The 126 greatest toys of the year, according to parenting editors (and the kids who live with them).
I believe wholeheartedly that the holiday season is a million times better when you have kids in your life to celebrate with. The reaction you get when a kid unwraps a toy they genuinely are excited about? Hands down the best part. But finding the one thing (or 10) that will elicit that coveted response isn’t always so easy, so we did the hard work for you. Here’s Romper's annual list of the best holiday toys of the year for kids big and small, ranging from $8 (because a priceless reaction doesn’t have to cost a whole lot) to $400. Gag Gift Christmas
These are the things we’re buying for our own children, recommending to our clueless family members who have sent out an SOS, and secretly coveting for ourselves. We guarantee there is something on this list of 126 toys for the kids on your list.
When shopping for an infant, you’re often really shopping for the parents. Fancy clothes? Baby couldn’t care less. Ooh, how about a really big and expensive mechanical ride-on? Crickets from the little one. Now’s really not the time to spend the big bucks — you’ve got plenty of years ahead of you for that. The best toys for babies are the ones that really cater to sensory development and help them hone their fine and gross motor skills, and those typically don’t cost that much. All of these options are tactile, practical, and not too annoying for parents. And most are compact enough to tuck into a diaper bag.
Babies just love noisy, colorful, flashing toys, even if parents aren’t always on board. The Baby Lil' Critters Moosical Beads cow from VTech is a lot smaller and cheaper than comparable items, and it’s the kind of toy that will hold a baby’s attention for a long time. For only $15, it packs a punch: It produces over 30 sounds (phrases and nursery songs and melodies), is small enough to take with you on your adventures, and is made up of a variety of textures, which is great for sensory development.
KiwiCo, maker of wonderful STEAM kits for children, has a new space-themed sensory set for infants this month. The Solar System Sensory Kit comes with a mix of toys a baby can enjoy from birth. They’re all BPA-, phthalates-, and lead-free, and made using non-toxic, water-based paints and finishes. The bundle includes a cuddly sun and planet lovey made from organic materials, a beechwood and silicone Saturn-shaped teether, a wood galaxy rattle, a spaceship wobbler, and board book.
The developmental milestones that kids hit at this age are so satisfying: They might make their first jump, use their first real words (intentionally and correctly!), hold their spoon properly, and are they... running? The products in this category are age-appropriate and feed into supporting those cognitive and physical milestones. A three-in-one walker, ride-on, and scooter featuring a famous Tiger, a “talking” book that they can interact with and learn from, finger puppets of a certain pigeon and duck (perfect for pairing with Mo Willems’ The Duckling Gets A Cookie!?), an epic train set with table — these toys are like mini investments, as kids will get years of use and play out of them.
Quite possibly the cutest, most thoughtfully-designed walker in existence, this brand new three-in-one Daniel Tiger walker from Skip Hop is truly a bang for your buck. When a child is walking like a newborn baby giraffe, they can use it as a walker and wagon, pushing around their favorite items (a lovey, a book, the car keys...). Flip the basket over and it’s now a ride-on toy. Down the road, the seat/basket piece can be removed to turn it into a first scooter for a toddler. It also makes five recognizable sounds from the show: the theme song, Trolley’s ding, and Daniel Tiger’s most popular phrases (“Let’s go for a ride,” “Hi neighbor,” “Wasn’t that grriffic?”). And yes, the headlight actually works.
Meet Cinnamon Annie. This sweet cotton doll, which is inspired by the classic toy and series, Raggedy Anne, is handmade in Georgia and available in three sizes, from 13 to 20 inches tall. Customers can also request personalization — a name of up to 12 characters to be stitched on the dress — for an extra $5. Even though they are made to order, they ship in approximately one week, which is a pretty quick turnaround for this kind of product. You can bundle it with the book, My Best Doll Friend by Stephanie Dean, all about a young girl’s adventures with her favorite doll, Annie.
We’ve hit the age where a child’s discerning taste becomes known. Even so, most toddlers gravitate towards the same things, and some of those are listed below. How do we know? We tested them on our own kids. From a singing and dancing Bluey, to a Tonka truck classic (the 1968 Mighty Dump Truck is celebrating its 75th anniversary), to a doll that actually swims in the water (and doesn’t require batteries — you simply wind the arms first). Figure out the gift recipient’s interests — horses? dinosaurs? Peppa Pig? — and shop accordingly. And even if you don’t know the child all that well, you really can’t go wrong with any of the below.
Gund Magic Draw & Glow Panda is a toy you’ll love tucking your kid in with. Draw on the white surfaces of the panda with the LED pen (it’s included), and watch the illustrations glow in the dark. They disappear after two minutes. Smart design details include a pocket on the panda’s back where the pen can be tucked for safekeeping.
