Holiday Toy Guide 2019
We found the coolest gifts for your kids this holiday season. Here are our top picks for each age.
Atlanta Parent Favorites
Gumballs perform cool stunts with the Thames & Kosmos Gumball Machine Maker Lab. Kids can create custom designs using tracks, funnels, trampolines, pulleys and more – and send gumballs racing to the dispensing cup. Our kid testers liked turning the crank to see if their designs were a success! For ages 6 and older. $39.95.
The interactive Coding Critters by Learning Resources introduce young children to coding, as they can program which direction the animal moves – forward, backward, left or right. They can also build the playground set for their critters to move around in. A full-color storybook has multiple coding challenges, and you can choose from puppies, kitties or dinosaurs. For ages 4-10. $39.99.
Heads Talk Tails Walk by ThinkFun is a fun and movement-oriented game where players match animal head tiles to the correct body tails. If you don’t make a match, you’ll have to walk and talk like your mismatched animal would. Our testers loved how interactive, action-oriented and fun this game was. For ages 3 and older. $14.99.
Pair science with fun with hand2mind’s Moving Creations with K’NEX. This building kit contains nine models and 18 STEM experiments, and kids can power their creations with air or water to explore pneumatic and hydraulics. Our toy testers worked together to construct each model and follow detailed instruction while learning engineering concepts. For ages 8 and older. $39.99.
Be the star of your next car ride with Carpool Karaoke the Mic to start your own version of Carpool Karaoke from “The Late Late Show with James Corden.” Pair the microphone with your device via Bluetooth and stream your favorite songs from the radio or an app. Our toy testers liked that the microphone was easy to use, portable and engaging for the whole family. For ages 10 and older. $59.99.
Educational Insights’ Bright Basics Snuggly makes bedtime cuter and cozier. Read “Where Do You Sleep” and tuck the six plush animals in to their pockets for bedtime. Ages 2-4. $21.99.
Play a new game of catch with Hog Wild Toys’ Pop and Pass. Launch each ball by pulling back the handle to load then pushing forward to see how far you can throw it. Our testers enjoyed playing this toy for hours. For ages 6 and older. $29.99.
Create a dream camping destination with shady trees, a cozy hammock, a canoe, a campfire and more with the Wonder Makers Soft Slumber Campground from Fisher-Price. Kids can follow the Maker’s Guide instructions or build their own to create new layouts again and again. For ages 3 and older. $29.99.
Make edible experiments of ice pops, juices and no-bake treats with Yumology! Sweet Labs from Learning Resources. Through measuring, mixing and freezing treats, our kid testers had fun in the kitchen with these simple recipes and learned about science. For ages 4-8. $19.99.
Shake things up with the Learn & Groove Shakin’ Colors Maracas from LeapFrog with colorful shaker beads, a light-up dome and maraca sound effects. The three play modes introduce colors, numbers and music. Ages 6 months and older. $14.99.
Baby and Toddler
Build a tower with Animal High Rise from HABA for the various animals living in the apartment. The colorful wooden pieces have edges that make it challenging and fun for little ones. Ages 18 months and older. $24.99.
Match the baby animals to their mothers with Match the Baby Puzzles from Banana Panda. This beginner puzzle has 12 pairs of baby and mama pieces that fit together. The puzzle pieces are made of high-quality, thick cardboard. Ages 18 months and older. $16.99.
Play with a moat and boats with the Viking City Garage with Harbor from Viking Toys that works with real water. This playset includes a crane, water wheel, ramps, gates, a drawbridge, boats, a barge, a vehicle and a helicopter for indoor and outdoor fun. For ages 1 and older. $44.99.
This interactive Laugh & Learn Pull & Play Learning Wagon from Fisher-Price features a variety of fun activities that will help your baby learn. Songs and phrases teach the alphabet, colors, numbers, Spanish words and shapes. The three shapes fit into puzzles, press xylophone keys or bat-at toys for sit and play activities. Ages 6-36 months. $39.99.
Encourage walking with the Pull Along Snail from Dolce which is attached to a string so your toddler can stroll with it. The snail unravels to reveal a squeaker, teether, rattle and mirror. Newborn and older. $39.99.
Take on adventure with Dolce’s My First Backpack Mouse with Neck Cushion. The backpack comes with a carrier pouch for the mouse and buttons to hold the neck support so your child can travel light. Newborn and older. $39.99.
Learn about farmyard animals with My First Farm from BRIO. The set includes a train which can carry the five animals to the farm meadow, where they each make sounds. Ages 18 months and older. $59.99.
There’s no hedging about how much fun your child will have with Fisher-Price’s Linkimals Happy Shapes Hedgehog. This interactive pull toy has light-up buttons that play songs and teach colors, shapes and numbers. Collect the additional Linkimals Otter, Llama, Sloth and Moose to see them interact and sing together. Ages 9 months and older. $24.99.
Cook up delicious fun with the Smart Sizzlin’ BBQ Grill by LeapFrog. This grill features pretend temperature controls, and the grill will recognize each piece of food while introducing colors and numbers. For ages 2 and older. $39.99.
