Pollick: What’s on the list? Games and toys for 2023


Amy Pollick is a content writer and editor for Wealth of Geeks, which syndicated this Opinion. It was produced by Media Decision.

The Sears Wish Book may have gone the way of the dodo bird, but children still make Christmas lists with games and toys at the top. According to a Research and Markets study, the worldwide games and toys market is worth $342 billion.

The study reports the games-and-toys market is driven by an emerging middle class in populated areas and the continued growth of legacy brands, among other factors.

Top of the wish lists

If kids still want toys, what items are most popular? Statista reports the U.S. toy market is seeing a resurgence in traditional toys, like dolls, board games, puzzles and construction sets.

The “Barbie” movie topped $1 billion at the box office, so it follows that Mattel’s flagship toy is popular this year. Emma Stessman and Bella Druckman with the “Today” show interviewed Laurie Schacht, chief toy officer at The Toy Insider. She shared that Barbie: The Movie collectible doll, Barbie: The Movie Ken doll, the Barbie Dreamhouse 2023, the Barbie Fashionistas doll and the remote control Hot Wheels Barbie Corvette are some of the most popular toys of 2023.

Arts-and-crafts toys are making a comeback, too, according to Schacht. The Make It Real Mini Pottery Studio and Cra-Z-Art’s The Real Cotton Candy Maker are also a hit with youngsters this year.

Other retailers have released their most popular toys for 2023. Kohl’s department store list includes the L.O.L. Surprise! Magic Flyers and the Melissa & Doug Stack, Sort & Pound Wooden Toy Collection. The list at Macy’s includes a revamped Tamagotchi Uni. Sesame Street’s Elmo is still popular and appears as the Elmo Slide Plush.

Amazon reports the Clue Conspiracy board game is a popular choice, while Walmart offers the Nerf Elite Junior Flyer.

STEM/STEAM toys are popular, too, including the Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Kidnoculars and the Melissa & Doug Super Smile Dentist Kit.

Toys parents like

No matter what toys the kiddos want, Mom and Dad have the final say on what goes under the tree or in a birthday gift.

Monica Fish, founder of Planner at Heart, says, “Despite my kids’ five-year age difference, they both have LEGOs on their holiday wish list. It is a toy that encourages creative, imaginative play, problem solving, and introduces engineering concepts. But they just think it’s an exciting gift from their favorite Disney or video game franchises. Even though LEGOs tend to be a high-priced item, it’s one that always makes it under the tree.”

For youngsters whose preferences are a little harder to nail down, parents have to watch what the kids are playing with for a better idea of what to buy.

Sarah Gilliland is a travel editor and mom of three kids who owns the On the Road With Sarah travel blog. She’s onboard with being an observant parent where holiday gifts are concerned.

“The 4-year-old always wants everything he sees: in stores, on TV, you name it,” she says. “We usually can’t ask him what he wants because it’s always a huge list, but we know what he plays with the most. He loves building things, and he recently received a marble run set for his birthday, so we will probably get him more attachments for that. He also loves LEGO blocks and magnetic tiles for building.

“Pretend play has also ramped up for him,” she continues, “and he enjoys being a chef or a doctor, so we will most likely add to his accessories for those costumes. Dinosaurs and Matchbox cars are also always welcome. We love the brands Melissa & Doug, VTech and LEGO.”

Sometimes, gifts for youngsters are an easy pick. Gilliland explains, “My tweens want gift cards, money or accessories for their phones.”

Parents also have opinions on gifts they’re not sure about.

JayDee Vykoukal, owner of Mom Blog Life, expressed her concerns. “My 5-year-old has two consistent requests this year so far. A tablet because her other friends have one, and a Llama Squishmallow. The Squishmallow is an easy win,” she explains, “but I’m hesitant to get my child an electronic (device) at such a young age. I’ve been looking into kid-friendly tablets with educational apps, parental control and time limits. We’ll see as it gets closer to Christmas.”

What the experts like

Child development experts have their own thoughts about toys and games for children.

The editors at New York magazine’s The Strategist spoke with Dr. Roberta Golinkoff, a professor of child psychology at the University of Delaware. She said, “The best toys allow growing kids to engage in imaginative play, practice communication, and develop fine motor skills.”

Experts on the Early Learning Centre website recommend toys that stimulate children’s touch and motor skills, particularly for toddlers. Older children like toys that allow them to practice their communication skills, like toy phones that also encourage their auditory skills.

Kids love physical activity toys, too, and child development experts recommend them to encourage children to move and exercise. Bubble machines and mini ball pits are popular toys to help get kids moving.

Experts also recommend kids use crayons, finger paints, modeling clay and other art supplies to express their creativity and to develop fine motor skills and color recognition.

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at civiltalk@iniusa.org.

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