It is my job, along with my team of experts at The Toy Insider, to recommend the best holiday toys of the season to help you shop for every kid on your list.
After more than a full year of playing with thousands of toys, our team presents The Toy Insider’s 11th annual Holiday Gift Guide. Filled with more than 270 toys and gifts, this year’s guide is the biggest ever. Parents and gift givers can easily search by child age (broken out into 0-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9+) and interest with the added assistance of a skills development key.
We look at different age groups and choose toys that are both gender neutral and gender specific, toys that feature favorite characters, and toys that are super on-trend. Most importantly, we consider play value (the bang for your buck!) and all of its developmental benefits. It’s just as important to us as it is to you that whatever toy you choose, your kid will love it and want to play with it again and again.
Every day is a new adventure for infants and toddlers, and these toys will stimulate their minds, bodies, and five senses. These items will also offer opportunities for hand-eye coordination, motor skills, language recognition, and nurturing. Meanwhile, preschoolers are ready to take on a new type of play. These toys are favorites from movies and TV shows, and encourage imaginative and pretend play, creativity, and social skills.
Here’s a look at 10 hot toys for infants and preschoolers, ages 0 to 5, that we know will top many wish lists!
Calling all princesses! This epic palace expands to 4 feet long, including rooms such as a ballroom, music room, kitchen, bedroom, observation tower, and more! The set comes with a Go! Go! Smart Friends character Princess Darla, and is compatible with other Go! Go! Smart Friends, so kids can place them on one of the five MagicPoint locations to interact with the play set or with each other. The set also introduces kids to words, colors, letters, and numbers, and plays magical melodies and sing-a-long songs.
It’s time to start learning! This adorable learning toy has four stations for babies to explore concepts such as colors, shapes, ABCs, opposites, and more. This toy incorporates Fisher-Price’s Smart Stages technology, which features three adjustable levels for play that grows with babies. Combining physical development with cognitive play, it also includes sensory play such as a self-discovery mirror, jumbo rattle roller, and fishbowl clicker.
Disney Frozen Northern Lights Elsa (Jakks Pacific)
Three years later, Disney’s ice-cold princess is still hot. Based on the TV shorts coming out in November, kids will help Elsa bring back the Northern Lights and restore her powers. Kids can use their light magic to wave their hands over the snowflake to create beautiful lights, colors, and sounds, which will appear and sparkle on Elsa’s dress. And, when they keep their hand over the snowflake, Elsa will do what she does best and sing, “Let It Go!”
The epitome of girl power, this doll features fun accessories and music for kids to sing along with as Elena of Avalor embarks on magical adventures in her kingdom. Kids can press the gem on her necklace to hear her sing, “My Time.” The doll’s arms are also super articulated, so she can hold her guitar as she sings.
Everyone wants a pet for Christmas, so how about a dragon? This soft and super interactive pet baby dragon features more than 50 sound and motion combinations to complement its spunky personality. It breathes flame-colored mist and comes with a color-changing marshmallow accessory for Torch to “toast” the treat. The sensors around its nose also allow Torch to respond to touch in fun ways.
Kids can officially become members of the Lion Guard and recreate the adventures from the Disney Junior show. This 3-foot tall play set is jam-packed with lights, sounds, and secret surprises including a pop-out cross bow, light up waterfall, trap doors, and more. The set also comes with two exclusive Kion and Janja figures.
Paw Patrol needs your help! This interactive jungle-themed play set transforms from a Monkey Temple into a Jungle Headquarters with surprises around every corner, including lights, sounds, trap doors, and more. The set comes with the new Paw Patrol pup Tracker and his jungle explorer vehicle.
PJ Masks Headquarters Playset (Just Play)
PJ Masks are on their way, into the night to save the day! Based on one of the hottest properties of the year, this play set stands more than 2 feet tall and a level based on each of the three heroes. Kids can choose their mission and recreate the action with a zip-line, working elevator, hanging cat rings, trap doors, slide, and more. Comes with Cat Boy figure and Cat Car, with other figures sold separately.
Pikachu, I choose you! Hot on the heels of Pokémon Go, now every kid can catch this coveted Pokémon. Kids can hug this super soft plush to make its ears move, cheeks light up, and activate tons of cute sounds.
Booyakasha! Kids will spend hours chatting with this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Mikey recognizes kids’ questions and will respond impressively quickly with hundreds of fun ways. He also features movement and position sensors to hilariously react to the way kids move him!
The Toy Insider full holiday gift guide appears in the November issue of Family Circle magazine, on newsstands in mid-October, and is also online at TheToyInsider.com.
Up next, make sure to check out the hottest toys for kids in grade school, teens, and tweens!
Laurie Schacht, also known as The Toy Insider Mom, has covered the toy industry for more than 20 years. The Toy Insider is a year-round resource for parents, grandparents and other gift-givers looking for the best toys for their kids. The Toy Insider also produces an annual holiday gift guide featured in Family Circle magazine. Visit thetoyinsider.com for the latest toy news, reviews, giveaways, and more.
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