Every year, toy manufacturers from around the world gather at Toy Fair to debut their newest and most innovative offerings for the year ahead. The annual event is a magical, exciting, and downright fun experience wrapped up in the guise of a trade show. This year, some of the biggest trends we saw were technology-integrated imaginative play toys, robotics toys, STEM/ STEAM toys, and AR toys (augmented reality)—all developed with fun and learning in mind.
Here are some of the best items we saw at Toy Fair 2020:
1. The best new board game: Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power
Ravensburger is well-known for their Villainous line of games, which feature the villains we all know and love fighting to achieve their various nefarious ends. This August they’ll release Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power, which features some of the most iconic Marvel villains, including Hela, Thanos, and Ultron, as well as two more villains to be announced later on. Infinite Power will build on the gameplay elements of the original Villainous series with a whole new set of characters, interactions, and twists.
2. The best toy for babies: Baby Shark Dancing DJ
We’ve all heard the Baby Shark song at this point, but that doesn’t mean that kids have gotten over it. Enter, the Baby Shark Dancing DJ, which will be available in the fall, and is sure to be a very popular gift item come holiday time. This toy plays five Baby Shark songs and includes two games, so it’ll be sure to get little feet moving.
3. The best toy for toddlers: Plan Toys
There was a big push for sustainability in toy making this year, and Plan Toys led the pack in terms of creating beautiful pieces using recycled or sustainable materials. Their wooden toys are made from rubber trees that were slated for destruction, and their new line is made from a composite of sawdust from the rubber tree processing and a naturally based adhesive—essentially, they’re doing great work to keep toys safe for kids. The Plan Toys Gears and Deluxe Puzzle is perfect for toddlers. The simple wooden pieces interlock, and when applied correctly the gears will come together and spin.
4. The best toy for preschoolers: BriteBrush toothbrush by WowWee
There’s nothing like a game to make brushing teeth more fun, and BriteBrush by WowWee is intended to teach kids how to brush their teeth well by using musical games to reinforce good habits. Using songs and coaching to help kids learn about proper brushing techniques, BriteBrush is great for parents, too, as it includes a sensor technology and a Parent Check Light to let parents know how well their kids are brushing, out of a rating system of 10. WowWee also carries a Baby Shark themed BriteBrush.
5. The best STEM/STEAM game: Circuit Explorer
On the surface, a toy that deals with circuits doesn’t necessarily scream “fun.” The goal of the Circuit Explorer was to take learning about circuits and the logic behind them away from a circuit board and into the world of 3D, tactile play. Each set builds on the concepts of the original, the Circuit Explorer Mars Colony Rocket, and grows the level of familiarity with circuitry symbology and function with each new related item. The sets will explore light, sound, and motors all through the building and rebuilding of the objects—and there’s no fear of short-circuiting or long-term consequences for missed connections. It’s fun, unique, and a perfect way to introduce STEM concepts.
6. The best robotic toy: HEXBUG Build Blitz Construction Kit with STEM Sheets
HEXBUG is known for all kinds of robotic toys, from BattleBots to Hexbugs themselves. The Build Blitz Construction Kit is an app-based robot building kit that allows kids to control the completed robots (the kit includes a car, a raptor, a monkey, a gator, a bug, a balancer, and a crane)–and man, are they fun. The app is incredibly well-tuned to the motors in the robots, and the commands are sensitive and seamless. The price point is also great for the 800 pieces the set contains.
7. The best electronic toy: Tacto
PlayShifu is revolutionizing play with their tablet-accessible STEM board games brought to life. The Tacto system features four games: Elements, Laser, Quest, and the new offering of Snakes & Ladders, all of which use game board-style pieces to bring tablet games out of the tablet and into the world of tangible play and STEM themes. Elements focus on building up early chemistry knowledge through games, and Laser is a space-themed shooting game that looks fairly simple on the outside but is intended to introduce kids to the physics of mirrors and light trajectory. Quest was my personal favorite, an RPG-style game intended to build up critical thinking. All four Tacto offerings will be available soon from PlayShifu.
