Toys, Trends, and the Genius of Play™

On August 1st, CMA brought toy industry alumni and toy inquisitors to The Toy Association’s midtown offices to talk shop on everything from their Genius of Play™ initiative to 2018 toy trends. The talk, hosted by the Toy Association’s Director of Marketing Initiatives, Anna Yudina and Director of Strategic Communications, Adrienne Appell, yielded many questions and points of interest into the world of toys and learning. The event was broken into two halves, first discussing The Genius of Play™ with Yudina and next discussing trends with Appell.

Yudina discusses the connections between play and STEAM.

The Genius of Play™ Initiative

Yudina kicked off her half of the talk with a thought-provoking quiz aimed at questioning our ideas on “play” and its role in the life of developing children. In pushing us to define “play”, most attendees found themselves stumped by its complexity. Yudina shared that most parents connect play with words like fun, activities, games, entertainment, and enjoyment. Yet, as Yudina quoted in her presentation, “Children with access to a variety of toys were found to reach higher levels of intellectual achievement, regardless of the child’s gender, race, and socioeconomic status…” according to a study by Bradley, R.H. and Elardo, R.

Though parents often think of screen time as a negative influence, studies have shown that screen time for children is not always bad, but that excessive use of screens does has negative consequences. Furthermore, a healthy variety of play, which can include screen time, best nurtures growing minds when given the chance to explore different play opportunities. Armed with this information (and way more than what I can fit into this post, please see for more), The Genius of Play™ initiative is promoting their advocacy for more play time to national audiences of kids, moms, caretakers, teachers and influencers via a variety of communication outlets like this adorable video: Lava:Genius of Play or this morning talk show spot with Dr. Erik Fisher: Dr. Erik Fisher on Coffee with America | The Genius of Play. Through these avenues, The Toy Association hopes to educate adults on how play stands as an essential part of growing up.


Appell breaks down what the games trend looks like in 2018.

2018 Toy Trends 

Next, Adrienne Appell took the stage to discuss trends in the toy industry and how they’re monitored by the Toy Association. Appell shared that their trend spotting methods include attending events, checking stores for top sellers, mom networks, and reviewing their extensive database of toys. Through this research, the Toy association found a broad net of trends for 2018, which include: Big Reveal toys that play into the unboxing trend, Millennial Nostalgia, Games (both digital and traditional), Pet Play toys (creatures you care for), and Toys That Teach. These trends often only cycle through for one to two years before being pushed aside for new trends. And while some go away quickly (farewell fidget spinners), many get recycled and used again some years down the road (hello Shrinky Dinks!).  The world of toys continue to change through cultural influence, this is most obvious these days in the discussion around gender roles in toys. With campaigns to remove gender-specific toy aisle labeling, The Toy Association is seeing fewer gender trends and even fewer classifications for gender-specific toys during the 2018 trending year.

To watch the full event video, click here, and to stay on top of toy news, sign up for The Toy Association’s Toy News Tuesday newsletter.