It’s the season for gift giving! While presents don’t make the holidays special by themselves, they make them fun. Plus, giving gifts makes you feel good. To give you a head start, we’ve reviewed the coolest products, toys and games for your kids this holiday. Here are our top picks for every age and interest.

Reviewed by the Atlanta Parent staff. Shop early and check with stores on availability. Prices listed are MSRP.

Atlanta Parent Favorites
For the Tots
Get Artsy
The Games We Love to Play
STEAM Mastery
Toys Under $30
Stocking Stuffers
Shop Local

Atlanta Parent Favorites

Care for the cutest pets with Little Live Pets: Mama Surprise from Moose Toys. Take care of the mama guinea pig, and in time, three baby guinea pigs will be born. The three babies come with their own care packages. For ages 5 and older. $64.99.

Play with the beautiful Naturalistas Fashion Dolls from Just Play/Purpose Toys. They feature easy to play with naturally curly hair styles, and the doll profiles include successful characters from chemists to fashion designers. For ages 3 and older. $12.99-$24.99.

Duunnn dunnn…escape the land shark! Control the Mega Chomp R/C Shark from Skyrocket to attack siblings, friends and family. At 16-inches long, the Mega Chomp strikes fear into those he chases with a swishing tail and a half-submerged body to turn any surface into shark-infested waters. For ages 4 and older. $39.99.

Care for the animals of the rainforest with PLAYMOBIL’s Wiltopia – Animal Care Station. Use the exam table to check the animals and administer treatment; then, house the creatures in an outdoor enclosure with trees and food. When not helping animals, hop into the rowboat to explore the jungle and find new animals. For ages 4 and older. $109.99.

Create an enchanting home for animals with the Build & Grow Tree House from Faber-Castell. Build and decorate this wooden tree house with paint and stickers. Bring the house to life with easy-to-grow chia seed, so the included miniature owl, turtle, frog, hedgehog and chipmunk have a place to stay. For ages 6 and older. $24.99.

Little shoppers will have fun learning with Melissa & Doug’s Wooden Shape Sorting Grocery Cart. Push the cart, sort pieces, play with puzzles and more. For ages 1-2. $74.99.

Create your dream home with MindWare’s Art-chitect 3-D Home Design Architecture Kit. Aspiring architects and interior designers can draw and design everything they need for the perfect home with a drafting triangle, compass and more to design, furnish and decorate floor plans. For ages 8 and older. $73.95.

Older kids can take outdoor fights to the next level with Nerf Pro Gelfire Mythic from Hasbro Pulse. The blaster features rounds that you can hydrate so they burst on impact. For ages 14 and older. $79.99.

Send playtime soaring into space with the LEGO Friends’ Olivia’s Space Academy. Build and play with a set that includes a classroom, mission control, a Shuttle model and an observatory. For ages 8 and older. $69.99.

Bring the night sky inside with AirFort’s Constellation (Glow). Explore outer space, and travel the galaxy to spot the constellations Ursa Major, Orion, Cassiopeia, Ursa Minor and Gemini with this glow-in-the-dark design. Each AirFort attaches to a box fan via Velcro strips to create a 77-inch wide and 50-inch tall fort. For ages 3 and older. $59.95.

For the Tots

Mini bakers will enjoy playing in the pretend kitchen with the Disney Junior Alice’s Wonderland Bakery Alice Doll & Magical Oven Set. The set includes a scented Alice, a magical light-up oven, pot, two layer cakes, two jars and a spatula. For ages 3 and older. $39.99.

Put building skills to use with Educational Insights’ Design & Drill Bolt Buddies Barn. This barn-themed playset features dozens of pretend play pieces for imagining farm life with a kid-safe power drill. For ages 3-7. $44.99.Have fun on the farm with the Plush Baby Soft Fabric Newborn Ring Rattles from iPlay, iLearn. The dog, duck, sheep and donkey live together in a cute, red house. For ages 2 months and older. $26.99.Become a little rockstar with Fat Brain Toys’ Lamaze Squeeze Beats First Drum Set. Babies will love creating fun sound effects, and goofing around with animal sounds with this drum set made for little ones. For ages 1-2. $34.95.

