It’s that last day of September, which means I am furiously working on this year’s gift guides (I’ve actually left my family and stashed myself away for the entire weekend to do so!)
There’s still plenty of work to do, but I couldn’t help but give you this sneak peek in the meantime. Enjoy…
(Ages 4 – 12) Starting at $14.99
These adorable finger-sized animatronic monkeys are the “It Toy” of the year. In fact, it’s the end of September as I’m releasing my gift guides and they’re already completely selling out everywhere.
If you get the chance to buy one- do it!! (Even if you end up getting something else for your kids, you will be able to make bank on eBay come December.)
So what’s all the hype about?
These pets react to sound, to motion, and to touch. They love to hang onto your kids’ fingers, backpacks, other toys and pretty much everything else.
With over 40 animations, kids can rock them to sleep, blow them kisses (and have them blown back), make them sing, and much more.
Like a lot of the hot toys out this year, they’re also incredibly life-like. They blink their eyes, turn their heads, swing by their tails, fart, and more. Plus, if you can get them at retail price – they’re cheap!!
And if the Toy Gods are really smiling down on you and you can find them, I also suggest both the Fingerlings Playset…
And the Fingerlings Jungle Gym for even more extended play time fun (as well as a handy place to store the little guys so they don’t get lost).
Another way to go are these 40 Piece Money Stix sets that seem to have been quickly produced by an industrious 3rd party company.
I am really digging that with this playset version kids get to engineer their own set ups for their fingerlings, plus it’s not another bulky toy to have to store somewhere.
(Ages 7 – 12) $159.99
This is the toy that we’ve all been waiting for LEGO to make! Robotics and coding have become so incredibly huge in toys, in fact, that I’m really surprised it took this long.
I can (and will) tell you a lot more about this astounding kit but I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you watch thr short video below on this 837 piece set – you will be sold!
It demonstrates a lot of what your kids can build and do, including a super cool robot, a working LEGO 3D printer, a very cool working electric guitar and more!
Until now, if you wanted to parlay your kids’ love of all things LEGO into an interest in programming, your only real option was the very expensive LEGO Mindstorm kits, which are also geared more towards older LEGO builders.
At a cost of $200 less than the Mindstorm kits, the new LEGO Boost kit still has everything you need to get your kids building, programming and coding and – frankly – I think the builds are more fun and approachable, especially to kids who aren’t hardcore coders.
Like all building and programming toys, this one works with a free app that you download on your tablet or phone and what I really love is that the kit builds not one, but five different models. The above video showed the robot.
Here is the working 3D printer.
And here is the guitar… This toy does SO MUCH, I predict hours and hours of educational play with this one!
(ages 2 – 14) $47.99
If you’re a parent, you are likely familiar with the mermaid fabric trend. Kids absolutely cannot get enough of playing with and “drawing” on this magic fabric. (To be honest, either can I – each night when I lay with my 3-year-old, I just can’t stop myself from petting this pillow. It’s so, so relaxing.)
As such, these pillows from Mermaid Pillow Co. have become my new #1 suggestion for gifts from grandparents.
Why? Because grandparents like to buy things that have a big “Wow!” effect, they often don’t mind spending a little extra on their grandchildren for something that’s high quality, and if left unchecked grandparents can often misguidedly gift monstrous plastic toys that you would never normally allow into your home!
Mermaid Pillow Co. sent one of these pillows for each of my kiddos to review (I chose the “Sharks Think” for my 8-year-old son, the “Fairies Fly” for my 7-year-old daughter, and the “Dinosuars Discover” for my 3-year-old son.)
There are a couple of things I love about these particular pillows. First, the affirming messages are really cool – just the kind of encouraging note we try to hit in our parenting – and it was nice that there were so many to chose from! I was able to find one that perfectly suited each of my kids’ personalities and interests.
(I also love the message of this one.)
Second, I was very pleasantly surprised with how soft the front of the pillows were. You can never really tell when ordering from a website, but these are extremely well made and super soft. They came beautifully packaged and seemed like something I would have bought from a boutique.
Last, but not least, is the mermaid fabric! Every bit as addictive as you might think, this stuff can be played with for hours. It’s fun to draw designs in, to write on with your finger, and also acts as a really nice tool for relaxing at bedtime or calming down from a tantrum. I highly recommend!
$29.95 (18 mos – 6 years)
I’ve been talking about the social and emotional learning benefits of dolls for boys for years in our Best Gifts for Dramatic Play Gift Guide, so I was super pumped about the release of this line of dolls designed specifically to meet those needs while staying in-tuned with boy culture.
Created by a therapist and mom, after her son came home from preschool one day and announced that ‘boys aren’t supposed to cry’. Frustrated by many of the messages boys were (and weren’t) receiving and inspired by the way play influences child development, Wider created Wonder Crew to promote social and emotional learning, build confidence and imagination, and empower boys to see themselves as caring, creative and strong people.
(ages 7 – adult) $179.99
There are all the other robots on the market… and then there is Cozmo.
I have never seen anything like him and, trust me, you haven’t either. He’s basically a real-life Wall-E that you can bring home to the kids.
