Holiday Toy Guide 2021
We found the coolest gifts for your kids this holiday season. Here are our top picks for each age.
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Before you get a real dog, give your little one practice taking care of a pet with Moji the Lovable Labradoodle from SkyRocket. Moji is a cuddly toy dog who responds to voice commands and can perform dozens of tricks, including sit, shake and lie down. His smart collar displays his emotions and needs. For ages 4 and older. $99.99.
Musical kids will love jamming out with LEGO’s Party Llama BeatBox. First, your child builds the Beatbox, and then can direct, produce and star in a music video featuring musical characters and cool effects with the accompanying app. Our tester loved seeing himself on the music videos. For ages 7 and older. $19.99.
Hop along the story trail with LeapFrog’s On-the-Go Story Pal. This cute bunny-shaped audio player includes stories, poems, songs and lullabies, and is perfect for travel. You can download additional stories and songs on this screen-free device, or even record your own tales. For ages 3 and older. $27.99.
Kids will have fun recycling with the Sort & Recycle Ride-On Truck from VTech. This ride-on toy can help kids develop good habits and practice their sorting skills with bins for plastic, metal, paper and more. Plus, the truck is made from plastic that is 90% reclaimed. For ages 18 months-4 years. $37.99.
Creativity meets coding with Educational Insights’ Artie Max. Code lines to this cute robot that’ll turn your child’s code into colorful works of art. Coding Artie Max is easy with built-in tutorials, smart sensors, line detection, remote control functionality and more. For ages 8-12. $109.99.
Deliver first-class fun with the USPS Mail Delivery Truck Ride-On Toy by Kid Trax. This mail carrier features a mail slot, opening rear door, working headlights and a horn for imaginative play as a mail carrier. On-route, your child can listen to some favorite tunes with the FM radio/MP3 player. It also comes with a mailbox. For ages 3-5. $229.
Your little photographer can take photos and print them instantly with VTech’s KidiZoom PrintCam. Your child can get creative by printing black and white photos with camera effects, comic strips or printable games. The PrintCam also offers three different video games for hours of fun. For ages 4 and older. $74.99.
Set up an indoor playground for your child with the Pop2Play slide from WowWee. Made from eco-friendly StrongFold cardboard, this slide can be assembled in under five minutes for pint-sized playground romps. For ages 2-5. $29.99.
Tons of fun erupts with Schleich’s Volcano Expedition Base Camp. This playset features molten lava, volcanic ash, giant rocks and dinosaurs, along with interactive functions, such as glowing lava, cool vapor and a ground-shaking eruption. The perfect selection for any aspiring paleontologist. For ages 4-12.
Have a high-flying adventure with Air Hogs Gravitor from Spin Master. This unique zero-gravity toy is controlled using the hands or body instead of a remote, and gives your child the chance to master more than 12 different tricks. You’ll love it because the toy drone won’t cause damage. For ages 4 and older. $19.99.
Baby and Toddler
Bring your child’s favorite story to life with The Very Hungry Caterpillar Picnic Basket Playset. This adorable plush basket includes the Caterpillar, an avocado rattle, bread, tomato, lettuce, Swiss cheese, and a crinkly juice pouch. For ages 0 months and older. $20.
The elephant in the room is the struggle to keep baby entertained. Look no further than HABA’s Roly Poly Elephant Wobbling Soft Baby Toy. The elephant rocks backward and forward with tinkling bells as your little one plays with it. For ages 6 months-2 years. $19.99.
Spin new tunes with the DJ Mix & Spin Studio from Hape. Little musicians can explore their musical abilities with one of four instrument sounds, adding fun sound effects, or starting with a background tune and using the tempo to change the speed. For ages 1-5. $39.
Have fun on the farm with the Town Barn, Tractor & Farm Animal Care from LEGO DUPLO. Your young farmer can play with farm buildings, a tractor and animals, including a pig, sheep, a horse, a dog, a hen, a rooster and cows. Build the barn to fill with animals, hay and other cool accessories to take care of the creatures. For ages 2 and older. $59.99.
Go to sleep, little baby, with the Sleepy Eyes Owl Soother from GUND. This animated plush owl features sleepy eyes, soothing sounds, tranquil melodies and gentle lights to lull baby to sleep. The Sleepy Eyes Music Mode includes gently glowing lights while Rock-a-Bye Baby plays. With the Nighttime Soother Mode, the owl cycles through seven soothing sounds. For ages newborn and older. $35.
