Fall 2018
Time for Toddlers By Sam Ujvary

Millennial parents do their homework when it comes to products for their tots

What comes to mind when you think of the word “toddlers?” Probably chaos, personality, a little bit of tomfoolery and total cuteness overload. There’s an overwhelming sense of amusement when it comes to these crazy little humans who are starting to develop their own identity and are notafraid to tell you what they think.

The toddler product category is a great one because it consists of a mix of teachable items parents love with colors, patterns and styles children love.

According to a recent National Retail Federation article, more than a million millennials became new moms in 2016 alone. Their kids are now the target toddler audience. “For millennial parents, what a brand stands for is just as important as the products and services it sells,” the article read. Half of millennial parents research a brand and its values, and 44 percent will only shop those brands that reflect the respective parent’s social or political values.

The study, conducted by The Consumer View, is a quarterly study that tracks consumer behavior. It also shared a take on millennial parenting. “Millennial parents may be demanding consumers with strong views on who they should shop and what brands should deliver. But once you gain their loyalty, they can be your strongest advocates.” And there are numbers to support this. Sixty-four percent will visit a brand they’re loyal to before looking at a competitor; 52 percent will choose said brand above a more convenient option; and 49 percent will choose said brand above a cheaper option.

Toddler products are pretty amazing these days. It’s like a generation of toddlers grew up to be CEOs of game, toy, apparel and other manufacturing companies for the sole purpose that they could create fun things that they could develop for today’s kiddos. Things they wished they could have played with when they were growing up. What’s more, these companies seem to be learning from each other and, in some cases, working in tandem in order to develop the latest and greatest for our children.

The newly branded Toy Association cultivated a top trend collection for 2018. Its six categories include:

The Big Reveal: Unwrapping surprise toys from blind bags that sometimes include putting the toy together as part of the experience.

Millennial Nostalgia:Even though the generation is known for its love of technology, millennial parents are looking for classic toys and retro brands that offer tried-and-true play value for children.

Games Galore:Game play offers something for every age group and fosters face-to-face family time. U.S. sales are up 23 percent for games and 3 percent for puzzles in 2016 and 2017.

Inspiring Imaginations: From role play to dress-up, imaginative play is a way for kids to explore, increase language abilities and continually develop their imaginations.

Pet Play:Furry, plush and even interactive pets help children develop a sense of responsibility perfect for when they’re eager for a real pet.

Toys that Teach:STEM/STEAM toys are now engaging kids in various ways, incorporating technology in nearly every aspect of play.

Educational toys for toddlers run the gamut from classics like building blocks and puzzles, to interactive tech toys, to STEM/STEAM toys that introduce school subjects. “For example, we’re seeing coding and robotic toys for kids as young as three, which provide them with a great introduction to coding in a way that is both hands-on and fun,” said Kristin Morency Goldman, spokesperson for The Toy Association. “We’re also seeing an expanded array of toys that teach little ones about making the world a better place by being responsible citizens, kind to their friends, and open-minded about different cultures.”

Educational products for children can cover toys, mealtime, and even apparel — think Boredwalk’s Pangea T-shirt. It’s a broad range and we’re seeing it everywhere, especially with the perpetually growing STEM/STEAM category. Educational means not only products like Think Tank Scholar’s flash cards, but also items like backpacks for school and other school supplies.

Whatever type of toys The Toy Association is looking for, staying in the know about the next “it” product in toys and games is a year-round job for the team. It involves trend-tracking, conferences, trade shows and events to see what’s trending in parallel industries that could potentially impact the future of toys and games.

Buckle Me Baby Coat

So, are there any other categories parents can expect to see in the coming year? “We’ll continue to see great toys that allow toddlers to imitate adults through role play; safely test their physical skills; put their fine motor skills to work; and encourage open-ended, imaginative play,” said Morency Goldman. She also said licensed toys based on popular preschool properties will continue to fare well.

Dressing up

Buying apparel for toddlers is quite possibly the most fun you’ll have as an adult. From tutus and onesies to the most dapper holiday outfits, there is absolutely no shortage of adorable items for every age. Mud Pie has an expansive collection of apparel for children, including items for nearly every holiday. Other companies, like Finn & Emma and Love Bubby have options that play on modern-day topics, like the continued feminist movement.

Then there are companies like Buckle Me Baby Coat. Innovation was the key word for Dahlia Rizk, the company’s founder and inventor. She’s in year two of her flagship product that protects children in their car seats during cold weather. Experts warn parents of the effects of not removing children’s coats before buckling them into their car seats; and Rizk wanted a solution to the time-consuming perils of getting into and out of the safety seat.

And she’s spreading the love. BMBC is implementing a buyback program. “(Parents) can trade in gently used Buckle Me Baby Coats for a $20 credit. Traded in coats will be donated to local New England children in wheelchairs,” said Rizk.

Parents can also donate traditional coats for a $10 credit. Those coats will be sent to refugee children in Syria through the New Hampshire nonprofit, NuDay Syria.

Products that speak to the nostalgia of the parents as well as teach children and inspire their imagination can be found in just about every category under the toddler umbrella. And parents, especially millennials, will remain loyal to those brands that help light up their children’s faces.


Sam Ujvary

Sam is the managing editor of Gift Shop Pets, Museums & More and Party & Halloween Retailer, and is a contributing editor for Gift Shop Magazine. She has a copywriting background and has been in publishing for six years.

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