He has the things you want in this kind of toy; i.e. a very cool and continually growing programming platform and a free app that’s iOS and Android device compatible so kids can learn to code. But he also has SO MUCH more.
Thanks to artificial intelligence, Cozmo can express hundreds of emotions (his face is just like Eva’s from the movie Wall-E). From curious to clever, persistent to playful, he has personality x 10.
He also has facial recognition that allows him to get to know your name, face, and quirks. And best of all, he continues to evolve the more you hang out with him.
He’s not just a novelty toy though (I already mentioned he can help your kids learn to code and program) he’ll also play games with you.
In fact, Cozmo is a game-playing machine. Literally. Whether lifting his Power Cubes or challenging you to games like Quick Tap and Keepaway, he’s always up for action. And in Explorer Mode, Cozmo lets you guide him through his environment to see what he sees — day or night. Cozmo’s skills and games are constantly updating, so the fun never runs out.
If you’re even thinking about a robot for the kids this Christmas, this is the one to get- you won’t be sorry!
$89.99 (ages 2-6)
If you’ve got a train lover at home, and the space for this impressive new toy, this one will be a huge winner this year. There’s a lot to love here – for me the biggest thing is that the tracks are compatible with ALL the different kinds of trains out there – finally!! One awesome toy for your kids and their friends to play with all those different types of trains they’ve collected together.
When switched to the Dual Racetrack layout, two side-by-side tracks open up a world of excitement. Just choose your engines, place them at the top and let them go to see which gets to the bottom first… In our house my kids have been playing with the same basic Hotwheels race ramp for years so I can tell you for sure what a big hit this part of the toy will be.
From the manufacturer:
Now, for the first time ever you can Set Friendship in Motion and play with your Thomas & Friends Adventures, TrackMaster, MINIS and Wooden Railway engines all in the same set. The Thomas & Friends Super Station features tracks that work with all these systems.
Layouts can be changed to fit any space, and the set’s height and width makes it effortless for for children to come together and play with siblings and friends.
Along with the impressive size, all the ways you can set it up, and all the different types of trains it uses, this toy is also a really great storage piece. It features storage for 100+ engines, over 35 feet of track, and iconic locations including Tidmouth Sheds, Brendam Docks, Knapford Station, the Sodor Steamworks, the Dieselworks, Blue Mountain Quarry and the SSRC with Harold’s helipad.
This is the toy that’s gonna have every kid in the neighborhood asking to come play at your house.
$49.99 (Ages 2 – 6)
When I saw this Sea Patrol boat/land vechicle in person the other day I was suprised by how big it is and my toddler immediately ran to it and proclaimed, “This is all I want for Christmas!”… So there’s that.
Aside from that enthusiastic endorsement, there’s also a lot more to love about this one. First, the Sea Patrol spin off show of Paw Patrol has been a HUGE HIT with the toddler set so many of them will be familiar with these characters and excited to see them.
Also, it’s super cool that the wheels drop down to change the ship into a land vehicle and there are lots of cool accessories like the moveable crane and attachable cage as well as the Rescue ATV.
There is so much potential for great imaginative play, and quite possibly unheard of amounts of quiet play, here!
(Ages 5 – 12) Starting at $15.99
If there is one thing that elementary aged kids just can’t get enough of, it’s collectibles. From Shopkins and Funko to Pokeman, small things that they can hoard like crazy are basically catnip to kids this age.
And since toy manufacturers aren’t dopes, there are a few brand new collectibles that are sure to fly off the shelves this year (seriously- buy one or two for each of the special kids in your life now while you can still get them and they’re not stupid expensive).
All the rage this year are the already uber-popular L.O.L. dolls. Let me just start by saying that every year when I start researching for the gift guides I tell myself I cannot start buying for my own kids until at least October… and every year I fail because I see something that I know they will love and I know will be hard to get later.
This year, this was the thing I couldn’t resist buying in September for my daughter.
Note: Because these things are so popular this year, there are a lot of imitations. When you buy, be sure the company is “L.O.L. Suprise” and that it is shipped and fulfilled by Amazon.
These little balls of joy have all the miniature cuteness that’s required in a collectible for girls this age, plus a couple of really cool features.
- The wrapping is part of the toy itself. It’s got 7 layers that need to be peeled off and each layer contains a new surprise. (I’m seriously considering stocking up on these just to keep around for future plane rides – talk about a glorious time killer!) The 7 layers of surprises include: (1) Secret Message Sticker, (2) Collectible Sticker Sheet, (3) Water Bottle Charm, (4) Shoes, (5) Outfit, (6) Accessory, (7) L.O.L. Surprise tots doll
- The ball itself acts as a playhouse and storage case for the doll (Yay! for having somewhere to store the tiny pieces!!)
- The doll itself is also a surprise in how it reacts to water. The many change color, drink, spit, tinkle, or cry.
(ages 2 – 6) $59.99
Ah, Peppa Pig- how I love thee. So bright and cheerful and inviting, so gender neutral and appealing to all kids, so fun and happy! And this new lights and sounds family home playset is no exception.