Hit the road for imaginative play with the RV Camper Set from Green Toys. This 3-in-1 vehicle playset features two characters, plus a pick-up truck, camper and sport boat for your toddler to create their own adventures. For ages 2 and older. $29.99.
Visit Old MacDonald’s Farm with Melissa & Doug’s Poke-A-Dot: Old MacDonald’s Farm. This interactive board book features the Old MacDonald’s Farm song to sing along with for independent play. Poke the click-to-count buttons to hear satisfying sounds while you read. For ages 3 and older. $13.99.
Have a magical time with the Unicorn Bouncy Pals Plush from iPlay, iLearn. Little ones will love bouncing along on this inflatable creature. This sturdy unicorn is suitable for indoor and outdoor play, and the plush cover is machine washable. 15 other animals are available. For ages 18 months and older. At $35.99.
This giant monster loves pancakes, but if he gets too hungry, he might bite you! Pancake Monster from Blue Orange is a great first game that teaches cooperation and basic counting skills. Our testers loved when the monster popped up. For ages 3 and older. $29.99.
Take care of a cuddly, plush Bigfoot with Little Medical School’s Wilderness Survival Set. Use a working 5-in-1 survival tool, guided activity booklet and map to learn outdoor survival tips and techniques, basic first aid and more. For ages 3 and older. $32.99.
Your child will feel like their very own cartoon character with the Rainbocorns Jelly Shake Surprise from ZURU. These plush characters will play back what your child says and are fun to unbox. Also includes a bracelet kit and slime. For ages 3 and older. $29.99.
Your little firefighter can head to the rescue with Melissa & Doug’s Fire Truck Play Tent. This fabric playhouse is a nearly four-foot-long fire truck. Roll up the back door, open and close the roof flap, and fill the truck with gas for tons of imaginative play. For ages 3 and older. $53.99.
Have a baker’s dozen of creative fun with Hasbro’s Play-Doh Rising Cake Oven Playset. Your child will enjoy putting the cake in the oven, watching it “rise,” and decorating. Our tester loved piping the cake with “icing.” You’ll love the easy clean-up! For ages 3 and older. At playdoh.hasbro.com. $19.99.
Create decadent desserts with the Creativity for Kids Sensory Bins: Ice Cream Shop from Faber-Castell. Perfect for imaginative play and kiddos with sensory concerns, the ice cream shop includes three colors of sensory sand, pom poms, rainbow beads, ice cream cones, a bowl, a scoop and a spoon. Our tester enjoyed playing with and scooping the sensory sand the most. For ages 3 and older. $23.
Combine the excitement of dominoes and racing with HABA’s Kullerbu Kringel Domino Play Track Starter Set. Your child will love mixing up the setup of the track and stairs to change the dominoes from falling upwards or downwards. For ages 2-8. $69.99.
Get digging with The Big Dig Orange Special Edition construction toy. Kids can move sand, dirt, snow and more with easy two-handed controls for digging and dumping. Build all-natural constructions wherever your child plays. For ages 3-6. $52.99.
Make art that moves with the Magic Swirl Kaleidoscope from Faber-Castell. Your budding artist can create his own special toy by combining water, swirl gel and confetti. Plus, he can decorate the kaleidoscope with glow-in-the-dark stickers. For ages 6 and older. $16.
This retro toy gets an update from Basic Fun!. The Lite-Brite Oval HD has three color-changing features. With 650 mini-pegs and eight templates, kids will have fun following patterns to make glowing creations, or they can create their own. There’s also an “animate” mode, allowing kids to bring movement to their designs. For ages 4 and older. At $19.99.
Your child can create beautiful and colorful butterflies with Crayola’s STEAM Paper Butterfly Science Kit. With 12 unique butterflies and colorful inks included, the finished products can be displayed around the house. For ages 7 and older. $19.99.
Perfect for family fun nights, use your head to solve the new Hedbanz Blast Off from Spin Master. A spin on the classic game, try to guess the clue on your head before time is up and it blasts off the band! For ages 6 and older. $19.99.
Swing into action with the Koosh Paddle Play Set from PlayMonster. It’s a group activity when you paddle the Koosh ball back and forth for an outdoor game, or your child can enjoy independent play to see how long she can bounce the ball on her own. Since the ball is so light, you can play indoors. For ages 6 and older. $16.99.
Wow everyone with incredible artistic skills with the smART sketcher 2.0 Projector from Flycatcher. Our testers enjoyed tracing the pre-loaded images, and they were able to set it up and start using it on their own. For ages 5 and older. $59.99.
