Holiday Toy Guide 2020
We found the coolest gifts for your kids this holiday season. Here are our top picks for each age.
Atlanta Parent Favorites
Practice being a digital creator or influencer with VTech’s KidiZoom Creator Cam. This high-definition video camera kit includes a green screen and 20 animated backgrounds, so kids can pretend to get chased by a T-Rex, explore space and more. Our kid testers found the camera easy to use, loved making their own videos and using the green screen. For ages 5-10. $59.99.
Build amazing creations with the Blockaroo Magnetic Foam Builders Set. The 17-piece set includes soft magnetic blocks that click together and rotate 360 degrees. Our tester loved making creations and playing with them in the bath, where they float for a fun new bath toy. For ages 18 months and older. $29.99.
Ready, set, go! Race your way to the top with Fisher-Price’s Little People Launch & Loop Raceway. Use the double car launcher to send two cars racing at the same, and the race may end with a clear winner or end in a crash. The playset features three speed tracks, a loop-the-loop, a jump ramp, a trap door, two Wheelies vehicles and an attached gas station. For ages 1-5. $49.99.
Soar through the sky with Zing’s Go Go Bird. Toss the flying bird, and it’ll start to fly immediately. LED light makes it fun to fly at night, too! The bird comes with a controller, but with its smart obstacle-avoiding module, the bird will automatically turn around six feet away from the wall. For ages 8 and older. $43.99.
Create a squishy stress ball, mini mood lamp and more with the Squishy Water Beads Science Lab from hand2mind. Our tester liked that there were 10 different experiments and found the instructions easy to follow. The mood lamp was her favorite! For ages 5-9. $34.99.
Power is electrifying! Build your own house with Snap Circuits MyHome from Elenco and learn how electricity works. See how you can power security systems, lights, alarms, motion detectors, appliances and more in your home. You can build 25 different projects, and our parent and kid tester liked how much there was to do in this set. For ages 8 and older. $70.40.
Spin Master’s Air Hogs Stunt Shot can do flips, 360-degree spins, wheelies, rebound off walls and more. The car’s super soft foam wheels won’t scratch walls or floors, so your kids can play with it all over the house. The car’s lightweight design helps it survive crashes or bumps. For ages 5 and older. At $29.99.
Create your own delightful fairytale with the Story Magic Storybook Maker by Horizon Group USA. By spinning the story generator, you’ll get to add characters, emotions and settings to your story, along with illustrations and stickers. Act out your story with the unicorn mask and surprise gemstones and confetti. Our kid testers loved making their own storybook. For ages 4 and older. $19.99.
Zoe, from Healthy Roots Dolls, is specially designed with curls, so it can be styled in multiple ways. Your child can use real products on Zoe’s hair, and try out styles from puffs to box braids, so that her look can match your daughter’s hairdo. Just wash, rinse and repeat fun, different styles. For ages 6 and older. $79.99.
Kids and parents will love the Mobo Wobo 2-in-1 Rocking Baby Balance Bike. It grows with your child – starting out as a rocker, then a walker and finally as a bike. For ages 1-3. $99.99.
Baby and Toddler
Have a roaring good play time with Dixi Triceratops from Steiff. This adorable 11” toy is super soft and perfect for cuddling. Newborn and older. $26.95.
Stack and build with Le Toy Van’s Building Blocks for bright creations and towers. This plastic-free 60-piece set is made from sustainably sourced Rubberwood. For ages 12 months and older. $49.95.
Splish, splash, I was reading while I was taking a bath with HABA’s Magic Bath Book – Firefighters. The images in this fascinating book only become completely visible when they get wet. For ages 18 months and older. $7.99.
Explore colors, textures and sounds with SpinnyPins from Fat Brain Toys. Each of the five colorful pins have a different texture and pattern. When your little one fits the right pin into the bowl, a delightful chime will let her know she’s made the right move. Our little tester enjoyed playing with this toy over and over. For ages 18 months and older. $29.95.