Have a party with Hape’s Rock & Slide House. This cute house features a kitchen, music room, pool, nursery, and more. It is also packed full of nine exciting sound effects, including pets, a keyboard, and a ticking clock. For ages 3 and older. $34.99.

Splish, splash, I was taking a bath! Make bath time a blast with Dimpl Splash from Fat Brain Toys. This set of three bath toys features a green pitcher, a blue donut and a yellow starfish. Scoop and pour water, create rain or a stream and float the toys. For ages 2-4. $21.95.

Balance play and spatial learning with the Little Partners’ Learn N’ Balance Set. Help your little one develop their balance with this easily portable, folding balance beam and a set of colored stepping stones. For ages 18 months-4 years. $149.95.

Set up the cute Christmas Steaming Train Set from BRIO for sweet holiday memories. This train set produces realistic steam effects and can be used as holiday décor with snowy tracks, Santa Claus and a North Pole train station. For ages 3 and older. $129.99.

It’s easy to soothe baby to sleep with the LoveLight Buddies from Cloud.b. These cute creatures feature calming lights, melodies, white noise and a warm glow for a bedtime buddy. Parents can use the recording function to leave a sweet message or sing the baby a lullaby. For ages 0 months and older. $49.99.

Get Artsy

The fashionista in your family will love to wear the creations made with the Ice-Dye Headbands from Faber-Castell. Using cold brew, ice-dye techniques, make stylish headbands for a unique twist on the tie dye trend. For ages 7 and older. $24.99.

Create and display dazzling wall art that lights up with the Lite-Brite Wall Art Pop Wow! Edition from Basic Fun!. The 16×16- inch grid features 6,000 mini pegs in eight assorted colors with 45 LEDs for beautiful wall art you design yourself. For ages 14 and older. $99.99.

Bubbles are made better with the Fömalanche Foam Machine. The machine makes piles and piles of light, airy foam – just add concentrate and water to the reservoir. Bubbles just dissipate for easy cleanup. For ages 5 and older. $50.

Build, sculpt and paint with the Clay Sculpting Station from Crayola. Make everything from animal sculptures to clay pots. This all-in-one air-dry clay kit includes everything in an easy-to-travel-with storage case. For ages 4 and older. $24.99.

Combine learning and imagination with the Interactive Learning Easel from LeapFrog. With the double-sided whiteboard/chalkboard, use the letter magnets and reader to teach kids letter names,  sounds and words. Guided art activities and music will help your child learn about the alphabet, colors, shapes and creativity. For ages 3-5. $69.99.

Get creative with the Made by Me! Sand Dough Pottery Press from Horizon Group USA. The Sand Dough is a squishy, air-dry, mess-free material that is easier to manipulate than clay. Make unique pottery with included mold base. For ages 6 and older. $19.99.

Satisfy your sweet tooth with Thames & Kosmos’ Lollipop Lab. Whip up batches of red cherry and blue raspberry lollipops and make a giant ring lollipop with both flavors. For ages 8 and older. $21.95.

Design fashionable jewelry with Horizon Group USA’s Just My Style Glitzy Pop! Sparkling Charm Studio. This jewelry-making kit comes with more than 650 beads, 10 charms and a jewel-placing pen for creating sparkling bracelets, necklaces and more. For ages 6 and older. $21.97.

The Games We Love to Play

Play with a twist with Hasbro’s Connect 4 Spin Game. This strategic game of weights and balances makes players choose where to put their disc into the grid, and then spin the column to line them up. Get four in a row to win, but keep an eye out for your opponent’s discs. For ages 8 and older. $21.99.

Explore creativity and the satisfaction of puzzle-solving with Plus-Plus’ Puzzle by Number. Using the enclosed patterns for a rainbow, butterfly and space to fill in the design by matching each  number with the corresponding color. Available in 250, 500 and 800 pieces. For ages 5 and older. $14.99-$34.99.

