Coding, Games and Elmo -- oh my!
Coding is the Word of the Year. You’ll see it on toys for every age from preschool to high school. There are non-electronic games with giant coding cards for whole body action where kids program a pathway for another kid to follow like a real live robot. Or for less active gaming, there are dozens of coding games played on tabletops with cards or playing boards. Of course, there are even more coding choices in construction sets like LEGO Boost and on board several new electronic robots. So far, Elmo is not coding, but it’s only October.
APP and Screen Toys. We’ve never seen so many toys that run on apps and screens of smart devices. Again, the trend is built into toys for all ages. We avoid screen driven toys for toddlers, but one of the the most popular ride-ons this season with our toy testers is an exercise/game bike for preschoolers. For older school age kids, forget the old remote controller you had to charge for hours to get less than half an hour of play time. Most of the remote controls this year run on your phone or tablet. There are several R2D2s and Minions and how about a truck that transports a tiny working flying drone.
Need help? It's on youtube. Another positive trend, though it leads to more screen time, are the videos that help kids with demos as they work on craft kits. Watching a demo does not replace the directions, but it can help to clarify them and most are well done.
Claims of STEM learning are everywhere. A good many of them however offer what can only be termed “light” STEM learning. Putting some dinosaurs in a game does not make a game STEM learning. The label is STEM is no guarantee of real learning content.
Gender Free Marketing. We’re seeing packaging that is gender neutral. Girls are appearing on building sets and games that years ago would have been marketed strictly for boys. This is a very positive trend in toyland. On the flip side, we are also seeing more boy dolls this season, also a positive sign that encourages boys to tap into their nurturing side.
Russian Roulette and Toilet Bowls. Finally, lookout for a major trend of Russian Roulette style games that squirt or slam people in the face with whipped cream, water filled eggs, or water that sprays from toy toilets. Sure, gross has been around for years, but it does seem to be epidemic this season. And while we get that many of these games are funny in certain settings (e.g. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon) - for young children they can be over the top intense. Is getting sprayed with toilet water (even if it's pretend toilet water) ever really funny?
Games and Puzzles. These classic forms of play remain at the top of our testers favorites. A chance to put all the electronics away and spend time together -- still gets top marks from kids and their parents. This is the best trend of all.