Our tester enjoyed taking their Mega Bloks Pull-Along Puppy from Fisher-Price for a walk around the house. Kids can build onto the puppy’s head, back and nose, can feed it blocks and can take it for a walk to do its business. For ages 1 and older. $19.99.
LeapFrog’s Purrfect Counting Purse is perfect for toddlers on the go who want to be just like mom or dad. Toddlers will love filling up the purse with the included accessories: a smartphone ID tag, mirror, key set, comb and coin purse. Plus, it has learn, pretend and music modes and a tiara with light-up jewels. For ages 6-48 months. 19.99.
Little ones will love making music with the Musical Drumfish from HABA. This instrument includes a drum, drumstick and rattling fins for a one-man band for your toddler. For ages 18 months and older. $29.99.
Hop to the music with the interactive Peekaboo Light-Up Bunny from BABYBibi. This soft bunny plays fun phrases and theme songs by day and bedtime phrases and lullabies at night with day and night play modes for interaction no matter the time of day. The bunny also has buttons to light up the tummy and play peekaboo ears. For ages 6 months and older. $34.99.
Escape into a world of stories, music, activities, podcasts, radio and audio with Yoto Player. This screen-free speaker is controlled by physical cards to play the content, which can include “James and the Giant Peach,” free daily audio and more. Make your own cards to have parents or grandparents read a story to the kids. For ages 3 and older. $99.99.
Step into the professional world and treat animals easily with Schleich’s Veterinarian Practice with Pets. This playset comes with a vet who can use x-rays, an examination table, medication and more to treat the rabbits, dog, cat, mouse and horse in her care. Our kid tester liked bandaging the animals with tiny casts and taking care of all of them. For ages 3-8. $59.99.
Sneak education into play easily with Flycatcher’s Smarty PAD, which contains 12 smart games. Pre-schoolers can learn colors, coding, the alphabet and numbers with colorful LED visuals. Our tester liked all the different activities to choose from and the games. Smarty PAD can speak in English or Spanish. For ages 3-5. $29.99.
It’s a magical time with VTech’s Mia the Unicorn. Mia talks, sings and lights up with beautiful colors and more than 100 responses about her mood, feelings and colors. When you touch her necklace, you can change the color of her horn, eyes and wings. Parents will like the small size and that she’s not too loud. For ages 4-8. $14.99.
LittiCity’s Litti Pritti My First Purse Set comes with a wallet, cell phone, lipstick, face powder, keys, ID card, play money and credit cards. This magenta and white vegan leather purse closes with a gold zipper, so she can bring along her purse while she’s out and about running errands, just like mom. For ages 3 and older. $27.99
Have fun creating with this bright and stretchy clay included in the Mixy Squish Tabletop Creativity Desk from Horizon Group USA. This set comes with 14 sculpting tools, texture plates and molds to transform the 10 colorful fluffy clays into fun creations. The best part is there is no mess, and it dries smooth. For ages 3 and older. $29.99.
Go on a vacation with HABA’s Little Friends Camper. Set up camp with the camper that opens and closes from the top with a foldable eating space and bed, plus chairs, a detachable awning and a figure. For ages 3 and older. $49.99.
Cuddle with the colorful Rainbow Dolls from Corolle. Praline, Iris, Néphélie and Céleste smell of vanilla, are dressed in bright Unicorn printed dresses and tights and have colorful hair that your child can easily style for loads of fun. For ages 3 and older. $30.
Save the town from overflowing garbage with Recycle Rally by Adventerra Games. Each player drives around town collecting the garbage and recycling objects, and higher value materials will score you more points. If you don’t recycle enough garbage, the city’s pollution increases and all players lose the game. For ages 7 and older. $24.95.
Blast off with the Circuit Explorer Rover from Educational Insights. Kids will learn circuitry while they’re playing, as they activate the lights, sounds and motion of the set. Plus, all sets include astronauts and robots to play with. The instructions are easy to follow and don’t require reading, so it’s great if your first grader is still learning to read. For ages 6 and older. $39.99.
