Adults Who Buy Gifts for Themselves Are Fueling the Toy Industry

These so-called "kidults" make up at least 25% of toy consumers

A grandfather using a pogo stick in a toy store.
Kidults are helping the toy industry stay alive.
Getty Images

“I don’t wanna grow up / Cause baby if I did / I couldn’t be a Toys ‘R’ Us kid.”

Much like the chain itself, that ’80s jingle has become outdated as grown-ups have become the new Toys “R” Us kids.

Dubbed “kidults” by toy industry insiders, adults who love toys — and buying them — helped toy sales in the U.S. surge 37% over the first two years of the pandemic to reach a mark of $28.6 billion in 2021, according to data tracker NPD Group. Adults — classified as people aged 12 and up by NPD — who buy toys for themselves now make up at least 25% of toy consumers and spend about $9 billion annually on toys ranging from board games and Star Wars figurines to Legos and Marvel collectibles, per CNBC. Kidults are taking over the toy industry at such a high rate that there’s even an #AdultMoney channel on TikTok showing videos of adults buying toys for themselves and “having zero regrets about it.” The channel has almost four billion views. 

“The definition of adulthood has definitely evolved,” Jeremy Padawer, chief brand officer at toy company Jazwares, told CNBC. “What it used to mean, to be an adult, was to be a very upstanding, serious member of society. And to do that you had to demonstrate it intellectually, emotionally, in every other single way. Now we feel a lot more free to express our fandom as a part of our adulthood.”

He may have a point as a 2021 survey by Toy Association, cited by Bloomberg, found that 58% of adult respondents bought toys and games for themselves. Among those respondents:

  • 65% purchased board games
  • 61% bought craft or building kits
  • 53% spent cash on collectibles
  • 52% ponied up for video games

While there’s no way to know whether kidults will continue to help prop up the toy industry, executives are optimistic that grown-ups will keep spending on smiles. “Adults were using play as a way to live through the COVID pandemic,” Cristina Liquori, Lego’s head of U.S. marketing, told Bloomberg. “Hopefully that’s a sticky behavior.”

If it helps resurrect Toys “R” Us back to its former glory, we’re all for it.

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