London Toy Fair is an annual event held at Kensington Olympia, where companies across the toy, games and hobby sector showcase products and introduce their newest creations. This year in London it welcomed over 260 exhibiting companies, ranging from well-known brands such as LEGO to small one-person start-ups (look up “Brexit” card game!).   We visited London Toy Fair in January and identified some key themes coming through across the industry in response to wider global challenges.

Connected toys: privacy and safety.

With the use of digital services and connected toys increasing significantly, ensuring that both companies and users are aware of issues such as online harms, data protection and age appropriate design is paramount. Children’s best interests, including their privacy and safety, should always be at the forefront of companies’ considerations. At this year’s Fair, BTHA (The British Toy& Hobby Association) and TUV Rheinland provided important information regarding privacy and safety of toys and connected devices. You can get an idea of the types of tests and checks each product must go through, here:

Saving the planet.

As consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with the sustainability of the products , more companies are also offering toys that are produced in line with the climate change prevention narrative. Most eco-friendly and climate-crisis concerned parents opt for wooden toys as an alternative to plastic designs. Many brands offer at least one range of wooden toys as part of their portfolio, however wooden toys are not the only alternative.   As evident at the London Toy Fair 2020, there are currently many more options available that can help with the plastic kick back! For example, toys that are made of rice-husk fibre, a rice-milling by-product, that’s 100% degradable (and antibacterial!), or soft toys made of polyester that is manufactured from recycled plastic waste (Keel-eco,the newest addition to Keel Toys range). Another great example of recycling within the toy industry comes from Green Toys and their beautifully designed toys that are made of recycled plastic milk bottles. Creativity that comes with helping the planet, brings along other benefits, which can make life a little bit easier for parents! For instance, Scrunch offers 100% recyclable and reusable buckets and spades that are made of non-toxic, food-grade silicon. Apart from being eco-friendly they are also foldable and can easily fit in a handbag when rolled up!

Learning through play.
Toys and games that support babies and toddlers with reaching developmental milestones or enhance learning in older children are a win-win for both children and parents. One of the most popular types of toys that parents opt for are still those designed with additional benefits over and above the fun factor! Unsurprisingly, educational toys were a significant part of this year’s Fair. For instance, Chalk & Chuckles offers a selection of games that help with developing social and cognitive skills such as logic, attention, memory or communication. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) toys and games are also in high demand. Motivating children to learn with the use of innovative gadgets is proven highly successful and was shown to improve problem-solving and socio-emotional skills in children. STEM toys not only make learning fun, they also help with staying up to date with latest innovations and engage in skill acquisition. A promise of achieving STEM objectives (developing logical reasoning, spatial insights and social skills) was appealing enough to make a STEM toy so popular that it achieved The Gift of The Year in 2019 award (Engenius Contraptions flat-pack marble run ). As for the innovation part: toys and games that familiarise children with coding are the latest addition in the STEM world. Coding Critters offers a range of interactive pet-robots for children as young as 4, whilst older children (7+) can learn the basics of programming languages such JAVA and Python (The Coding Robot Artie 3000 by Educational Insights).

It is clear, not least from this year’s London Toy Fair, that the toy industry is adapting to meet the changing needs of parents and children as the world around them evolves. Toys and games companies are successfully bringing to our attention and responding to challenges such as protecting the environment, child safety and successful skill development of the consumers of tomorrow.

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