Entertain your child with the Kanoodle Fusion from Educational Insights. Mixing logic and reasoning, kids try to replicate the 50 challenges in the puzzle book using the 13 puzzle pieces and light-up board. For ages 7 and older. $21.99.


Thief! In Blue Orange Games’ Museum Suspects, one of the museum artifacts has been stolen, and the director is relying on you to unmask the thief (or thieves!) hidden among the 16 suspects. Each turn, you’ll select a clue, and keep track of your investigation in your notebook to suggest a suspect. The player who bets the most on the real thief will win! For ages 8 and older. $21.99.

Race around the USA and deliver as many parcels as you can with Big Potato Games’ USPS Great American Mail Race. Use 15 different types of transportation to travel across the map to drop off mail. Each time you successfully drop off a package, you’ll acquire stamps to try and win! For ages 10 and older. $34.99.

Gear up for battle with the Pokémon TCG: Pokémon GO Pokémon Center Elite Trainer Box Plus. Pokémon GO meets the Pokémon Trading Card Game with this box. For ages 6 and older. $64.99.

Oh, no! The pugs have eaten all the lollipops in Blue Orange Games’ Tongues Out! Although they’re cute, we can’t let them get away with it. Each turn, try to match two lollipops on the dice with the squishy pugs you think ate them. The first player to match the six pugs with the lollipops’ colors wins the game. For ages 4 and older. $21.99.

Get the kids outdoors with VTech’s KidiGo NexTag. This watch-like accessory is a high-tech spin on 20 different backyard games, including Capture the Flag, Freeze Tag, Hide-and-Seek and more. For ages 5 and older. $44.99.

Travel through the night sky to reach for the moon with Catch the Moon from Thames & Kosmos. Use your imagination and cleverness to strategically place ladders in order to grab the moon. Collect the fewest raindrops to win. For ages 8 and older. $34.95.

STEAM Mastery

Save the day with Learning Resources’ Switcheroo Coding Crew: 3-in-1 Rescue Robot. Transform your robot into a police car, fire truck or construction vehicle. Use coding to program your robot to solve the rescue challenges. For ages 4-7. $59.99.

Blast off with this awesome engineering project. Construct an air-powered robotic glove from 100 pieces that launches safe foam darts with Thames & Kosmos’ Ultra Bionic Blaster. It’s entirely powered by your hand – no batteries or motors required. For ages 10 and older. $39.95.

Create high-flying chain reactions with the ZipLinx Triple Tower Blast from Blip Toys. Launch ZipLinx into the tower trigger to make the towers fall onto the Target Launchers. Although it’s similar to the classic domino run, ZipLinx pieces can launch up to three feet high into the air and Hi-Fly Balls may reach six feet in the air! For ages 6 and older. $44.99.

Watch the incredible transformation of a small energy core into a poseable figure with Giga Bots Energy Cores from Blip Toys. Each Giga Bot contains 33 buildable pieces for building and swapping between bots. For ages 5 and older. $16.99.

Build racing fun with the Connetix Tiles’ 92 Piece Ball Run Pack. Includes clear fluted tubes, six rainbow wooden balls, special effect stair soundscape tubes, S-bend tubes and a split tube. For ages 3 and older. $109.

From the hit TV series, learn how numbers work with the Numberblocks MathLink Cubes 1-10 Activity Set from hand2mind. Kids can build their own Numberblocks from One to Ten as they master key early learning math skills with hands-on play. For ages 3-6. $24.99.

Look mom, no remote! The power is in your hands with Skyrocket’s Sky Viper Force Hover Sphere Drone. Smart sensors detect your hands and surroundings, which allow the drone to fly itself. All you need to do is toss the toy into the air! For ages 6 and older. $22.99.

From Atlanta Parent’s Dec. 2021 issue:

Toys Under $30

Cute, cuddly and customizable, LeapFrog’s My Pal Scout or Violet Smarty Paws make the perfect pal for little ones. Touch-sensitive paws feature sensors with silly reactions, music, games and mindfulness exercises. For ages 6 months and older. $24.99.

