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The Toy Association has revealed the five key trends it anticipates will be big hits this year. 

Rediscovering Play; Not Just for Kids; Mixing in Music, Zen-Sational Toys; and, Socially Conscious Play are the trends the US organisation is tipping to be popular with kids and families this year.

The Toy Association SVP of marketing communications Adrienne Appell said the trends reflect the pandemic's impact on the industry. 

"This year’s biggest trends underscore the ongoing impact of the pandemic on play; the toy industry’s growing commitment to helping kids become better global citizens; and the many social, emotional, and cognitive benefits of mindful, musical, and ‘kidult’ toys. 

"The pandemic did not stop our trends team from virtually previewing hundreds of innovative new products as we set out to determine what will be topping kids’ wish lists between now and the holiday season.

"We are so excited to share a sneak peek at what kids and adults will be clamouring for as we dive deeper into the impact of COVID-19 on the future of play," she said. 

The organisation has also highlighted the important role streaming platforms, gaming and social media content creators will have this year in seeding out content which will drive toy sales. 

"Licensed toy sales will be driven by what’s happening on non-linear channels (Disney+, Netflix, and others) and, in the absence of live events, through video gaming (i.e. gaming systems, platforms, and brand anniversaries)," the Toy Association said.

"This shift will create new opportunities for original IPs bolstered by social media platforms (such as TikTok and YouTube) to cut through the noise and make an impact at retail across multiple categories alongside traditional entertainment licenses," the organisation said. 

Normally revealed at the annual New York Toy Fair, the trends were instead announced at a virtual toy trends briefing. 

A summary of The Toy Association's trends is detailed below:

REDISCOVERING PLAY

One silver lining of the pandemic is that it has helped families rediscover the joys of spending time together and find value in bringing play into their daily lives.

In 2021, families will be seeking new toys that promote togetherness, as well as inclusive playthings that can be enjoyed by kids of varying abilities and interests.

This trend includes educational toys and activities that families can use to help their children learn new skills and subjects; family games and puzzles with cross-generational appeal; outdoor and active toys; nostalgic brands; cooking-themed and role play toys.

NOT JUST FOR KIDS

The growing 'kidult' trend was fuelled by the pandemic, with more adults than ever turning to toys to bring some joy and levity into their lives.

Toys and games have been a means of escapism for adults and offer a way to reconnect with their own inner child.

This trend includes games fuelled by adult topics, social media trends, and other fads; collectibles and building toys that appeal to hardcore fans; crowd-funded toys; and toys that invite casual fans into the fold across a wide range of fandoms.

MIXING IN MUSIC

Driven by social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok that have become incubators for viral music and dance crazes, toys that get kids moving and grooving are expected to grow in the toy aisles.

This trend includes toys inspired by music-infused social platforms, channels, and programming; innovative new audio players that encourage screen-free play; toys that encourage kids to mix and make their own music; unboxing toys that incorporate music into the reveals; and, of course, classic musical toys.

ZEN-SATIONAL TOYS

Toys aren’t just for fun – they also serve up a healthy dose of emotional support and wellness in times of stress and uncertainty.

According to The Toy Association’s Genius of Play initiative, families surveyed nationwide said playing together was the best way to help kids process their emotions.

This year will see a growing demand for toys that help develop children’s social and emotional learning (SEL) skills; toys that promote mindfulness and self-care; comforting plush toys and dolls; and sensory/fidget toys that offer moments of zen.

SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS PLAY

As families look for new ways to become better global citizens, toymakers are responding with toys that foster social responsibility and awareness.

This trend includes dolls that promote diversity and cultural awareness; eco-friendly designed toys (and packaging) that also teach kids about sustainability; plush that promote the protection of endangered species; toys that give recognition to the essential workers critical to society; playsets with farm-to-table elements; and STEAM toys that feature renewable energy sources.

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