For the last three years, we’ve walked the aisles of toy fairs and reached out to trend experts for their opinions on what toys would top the charts each holiday season, driving parents crazy on the hunt for sparkly eggs, tiny collectible pets, and rainbow unicorn poop made of slime. This year, we’re continuing the tradition in classic Strategist fashion: start early, go deep, and update often.
Not to stress you out or anything, but with the imminent release of Frozen 2 and the continued popularity of toys like Hatchimals and L.O.L. Surprise, planning ahead this year is even more essential to holiday shopping success. You’re going to need all the help you can get. Note: We’ve also got gift guides for kids of all ages, including 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds, and 9-year-olds. Below, we talked to experts to find the toys you should know about — and what to stock up on before they’re all gone.
This year’s hottest overall toy
Skyrocket Blume Doll - Add Water & See Who Grows
Unboxing and collectible toys were the biggest trends last year, and they have only gotten more popular over time. They include anything with some element of surprise where you don’t know what you’re going to get until you open it. Adrienne Appell, senior director of communications at the Toy Association told us that these toys (sometimes referred to as blind box toys) have “gotten a little bit more sophisticated,” mixing interactive elements into the reveal. Appell and three other toy experts called these Blume Dolls from Skyrocket Toys some of the most anticipated of the season. Blume Dolls start out looking like a potted plant and come with a little watering can that you use to make the doll spring up out of the dirt. Appell explains “the hair of the doll is made of slow-rise foam, and when you water the “plant” it looks as if your doll is blooming from the pot.”
Chris Byrne, also known as the Toy Guy says, “It’s like magic for kids.” Marissa DiBartolo, editor-in-chief of the Toy Insider says, “The dolls have a unique design and the flowerpot doubles as a customizable play set,” adding that each doll provides “so much play for less than $10.” And Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot, likes this toy because it’s such a fun example of the unboxing collectible trend. Skirboll tells us there are 22 different Blume Dolls so once you collect one or two or three, “you can take the foam hair off and change it out with other Blume dolls that you have collected.” After it blooms, you can open up the pot, and find a little mini friend and some stickers to decorate with.
This year’s hottest collectible doll
L.O.L. Surprise! Winter Disco O.M.G. Crystal Star 2019 Collector Edition Fashion Doll
While L.O.L Surprise isn’t new to the scene, all four of the experts we talked to recommend stocking up on them early before they inevitably sell out. There’s a ton of L.O.L. Surprise toys and sets to choose from including glitter surprise eggs, L.O.L. pets, and even a giant glamper fashion camper with 55 surprises. But out of everything made by L.O.L. Surprise, Skirboll, Byrne, Appell, and DiBartolo recommend the winter disco-themed L.O.L. Surprise Dolls and accompanying chalet-style dollhouse. “That winter theme is going to do really well,” says Byrne who tells us that, though it’s not a licensed Frozen 2 toy, it takes its wintery inspiration from the film. Byrne explains, “You take the doll kids already love, add a wintery fantasy inspired by Frozen (which is going to be a juggernaut), and you get a really engaging toy.”
This year’s hottest toy from a movie
Disney Frozen 2 Into The Unknown Singing Feature Elsa Doll
Frozen 2 won’t be in theaters until November 22, but you can already buy a bunch of official toys right now. All four experts we spoke to mentioned some sort of Frozen 2 merch, collectibles, dolls and dress-up costumes. DiBartolo says, “You’ll be seeing Elsa and Anna in every toy aisle.” But according to Byrne, Appell, and Skirboll: This Elsa doll that sings “Into the Unknown” is the one to watch. Appell says the singing doll is going to be hot because “it actually has the new song,” so it’ll make all the kids and families who are excited about seeing the new movie feel like insiders. “Parents have seen the first one a million times, so it might be nice to hear Elsa singing something else besides ‘Let It Go,’” adds Appell.
This year’s hottest toy pet
Zuru Pets Alive Boppi The Booty Shakin Llama
Last year, we watched — a little perplexed — as Poopsie Slime Surprise Unicorns flew off of toy shelves and reappeared on eBay at wildly inflated prices. This year, however, instead of a Unicorn that poops rainbow slime, we have a Booty Shakin Llama named Boppi. Appell, Byrne, and Skirboll told us that this dancing llama is going to be incredibly popular. “You have to Google it,” says Skirboll. “It is so cute, and as I said, I bought most of these toys so they’re all sitting on my desk. It’s even pretty funny to watch it just in the packaging.”
This year’s hottest video-game system for kids
Nintendo Switch Lite
Three out of our four toy experts (Skirboll, Byrne, and Appell) say they expect the Nintendo Switch Lite to sell out quickly. “It’s smaller, it’s cheaper, and it comes in a few different colors,” says Skirboll, explaining that parents of tweens and teens might like this lighter version of the megapopular gaming system. It should be said, though, that this version of Nintendo Switch does not connect to your TV.
