Dana Macke
Dana is the Associate Director of the Lifestyles & Leisure team at Mintel, with a focus on family research. Her background in marketing strategy helps her generate insights based on market developments, consumer data, and cultural trends.

Even though parents foot the bill, kids have a huge influence on the types of toys and games parents purchase. Understanding which holiday toys will sell and which will sit on the shelves is a factor of appealing to both parents and kids.

What kids want

Children’s input is the most important consideration for parents when they’re deciding which toys to buy, and more than half of parents deem this important according to Mintel research on traditional toys and games in the US. This is why (much to parents’ chagrin) there may be a lot of toys that gross-out parents in their cart this year.

Gross-out toys

Source: Ebay – Little Live Pets’ Gotta Go Flamingo (Moose Enterprise)

Little Live Pets’ Gotta Go Flamingo (Moose Enterprise) may be the toy of the year. As incredulous as it sounds, this flamingo sitting on a toilet is one of kids’ 2020 favorites. Celebrity mom influencer Kristen Bell even shared an Instagram post in November of her own quest to find a pooping flamingo for her family.

Not since the Garbage Pail Kids have kids’ toys been so grody to the max. Hasbro’s Poopalots Big Wags puppy (part of the FurReal Friends line), Mattel’s Pooparoos Supriseroos, MGA Entertainment’s Poopsie Dancing Unicorn and a variety of plush, farting poop emoji toys round out the 2020 line-up of poop-related toys. From a kids’ perspective, the phenomenon needs little explanation: poop is gross, and being gross is fun.

Analog versions of their online faves

Source: Target – Mattel’s Hot Wheels Mario Kart Circuit Trackset

While some of the greatest competition for traditional toys and games comes from social media, streaming video and gaming, these digital channels have also inspired some of this years’ favorite toys. Hasbro’s Nerf Fortnite Blasters, LEGO Minecraft Crafting Box, Roblox Meme Pack and Mattel’s Hot Wheels Mario Kart Circuit Trackset will likely be on many kids’ wish lists this year. Nearly all kids aged 6-17 play video games of some variety and two in three tweens and teens who play say they like to play video games with their parents. This suggests that parents will be amenable to some video game purchases for the holidays. However, for parents who are concerned about their kids’ screen time, real-world versions of online favorites are a nice alternative.

What parents want

Parents may be more in sync with their child’s favorite characters and toys this year because so much family time has been spent at home during the quarantine. Kids who normally do a lot of their socializing and playing at school are home instead, where parents are able to watch and witness the types of shows and toys they enjoy. In 2019 parents may have browsed the toy aisle during the holiday, unsure of what they were looking for; in 2020 parents are heading to Amazon with a dog-eared toy catalog, humming the theme of their kids’ favorite Disney+ show. There is a lot better understanding of kids’ favorites, but parents have their preferences too.

Familiar brands and characters

Source: JCPenney – Hasbro Disney Princess Comfy Squad (Belle)

When shopping for kids’ toys, nearly half of parents think it’s important to buy from a brand they trust. A well-known brand name communicates to parents that a toy is high-quality and guaranteed to be a hit with their kids. Legacy brands such as LEGO, Barbie, Hot Wheels, and Play-Doh continue to be high on parents’ list because they deliver on this promise.

Similarly, familiar characters are a win with parents. Nearly two in five parents who shop for toys say they like to buy toys that feature characters they loved as kids. The Child (aka Baby Yoda) plushies, Marvel Superhero Mashers, and Disney Princess Comfy Squad dolls all bring a slight twist on favorite characters that both parents and kids will get a kick out of.

Toys that keep kids entertained

With schools closed intermittently this year and next, parents are looking for toys that keep their kids independently engaged so they can accomplish their work and household tasks uninterrupted. This means outdoor toys, crafts and construction sets will be on their holiday lists. Ride-on toys (like the Kid Trax Recycling Truck Ride-On vehicle), bouncers and trampolines for kids under six; bikes, scooters and hoverboards for older kids.

Source: eBay – LEGO Friends Summer Fun Water Park

For families in cold weather, crafts and construction sets will keep kids entertained in the winter months. Parents looking for wooden blocks have a variety of interesting options from stackable “stones,” city-scape sets or castle construction kits like the FAO Schwarz Princess Castle Wood Building Set. LEGO continues to thrive as a pandemic toy of choice with their holiday Gingerbread House set, LEGO Friends Summer Fun Water Park kit and The Mandalorian AT-ST Raider which parents will buy for their kids but keep for themselves.

Source: Kohl’s – Kid Made Modern Over the Rainbow Craft Kit

Drawing and coloring are the crafts parents are most likely to work on with their kids, but most parents already have the crafting basics on-hand. Holiday upgrades will include things like the Kid Made Modern Over the Rainbow Craft Kit or the Hide & Seek Rock Painting Kit. Crayola’s Scribble Scrubbies have been a huge hit this year and will likely show up under the tree. And for any parents who want to give their kids a stocking stuffer that will make them giggle, they can add in Crayola’s Ugly Putty: Poop.