A new CivicScience survey revealed that, year over year, there has been an uptick in the percentage of holiday toy shopping online. This year, in-store toy shopping at big-box retailers has taken a deeper nosedive as consumers choose to shop through the website or from an online-only retailer like Amazon. 


Local toy store shopping has stayed flat year over year.

Top Toy Categories in a Pandemic

Of the 14 toy categories studied, games and puzzles, educational toys, electronics, arts and crafts, and building / construction sets were the top five in terms of gift-buying intent this holiday season.

Top Toys by Parental Status

Among U.S. parents, gifting traditional puzzles and games is the most popular this year, followed by electronic toys. Puzzles and games are also the top toy gifting category for non-parents. Grandparents are more likely to purchase educational toys this holiday.

Coming off a year spent mostly inside, and ahead of a long winter where going outside is not a great option in much of the country, it makes sense that many want to give gifts that are more likely to occupy their children (or nieces and nephews) while indoors for extended periods of time.


Looking at the top five toy categories by gender, it appears women are more likely, overall, to be making the toy purchases this holiday. Except for one outlier: electronic toys. Men are more likely than women to be purchasing electronic toys as gifts.

Top Toys by Stress Levels

It’s no surprise to anyone that stress is high right now. In fact, CivicScience has observed stress levels rise substantially in recent weeks. 

Looking at the influence of stress on toy buying, one distinction stands out: those who are buying arts and crafts supplies as gifts are reporting the highest stress levels.

COVID-19 Job Impact

Circumstances are different in many ways this holiday season as millions of Americans faced changes to their jobs or lost them altogether.

Among people who are still working as usual or more as a result of the pandemic, top toy buying categories were the same as the gen pop: educational toys, electronics, and games and puzzles.

Arts and crafts are most likely to be purchased by remote workers, possibly moms and dads looking for ways to help their kids exercise some creative energy. There is likely a link between remote workers, parents, stress, and arts and crafts buying; working remotely with kids who are distance learning in the next room has a number of challenges. 

Educational toys are also the most popular among those who are working reduced hours or not working (but still getting paid).

Gift-Giving Importance

With the ever increasing shift in priorities this holiday season due to the pandemic, where does gift-giving stand in general?

Among just parents of minors, more than half say giving gifts is just as important this holiday season, while nearly a third say it’s less important than in past years. This is nearly just the same as the general population’s views on the matter.

Holiday Spending

For the majority of parents who say gift-giving is at least equally important as last season, how much will they spend? Forty-eight percent of parents of minors surveyed plan to spend about the same amount, but it’s notable that more than 35% will reduce how much they spend compared to last holiday season.

While parents are more likely than the general adult population to holiday shop at all this year, spending looks generally the same between the two groups. Parents are, however, very slightly more likely to spend less.

When comparing this to where people plan to shop for toys this season, those who plan to shop for toys via an online-only retailer like Amazon are more likely to be spending less this holiday. Those who plan to keep it local are more likely to report they’ll spend more. 

Comparing online versus in-store shopping among the top five categories of toys studied, it’s pretty even. People who plan to buy educational toys are more likely to spend less than buyers in the other four categories, but only slightly so.

While things are rather different this holiday, it’s clear that toy buying is still going strong. Perhaps surprising to some is the preponderance of games and puzzles compared to the other toy groups, but it seems many are stretching their imaginations as well as their kids’ and grandkids’.