The only real difference in the way we fill Santa’s stockings this year may be in somewhat of a boycott of cheap imports, plastic toys and toys bought from variety or discount stores, with consumers currently enjoying a heightened awareness of toy safety, in the wake of a year of staggering recalls and safety mishaps.

But IBISWorld believes the safety scares won’t have any negative impact on sales of the most popular items – educational and interactive toys – and it could prove to be great news for local toy manufacturers.

Toy trends this year include gaming – again – and electronic toys for increasingly younger children. While they were once the domain of older primary schoolers and teens, that’s no longer the case. With Australia in the grips of a baby boom, and an increasing number of double-income families, parents are snapping up electronic and educational toys for infants and preschoolers in unprecedented numbers.

“Kids are growing up faster, becoming smarter at an earlier age, and demanding sophisticated toys, while their parents are keen to educate rather than just entertain their little ones. All of this keeps the cash registers ringing for manufacturers and retailers of electronic playthings,” says Jason Baker, general manager (Australia) for IBISWorld.

The educational toy market has been storming along in Australia, with brands such as Leapfrog dominating the market. Last year, the educational toy market posted growth in sales of five to six per cent with preschool and infant learning products all flying off the shelves.

Baker says one of the major challenges facing toy manufacturers is the problem of age compression, whereby a toy previously marketed at seven-year-olds is now being sought by three and four-year-olds, such as Barbie.

“Increased media exposure and high disposable incomes mean kids today are very brand aware, and they demand greater choice of products. They’re also more responsive to peer pressure than brand loyalty, which makes marketing toys to this audience fraught with difficulty, since their tastes change so quickly.”

One thing that isn’t changing is the popularity of electronic and video games, which now make up around 40 per cent of revenue for the toy and games retailing sector, with analysts predicting more significant growth in coming years on the back of anticipated dramatic price reductions.