This year’s hottest toy inspired by a song
WowWee Pinkfong Baby Shark Official Song Puppet with Tempo Control
If you have a child, you have probably heard the song “Baby Shark” an obscene amount of times. Thanks to the song’s popularity, you can now buy this shark puppet from the makers of Fingerlings — yes, it comes in Fingerling version too. Three of our experts (Byrne, Appell, and Skirboll) are betting this plush family of singing sharks will sell like hotcakes. Byrne says it’s a winning toy because it “takes a concept that kids love and interprets it into a dimensional way of playing.” He explains that when you do the Baby Shark hand movements “like the jaws of a shark” it triggers the puppet to play the song. Move the puppet faster, and it plays the song faster; move more slowly and it slows the tempo down.
This year’s hottest kid-created toy
Ryan’s World Super Surprise Safe
In 2018, Ryan’s Giant Surprise Egg sold out, restocked, then sold out again at Target, Amazon, and Walmart. Ryan, a real kid with over 4 million YouTube subscribers and a new show on Nickelodeon has played a huge role in the unboxing trend through his unboxing videos. For 2019, he (and his parents) came up with a different surprise-filled toy, this time in the shape of a safe with a lock. Appell told us the Ryan’s World Super Surprise Safe is one of the toys she and the Toy Association “think is going to move really quickly.”
This year’s hottest evolving toy
Rizmo Interactive Evolving Musical Plush Toy
“Kids have to play and interact with Rizmo to watch him evolve,” says DiBartolo, who, along with Appell, recommends buying this little furry monster sooner rather than later. “He loves to sing and dance, and even records what kids sing to him to play it back later,” adds DiBartolo. Rizmo fits into another big returning toy trend: Any kind of pet animal, monster, or bug that kids have to take care of and interact with. According to Appell, Rizmo is a plush creature from outer space, but you nurture it to get it to evolve and come out of its little cocoon. The full evolution takes two weeks to complete which means your child will be busy playing with Rizmo eons in toy time.
This year’s hottest fashion doll
Creatable World Deluxe Character Kit Customizable Doll
Both Byrne and Appell think that Mattel’s newest dolls will be something of a runaway hit with parents and kids. “They’re not Barbie,” says Appell “they’re customizable dolls so you can create your own characters.” Each of the six customizable dolls comes with different clothing and hairstyles so you can give them short hair or long hair, and style them however you want. Appell says “I’ve never seen anything like it before,” and “I think it’ll be very popular.”
This year’s hottest preschool toy
Kindi Kids Snack Time Friends, Pre-School 10” Doll
Both Byrne and DiBartolo mentioned this collection of big-eyed bobblehead dolls as a way for children 3 and under to get in on the collectibles trend. Byrne says, “They are like Shopkins but for preschoolers,” because they “have a ton of accessories just like Shopkins but theirs are bigger, so small children won’t swallow the pieces.”
This year’s hottest interactive toy
Dreamworks Dragons, Hatching Toothless Interactive Baby Dragon with Sounds
Appell and Skirboll both told us that Hatchimals are as popular as ever. But from the wide array of sparkly and speckly hatching eggs, they say this combination Hatchimal and Dreamworks toy is the one to keep an eye on. “It’s from the movie How to Train Your Dragon,” says Skirboll who explains that you can play games with it like “hot potato” and “Simon Says.”
This year’s hottest STEM toy
Playmobil Mars Mission Play Box
Byrne says that STEM-style toys are a big trend he’s been seeing, and though he likes anything from Playmobil, he specifically mentioned this Mars Mission Playmobil toy as one to look out for because it does a good job of “building narrative and fantasy while including some science in there as well.”
This year’s hottest toy inspired by a video game
Fortnite Jumbo Llama Loot Piñata
Unicorns still occupy a big place in children’s hearts, but according to our experts, we will be seeing more and more llamas very soon. Still, you might not have expected to see one as part of a Fortnite toy. “It’s no secret that Fortnite is one of the hottest video games out there,” says DiBartolo who recommends this Llama Pinata from Jazzwares, which she says “brings the game to life.” It also fits right into the unboxing toy trend since kids can smash it open to reveal more than 100 surprise goodies inside.
This year’s hottest slime toy
Pop Pops Snotz Hammer Toys Collections
All of our experts agree that slime is a big trend that’s still growing. “Slime is really huge!” says Byrne, who told us that people are finding different ways to play with it and even hide little toys inside of it. Byrne likes this hysterical slime collecting hammer because it “combines the fun of popping bubble wrap, unboxing toys, and smashing stuff with slime.”
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