Want to know what big & small kids want for Christmas? Read on...
There’s nothing quite like the squeals of delight from kids when they discover the toy they’ve been longing for under the tree on Christmas morning. Or the groans of disappointment if you’ve messed up and bought the wrong thing.
There are toy brands that tend to be much more popular with discerning young consumers than others but, with so many products on the market, choosing the right one can be a minefield for adults who can’t tell Pokémon from Paw Patrol.
New Zealand’s largest toy distributor, Planet Fun, has compiled a list of the most in-demand toys from its suppliers for 2023, and it includes an interesting mix of brands, says the company’s Head of Marketing, Pip Bannerman. The indisputable hit of the year is Squishmallows, the cute oval soft toy that quickly became a global phenomenon and appeals to both kids and “kidults”, basically Gen Z.
“The trend is likely to have been driven by Tik Tok where the brand has amassed hundreds of millions of views” says Bannerman.
The list also features some old favourites that have been around since today’s parents were kids themselves, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pokémon, and Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. New brands making the list in 2023 are Magic Mixies Couldron, where you can magically make a fluffy pet using a series of ingredients and magic words, plus Bitzees, the digital pet you can touch and feel.
“Popularity of toys is often driven by the entertainment industry, but inspiration is now spawned from multiple digital platforms,” Bannerman says, pointing out how toy companies now look for licences that are engaging kids on streaming and gaming sites, as well as You Tube, Roblox, and more.
Case in point: Adopt Me toy pets, which were developed from the number one game on the massive kids’ gaming giant Roblox. Cleverly, the toys include a code to unlock gaming features to link the virtual and real worlds.
Then there are the nostalgic toys, like Pokémon, mini skateboards Tech Deck and those indefatigable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The popularity of the turtles, who started life as comic book characters in 1984 before toy versions were released three years later, has been boosted by the latest movie to feature them, Mutant Mayhem.
“This movie was more kid-focused than previous ones, and revisited the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle DNA, so really resonated with today’s children,” says Bannerman.
Interestingly these nostalgic brands also fall into the “kidult” category, so appeal to children over 12 as well as adults. It is the fastest growing area of toys.
Social media platforms like TikTok can play a big part in building fanbase. Bannerman is unsurprised at the trend: “Gen Z are proving to be obsessed “retro-gazers”. While some people speculate that it is a post-pandemic response, it is more likely they are simply supercharged by social media delivering an endless supply of comforting nostalgic memories.
“You simply need to look at their penchant for thrifted fashion, Y2K style, and old sitcoms like “Friends” to put the puzzle together,” she says.
When it comes to buying toys this Christmas, Bannerman’s main piece of advice is to make sure you’ve got the brand right, then look for something in your price bracket within their ranges.
“Kids are very brand-savvy and, while these toys might all look the same to you, if you buy a copy, kids may not be as delighted as they would have been. You’re better off getting a less expensive choice from the right brand than buying a knock-off.
“Always buy from a reputable store. The toys we sell are all safety-tested but, when you buy from markets and dollar stores and pop-up stores, they probably won’t be.”
Here’s Planet Fun’s top 12 toy brands of 2023.
The biggest toy brand in the world right now are these squishy, egg-shaped soft toys. There are hundreds of characters to collect, including licensed ones like Harry Potter, Pokémon and Disney. They have a huge fanbase on social media, including over 7m videos on TikTok.
Big budget: Larger Squishmallows from 30cm to 40cm range in price from $32-$60
Small budget: 20cm characters are $20
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The perennially popular turtles are once again in hot demand following the success of Seth Rogen’s film Mutant Mayhem (the Rotten Tomatoes rating is 96 per cent).
Big budget: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant Mayhem pizza van, which fires pizzas at the enemy, $120
Small budget: Basic figures are $25 each, and Roleplay sets are $40
3. PAW Patrol
There are plenty of toys to tie in with the hugely popular TV show about a group of brave rescue pups and the missions they embark on.
Big budget: PAW Patrol Mighty Movie vehicles, $50, or Mighty Movie Skye Jet, $120
Small budget: Character figures $10, or soft toys, $20
One of the world’s most successful toy franchises, Pokémon is a phenomenon with a massive range from plush toys through to figures.
Big budget: Giant 45cm sleeping characters, $99, or $35 for a 20cm plush character
Small budget: Two-pack of figures, $15
Bitzee are digital pets that you can touch and feel. Bitzee have to be nurtured from babies via virtual interactions. Ignore them, and they pack their bags and leave. But don’t worry, they return with a bit of care and attention!
6. Magic Mixies
Mix a potion in a magic cauldron, say a spell, wave a wand and when the mist clears, you have your very own fluffy interactive pet, called a Mixie.
Big budget: The Magic Cauldron with all the works retails for around $150-$170
Small budget: Pixlings dolls without the cauldron are around $45, while little collectable creatures called Mixlings are around $15
7. Monster Jam
The toys are replicas of the famous trucks from the Monster Jam motorsport event, and kids love creating their own shows by driving their toys over everything in sight.
Big budget: Monster Jam Mega Grave Digger remote control vehicle, $230
Small budget: 1:64 scale models start at $12
8. Little Tikes Cozy Coupe
The iconic red and yellow foot-powered car is the number one selling ride-in vehicle in the world. It’s hugely popular with kids aged one to five, one of a few toys to be used for so many years of childhood.
Price: Around $190-$200.
9. Tech Deck
These authentic scaled-down replicas of skateboards have been a hit since 1999. They’re not just collectables – they can be “ridden” with your fingers and real tricks like kickflips can be performed.
Big budget: X-Connect Park playset and exclusive skateboard, $45
Small budget: Mini 96mm boards retail for under $10
10. Gabby’s Dollhouse
First launched Netflix, Gabby’s Dollhouse is one of the most popular shows for pre-schoolers in the world. The toys include figures of the main character, Gabby, and her cats.
Big budget: Gabby’s Purrfect Dollhouse, complete with rooms, accessories, a Gabby figure and a cat-a-vator, around $200
Small budget: Gabby’s Purrific soft toy cats, $25
11. L.O.L. Surprise
This doll brand features pint-sized popstar babies and has been one of the biggest hits of this generation since launch in 2016. There are thousands of characters, including the new Surprise Swap Tots which come with two looks.
Big budget: L.O.L. Surprise! Swap Tweens Fashion dolls $69
Small budget: L.O.L. Surprise! Swap Tots $30
12. Adopt Me
These adorable pets for adoption are based on the game of the same name on Roblox, which has been visited over 30 billion times. Unique codes in the packaging of all products unlock mystery items within the online game.
Big budget: Soft toy pets are $30-36, while a six-pack of figures is $55
Small budget: Mystery Collectable Pets, $12
For more information: Planetfun.co.nz