If you’re looking for the CoComelon toy of the season, the Boo Boo JJ Doll from Jazwares is it. It’s cute, cuddly, and just the right amount of interactive. JJ will cry (just a little bit) and his elbow, knee, or foot will light up to indicate he’s hurt and where. Kids can apply a velcro bandage on the injured spot, gently press down when attaching it, and JJ will respond with, “Yay, my boo boo is gone!” When you squeeze the toy’s belly, a clip of the show’s popular “Boo Boo Song” (which has 1.2 billion views on YouTube) plays. The doctor kit comes with a stethoscope, thermometer, syringe, and bandage case with assorted bandages. At 11 inches tall, it’s the perfect size for a young kid to tuck under their arm and take everywhere.
This stretch is a great age for imaginative play, toys that feature their favorite characters, and unique building kits. Some of the toys we love for 4- to 6-year olds are a growling dinosaur, a 3-foot-tall ice cream stand to establish their first business, a box of unique, foamy, bendy sticks (yes, very satisfying), and an epic Octonauts playset.
Little ones don’t have to be a Jurassic Park fan to fall in love with this adorable — and affordable — gigantosaurus that’s inspired by the latest movie from the popular franchise, Jurassic World: Dominion. At 10-inches tall, it’s the perfect size to make small kids feel like they got a really big present, and older kids will enjoy adding it to their collection and making it pretend-eat their other dino figurines. Push the red button and it will make growling, stomping, and chomping sounds. The arms, legs, and mouth can be moved manually.
There are so many stellar Bluey toys you can pick up this holiday season but the new Bluey Ultimate Lights & Sounds Playhouse & Toy Box is probably the most coveted. It’s 17 inches tall and 2.5 feet wide when open and comes with Bluey, Bingo, Nana, and Chattermax, plus more accessories, so there’s plenty for kids to play with right off the bat. It also lights up and plays 50 sounds and phrases from the show. Just make sure you pick up some batteries if you plan to gift this — it requires three AAA batteries, and they’re not included in the box.
There’s something for everyone in this grouping of toys, whether they like to build, skate, craft, or play pretend. You’ll find big presents (like the latest American Girl doll from their Historical Collection), mid-size options (the 5-foot-long, glow-in-the-dark dinosaur puzzle is really cool), and affordable, under-$20 finds (like snowman dough, a light-up fidget popper, and more) to pepper under the tree.
What happens when you combine two of the most popular types of toys: magnetic tiles and marble runs? This absolutely addictive toy from Australia-based company Connetix comes with enough pieces (magnetic tiles, clear tubes of various shapes, and six wooden balls in a rainbow of colors) to make an impressive run. Even the “click” sound that occurs when connecting the pieces feels like an ASMR moment. And yes, they are compatible with tiles from different brands.
Ever since The Mandalorian first streamed on Disney+ in 2019, there has been an “It” Grogu toy of the holiday season. This year it’s the adorable Grogu Squeeze and Blink Plush doll. It has the same silicone-like face texture as previous animatronic versions (which gives it a lifelike appearance), but a softer, more pliable body, which makes it even better for snuggling. Just as the name implies, when you squeeze the doll, Grogu reacts by blinking and giggling or raising its arm in a Force-like gesture and cooing.
Here’s an assortment of gifts for kids who aren’t adults yet, but haven’t quite gotten the memo. Many of these offerings are a little more complex and sophisticated than your average toy. You’ll find a 3D printer that kids can use to produce their own toys, and Tetris-like games for those who like a challenge. The DIY nail kit will get busted out for every sleepover, and the colorful squeeze ball is a great stocking stuffer.
Droyd’s Electric Mini Bike is not quite a traditional e-bike (no cycling foot pedals here), but not a dirt or mountain bike either — it’s not exactly designed for that kind of terrain and there are safety measures in place to restrict them from going too fast. What it is is fun. The Weeler, which comes in two sizes and is designed for riders 6 years old and up, comes in white and light blue. Safety features include a slow-start throttle and two speed limit settings (6.2 miles per hour or 10 miles per hour). It can travel up to 8 miles on a full charge, and yes, the headlight is a functioning element. The larger version, the Blipper, intended for riders 13+, comes in ivory or white and maxes out at 12.5 miles per hour. It can last up to 12.5 miles as well.
We’re obsessed with Kids Crafts’ kits that create a project inspired by some of the most remarkable females in history. The Amanda Empowerment Journaling Craft kit celebrates Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate who performed at the most recent presidential inauguration at the ripe age of 22. This set includes a journal, glitter pen, decorative stickers and paper clips, bookmark, and washi tape. Other notable projects from the LeadHER collection include a self-portrait mirror painting kit inspired by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, a (very trendy) wall art weaving kit inspired by aviator Amelia Earhart, and a “nah” punch needle craft kit inspired by the Black activist Rosa Parks.
Beach Toy Set Gift-giving doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience, but we know it oftentimes ends up being that way. Hopefully we’ve given you plenty of options to make your toy search easier, and you can relax a bit knowing you crossed a major to-do off of your list.