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Hot toys in pandemic ditch screens, embrace social justice

Nic Querolo
Bloomberg

Board games, stuffed animals, playsets and dolls round out this year’s top toys. One thing largely absent: screens.

Analog is making a comeback as children and parents overloaded with screen time during the pandemic seek a break.

The events of 2020 are shaping the types of toys that kids and parents are looking for, according to Toy Insider, an industry publication that predicts holiday trends. Besides a drop in screen-based toys, social responsibility is emerging as a theme amid protests over racial justice and a greater focus on climate change. Affordable items are also in favor as some parents face financial hardship.

Star Wars The Child Animatronic Edition

“This year has been pretty unprecedented all around,” said Marissa DiBartolo, editor-in-chief of Toy Insider, which compiles a “Hot 20” list of the expected top sellers each year. “In terms of what we chose, they’re pretty much all very rooted in what’s going on in the world right now.”

There are timeless elements in this year’s top toys. Pokemon, Star Wars, Blue’s Clues and Super Mario all make appearances, partly due to a gaping hole left by the lack of new children’s movies with Hollywood studios still roiled by the virus.

Toy makers hope renewed enthusiasm this holiday season can salvage what has been a challenging year, with Hasbro Inc. falling 29% this year through Tuesday and Mattel Inc. slumping 17%. Hasbro gained 4.1% at 9:34 a.m. Wednesday in New York, while Mattel rose 1.9%.

Manufacturers are under increased pressure to make dolls inclusive and reflective of their users, DiBartolo said. Zoe, a top 20 pick made by Healthy Roots Dolls, sports a shirt that reads “my black is beautiful” and teaches children to style curly and wavy hair.

The Blippi Recycling Truck, aimed at 3- to 4-year-old budding environmentalists, comes equipped with bins and pretend trash, while the Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Grow-the-Fun Garden to Kitchen lets kids prepare their own farm-to-table meals.

A kid-friendly digital camera is the only screen-based toy on the Hot 20 list, which is compiled through briefings with manufacturers, retailers and analysts throughout the year. Toys are judged on factors including play value, originality and skill building.

Toy Insider’s Hot 20

Ages 2 and under

Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Grow-The-Fun Garden to Kitchen

Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Grow-The-Fun Garden to Kitchen (Mattel)

Speak & Learn Puppy (LeapFrog)

Ages 3 to 4

Blippi Recycling Truck

Blippi Recycling Truck (Jazwares)

Blue’s Clues & You! Dance-Along Blue Plush

Blue’s Clues & You! Dance-Along Blue Plush (Just Play)

Barbie Color Reveal Slumber Party Fun (Mattel)

Hexbug Nanotopia (Hexbug)

Pinkfong Baby Shark Dancing DJ

Pinkfong Baby Shark Dancing DJ (WowWee)

PJ Masks Transforming 2 in 1 Mobile HQ (Just Play)

Ryan’s World Shadow Warrior Ninja Mystery Box

Ryan’s World Shadow Warrior Ninja Mystery Box (Bonkers Toys)

Star Wars The Child Animatronic Edition (Hasbro)

Ages 5 to 7

KidiZoom Creator Cam

KidiZoom Creator Cam (VTech)

Lego Super Mario Adventure with Mario Starter Course

Lego Super Mario Adventure with Mario Starter Course (Lego Group)

Present Pets (Spin Master)Rainbow High Fashion Dolls (MGA Entertainment)

Squeakee The Balloon Dog (Moose Toys)

Zoe (Healthy Roots Dolls)

Ages 8 and Up

Beyblade Burst Rise Hypersphere Vortex Climb Battle Set

Beyblade Burst Rise Hypersphere Vortex Climb Battle Set (Hasbro)

Chocolate Pen (Skyrocket Toys)

Pokemon Trading Card Game Battle Academy

Pokemon Trading Card Game Battle Academy (Pokemon Co.)

Snap Ships Gladius AC-75 Drop Ship

Snap Ships Gladius AC-75 Drop Ship (PlayMonster)