Help kids express themselves and decorate their rooms with Creative Picture Frames from LEGO DOTS. This DIY set includes three picture frames and colorful tiles for creating the individual frames, or connect them together for a larger set with the unique z-bricks. Change the display as often as you want! For ages 6 and older. $19.99.
Build a habitat for your bug-like robotic creatures with HEXBUG nanotopia from HEXBUG. This playset has more than 130 track pieces and obstacles that snap together to let the nanos loose in, and four additional nanos are included. The nanos move at twice the speed, and they light up as they move. For ages 3 and older. $49.99.
Style your horse’s mane in gorgeous hairdos with Breyer’s Mane Beauty Styling Head. Groom Sunset, a light brown horse with blond hair; Blaze, a dark brown horse with black hair, or Daybreak, a white horse with white hair. Each styling head comes with a styling booklet, comb, clips, mane spirals and elastics. For ages 5 and older. $29.99.
Practice art skills with the Jixelz Creator by Fat Brain Toys, which includes 3,000 jigsaw pieces in 20 different colors for tons of creative exploration. The toy comes with a guidebook with 40 design templates, or create your own designs. Jixelz pieces hold together, so you won’t have to iron anything. For ages 6 and older. $39.95.
Explore a new art technique with the iHeart Art Mash-Up Art Pack Batik FX, which consists of all the materials needed for creating a wax resist. Create pretty designs and pictures with an unbelievably cool effect with tape or oil pastels. The pack includes watercolor paints, oil pastels, tape, water brush pen and more, and you can store everything in the magnetically closed binder. For ages 7 and older. $32.99.
Osmo is great for all ages, but their new Math Wizard Starter Kit is great for first and second graders. The kit includes two interactive learning games that are compatible with iPad and Fire Tablets. This self-paced, curriculum-inspired series combines hands-on learning with digital fun, so kids will learn addition, subtraction, counting, place value and comparisons. For ages 6-8. $157.
Design and create colorful hair extensions with the Cool Maker Hollywood Hair Extension Maker from Spin Master. Customize 18 different extensions with markers, and the maker transforms the ribbon into a wearable hair piece. Style the piece with the included tools to create curls, beachy waves, braids and more. For ages 8 and older. $29.99.
Turn back time with the American Girl Courtney Doll, Book and Accessories. Courtney Moore is a total ‘80s girl who loves playing video games. This set includes the Courtney doll, her book “Courtney Changes the Game,” her cute ‘80s outfit, a personal cassette player and more. For ages 8 and older. $140.
Let the cauldrons boil and bubble with ThinkFun’s Mystic Market, a card game where players buy and sell magical potion-making ingredients. Each player is trying to earn a profit and corner the market, but the value of the ingredients shifts as you play, so only the shrewdest seller will win. For ages 10 and older. $19.99.
Crayola’s Paper Maker allows you to make and create your own colorful paper for arts, crafts and school projects. Dye the paper all one color, make your own unique designs or mix the inks together to create new colors. Our testers enjoyed making their own designs. For ages 8 and older. $19.99.
Grow your own crystal magic with YOUniverse Ultimate Crystal Growing Laboratory by Horizon Group USA. Create sparkling, crystal-growing figurines, charms, décor, jewelry and more. You’ll also learn the science behind crystals, as well as how to create a rainbow with a simple chemical reaction. For ages 8 and older. $29.99.
LED Candle Critter Unicorn from Bright Stripes is an illuminating way to play with colors. Use ceramic markers to decorate this ceramic night light, turn on the LED tea light and enjoy. Other creatures include Turtle, Fox, Bunny and Mouse. For ages 8 and older. $21.99.
Fool your opponents using fowl with ThinkFun’s Chicken War. Players race to complete their chicken army in this competitive game. Recruit chickens with similar traits, use special tiles to gather intel and launch an egg to take out your enemy’s leader. For ages 8 and older. $19.99.
