The Toy Insider gives early insight on top toy trends for 2021.

If one thing is for sure, it’s that we need toys now more than ever.

In 2020, toy sales skyrocketed as a result of stay-at-home orders brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents and caregivers turned to toys to bring their kids some much-needed entertainment and joy during a really difficult time. Toys and games not only provided a welcome distraction from the stress of world events, but they also served as educational tools while kids participated in at-home learning.

The safety measures put in place to help combat COVID-19 led to a completely new way of life for so many families last year. And while vaccines are slowly rolling out across the country, Americans are still largely staying home, engaging in the same quarantine-friendly activities they enjoyed throughout 2020. That means games, puzzles, and toys will still be a main source of fun for kids and families this year.

Despite the absence of Toy Fair New York, the Toy Insider got a sneak peek at some of the coolest new products making their way to store shelves this year, and it’s clear that this year’s toy trends are largely a continuation of what was hot in 2020, such as games, puzzles, educational tools, and craft kits. Plus, toys are a really integral part of our culture, so some trends we are seeing in the real world are making their way into the toy box, such as eco-friendly products, licensed toys based on YouTube channels, and items that help foster kids’ mental and emotional wellness.

Here are six trends to watch for in 2021:

To infinity … and beyond!

We’re boldly going where no toy has gone before. STEM-focused toys have been big over the last few years, but now, we are seeing a bigger emphasis on toys that get kids excited about all things space! “We’re likely seeing a major uptick in space-themed toys because there’s been a major uptick in real life activities in space,” says Emily Calandrelli, host and co-executive producer of Emily’s Wonder Lab on Netflix. “Access to space (rocket launches) are cheaper than they’ve ever been, which means more people are exploring space than ever before,” she says.

There are lots of toys hitting shelves this year that encourage an interest in space exploration, NASA, and alien life. Be on the lookout for the Crystal Space Terrarium from Faber-Castell, Circuit Explorer from Educational Insights, and Bill Nye’s VR Space Lab from Abacus.

Faber-Castell’s
Crystal Space Terrarium

Home Is Where the Fun Is

Kids can have more fun at home than ever before with dozens of new toys that bring incredible experiences to the backyard, living room floor, or kitchen tabletop. From event-themed items that bring events like the carnival right to the home, to activity sets that spark creativity for hours, kids will be able to stay safe and have a blast all year long. The Toy Insider favorites include FOAMO from MGA Entertainment and the 123 Aqua Splish Splash Water Park from Playmobil.

Family Game Night

While party games have been trending over the last few years, gamemakers are now putting a bigger focus on family-friendly games made for smaller groups. These games are fun for kids and adults alike and combine luck, strategy, humor, and even some toyetic elements. Early stand-outs include Pop Under Pressure from What Do You Meme? and You’re On Mute from Buffalo Games.

It’s Easy Being Green

Sustainability is still super important, and toy companies are working to help educate kids on how to lessen their environmental impact. Some toys teach kids about recycling, while others are made from sustainable materials. Some products even creatively incorporate packaging into the play, so there’s less waste. Pop 2 Play from WowWee and the Sort & Recycle Ride-On Truck from VTech are two must-haves in this category.

Pop2Play from WowWee

In My Feelings

It’s been a tough year for everyone, and toys can be great tools to help kids process everything that’s going on. We’re seeing plenty of toys that promote social emotional learning, help kids stay calm and relaxed, and teach them how to manage their feelings. “Psychologists are booked solid and access to mental health is more limited and quite costly,” says Azita Sachmechian, a marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles. “A well-designed toy that has incorporated a child’s psychologist’s input embedded in its design will help children deal with their emotions.” Big Feelings Pineapple! from Learning Resources and the STMT Just My Style MoodJoy assortment from Horizon Group USA are products to watch.

Going Viral

How many TikTok dances did you watch during the last year? We’re all more digitally connected than we have ever been. Toys based on viral trends, videos, and internet stars are going to be really popular this year. This trend has been gaining momentum over the last few years, and 2021 will bring an overwhelming variety of new options. There will also be lots of new toys that help kids become creators themselves, or even enhance the videos and content they are already making. The Love, Diana Surprise Deluxe Truck from Just Play and Orbeez #Challenge from Spin Master are key items.

This year, toy manufacturers are cranking out great products that will keep kids and families having fun, learning, and connecting with each other. Expect to see lots of interactivity, creativity, unique partnerships, character-driven must-haves, and more. Be sure to follow the fun at thetoyinsider.com, and look out for our annual Spring & Summer Gift Guide, releasing on April 20; and the Holiday Gift Guide, releasing on Sept. 22.


This article was originally published in the February 2021 edition of the Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue!