This holiday season, some toy companies are powering down on drones and practically anything that requires a screen.
What’s taken tech’s spot?
When The Toy Insider, a leading resource and magazine in the toy industry, published its top holiday trends of 2019, one theme was clear: Kids are unplugging. The Toy Insider even had to rename one of the categories they break toy companies into from “Tech 12” to just “12 Under $12” in order to give a more accurate assessment of what’s hot on the market.
“This year, probably one of the biggest changes was the less screen time,” says Laurie Schact, chief toy officer at The Toy Insider. “Parents are really trying to move children away from that. Tech is not the big story—it just isn’t.”
The Toy Insider compiles its list by monitoring what’s coming through in trade shows, as well as contacting retailers, manufacturers, and analysts throughout the year. In addition to collectibles and launches from top influencers in the space like Tic Tac Toy’s XOXO Friends, kids are gravitating toward more tactile play. Toys like slime and DIY STEM-based kits have seen an upswing, according to The Toy Insider.
But one trend that seems particularly buzzy has been glam play, i.e. toys used for cosmetic purposes.
From Cool Maker’s GO GLAM Nail Stamper!, to Thames & Kosmos’ Soap & Bath Bomb Lab, to Wicked Cool Toys’ Blinger, glam play covers a wide domain—and kids seem to want it all.
“A lot of these toys have to do with activities and arts and crafts. So none of these toys require a screen, which is why parents are a fan of them,” says Maddie Michalik, senior editor of The Toy Insider. “Activities like getting your nails done, accessorizing a fun look for a day, or making bath bombs, these things are trending with grownups, so kids want to do it, too.”
To be sure, glam play is nothing new. For decades, toy companies have long been pedaling plastic vanities, toy makeup, and so forth. But one thing that’s made glam play shine a little brighter going into the 2019 holiday season has been the rise of the beauty influencer, in conjunction with the boom in the cosmetics industry overall. Social media and such influencers as Jackie Aina, Bretman Rock, Kylie Jenner, Jeffree Starr, and Nikkie de Jager have made makeup more accessible to younger consumers and have given rise to indie brands like Glossier, ColourPop, Beauty Bakerie, and Huda Beauty—not to mention influencers’ own brands and collaborations. All of this activity has contributed to the global cosmetics market’s growth, which is expected to reach an estimated $805 billion by 2023. And it’s not just makeup: Wig and hair accessory companies are tapping into influencers. Nail art is also in its Renaissance period with technicians like Cardi B’s go-to Jenny Bui rising to celebrity status.
“It’s not like glam play hasn’t been popular before. And right now [it’s popular] with the rise of the influencer,” says Michael Rinzler, cofounder of Wicked Cool Toys. “For me personally, I have an 8-year-old daughter, and she, like many little girls and some little boys, is really into the whole of makeup and enhancing their look.”
Which is a part of the reason why Wicked Cool Toys recently decided to branch into the glam play space with Blinger, a BeDazzler for Gen Z, if you will, that uses a patented 3M adhesive to temporarily attach gems and rhinestones to hair, clothes, etc.
Back in 2014, Angie Cella, a single mother of four children, got the idea for Blinger. “It came to me in a dream,” she says. “I woke up the next morning, and I grabbed my 10 year-old out of bed, and I put some rhinestones in her hair and said, ‘Go play—let’s see if these fall out.'” After a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign, Cella went into production and took her first 100 Blingers to Toy Fair Dallas where Rinzler happened to be reviewing products and mentoring up-and-coming inventors.
“Normally we see amazing ideas but nothing has ever been anything for us,” Rinzler says. Until he saw Cella and her prototype. “This thing was literally just magic. As soon as we saw it work, these gems going into someone’s hair and how fast it was and how good the result was, we loved it.”
Blinger is now sold through Wicked Cool Toys, and it’s currently a finalist for the Toy Association’s Creative Toy of the Year. Both Cella and Rinzler agree that part of Blinger’s success stems from this pushback against tech-centric toys with no STEM or DIY value to them.
“As a mom, it’s really meaningful to see my kids play with something I played with as a kid,” Cella says. “When I was designing my device, I wanted it to be non-techy. I wanted it to be manual with no heat or electricity. I wanted it to be simple [for kids].”
Rinzler adds: “We all know kids are spending way too much time on their screens. And, by the way, so are we as adults. You want kids to get back to the roots of play. I think parents are realizing that and wanting their children to use their imaginations to do things that make them feel good that aren’t electronically based. I hope that’s something that that won’t go away because people are acutely aware of it now.”