Consumer shopping habits have changed dramatically this year thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, including a surge in online shopping and month-long Black Friday sales at major retailers.
The experts at the Toy Insider, the toy industry’s most influential organization and a trusted go-to resource for parents and gift-givers, share their top tips on shopping for toys amid the pandemic and preparing for the next few months indoors.
“It’s more important now than ever to go into your holiday shopping with a game plan—not just to shop safely, but also to avoid the disappointment of a sold-out toy,” says Laurie Schacht, Chief Toy Officer, the Toy Insider. “After you check everyone off your holiday list, we also advise that you think about stocking up on games and activities to keep kids and families entertained inside as the weather gets colder and we’re being advised to stay home. These types of items sold out in the spring, so get ahead of the rush while you can!”
Shoppers can check out the Toy Insider’s 15th annual holiday gift guide, which features more than 300 toys from more than 110 toy companies and reveals the most popular toys as seen in their Hot 20, STEM 10, and 12 Under $12 toy lists.
The Toy Insider’s Guide to Holiday Toy Shopping During the Pandemic
Shop with a strategy: Before you start adding items to your cart, have a list of toys ready based on the ages and interests of the kids you’re shopping for. Do your research to find the best, age-appropriate toys, whether it’s through a Google search or trusted resources like our comprehensive holiday gift guide!
Shop early and grab the toy when you see it: Anyone looking for the hottest toys should absolutely be shopping early. Retailers are offering deals all season long to cut down on the big crowds usually associated with single-day events like Black Friday. If you spot a toy you know a kid on your list really wants, buy it while you still can! Hot toys are sure to sell out quickly, and there’s no guarantee that a toy will be discounted later on.
Know what toys should cost: Knowing the MSRP (manufacturer suggested retail price) will help you avoid overpaying for a toy. Beware of third-party sellers or “toy scalpers” who hike up the price of hard-to-find toys.
Be mindful of shipping times: Take note of shipping deadlines and dates so your toys get to you in time—nothing’s worse than realizing a toy will show up a day too late! Online holiday shopping during the pandemic could potentially spur the same shipping slowdowns that we experienced this past spring.
Pay attention to details: Before you deem any toy or game a good bargain, keep a close eye on the taxes or shipping fees that may drive up the final cost. Make sure the toy isn’t a knockoff, which could pose safety issues and may not perform the way they should. Look for the correct name and spelling of the product and its manufacturer to make sure you’re buying the real thing!
Gift a kid with at-home fun for the months ahead: Families will be looking for ways to keep kids entertained as the pandemic continues into this winter. If you’re shopping for a child you don’t know, you can’t go wrong with toys that will keep them entertained during those colder days indoors. If you see these must-have,trending toys in store or online, be sure to grab them before it’s too late!
- Classic with a twist: Some toys, like dolls, building sets, and arts and crafts kits, never go out of style — but they do get better with a modern twist. Check out these upgraded R/C vehicles: the 1:8-Scale App Drive Radio Control Ford Bronco (New Bright), which teaches kids how to code, and The Animal (Spin Master), an R/C vehicle that unboxes itself!
- Kids’ favorite characters: Toys that feature familiar faces from kids’ favorite movies and TV shows are always popular, so make sure you don’t miss out! Create your own adventures with the Disney Frozen 2 Magic in Motion Elsa doll (Jakks Pacific) or the PJ Masks Transforming 2 in 1 Mobile HQ (Just Play Toys).
- At-home activities and family games: With families spending more time at home this year than ever before, activities, playsets and games that multiple kids and families can do together are the perfect gifts as we move into the colder, indoor months. Check out hot picks like the Beyblade Burst Rise Hypersphere Vortex Climb Battle Set (Hasbro/ADK Emotions NY) and Hands Full (WowWee).
- Social media sensations: From memes that have gone viral to the stars of kids’ favorite YouTube channels, internet sensations are jumping off the screen and into the toy aisles. Fast-selling toys in this category include Trinity & Beyond — Mystery Heart Jewelry Box (Bonkers Toys) and Cats vs. Pickles plush (Cepia).
- Next-gen creators: If kids are looking to create their own content, toys that help them do so are flying off the shelves. Make sure you don’t miss out on the FailFix dolls (Moose Toys) or Kidizoom Creator Cam (VTech).