Color in the dark with the Glow Fusion Marker Coloring Set from Crayola. Kids can create when the lights go out with these specially formulated glow markers. For ages 8 and older. $14.99.

Invite the fairies to your home with the Butterfly Fairy Door from Faber-Castell. Create a magical doorway to the fairy world with weather-resistant paint, butterflies, moss and accessories. You can open the door, and decorate the interior, too. For ages 6 and older. $21.99.

Create three different 3D creatures with the Plus-Plus Learn to Build Creatures. Follow the instructions, and get creative and build anything when done making the monsters. For ages 5-12. $19.99.

The highlight of the Rainbow Looms’ Mega Combo Set Featuring Loomi-Pals are the 60 Loomi-Pal charms. This bracelet-making kit includes a loom, 5,600 bands in different colors, 300 assorted beads and more. For ages 7 and older. $23.99.

Make cleaning fun with LeapFrog’s Clean Sweep Learning Caddy. Little helpers can clean up pretend messes by mopping, hopping, spinning and sweeping as the face on the bucket lights up and sings. For ages 3 and older. $29.99.

Test your brain and your speed with FoxMind’s Match Madness Duo, a blend of puzzles and dexterity challenges. The game is based on pattern recognition skills as players compete to match patterns with their set of five blocks faster than their competitor. Ages 8 and older. $19.95.

Decorate a cute ceramic critter for your cash with Bright Stripes’ Tattoo a Ceramic Bank. Create a French sailor dog or a rockabilly kitty. For ages 5 and older. $19.99.

Make nature an adventure with the Craft-tastic Nature Scavenger Hunt Potions from PlayMonster. Head outdoors to collect magical, natural ingredients, and then combine them for special magic potions. For ages 4 and older. $19.99.

The Liquid Glitter Kids Jelly Bracelets from Purple Ladybug makes creating bracelets easy by including everything you need except water. Use the kit to create six sparkly bracelets. For ages 9-12. $15.99.

Stocking Stuffers

Turn creativity into wall décor with Faber-Castell’s Color In Mural. Make your own doodle-themed mural using six neon markers, foil stickers and wiggle eyes to decorate the coloring roll. For ages 6 and older. $14.99.

Design your perfect pair of shoes with Make It Real’s Sticker Chic Butterfly Bling – temporary tattoos for your shoes! Add flair to your footwear with decorative adhesive decals, which include bead charms, shoelaces and wings for a beautiful butterfly-inspired design. For ages 8 and older. $14.99.

Get fashionable on the go with the Fashion Bandz Go Cups from WeCool Toys. Make up to 50 colorful bracelets to wear and share with this little kit. For ages 6 and older. $4.99.

Take fidgeting toys with you wherever you go with Blue Orange Games’ Pull ‘N Pops. These sensory keychain toys are for all fidgeters, and they feature a bubble you pop on one side and a pull on the other side. For ages 6 and older. $6.99.

Snap into fun with the NeeDoh Happy Snappy Ball from Schylling Associates, Inc. Kids will love this air-filled squeezable and pop-able toy for playing and squishing. For ages 3 and older. $5.99.

How fast can you find all six pieces of Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty from Hide Inside? With Santa’s Hidden Helpers, find all the pieces of their outfits and hidden holiday shapes in the putty. For ages 3 and older. $15.

Become an animal rescuer with Basic Fun!’s Misfittens. Rescue the cute creature from its misfitting container to watch the animal puff up to double its size. For ages 4 and older. $9.99.

Create colorful designs with LEGO DOTS’ Adhesive Patch. This little 8″x8″ adhesive patch can be decorated in many different ways and stuck almost anywhere. For ages 6 and older. $5.99.

Enjoy sensory play with the Land of Dough’s Dough Rolls. The Jolly Pal is created to look like Santa, and Snow Buddy is a snowman. Eco-friendly doughs with plant-based colors, compostable glitters and paper packaging. For ages 3 and older. $5.

Combine surprises and bubble-popping sensory fun with Pop It! Pets Mystery Bag. With more than 100 characters to collect from 10 different towns, there’s so many animals to discover. For ages 4 and older. $9.99.

