The holiday season is upon us once again, whether we like it or not. The aisles of seemingly every store you walk through this time of year have the same basic progression: Halloween décor, candy, and costumes at 40 percent off. Thanksgiving and other harvest-themed wreaths and centerpieces at 25 percent off. And before you can even see the endless aisles of Christmas paraphernalia, the smell of those cinnamon-scented pinecones lets you know that lawn ornaments, lights, ribbons, wrapping paper, hand towels, and all manner of wintery-themed items for your home are ready for the purchasing.
Also readying themselves for the onslaught of holiday buying? The toy departments. And in light of the Hatchimal Hype of 2016, many retailers, merchants, and even parents are attempting to predict what the hottest toys will be this year. I’m no expert, but I am a mother of three. And my intuition tells me that some predictions are spot-on, while others are just wishful thinking on the part of toy manufacturers and distributors.
The Hot List:
The residual Hatchimals craze has managed to linger slightly, though supply and demand have evened out. And while it’s highly unlikely the interactive toy will be going for hundreds of dollars on eBay again, the Canadian toy maker Spin Master did manage to keep their forward momentum by introducing a second generation toy called “Hatchimals Surprise.” What’s better than one automated furry creature that needs love and nurturing to hatch and grow? Twin automated furry hybrid creatures that will emerge and thrive from the care and attention given to them! While I wouldn’t invest in a storage unit full of these guys to sell for a profit, I can safely say that any child who wasn’t lucky enough to get their paws on one of these eggs last year will not be disappointed with a pair of surprise twin Hatchimals this year.
L.O.L. Surprise! Dolls
In keeping with the “surprise” theme, L.O.L. Surprise! dolls have been making quite a scene over the last few months. These self-contained packages offer different layers of clothing and accessories before finally revealing a mystery doll. The manufacturers here were smart and played up a lot of best-selling angles: the surprise and mystery surrounding which character you end up with, a collectible series mentality that encourages you to never be completely satisfied with just one, and the anticipation of getting additional pieces with each opened layer. While most little girls would be thrilled with one or two of whatever “series” L.O.L. Dolls you can get your hands on, the Holy Grail for the holidays this year is the L.O.L. Surprise! Big Surprise ball. Redundant? Yes. Expensive? Absolutely. But totaling 50 individual accessories, outfits, and dolls inside, the Big Surprise ball will be a big hit.
Topping my hottest toy list are these little guys by WowWee known as Fingerlings. They are little robotic monkeys (though I’ve heard there are also unicorns and sloths out there as well) that cling to your finger, respond to your touch and voice, and have the ability to blink and mimic sounds and other motions of a pygmy marmoset monkey on which Fingerlings were based. What makes them number one in my book? First, the price point. The MSRP on these individual robotic animals is only $14.99, as compared to the other two “must haves” on this particular list. When a desirable toy comes with a reasonable price tag, the accessibility of the toy to a wider population increases the demand significantly. The second appeal of these toys is the small size. They’re inexpensive to ship, they’re easy to hide as presents, and they’re easy to store. The last and most compelling reason for the potential success of Fingerlings lies in their primary objective: it’s a toy that needs to be nurtured. Every other insanely popular toy over the decades has resembled either a baby or an animal that requires some level of care—Cabbage Patch Dolls, Baby Alive, Tamagotchis. Toy manufacturers play on our innate desires to nurture and care for smaller creatures.
The Not List
That being said, toy manufacturers can take it too far. Some sources are making predictions about another hot toy this season: Luvabella dolls. These dolls do indeed require care — about the same amount of care as an actual baby. The problem with that is the limited attention span of the intended audience. While children adore toys they can care for, they don’t want a toy that is dependent upon them. The other thing about Luvabellas? They try and walk the fine line of realistic fantasy, but basically just come off as a touch creepy. And with retailers offering these new dolls in the $100-$200 range, it’s a huge investment in a doll without the following of a larger, established franchise like the American Girl Doll.
Tyler the Playful Tiger
furReal Friends have been on many wish lists over the years, and this year’s newest addition is Tyler the Playful Tiger. While he sure is cute and fits in with the group of toys that responds to a handler, furReal friends simply don’t have the ability to keep the attention of most kids over a long period of time. Especially with a price tag of $130, I just don’t see this one flying off the shelves. The other reason Tyler misses the mark is because tigers just aren’t that fun right now. They’ve always been majestic and beautiful to the world, but in a society currently obsessed with unicorns and sloths, Tyler the Playful Tiger just isn’t trending.
Last but not least, I have to hand it to the manufacturers of Teddy Ruxpin for jumping on the nostalgia bandwagon, but that’s about all the props they’re going to get. The animatronic bear we knew and loved (and were slightly terrified of) as children is back, ready to read and sing to your own kids. But with no major design improvements and only standard digital upgrades (Bluetooth and an exclusive app) to speak of, it’s doubtful that buying up every $100 Teddy Ruxpin you see will result in a positive investment opportunity.
Happy holiday shopping, fellow parents. May your purchases be financially wise and well received by the tiny humans you’re giving joy to.