Kids can travel with their favorite doll with the Doll Bike Seat from HABA. The seat can be easily attached to bicycle handlebars, a push bike, scooter or sled to include their doll in all kinds of fun. Our toy tester liked being able to tote their doll on a bike ride around the block. For ages 18 months and older. $14.99.
Shimmer Stars Pets by Kidz Delight will allow kids to make everything shimmer and sparkle with the Shimmerizer wand, and you can style your hair to match the toy. This was our tester’s favorite part. The hair accessories can be used on you or your pet, and shimmers are reusable. Get the panda, cat, unicorn or puppy. For ages 3 and older. $19.99.
Soar to new heights with Fat Brain Toys’ Playviators. The toy airplane’s propeller will spin when tilted forward or backward, and the transparent compartment lets kids see the mechanical movement in action. For ages 3 and older. $19.95.
Create the perfect tree house with the Adventure Tree House by Schleich. Kids will have plenty of creative play with this high quality set that includes two figurines with moveable arms and legs, four animals and tons of accessories. The workable pulley system will bring items up to the tree house, and the tire swing also moves. For ages 3-8. $69.99.
Banana Panda’s My Body Suuuper Size Puzzles is perfect for helping your child learn how many fingers she has, how her body functions and more. The six large puzzles are made of high-quality, thick cardboard. The educational poster teaches about the body with illustrations about the eyes, ears, tongue, muscles and more. For ages 3 and older. $21.99.
The 90’s are back with the Original Doodle Bear from TOMY. The plush toy comes with three washable markers, so kids can decorate, wash and decorate again. Download the Doodle Bear Studio app, where kids can animate their creations. Ages 3 and older. $19.99.
Little chefs can create tacos, burritos, fajitas and more with the play food and skillet set from Melissa & Doug. The Fill & Fold Taco & Tortilla Set includes three double-sided menus and recipe cards, a wooden knife and spoon, sliceable proteins and vegetables, felt rice, beans, cheese and more. For ages 3 and older. $29.99.
Compete against other players and plot your escape route with Drop Squad: The Escape! Choose from one of five characters and score a goal by dropping marbles into the maze of pegs and ramps. Although the instructions take a few reads, our kid testers loved this game because it changes every time. For ages 5 and older. $59.99.
See what “blumes” with the Blume Dolls by Skyrocket. Sprinkle water over the pot and find out which collectible doll is inside. Watching the doll grow and finding the accessories inside was lots of fun for our toy tester. Mix and match accessories with more Blume dolls. For ages 5 and older. $9.88.
Barbie and her friends are ready to travel with the Barbie Dream Plane by Mattel. Our toy tester liked that three dolls can fit inside, all the fun accessories plus seats that move, seatbelts that buckle and even suitcases that fit in the overhead bin. For ages 3 and older. $74.99.
Kids can express their creativity with custom 3D art with glue and sprinkles with Crayola’s Sprinkle Art Shaker. It comes with cute dessert illustrations, and the art is contained in a case, so after each creation, the remaining sprinkles roll back into the tubes for continued use. Our tester would dump out all the sprinkles for her artwork, but the case made it easy to clean up! For ages 5 and older. $19.99.
Maneuver a flying saucer around various farm obstacles to magnetically beam up all the cows in the correct order with ThinkFun’s Invasion of the Cow Snatchers. This is a single-player game, but kids can collaborate to solve the puzzles together. Our tester challenged himself by collecting the magnets without peeking at the solutions on the back of the cards. For ages 6 and older. $29.99.
Express creativity and game-making skills with the Doodlematic. Your child’s hand drawn images become playable games that can be shared with friends on the Doodlematic app. Our kid tester loved trying her game creations and playing other’s games found on the app. Comes with three game creation guides, a sketch pad and five washable colored markers. For ages 6-16. $29.99.
Shoot for the stars with the LEGO City Mars Research Shuttle. Construction-minded kids can build a space shuttle toy with opening cockpit, two opening cargo doors, a rover, Mars scenery and more. The set also includes two astronaut minifigures. Our toy tester had fun building the set and playing with it after she was finished. For ages 5 and older. $39.99.
Unlock more than 30 fun surprises with Ryan’s World Super Surprise Safes from Just Play, inspired by YouTube sensation Ryan ToysReview. Your child will have to use the key, push, smash and decode to discover the toys. Our tester enjoyed the element of surprise as he unlocked each box which contained a variety of unexpected prizes inside. For ages 3 and older. $39.99.
Practice your rockstar skills with Loog Pro Electric Guitar for Kids from Loog Guitars. The three-string guitar simplifies learning to play, and the accompanying app features video lessons, a tuner and a digital songbook. The flashcards with cords come in handy, and the small size is great for kids who are just getting the dexterity to play a stringed instrument. It sounds great through the included amp. For ages 8 and older. $199.
Compete to create perfect worlds with Planet by Blue Orange. The player’s planet is represented by a 3D model, selecting landscape tiles to represent oceans, deserts, mountains or frozen lands, and win animal cards at the end of each turn. Our testers enjoyed competing for the cute animal cards to inhabit their planets. For ages 8 and older. $34.99.
