Trends at the 2015 New York International Toy Fair ranged from paper folding and engineering kits to fabric crafts, while design themes included flat and three-dimensional, bitmap-style imagery and emoticons. The latter reflected the broader motifs of emotions and self-esteem. Project Partners Network, licensing consultants to some of the nation’s biggest brands, recaps the top trends from this annual event. Be sure to take a look at the gallery of images below:
Blocky and Bitmappy Looks: Imagery reflecting the blocky look of interactive gaming properties (think Flappy Bird and Minecraft) and building-block kits à la LEGO was prevalent in crafting, plush, and other toy categories. JAKKS showed Minecraft versions of its Super Mario Bros. characters in soft-toy format, while Orb Factory’s Pixel Pops debuted a line of kits to make blocky-looking, soft mini-figures.
Emotions and Emoticons: From Worry Eaters’ plush bags to Klutz's The Many Moods of Me guided journal, emotions (and how to express or calm them) were a key theme. Drivers of the trend:
- Rising levels of anxiety in children
- The upcoming Pixar film Inside Out, which features a little girl’s emotions as characters
- Increasing popularity of emoticons and emoji, which were well represented through toys such as JAKKS’ Emoji Bears and MojiMi from Little Kids.
Superheroes and Self-esteem: A number of exhibitors had superhero and positive-values themes, such as SuperMe’s superhero capes-plus-backpacks and My Friends Huggles’ doll t-shirts saying “I’m Kind.” Even Mattel's Barbie was getting into the SuperHero theme with a new line of dolls and a DVD movie. Interestingly, licensed superheroes from Marvel and DC Comics seemed much less prevalent than in recent years, although both were visible across the show floor.
Engineering and Invention: Building kits were still going strong. Many new products touted their relevance to the principles of a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curriculum, with engineering having a particularly high profile. Construction kits offered more diverse materials, shapes and features. Wonderworks offered BILD and Animate sets, which allow users to digitize their finished kit and animate their creation. On the non-tech front, Squirrel King Crafts brought STEM principles to tableaux featuring miniature crafted squirrels and environments.
Paper Sculpture: Crossing the border between building/engineering and paper crafts, a number of exhibitors were touting paper-folding construction kits. Ranging from preschool to adult versions, some allowed the folding of objects, while others let you create blocks that were then used to build. Paper Punk, Graphics Art, and InnovativeKids were a few of the many toymakers highlighting paper-building products.
Plush and Fabric Crafts: DIY kits of all kinds had lots of visibility at the show, and fabric crafts remained hot. Plush kits were available from Orb Factory and others, while pom-pom art was still a strong theme. Rainbow Loom has seen its day in the spotlight, but various forms of loop art were still ubiquitous. Toy makers stressed their use of Instagram, Pinterest, and Etsy to identify craft trends they could simplify for younger age groups.
• Foxes! After emerging as a notable presence last year, foxes took off this year on plush, puzzles, crafts, games, and backpacks, including sustainable versions of the last from Bixbee. Foxes surpassed owls as the preeminent trend creature at Toy Fair this year.