8. The best outdoor offering: Tower Tennis
I love an outdoor toy that’s a variant on a classic, that let’s people get outside and move around in new and fun ways. Enter Tower Tennis by Hogwild. This toy uses a basic tennis mechanic with new rules and a new setup. The lightweight foam ball is bounced from either side of the net and must go through the elevated hoop (read: tower) in order to be considered a successful pass. It’s a perfect toy for smaller outdoor spaces, and can also be brought indoors, making it versatile for the autumn and winter months.
9. The best drone toy: Go Go Bird
Part drone, part bird, all fun, the Gogo Bird by Zing is a lightweight drone model that can soar to heights of about 96 ft. and is controlled by sensors and a remote. Its lightweight construction plays a huge role in how charming it is—it almost feels too delicate to perform the kinds of flight patterns it does, and its crashes aren’t impact-heavy. The birds will come in three colors and will be available in the fall.
10. The best coding toy for kids: Botley 2.0 The Coding Robot
Coding toys had a big year at Toy Fair, especially as kids today are being introduced to coding concepts earlier and earlier. That’s where Botley 2.0 comes in—at the intersection of fun and early versions of coding principles. The first incarnation of Botley was highly praised—and is a favorite toy of our Editor in Chief’s son. The latest version of Botley comes with a remote complete with simple commands: forward, back, quarter-turn, and so on. The commands play out in sequence after they are pressed, so kids will have to pay attention to their surroundings before entering in the data to get Botley to perform the action they want. It’s a great concept with an adorable execution.
11. The best teen toy: Unsolved Case Files: The Cold Case Murder Mystery Game
Unsolved Case Files already has a huge following: It has 4.7 stars on Amazon out of over 1000 reviews, and has 4 variations with 2 new sets due to be released in April and June of 2020. The game allows the players to walk through a murder mystery and solve the case themselves, and utilizes physical evidence (newspaper clippings, photos) to flush out the narrative. It’s a perfect game for families or groups of friends, and while perfect for a one-time play can be brought out again and again with new groups.
12. The best construction toy: BRIO Builder Motor Set
BRIO construction sets have been around for awhile, but this set combines creativity, construction skills, and engineering concepts to allow kids to build their own motorized constructions. Each set comes with a battery-powered motor that can bring motion and movement to structures. The kits will encourage open-ended play, and can age up with the kids as they develop their skills.
13. The best arts and crafts toy: The Land of Dough Dough Cups
This sophisticated take on play putty performed well at Toy Fair for a reason: it’s genuinely pretty. They’re extremely eco-friendly, with plant-based dyes and, importantly, compostable glitter. Each set is themed, and there was a very cute bacon set and a beautiful beach set available at Toy Fair. The Land of Dough elevated a common toy and helped move a beloved product into a sustainable landscape, and we can’t thank them enough for that… and also for how amazing the essential-oil infused dough cups smell.
14. The best sustainable toy: Makedo
As we’ve mentioned, sustainability was a theme at Toy Fair 2020, but the Makedo Cardboard Construction System is so sustainable, it uses items that might have been disposed of or recycled to create new toys. The kit is a toolbox that comes with 50 pieces, among them screws and screwdrivers, that kids can use to bring their cardboard creations together. It’s a toy that’s all about creativity and using the world around you to bring new ideas together, and ultimately it has limitless applications.
15. The best surprise toy: Blume BabyPop
Skyrocket has capitalized on the satisfaction of pulling up plants with their new line of surprise toys, BabyPop dolls. BabyPop appears to be a planter with four “sprouts” that can be pulled up to reveal what are essentially baby Blume dolls, and each time you pull one to reveal which of the 50 collectible babies you’ve received there is a satisfying popping sound. The planter itself becomes a nursery/ swimming pool, and there are more surprises in store if you put the babies in water.
16. The best Star Wars toy: The Child
Baby Yoda, or “The Child,” swept Toy Fair this year as a must-see item. Retailing in the summer for 59.99, “The Child” is as completely adorable as the version in the Star Wars: The Mandalorian was, and features 25 sound and motion combinations as well as Force power and Force nap features (for when it gets tired from using the Force, of course).
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.