Holiday Toy Guide 2023
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.
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It’s a boxing match like never before! Boxing robots, Robo-Boxer and Kangaroo-Bot move like real boxers with Hydraulic Boxing Bots from Thames & Kosmos. Using mechanical models, build the two robots before battle. For ages 10 and older. At thamesandkosmos.com. $49.95.
Cruise downhill with MAGNA-TILES’ Downhill Duo 40-Piece Set. Click pieces together to build downhill ramps that the included drivers can race down. Buckle up to build ramps of all sizes and tons of fun. For ages 3 and older. At magnatiles.com. $69.99.
Brew up a cauldron of magic with Thames & Kosmos’ Tasty Labs: Wizard Potion Science Kit. Follow the illustrated story of two young wizards-in-training to mix up magical potions and discover real scientific phenomena. The kit comes with a plastic cauldron, a magic wand, ingredients, round flasks and a measuring cup. For ages 8 and older. At thamesandkosmos.com. $24.95.
Play with an invisible force with Air Toobz from Fat Brain Toy Co. Arrange the tubes and connectors as you see fit; then, switch on the turbine to watch the foam balls travel using air. For ages 3 and older. At fatbraintoyco.com. $139.95.
Have fun on every corner of the block with LeapFrog’s Touch & Learn Wooden Activity Cube. Toddlers will be introduced to shapes, colors, numbers, animals and music; includes light-up piano keys, a ringing phone and more. For ages 1 and older. At leapfrog.com. $34.99.
Experience the delight of flight with Skyrocket’s Sky Viper Vector Performance Stunt Plane. Strap two powerful prop motors to the fighter body and perform amazing loop and barrel roll stunts with one touch of a button. For ages 12 and older. At sky-viper.com. $79.99.
Introduce kids to the wonders of nature and hiking with Melissa & Doug’s Grand Canyon National Park Hiking Gear Play Set. Explore the Grand Canyon and its native plants and animals with the included binoculars and four photo disks. This set also has a working flashlight, map/activity card, wooden granola bar, safety whistle, first aid wipe and self-stick bandage. For ages 3-6. At melissaanddoug.com. $37.99.
Watch the magic of nature come to life with OOLY’s Hidden Colors Magic Paint Sheets – Magic Nature. Add some water to a paintbrush, and “paint” the picture into a colorful work of art. Featuring eight magic paint sheets, you can save the images as a frameable work of art. For ages 8 and older. At ooly.com. $11.99.
Move in style with Droyd’s Romper. This electric tricycle is made specifically for young kids and is powered with a lithium-ion battery for a multicolor light-up LED front wheel that lights the way! Safety features will keep your child from taking off too quickly. For ages 3 and older. At go-droyd.com. $139.
Launch the 8 ball into the funnel and let it spin like a coin in a spiral wishing well with Beat the Ball from Blue Orange Games. The goal is to beat the 8 ball with your own. Watch all the balls crash into their final position to determine who wins! For ages 6 and older. At blueorangegames.com. $33.29.
For the Tots
Bring the fair home with Petit Collage’s Wooden Ferris Wheel Carnival Play Set. Take three animal friends for a ride on this beautiful Ferris wheel, and turn the handle to watch the wheel spin. Use the included wooden bead abacus to count rides, tickets or number of spins. For ages 3 and older. At petitcollage.com. $50.
Pretend to own your own barber shop with the Barber Shop Play Set from Melissa & Doug. Care for your client’s hair and beard with this kit that comes with an adjustable beard, vibrating trimmer, shaving cream can, razor, scissors, brush, comb, textured play pomade, wash cloth and much more. For ages 3-6. At melissaanddoug.com. $37.99.
Dive into the deep blue sea with miniland’s Sensorial Reef. This soft coral reef playset includes different textures, teethers, a mirror, colorful animals and a removable octopus rattle for sensory stimulation for your baby. For ages 0-18 months. At minilandgroup.com. $44.98.
Rainy day? Bring the outdoors indoors with Bababoo and friends’ Tree House Play World. This wooden set includes 31 pieces for exploring the tree house, and enjoy stimulating play with an entertaining PlayTales story card for more fun. For ages 2 and older. At bababooandfriends.com. $49.99.
Enjoy play time with Elmo, the beloved “Sesame Street” character. Just Play’s Sesame Street Elmo Slide Plush is an interactive feature plush that will have little ones dancing and singing along. Elmo will also play “Elmo Says” for a delightful game. For ages 2 and older. At justplayproducts.com. $50.
