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Popular This Year: Toys That Soothe, Comfort and Pop

Washington Post | October 27, 2021

Toys focused on social and emotional development have become big sellers during the pandemic — initially to support kids whose daily routines went sideways during the outbreak and now to calm their anxieties as they ease back into in-person schooling and playdates.

“Right now the focus is on products that can help kids express their feelings, name their feelings and react appropriately,” said Sari Winick, chief marketing officer for classroom toymaker hand2mind. “We’ve gone into overdrive developing toys to meet the needs of the times.” There’s Big Feelings Pineapple, a modern-day take on Mr. Potato Head with dozens of emotions, including silliness, confusion and disgust; TeeTurtle reversible plushies, that go from happy to angry; and Pop It! — a silicon fidget toy that’s become a mainstay of classrooms.

The new crop of toys comes at a time of record-high sales for the industry: Revenue jumped 16 percent, to $25.1 billion, last year, according to market researchers NPD Group, and swelled 19 percent the first half of 2021. Hand2mind, doubled down on social and emotional learning in early 2020, with the year’s most popular product a set of four sensory fidget tubes that sell for $35.

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