Shop Local

This story appeared in Atlanta Parent’s December 2019 issue.

Kazoo Toys
Find quality, cool and well-made toys that are typically off the beaten path at Kazoo Toys, which offers an enjoyable and whimsical toy shopping experience.

“Parents should shop locally for many reasons,” says Joe Novak of Kazoo Toys. “For one, local retailers know the Atlanta market and know the kids in it and can make gift recommendations. We can let the customers kick the tires a bit and try toys and games out. Local retailers are convenient to get to, and maybe most importantly, we are part of the community.  We support schools, teams, hospitals and pay taxes that further help out the schools, roads and overall well-being of the local area. We also provide local jobs.”

For this holiday season, one of his recommendations is the Cosmos Cube by California Creations. This geometric puzzle transforms to show the planets in the solar system and replicate the sun and distant galaxies.

Rhen’s Nest Toy Shop
The blind box toys, like LOL Surprise! Dolls, and unicorn poop remain popular this holiday season, according to Christina and John Bonaccorse of Rhen’s Nest Toy Shop. The shop offers quality, unplugged toys, games and more to encourage creative play.

“Our market is unique toys that you don’t find on the shelves of big box stores,” says Christina. “When you shop locally, you get a different customer experience. It’s more pleasant than zombie-like cruising the aisles. It helps the local economy, as we take those dollars and spend them locally.”

“We pack a really big punch in a very small space,” adds John. “Everything we carry has a lot of thought and a lot of heart behind it. The things that we carry are much more special and last longer.”

One of their favorite toys for the season is the Mischief Maker from Mighty Fun! This wooden slingshot is a classic toy for kids that encourages outdoor play and is easy to use.

Happy Mango
This eco-friendly store serves pregnant moms and kids up to age 4 with books, gear, clothing and more. Phnewfula Frederiksen started the store to show that going green could be affordable and stylish.

“People are going more eco in their toys, as they’re focused more on reusable or educational toys, and parents are more aware of the types of toys they’re buying, if they can be passed down or recycled and reused,” she says of the toy trends she sees. She suggests thinking about the life of your toys when purchasing items for the holidays.

For the holidays, she recommends Eco-Dough from Eco-kids. This non-toxic playing dough is made from natural ingredients, including plant, fruit and vegetable extracts and essential oils.

Learning Express
Cindy O’Hara of Learning Express Alpharetta and East Cobb sees tactile toys, like Floof, fluffy modeling clay; fidget toys, like Shashibo, a magnetic puzzle cube; blind pack toys, like Cutetitos, surprise stuffed animals wrapped in a burrito; and VSCO girl style items, like scrunchies, as trendy gifts. She also sees a push towards screen-free items. One of her recommendations is the Ollyball Indoor Play Ball, a soft ball kids can decorate themselves and play with indoors. Parents can get their items gift wrapped and personalized for free.

The Alpharetta location was the first Learning Express in Georgia and has been in business for 20 years. “We’re waiting on the second generation of kids we served. We know our customers’ names and their kids’ names,” she says. “Here, it’s a different experience than shopping online. It’s a magical place for kids. We help create childhood memories.”

Treehouse Kid & Craft
Kim Bach of Treehouse Kid & Craft believes Plus-Plus tubes and Playmobil sets are always a hit with kids. Nostalgic toys of the 80s and 90s, such as Lite Brite, View-Master and Koosh Balls are back. She’s also noticed an increase in outdoor activity sets. Get your holiday present gift wrapped for free at the store.

For the holidays, she recommends Mad Mattr and Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty for anyone searching for sensory toys. Mad Mattr is a soft modeling dough that you can build with, while the Thinking Putty comes in multiple colors and effects.

“Small businesses shape the local culture, and we are so lucky to be in such wonderful communities that support local,” she says, as Treehouse Kid & Craft is in Decatur and Athens. “We are able to help and connect with customers in a way that big box companies cannot. We love our communities and the strong bonds we have created with our customers.”

– Emily Webb

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