Mail and packages will be delivered by the cutest little worker with Radio Flyer’s Ride & Deliver UPS Truck. This adorable ride-on toy allows little ones to sit behind the driver seat of their own delivery truck. Travel around to deliver miniature UPS boxes, which can be stored under the seat. For ages 2 and older. At radioflyer.com. $54.99.
Bluey and Bingo are ready to shop at Hammerbarn, and you can help them with Moose Toys’ Bluey Hammerbarn Shopping Playset, which features characters from the animated series. Hammerbarn, the local home improvement store, features eight play areas and 12 play pieces, along with lights and sounds. Shop the garden center, lighting department, rooftop café and more. For ages 3 and older. At moosetoys.com. $69.99.
Feel the need for speed with BRIO’s Turbo Train — the fastest train in the BRIO World! Press the turbo boost button to watch the toy train run at top speed, and the white lights along the sides of the engine change to a cool blue. For ages 3 and older. At brio.net. $59.99.
Fly, zoom and roar with VTech’s Switch & Go 3-in-1 Rescue Rex. This roaring dinosaur combines a fire truck, rescue helicopter and police car for daring heroics no matter the occasion. Featuring action sounds, phrases and digital effects, play time is now a Jurassic adventure! For ages 4 and older. At vtech.com. $42.99.
Bring a little magic to bedtime with Bright Stripes’ Magic Scrunch Pillow – Unicorn. Weave, scrunch and stuff this cute craft for an adorable, no-sew critter. The unicorn comes with embroidered peel-and-stick features. After creating, the pillow is super-soft for a cuddly bedtime companion. Also available as a Cupcake, Puppy or Kitty. For ages 6 and older. At brightstripes.co. $24.99.
Glow up with Crayola’s Scribble Scrubbie Glow Ocean Lagoon. Color, clean and color again and again with this crew of glow-in-the-dark pals, Marco, Polo, Sydney and Toby. Kids can use their imagination to take these four creatures on under-the-sea adventures and to play along via augmented reality with the free Scribble Scrubbie app. For ages 3 and older. At crayola.com. $24.99.
Make your own dough with Scentco’s Air Dough Bucket. Air Dough is light and amazing for tons of creative exploration. Follow the included instructions to create awesome toys, or create your own designs. This gift bucket contains 60 bags of colored dough, four glow-in-the-dark bags of dough and sculpting tools. For ages 3 and older. At scentcoinc.com. $24.99.
Become an artist with OOLY’s Colorific Canvas Paint By Number Kit – Brilliant Bird. This all-in-one set includes a canvas, paint colors, palette and brushes for spreading your artistic wings to paint this gorgeous creature. Other creation kits: Magic Unicorn, Happy Sloth, Fantastic Dragon and more. For ages 8 and older. At ooly.com. $22.99.
Prep, set and display your favorite foods with MGA’s Miniverse Make It Mini Food Multipack. Each pack comes with tiny ingredients and kitchen accessories to make mini replicas of delicious snacks and desserts, including pizza, hot fudge sundaes and more. For ages 8 and older. At lolsurprise.com. $29.99.
Display your art in lights with Crayola’s Multi-Color Light Board. Draw a masterpiece directly on the surface of the board, and then watch the work glow in 10 different colors. The bright lights make the artwork pop. Wipe the screen clean and start again for unending creativity, and as a portable toy, the colorful fun can continue wherever you go. For ages 6 and older. At crayola.com. $14.99.
Combine the fun of treasure hunting and crafting with Bright Stripes’ Wish*Craft DIY Mystery Fortune Candle. Melt and pour a beautiful treasure candle, to create a beautiful tie-dye or striped pattern for a unique candle. Once the candle is melted, reveal the Mystery Pod to find your fortune. For ages 8 and older. At brightstripes.co. $14.99.
Learn how to draw like an expert manga artist with Made By Me’s Manga Artist Set. Featuring an interactive drawing guide, learn the basics and build up to advanced techniques to create your own stories inside the soft-cover comic books. Use the dual-ended markers, colored pencils, ruler, sticker sheets and pencil sharpener to make your masterpiece. For ages 6 and older. At amazon.com. $19.99.
The Games We Love to Play
Up the ante on game night with Hedbanz Light Speed from Spin Master. Guess the item, but each time, the rules change. If the electronic headband lights up green, act it out; orange, answer questions; and blue, give clues. Move as fast as you can before the time runs out! For ages 6 and older. At spinmaster.com. $21.99.
You’re stranded on a mysterious island with Thames & Kosmos’ My Island. Each player has their own island, which they redesign in the game. As you play, the rules and materials will change, creating different “episodes” for a new challenge each round. For ages 10 and older. At thamesandkosmos.com. $39.95.
