The toy aisle isn't just for kids any more.
A rising group of "kidults," or adults who buy toys for themselves, now makes up at least 25% of toy consumers and has the industry marketing more and more products to adults looking for some nostalgia from their youth.
A report by the market research company NPD Group found that people ages 12 and over spend about $9 billion annually on toys ranging from board games to "Star Wars" figurines, according to CNBC. In the past year ending in September, "kidults" have accounted for 60% of the growth in the industry despite accounting for only a quarter of sales, according to NPD.
From adult Happy Meals to a new "Barbie" movie coming out next year, nostalgia has been a driving force. Another key factor is adults looking for a stress reliever that reminds them of their carefree youth.
Jenny Nhu, a Disney fan, got into Legos about six years ago when she saw a special Disney castle set. She found the toys also helped her decompress as the mom of a young child.
"They’re really good at catering to adults," she said about Lego. "I think basically they’re aiming for the nostalgic thing. I find building Legos to be like my alone time, and then also to practice my patience."
"Kidults" have been drawn to everything from simple old favorites to more elaborate collectibles, like a Lego set of the iconic "Star Wars" spaceship, the Millennium Falcon, that sells for more than $800.
"I find building Legos to be like my alone time, and then also to practice my patience."
'Kidult' toy fan, Jenny Nhu
"Over the past two plus years, living through the pandemic, adults really started to gravitate towards toys and games, not just to spend more time with their families, which they were doing at home, but also for themselves to destress and kind of escape the realities that they were in," Jennifer Lynch of The Toy Association told Joe Fryer Dec. 20 on TODAY.
Aaron Muderick has leaned into the combination of nostalgia and stress relief to create Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty, which he says has become a favorite of office workers. Putty has been a staple of many childhoods since back in the 1950s.
"I think there is some level of nostalgia," he told Fryer. "We’ve seen time and again where adults maybe think it is for children, but then once they touch the putty that their children have, they they want one for themselves."
It also can serve another purpose.
"The first 10 years I targeted specifically adults that work in offices, people that sit at desks, for stress relief for fidgets and anxiety," Muderick said.
Large toy manufacturers like Lego, Hasbro and Mattel are now creating more products tied to movies from the "Star Wars" and Marvel universes as well as classics like Hot Wheels to capitalize on the growing amount of "kidults" building elaborate toys as a stress reliever.
"I just feels like I’ve accomplished something," Nhu said. "It’s like art."