The best thing about being a kid in 2021 (because, lord knows, there are downsides): Toys have never been more child-friendly. Toy makers who truly “get” kids are designing products with their needs—for sensory stimulation, for movement, for rich, nourishing narratives—in mind. From trendy fidgets that put the “pop” in popular to actual flying Snitches to earth-friendly introductions to the world of play, every item we’ve included here will entertain and delight your little ones, no matter what lies ahead.
6 Toy Trends You're About to See Everywhere
1. Sensory Toys
Experts say toys that stimulate multiple senses benefit kids’ neurological development. See, for example, a bright squishie Yoda or Pikachu that rivals bubble wrap for tactile satisfaction. We fact-checked this with our playground posse and can confirm: Pop-its, Fidget Spinners, Monkey Noodles and scented Squishies—these are the talismans to trade.
Slow Rising Jumbo Squishies ($17); Chuckle & Roar Pop It ($8); Monkey Noodles ($10)
2. The Return Of Harry Potter Mania
It’s been 20 years since “the boy who lived” was born (in literary form), but fans of the wizarding world are more obsessed than ever. Exhibit A: The just-opened, awe-inspiring Harry Potter store in NYC is so swamped with Hogwarts lovers, they recommend arriving at 7 AM to scan a QR code just to get in the queue. Those shopping from home can buy an actual invisibility cloak (green screen technology lets you shoot a disappearing act on your smartphone), pink pygmy puff or flying snitch game. It may not be as heart-pounding as a Quidditch match, but a muggle’s got to do what a muggle’s got to do.
Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak ($55); Harry Potter Catch the Snitch game ($20); Harry Potter Soft Toy Gift Trunk ($25)
3. Audio Toys
The tech revolution has come to story hour. And thankfully, a series of readaloud-delivery systems may even be an antidote too much tablet time. The first is the Toniebox: a small speaker which magnetically connects with a collection of kid-friendly, hand-painted figurines. The one shaped like Rapunzel plays classic fairytales; The one shaped like The Gruffalo plays that book, and so on. There are educational phonics games, sing-along collections and even a mindfulness Tonie that plays guided mediations created in collaboration with GoNoodle. On a similar note, Yoto Player is a wireless speaker that allows kids to insert cards featuring audiobooks (one card contains the entire Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, for example) or bedtime meditations. You can also search for content by age, which makes browsing a cinch. Enriching downtime? That’s music to our ears.
Toniebox Playtime Puppy Starter Set ($100); Yoto Player ($100)
4. Mario Irl
It’s Mario’s world. We’re just living in it. Nintendo’s iconic plumber is switching it up (see what we did there?), moving from video games to all sorts of product extensions. There’s the wildly popular interactive LEGO app. And then there’s the new home circuit set with which you can set up IRL race courses using household objects and watch them come alive—complete with Piranha Plants—onscreen.
Lego Adventures with Mario Starter Course ($48); MarioKart Live Home Circuit Set ($129)
5. Earth Friendly Toys
It’s never too early to teach kids to appreciate nature—and to protect it. Rush to Recycle is a board game that inspires players to sort glass from plastic, and even to compost. Upgrade your fairy garden with a magical wood shire house made from the branches of an alder tree and throw in some homegrown, butterfly-friendly milkweed while you’re at it. And if you have a truck enthusiast, Green Toys offers ideal diggers and dumpers made from 100% recycled plastic. Clean up time. Mean it.
Magic Wood Shire House ($80); Construction Truck ($14); Grow a Milkweed Activity Kit, ($25)
6. Mega Toys
Why play with the same old water balloons when you can fill a super squishable Wubble and watch it expand to 47 inches in diameter? Why blow plain old bubbles when you can fill an entire backyard with foam? Child size hamster wheel? 90” inflatable bouncer shaped like Saturn? Mega magnet blocks with which to build a literal fort? A winged dragon large enough to ride on? It’s time to go big and go home.
Water Wubble ($25); Little Tikes FOAMO Foam Machine ($126); Giant Dome Inflatable Rocker Bouncer ($98); Magnet Blox, ($300); Melissa & Doug Winged Dragon ($100)