Think back to when you were a kid, if you dare. What did you want to do when you grew up?
Not for a living, just things in general that you were too little for, or too young to have the final say on.
Did you want to do the extra things at the zoo? Stay up all night with friends? Eat cake for breakfast? Get that shiny new whatever that your folks said you didn’t need?
Well for a lot of us, those shiny whatevers were and still are makeup and trendy clothes, but for a not-small subset of newer grownups? Those ‘whatevers’ are toys.
Adult toys, no not that kind, are blowing up! Whether it be in the forms of intricate, not-for-children collectible figures, or plush toys initially made with littles in mind, the toy market has flourished with the finances full grown folks!
The publicized horrors of the first two years of our ongoing pandemic pushed comfort consumption to higher heights, but unlike dispensary weed, the toy market is actually going to stay stable. Why?
Because this so-called trend was around before Covid hit.
Or did you think those Seinfeld Funko Pops were for kids?
“Right now, adult toy buyers are the reason for growth in the toy business,” MGA Entertainment CEO Isaac Larian told CNBC, quoted in a Collider article that also stated “Adults who buy for themselves are responsible for a fourth of all toy sales annually.”
I’m biased being active in geek spaces, and a full on weeb, but elaborate fandom setups with wall to ceiling figures, beds full of Squishmallows, and adult outings to ToyJoy in Austin are old news to me.
My only ex has a Legos collection that’s probably double my generous weight. I’ve spent literal hours of my life fiddling around in toy aisles because a good friend needed to find specific Monster High dolls with perfectly painted eyes (sometimes the sprayer goes a little off, and that’s not cool). I have been tempted by the pull of blind box Unicornos, and have only resisted the collector gambling sickness taking me over by a scant few degrees. I have SEEN the limited edition Meowchis, the technically-IP-theft plush makers, the Kickstarters, the display cabinets, and above all the love people have!
But now that covering “post”pandemic purchasing is clickworthy work, more people outside those spaces are taking notice.
And honestly? Some of the coverage is more than a little unfair. The term ‘kidult’ gets thrown around an awful lot, despite the varied levels of cultural and scientific references, complexity, or just plain FUN that can be found in adult play (still not that kind). Toy ownership as a grownup is seen as a red flag—a sign of purposefully arrested development by some benighted blowhards who could probably use a good supersized plush hug or two.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen the otaku lairs of people who refuse to engage in anything real world. But not only is attacking the mentally ill not okay, it needs to be acknowledged that paying bills, dealing with bosses/clients/customers, endless maintenance, and upkeep with adult life in general needs something to sand down the edges.
We need joy as a species. We need enrichment, and we need play! We need to have unfettered fun, whether that’s ropes courses, mudding, or just rearranging a plush collection.
That’s why, even if it might not expand, adults purchasing toys for themselves isn’t going to go anywhere as long as there are those who can afford the small luxuries.
PS: I went to the local zoo recently and I paid extra to ride the mini train and the carousel and it was fantastic, so by all means if you can fit in it/on it and afford it, indulge my friends. We need it.