Transform a blank 100-piece puzzle into a glowing jungle scene with Faber-Castell’s Color by Number Puzzle: Jungle. With 12 dual-ended markers, a color guide and a poster, coloring the puzzle will be easy, or your child can use her own creativity to make a new scene, like our tester did. For ages 6 and older. $16.
The popular Super Mario game series has turned into LEGO figurines; now add Luigi to your collection with LEGO’s Adventures with Luigi Starter Course. This set includes an interactive Luigi character whose reactions will show up via LCD screens and a speaker. For ages 6 and older. $59.99.
Kids will love the CLYDO Football from Blue Orange for a unique football game. The whole family can play at night with a light stick that’ll make the ball ultra-bright and visible for a glow-in-the dark game. For ages 8 and older. At $22.60
Think traditional art fun paired with technology and fashion! Your tween can make 15 keychain charms while learning about coding with hand2mind’s Coding Charms. This kit comes with an activity book, fuse beads, pegboard, tweezer, iron sheets, chain clips and oval hooks for building charms while learning about algorithms, sequencing and more STEAM concepts. For ages 8 and older. $24.99.
Build video games with the Game Builder Garage from Nintendo Switch. Learn the basics of game design and visual programming with step-by-step instructions. Our testers had fun following the easy steps to try and tweak their own games. For ages 8 and older. $29.99
Trying out new and bright hair colors is easy with the Spa*rkle Hair Chalk Pastels and Barrettes Set from Bright Stripes. Tweens will love styling their hair with six bright chalk pastels, including two metallic colors. Our tester loved coloring her hair purple, and the pastel dried easily and quickly, so she didn’t make a mess. For ages 8 and older. $16.99.
It’s easy to glow with the LetsGlow Studio. Your tween will love creating a custom look using the accessories and materials, which include sticker sheets with stencils, nail stickers, reflective tape, hair clips and more. For ages 8 and older. At $34.99.
Be a chemist with the Kitchen Science Lab from SmartLab Toys, which features 40 different science experiments that use ingredients from your kitchen. Our tester liked the different experiments that they could do all on their own. For ages 8 and older. $16.10.
Cruise in style with the Hex Kick Scooter from Jetson. The scooter has a wide deck, making it more durable. It folds for easy storage, and the adjustable handlebars mean it can grow with your tween for years of riding! Available in green, blue, pink or red. For ages 8 and older. $59.99.
Ready, set, go! Build a dump truck, a go-cart, a surf car, a jet plane and more with the Plus-Plus GO! Learn To Build Vehicles Super Set. This set comes with 800 pieces, GO wheels, reversible GO wheels, four baseplates and more. For ages 7-12. $49.99.
Toys Under $25
Cuddle with your favorite food with Squishmallows Carry Over Food Squad from Jazwares. These cute, plushy toys include Bernardo the Burrito, Carmelita the S’more and more to satisfy all. For ages 0 months and older. $2.99-$19.99.
Ahoy, matey! Steal the most treasure from your fellow pirates with Big G Creative’s Bluffaneer. Roll the bone dice and bluff your way through each round to steal treasure. The pirate with the most gold coins wins! For ages 10 and older. $9.99.
Enjoy a sweet and stylish surprise with the Hairdorables Color Magic Blow Dry Besties Series 6. Each of these cute dolls come with a mini hair dryer. When your little hairstylist dips it in icy water before applying to the doll, a fun, colorful streak of hair will appear. For ages 3 and older. $12.99.
Put a twist on creativity with Crayola’s Mini Marker Sprayer. Use washable markers and a hand-powered pump to design new artwork. The kit includes a sprayer, five markers, 12 coloring pages and eight stencil sheets. For ages 6 and older. $14.99.
Your young fashionista can combine her love of fashion and animals with Purse Pets: Fierce Fox from Spin Master. This interactive pet responds to touch, makes 25 sounds and reactions, and features games, music and a fashion fortune. A unicorn, pup and leopard are also available. For ages 5 and older. $24.99.
Craft time is easy and stress-free with Crayola’s Spill Proof Washable Paint. Your young artist can create and paint to her heart’s content with these five jars of paint that won’t leave behind a mess. The set comes with a paintbrush, 20 sheets of paper and a guide for tons of creative play. For ages 3 and older. $9.99.