Write and draw in different chocolate colors with Chocolate Pen from Real Cooking. Fill the pen with white, brown, pink or blue chocolate to create your own delicious decorations. Or create colorful treats with the 40 molds. Our testers liked the molds, plus writing out their own initials and shapes like hearts. We just need more chocolate. For ages 6 and older. $29.97.
Toys Under $25
Your toddler will love popping the squishy bubbles on Fat Brain Toys’ Dimpl Digits. Each bubble is embossed with the numerals 1-10, dots to count and the matching words in English and Spanish. For ages 1 and older. $19.95.
Rainbow Jellies Surprise Creation Kit by Spin Master creates little jelly creatures that can clip to your child’s backpack for fun on the go. Make four of your own custom characters by choosing a face and hair, putting them inside a cloud mold and adding the magic goo. Kids can make on their own with very little adult help. For ages 6 and older. $19.97.
Make shapes and geometry into a game with the Shape Factory Geometry Board Game by OjO. One player builds an image, while the other guesses what it is. Work together to fill the factory with correctly guessed creations by placing the cards on the conveyor belt. For ages 4 and older. $19.99.
Expand your knowledge with Britannica All New Children’s Encyclopedia by What on Earth Books. Learn about space, animals, science, history and more with this fascinating book filled with facts and illustrations. For ages 8-12. $24.99.
Assemble your own nature-inspired lantern with the DIY Lantern Lands Forest Festival from Bright Stripes. Decorate it with punchouts, puffy stickers and gems for a customizable glowing design. For ages 8 and older. $21.99.
Create and decorate your child’s handprint with the Made By Me Keepsake Frame from Horizon Group USA. This two-part frame includes a spot for a 4×6 photo and a place to display your handprint. Decorate both the frame and your handprint with paints, and the air-dry clay makes it less messy. For ages 6 and older. $12.99.
Harness energy from the sun to create and power unique robots. The SolarBots: 8-in-1 Solar Robot Kit from Thames & Kosmos includes different solar-powered robots you can build that will drum, crawl, do somersaults and more. For ages 6 and older. $24.95.
Find lots of baby Blume surprises with Blume Dolls’ Blume Baby Pop Series 2 Pop ‘N Sniff. Each surprise reveals a sweet candy-scented baby or an accessory. Each sprout makes a fun pop when you pull them out and has a color-changing diaper to reveal the baby’s gender. Plus, comes with rainbow bath pearls for swimming. For ages 3 and older. $14.99.
The genetically-engineered Fungisaurs were created in a secret lab and released by accident, but they’re eager to make friends. Find all eight species, and play them as virtual pets with the free Fungisaurs AR. For ages 4 and older. $10.
There’s no limit to how much you can flip the Karmagami by Shashibo. This toy transforms into four colorful designs and is great for calming kids who continuously fidget. For ages 4 and older. $7.99.
Enjoy the squishy and sticky Globbles from Crayola. These colorful balls stack, squish and stretch or use it as a squeezable stress ball. For ages 4 and older. $4.99.
Play with hidden codes and disappearing messages with Crazy Aaron’s Ghostwriters. Putty comes with a Glow Charger to write or draw with light, and then watch as they magically vanish. For ages 3 and older. $15.
Make bath time a blast with the Erupting Dinosaur Bath Volcano from Uncommon Goods. Place a fizzy puck inside its base and a bright flow of “lava” spills out. Then, use the volcano as a bath toy, revealing one of eight possible Cretaceous creatures. For ages 4 and older. $25.
Celebrate 75 years of fun with the Classic Slinky from Just Play. Kids love slinkies and you both will enjoy playing with this metal toy that can walk on its own. For ages 5 and older. $3.99.
Shop ‘til you drop with ZURU’s 5 Surprise Mini Brands Series 2. Collect more than 70 miniatures from favorite brands, including Lunchables, Heinz Ketchup, Kool-Aid, Jell-O and more. You might also find miniature shopping accessories, or the Rare Metallic and Glow in the Dark minis. For ages 4 and older. $6.99.
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