Build the four-legged Air-Walker by Thames & Kosmos and learn about the physics of air pressure and suction. Kids construct a motorized bot that uses suction cups to climb smooth vertical surfaces. Our toy tester enjoyed experimenting with the five different bot configurations. For ages 8 and older. $39.95.
Pictionary Air from Mattel offers a new twist on the classic game, as players draw clues in the air that then appear on the app, or you can cast it on the TV. The card comes with five words, and you draw as many as you can before the timer runs out. Our kid testers loved recording videos of the themselves drawing and replaying them for lots of laughs. For ages 8 and older. $19.99.
Combine coding and art with Artie 3000 The Coding Robot by Educational Insights. Fun for beginners and advanced coders, your child designs the code, then Artie draws the design. He has a built-in Wi-Fi server, so you can control him with a tablet, computer or phone. Our testers liked this interactive toy, and it was a wonderful hands-on learning experience. For ages 7-12. $69.99.
HASBRO’s Tiny Pong Solo Table Tennis allows your child to go up against himself by bouncing the ball repeatedly on the court in order to get points. The handheld game has beginner and expert modes, and the interactive toy responds with lights and sounds and keeps up with the high score. For ages 8 and older. $19.99.
Combine coloring and craft ing with Y’ART Deluxe Designer 3-in-1 Set featuring fun unicorn, butterfly and rainbow designs. Yarn clings to the canvas, so your kid can create vibrant textile art. For ages 8 and older. $29.99.
Your rising musician can produce his own tracks with the Music Kit: Record & Remix Kit from Tech Will Save Us where kids build their own sound sampler. Record a sound and turn it into music using the keyboard by stretching and squashing sound waves, helping kids learn more about sound waves. For ages 8 and older. $34.99.
Reviewed by Felicia Barman, Cindy Ford, Melinda McGuire, Laura Powell, Maria Sutej, Emily Webb, Mary Williams and their kids. Shop early and check with stores on availability. Prices listed are MSRP.
Toys Under $25
Make bath time more fun with the Bright Basics Slide & Splash Seals from Educational Insights. Kids can assemble the slide pieces and suction it to the tub for playtime. Ages 2-4.$19.99.
Put together the jumbo floor puzzle What in the World Young Explorers from Banana Panda to create a world map. The colorful puzzle features fun world facts and informative illustrations to help kids learn about nature, landmarks and discoveries. For ages 6-12. $21.99.
Drive a toy truck with Pick Me Up, Piggy! from Peaceable Kingdom. In this game, players test their memory looking for four hidden farm animals. For ages 3 and older. $19.95.
Four little birds are missing their tail feathers, and players help the birds find them in Ravensburger’s Friends of a Feather. Add feathers to your bird each turn by drawing from the deck and trading unwanted ones to the nest. Our testers loved this fun game, as it taught colors and rules easily. For ages 3 and older. $19.99.
Your child can carry her favorite doll or stuffed animal hands-free with Melissa & Doug’s Mine to Love Carrier Play Set. The carrier can be worn in the front or back and includes mini toys for the doll or stuffed animal. For ages 3 and older. $14.99.
Build the Terra Kids Cork Boat by HABA and find a creek or small pond to test it out. The boat is made of compressed cork granules, is virtually unsinkable and can be decorated with natural elements your kids find out and about. For ages 6 and older. $17.99.
Light up dough and learn how electricity works with the Electro Dough Fantasy Kit from Tech Will Save Us. Kids will create their own fantasy creatures using pop-out card designs and their own imagination. For ages 4 and older. $24.99.
Cuddle with the cutest nightlight with Moosh-Moosh’s Plush Flashlights. These soft and huggable flashlights include Vee the Bee, Lucy the Llamacorn, Freckles the Doughnut Cat, Drac the Dragon, Crush the Shark and Corey the Puppy. Ages 3 months and older. $14.99.
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
Collect more than 30 new Beaker Creatures from Learning Resources. These creatures come from five families, including the slimy Swampoids, mechanical Bytebots and the limited-edition Color-Change Frostonians. For ages 5-9. $9.99.
Race against the timer to solve Hidden Pictures puzzles, word puzzles, mini mazes and more. The 60-Second Puzzles by Highlights comes with a sand timer and is convenient for creating challenging fun while traveling. For ages 6-9. 6.99.
Lucky Fortune collectible charm bracelets by WowWee come in a series of four with a paper fortune. Levels include lucky, very lucky, very very lucky and ultra lucky. For ages 5-15. $11.99.
Kids can build, ball up, combine and stick together the sparkly, colorful Playfoam Pluffle by Educational Insights. This squishy foam never dries out for all kinds of fun. Comes in six different colors. For ages 5 and older. 2-pack for $15.99.
The Flexilight from Thinking Gifts is a booklight and a bookmark. It can bend forward at any angle, so you can position the light however you need to. Comes in more than 20 colors and patterns. For ages 5 and older. $11.78
Dress up with the cute new costumes from Tomy’s Adorbs. The soft and simple dresses are packed in a reusable glitter ball. Collect all six dress designs. For ages 3 and older. $9.99.