens, companies are trying to use more organic products for little consumers:
Bears for Humanity makes safe, soft and certified organic plush for children and have adopted a ‘buy one-give one’ model – for every bear sold, one is donated to a needy child, giving everyone an equal opportunity to play.
- Toy giant, Playmobil, is introducing eco-friendly sets, with over 80% recyclable materials, while Lego are trying to introduce ways to build bioplastic into their kits. Using factories which are 100% sustainable, they’ve already removed the plastic that was inside to hold the pieces together and instead use paper.
- California-based, Green Toys, use milk jugs from local recycling plants to make their toys while on the East Coast, Luke’s Toy Factory uses maple sawdust, walnut shells, flax fibres and more – combined with clean plastic pellets to make its toys.
- Shore Buddies from San Diego use ocean waste material – plastic bottles and ropes – to make their plush characters.
It’s an exciting time for toy manufacturers and it seems that many are responding to consumers and retailers to be more eco-friendly. It will take time but, like baby steps, it starts with adding just one, then two, then more sustainable products to their line.
Reyne is the CEO of Global Trend Hunter and the Co-President of the International Toy Trade Magazine Association. You can contact Reyne on email@example.com, on Twitter or on Linkedin.
Kids Time Poland was in February. You can hear more about the 2024 dates as they are released by visiting the website or on Instagram @kidstimefair
Nursery Online wishes to extend its thanks to Reyne Rice and Kids Time Poland for the content in this article.