Unite baby animals with their families in Ravensburger’s Hop, Waddle, Stomp! Toddlers toss the soft, colorful ball, choose a matching puzzle piece and move across the room to help the baby animals find their families. For ages 2 and older. At ravensburger.us. $19.99.
Hunt for mushrooms in the utopian Wonder Woods from Blue Orange Games. Harvest porcini, morels, chanterelles and parasol mushrooms, and use strategic skills to identify the mushrooms you think will be worth the most at the end of the game. At the end, count what your entire harvest is worth, and you’ll win if you have the highest score! For ages 8 and older. At blueorangegames.com. $27.99.
Breakfast is served with the wildly fun Anarchy Pancakes from Exploding Kittens. Match your toppings with other players’ to get rid of your pancakes, but everyone plays at one time for chaotic hilarity. Get rid of all your pancakes as fast as possible and be rewarded a Slab o’ Butter. Get two slabs to win! For ages 7 and older. At explodingkittens.com. $13.99.
Travel around the country and learn about the states with Skillmatics’ Scout It Out!: The 50 States. Test your knowledge of the states, pay attention to what others say and make smart guesses in order to win. For ages 7 and older. At skillmaticsworld.com. $24.97.
Search for the biggest gorilla with Dolphin Hat Games’ 800 Pound Gorilla. The spinner decides what every player has to do: complete an action, yell a phrase or find the right-sized gorilla. Whoever ends up with the most bananas wins. For ages 8 and older. At dolphinhat.com. $14.99.
Deep in the jungle on this extraordinary island, you’ve found nine mysterious treasure chests. Work together to solve the puzzles and open the chests with EXIT: The Game – Kids – Jungle of Riddles from Thames & Kosmos. For ages 5-7. At thamesandkosmos.com. $17.95.
Race for piñata candy with Ravensburger’s Piñata Blast. Snag the dice that matches your cards before your opponents, but watch out for rotten candy. Earn the most points to win! For ages 7 and older. At ravensburger.us. $12.99.
The world is in danger, and the only way to save it is to protect it with your own beast! Use Moose Toys’ Beast Lab Shark Beast Creator to create one of two sharks. Young scientists will be amazed at the reveal of a shark beast surrounded by “Bio Mist.” For ages 5 and older. At moosetoys.com. $79.99.
Discover out-of-this-world magic with LeapFrog’s Magic Adventures Telescope. Young astronomers can explore the night sky with up to 110x zoom. Activate the more than 100 videos and images from NASA and the European Space Agency to expand knowledge of the universe. For ages 5 and older. At leapfrog.com. $99.99.
Soar to new heights with Faction Skyfire Target Drone. The ultimate flying target and companion for your gel or foam dart blaster. Use the app to fly manually for a two-player game or drone vs. blaster, or fly it like a regular drone. For ages 8 and older. At factionbattle.com. $34.99.
Inspired by the beauty of nature, build the LEGO Friends Botanical Garden from LEGO for a delightful indoor garden. Let creativity bloom with this advanced building set including plants and flowers based on real-life species, rotating butterflies and gardening accessories. For ages 12 and older. At lego.com. $79.99.
Tune in to your STEM skills with ELENCO’s Snap FM Radio. Snap Circuits use electronic blocks that snap onto a clear plastic base grid to build different circuits. Follow the instructions to assemble parts and create a radio that really works! For ages 8 and older. At shop.elenco.com. $30.99.
Take a giant leap into outer space with Learning Resources’ Space Rover Deluxe Coding Activity Set. Powered by simple push-button coding, kids code their space rover through customizable mazes to grab magnetic space rocks, avoid rough terrain and save the astronaut. This set will help build coding skills without the help of a screen and includes a mission handbook. For ages 4 and older. At learningresources.com. $69.99.
Entertain your child with screen-free fun with NUG + TATER’s NugLug Complete Set. Designed as a screen-free activity and to stimulate kids’ curiosity, this set includes a whiteboard, alphabet tiles, tangram puzzles and 3D magnetic building blocks for hours of entertainment. You can also take the set with you on-the-go. For ages 3 and older. At nugandtater.com. $99.99.
Toys Under $30
Add a spot of sweetness to bedtime with Scentco’s Strawberry Smillow. This adorable pillow’s scent is guaranteed to last for two years. For ages 1 and older. At scentcoinc.com. $24.99.
