By Matthew Poulson and Sarah Knowles

The toy industry makes news every year. Fidget spinners. Adult coloring books. The puzzle craze of 2020. And now, the “Great Shipping Crisis of 2021”!

We won’t sugarcoat it — there really is a shipping crisis, and it is impacting the flow and cost of goods (including toys and gifts) across the country, throughout Wisconsin, and even here in Wauwatosa. The crisis has been amplified by staffing shortages in the trucking industry and in the toy industry.

But you know what? There still will be plenty of great toys this Christmas. There are so many toy companies throughout the US that have toys in their warehouses and are shipping those toys throughout the holiday season.

There are, of course, changes this year: Retailers will tell you that if you see something you like, you should buy it because there is no guarantee they can get more. They are right! Retailers will tell you to shop early if you have a lot of specific gifts you’re looking for. They are right! If you have a very specific item in mind, be willing to consider alternatives.

Even if you wait until days before Christmas to do your shopping (and there is no shame in that), you will still have lots of options! They might not be the specific options you imagined, but awesome toys and gifts will still be available.

In this article, we’ll focus on the toy trends of 2021 and highlight a few items, but please know that in the time it takes between drafting this article and this Tosa Connection hitting your mailbox, the specific items you see may no longer be available at your local retailer. Do not despair! Just ask them about other items they may have that hit that trend.

Trend One: So Many Fidgets

Kids and adults cannot get enough fidget toys. They offer sensory interest and have a calming effect. For adults, dare we say they might help with Zoom fatigue?

Probably the most popular fidget toys this year are the » popper toys — which involve usually silicone “bubbles” that can be “popped”. There are so many sizes and shapes of popper toys!

Fidget toys with repetitively moving parts are also very popular. The » Shashibo is one such toy, and it is sometimes described as “like a Rubik’s cube, but not so stressful.” Another example is »Fingears, what are magnetic rings perfect for the fidgeter who always needs to keep their fingers moving. You can do tricks with Fingears, spin them on surfaces or around your fingers!

More and more adults are heeding the call to play and rediscovering the joys of screen-free fun, even beyond puzzling!

Some amazing craft kits have hit the market that target the teen or adult that wants to make something creative without having to have expert crafting skills. We are excited about the kits from » Hands Craft which involve the creation of detailed miniature rooms and buildings — a great activity for the long winter, one of these kits can take 24-48 hours to complete!

And, » Paint by Number has come roaring back, like the Neon Lion Paint by Number by Artwille. Families are getting used to being together again, so we recommend games to ease the tension and get the conversation and connection owing! Take a metaphorical hike together as you play the » PARKS board game, or put on your thinking caps to play the elegant strategy game » Onitama.

So many teens are into room decor and ambiance. Making their rooms their own, these products are sure to get your kids in a decorative mood! » Smart LED Rainbow Lights can be controlled by remote or even your smart device. Program endless color choices and modes from solid, to strobe, to sound responsive! » The LED Starlight Sound Speaker is a bluetooth stereo speaker that showers your ceiling with a cosmic star projection. You control the colors and the rotations of the stars with a hand held remote. » The Rainbow and Pizza Inflatable Floor Floaties are colorful, fun, fuzzy floor inflatables perfect for play-time, reading, and relaxing

Trend Two: Toys for Older Kids and GrownUps

Trend Three: Social & Emotional Learning Toys

Dolls are the classic social and emotional learning toy. Kaloo has a line of » “My First Dolls” that are soft, diverse, machine-washable, and detailed. And » Corolle dolls continue to be ultra-lovable, poseable and huggable.

Therapy Pets are new to market. » Theo the Therapy Dog and » Chloe the Comfort Cat were made for hugging. These weighted stuffies come with hot/cold lavender-scented tummy packs to calm anxiety lower stress.

The » Mind the Gap game gathers the generations together to LOL while learning about music, slang, news, and TV from each generation.

We continue to see strong interest in classic and retro toys.

The 1949 version of » Clue and the 1980s edition of » Monopoly are re-released and bring back memories of suspects and mansions, greed and real estate!

» Choose Your Own Adventure books are back — the classics and some new adventures! I could not get enough of these books as a kid — I loved being able to think about all the possible choices and outcomes of the story.

We are always keen to find “new” classics — these are toys that are newer to market but have real lasting power because of their universal appeal, their quality, and/or their familiarity. This year we are excited about » wobble boards. These are pieces of wood shaped and sanded into rainbow shapes and which can be used for active play (e.g., rocking on or climbing over) and for pretend play (turning the board into a ramp for cars, or a home for dolls. New to market are wobble boards by Bunny Hopkins, which are eco-friendly, handmade in the USA and extremely safe.

Trend Four: Classic Toys

Trend Five: Holiday Countdown Toys

We’ve been delighted this year by the number of companies that have introduced novel types of advent calendars or “12 days of Christmas” calendars. These calendars don’t have chocolate – they have toys or activities! For example, there are the » 12 Days of Puzzles and the » 12 Days of Color Your Own Ornaments!

And LEGO continues to release new awesome advent calendars every year.

Wauwatosa Toy Retailers



*sells exclusively toys and games