The idea of connecting four gets tricky with Corner Crush from Big G Creative. Set in a rotating tower, play around the corners to score four in a row before your opponents. You’ll have to rely on strategy and memory to crush the competition! For ages 7 and older. $19.99.
Become the caretaker for a baby koala with My Fuzzy Friends from Skyrocket. The interactive pet will nuzzle its head and make a variety of sounds like a real animal, plus LED-colored cheeks indicate the koala’s mood. A kitten toy is also available. For ages 4 and older. $24.99.
Make mealtime into a family game with the culinary board game MasterChef Family Cooking Game from WowWee and Wilder Toys. Work together to discover new dishes and cuisines with 22 different recipes, find out who has the best kitchen skills, guess the mystery ingredient and more. For ages 7 and older. $19.99.
PaperCraft Fashion Parade from Educational Insights is an update to paper dolls. Stylish young kids can color 24 different dolls and dress them in outfit stickers that are easy to stick on and remove, so they can change up the outfits multiples times during play. For ages 3-7. $11.99.
Feel bubbly about outdoor play with the WOWmazing Powder Kit from South Beach Bubbles. The kit includes a pair of wands and three packets of powder for three gallons of bubbles. Add a cup of dish detergent, and watch as kids create the biggest bubbles ever! For ages 3 and older. $14.95.
Create satisfying and soothing sounds with the Sensory FX ASMR Dice from Just Play. Kids will love turning, pushing, clicking, spinning, suctioning and brushing each die to create a one-of-a-kind ASMR experience for restless little ones. Collect the four different sets to play with unique sensory effects. For ages 4 and older. $5.97.
The Loopy Looper from Blue Orange Games is a great fidget toy for all kids. Hold the round object vertically to launch the marble, and use your hands to find the right rhythm to keep the marble moving. Each Loopy Looper has a different function and requires different speeds to keep the ball rolling, moving or jumping. For ages 8 and older. $6.99.
Build a magical creature with the LEGO DOTS’ Bag Tag Unicorn kit. This hands-on cube craft features tons of tiles for building and customizing an awesome unicorn that kids can add to their backpack for a fun accessory and on-the-go toy. Dragon, panda, leopard, narwhal and dog kits also available. For ages 6 and older. $6.99.
Land of Dough from Crazy Aaron’s is made from plant-based colors and compostable glitters while packaged in paper to minimize the environmental impact of the product. Sets include Double Dinosaur, Over the Rainbow, Planet Earth and more, and they’re scented with chamomile, lemongrass and lavender essential oils. For ages 3 and older. $12-$15.
Match skin tones from all around the world with Faber-Castell’s World Colors Beeswax Crayons. These 15 break-resistant, triangular-shaped crayons are perfect for young kids who are still learning to grip writing utensils. Developed with the expertise of make-up artists, the blendable crayons can be used to create any skin tone for self-portraits, family portraits and more. For ages 3 and older. $6.
Spot the matching alien the fastest with PlayMonster’s Pop-A-Tops Match-A-Martian. Pop the dice to get a color, alien shape and background, and find the corresponding card before your opponents to win. Depending on your child’s age, you can change up the difficulty by sorting cards randomly or ordering them. For ages 5 and older. $9.99.
Discover and create new creatures with the Hatchimals CollEGGtibles Wilder Wings from Spin Master. Crack the front of the egg to reveal the wild animal before attaching their wings. Collect all 50 Wilder Wings Hatchimals and six Wilder Wings Pixies. Our tester loved cracking the eggs, but be aware it can make a bit of a mess! Available in 1-pack, multi-pack and 12-packs. For ages 5 and older. $2.99-$19.99.
Add sparkle to anything with the Blinger On The Go from Jazwares. This stylish pink tool includes 120 gems in multiple colors and shapes for blinging hair, fashion or accessories. Done looking stylish? The gems can be easily combed out of hair or peeled off, so your fashionista can dazzle all over again in a new way. For ages 6 and older. $12.99.
Light up creations combine the fun of snow globes and writing with the DIY Swirly World Pens from Bright Stripes. Young writers will build the habitats for their four pen pals, fill with mineral oil, and watch the pen pal swim. Collect Nutty Narwhal, Mer-Panda Princess, Aloha Mer-Kitty and Franky Fangs. For ages 6 and older. $8.99.
Reviewed by Atlanta Parent staff. Shop early and check with stores on availability. Prices listed are MSRP.
This story appeared in Atlanta Parent’s December 2019 issue.
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.
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.
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