Learn to solve the iconic puzzle cube with the Rubik’s Coach Cube. The cube is covered by numbered black stickers for a peel-to-reveal solution. Once solved, scramble again and again. For ages 8 and older. At coach.rubiks.com. $14.99.
Run your own restaurant with Hasbro’s Play-Doh Kitchen Creations Busy Chef’s Restaurant Playset. Use the stampers to make pizza, burgers, pasta or chicken to serve up deliciousness. For ages 3 and older. At shop.hasbro.com. $24.99.
Use the power of the sun with Thames & Kosmos’ Solar Race Car. Build a sleek car, and learn how solar energy is collected and converted into power. For ages 8 and older. At thamesandkosmos.com. $15.95.
Watch magic happen with L.O.L. Surprise!’s Magic Flyers. Touch the magical bottle three times to reveal your new flying friend, Flutter Star, Sweetie Fly or Sky Starling! Guide the Magic Flyer with your hand. For ages 5 and older. At lolsurprise.com. $29.99.
It’s cold outside! Bring the snow indoors with Ooze Labs: Instant Snow Station from Thames & Kosmos. Make your own super-expanding instant snow for a winter wonderland. For ages 6 and older. At thamesandkosmos.com. $29.95.
Hold the cutest picnic with Blue Orange Games’ Picnic Twist. Try to organize the best possible picnic by combining the largest number of similar food items and tablecloth patterns. For ages 8 and older. At blueorangegames.com. $17.99.
It’s history in the baking with Cookeez Makery from Moose Toys. This oven-themed playset lets kids mix and make “dough” to create a sweet-scented plush best friend: Sour Puss, Frosty Fido or Raspbunny Glaze. For ages 5 and older. At target.com. $29.99.
Make artwork that glows with the Lite-Brite Touch from Basic Fun!. Instead of pegs, press the light-up buttons to swap through seven colors, and watch your design come to life with different animations. For ages 6 and older. At basicfun.com. $29.99.
Tap into creativity wherever and whenever inspiration strikes with Crayola’s Silly Scents Mini Art Case. Color, draw and write with these fragrant art supplies. The carrying case includes paper, Twistables crayons, slim and broad line markers. For ages 3 and older. At crayola.com. $19.99.
Keep the kids entertained no matter the weather with Petit Collage’s Busy Ideas for Bored Kids: Rainy Day Edition. This card pack includes 50 activity ideas to fill your day with indoor play. For ages 4 and older. At petitcollage.com. $10.
The most important meal of the day just got cuter with BumBumz’s BreakfastBumz. These super-soft plushies include Melissa the Muffin, Pattie the Pancake, Colton the Coffee Pot, Timothy the Toast, Cyrus the Cereal and more. For ages 3 and older. At jazwares.com. $7.99.
Light it up with Pop It! Go from Buffalo Games. This portable game is a bubble-popping sensory game with three modes of gameplay and colored lights. For ages 5 and older. At buffalogames.com. $12.99.
Celebrate the holiday season with Scentco’s Holiday Glitter Smelly Gellies. This pack of gel crayons includes five festive scents: Winterberry, Candy Cane, Gingerbread, Mint Cocoa and Sugar Plum. For ages 3 and older. At scentcoinc.com. $7.99.
Embrace your inner artist with OOLY’s Vivid Pop! Water Based Paint Markers. Decorate rocks, wood, cardboard and paper to create beautiful masterpieces. For ages 8 and older. At ooly.com. $14.99.
Cook up surprises in the kitchen with MGA’s Miniverse – Make It Mini Food Diner Series. This package comes with ingredients and kitchen accessories to create a mini food collectible. Once you’ve made your delicious dish, set it under UV light until the resin has hardened. For ages 8 and older. At lolsurprise.com. $9.99.
Oh, no! The Pawvocado pets have lost their noses with Blue Orange Games’ Pawvocados. These cute critters need your help to get their noses back. Make pairs with your cards or exchange them for fun items. For ages 4 and older. At blueorangegames.com. $13.99.
Make bath time a glowing good time with Glo Pals’ Lumi. Drop Lumi into the water, and watch it glow. Each character comes with their own personality. For ages 3 and older. At glopals.com. $16.
Bring back the lost art of letter writing with Tiny Tadas! Note Cards and Sticker Set – Hello Rainbows from OOLY. Includes note cards, envelopes and sticker sheets. For ages 6 and older. At ooly.com. $6.99.
Explore the magic of storytelling and inspire imaginations with the Little Library Storytelling Box by Petit Collage. Use the 40 double-sided coins to create incredible stories, and write them in the included mini notebooks. For ages 5 and older. At petitcollage.com. $18.
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