How toys are changing with the times

We explore the trends and issues that are shaping toy and game design – and what these tell us about the times we live in

The toys and games we choose to play with reveal a lot about our personality. But they also reflect what’s going on in the wider world. Look back at the best-selling toys of the past few decades and you’ll find a fascinating picture of shifting cultural trends and technological advancements – from the plastic revolution of the 1960s to the cult of Star Wars in the 70s and the growth of smart products in the 2000s and 2010s.

The types of play we like to engage in might not have changed all that much over the years. But these trends have had a major impact on the kind of toys we see in stores – and the way that toys are designed and marketed. As part of our in-depth look at playful experiences, we explore the trends that are affecting toy and game design in 2020 – and how toy makers are responding to issues from the environmental crisis to a growing concern over the omnipresence of digital products in our lives.


The backlash against plastic has presented a major challenge for an industry that has spent the past six decades churning it out on a massive scale. With consumers now well aware of the environmental impact of plastic production – and the vast amounts of waste generated as a result – companies are under increasing pressure to adopt more sustainable practices.