First and foremost, your kids are gonna be impressed by the size- it’s big!
Which means your older kids will love it because it will be large enough to play with their friends during play dates (always a must) and your toddlers will be able to get their hands easily into all of the play spaces.
That makes this a really great toy for multiple siblings to share, which is something I’m always on the lookout for. It’s so much easier on my budget to buy one big toy for everyone and also less clutter in my house!
Plus it encourages cooperative play, a skill we’re always working on around here.
The last thing I really, really like about this stellar dollhouse is that it has some fun effects like lights and sounds, but they’re not overwhelming. It’s just one button to turn them all on or off and, while engaging, they don’t seem to be the main event of this toy (that would be imaginative play all the way).
With its vivid colors and bigger proportions, this house looks like it came straight from the pages of a gorgeous picture book. Plus the 7 rooms each have plenty of fun accessories to keep your kids engaged in tons of dramatic play.
(ages 3 – 14) $19.99
First, with clubs like “Seattle Rocks” or “Richmond Rocks” (insert your town’s name) popping up all over the country, rock painting is all the rage with the kindergarten and elementary school set these days. (And, of course, preschoolers will love it too with a little help from mom or dad.)
These fun clubs encourage families to decorate their own rocks at home, hide them somewhere in town and then join a facebook group to leave hints about where you left your rock and also to get hints on where to find other rocks around town.
This is a family activity that has so many beneficial elements for your kids. They get to flex their investigative skills in your community while being creative, social, giving and adventurous. Plus, they spend time with the family (and maybe even learn a little about using the internet safely with you).
Ok, so clearly I’m into the rock clubs- but even if you’re not, your kids will still love painting rocks for their own homes or just for sharing with friends. And if they’re gonna do it, THIS is the kit to get.
The biggest thing about this kit is that it comes with a tub to keep everything in!!! This is major! The one thing I do not dig about rock painting is the potential for half-painted rocks, paint and brushes scattered all over the house. This will keep it all contained!
It also comes with a lot of things other kits don’t, like 8 very cool shimmering metallic markers, a paint mixing tray, and finishing glaze. Of course, it also comes with acrylic paints in white, black, brown and the primary colors.
At first, I thought that didn’t seem like enough colors but then I watched the video above and realized the idea is to use the primary colors to mix your own secondary colors. Another learning element great for preschoolers and kindergartners!
(ages 4 – 10) starting at $61.99
Kids LOVE making forts and, I gotta say, I‘m a big fan of anything that will buy me a solid hour or two of busy time.
What I’m not the biggest fan of? The beating my couch cushions take when my kids get into fort-building mode.
That’s reason enough alone to love the Fortboard kits but there are quite a few other reasons too.
First is all the super cool kinds of forts you can build. After Fortboard sent us two boxes to review, my kids started with the instructions for making a house on their website company’s website. Next up was the submarine.
After a little trial and error, they pretty quickly got the hang of it and, let me tell you, they were pleased as punch about their new fort– which they insisted stay up for a week. That was fine by me as it resulted in TONS of cooperative dramatic play.
Next up was the submarine and the castle, both of which were equally successful. By then, even my 3-year-old was able to build stuff with these on his own. His current favorite is to make cubes, which he calls “bombs” and use them to knock down stacks of even more cubes Angry Birds style.
Fast forward a few months and they’re now building their own master creations like that 6-wheeler semi-truck pictured up top. It’s become a thrilling game to challenge each other to see what they can build next.
The second thing to really love is the ingenious ways these boards can connect in different ways to create all sorts of angles, and even curves.
The secret is the connector arm that can be moved to join the boards in different ways (and teach your kids about angles in the process).
It’s so innovative, in fact, that it’s won multiple awards and even a Microsoft Small Business Contest.
The final thing I love about Fortboards is how compact they are when it’s time to put them away. Unlike with their competitors’ sets, there are no awkward polls to store (and no polls for kids to hit their siblings with). Everything tucks into a box and neatly stores under a bed or in a closet when playtime is done.
Like other fort sets, this one is spendy but if your kid is a builder it’s worth the investment, especially if you’re looking for something great for play dates or for siblings to play with together.
(Ages 3 – 6) $94.00
He’s back! That’s right guys, the evil toy geniuses totally have our number and know that we will pony up the cash for anything that brings back nostalgic memories of our own childhood. And in the case of Teddy, I’m 100% here for it.
I mean how can you pass up a chance to share that with your kid?! And, of course, they made him way cooler than the first time around.
Most notable are his crazy-emotive LCD eyes with over 40 animations- SO MUCH better than the creepy blinking of the original version. The cassette player in his back is gone too because Teddy now reads books on the free app- but don’t worry, you don’t have to have the app to use him. He can also tell his stories and sing without it.
He truly is a nice toy for encouraging reading in pre-readers and emerging-readers. By being able to pause the reading just by tapping his paw, they can ensure that Teddy goes at their pace and he is sure to have them asking him to read to them again and again.
(Ages 5-9) $69.99
Naturally, they’re back this year with the originals being as popular as ever and, count them, three new iterations for your kids to covet. First, though, a refresher on what we’re dealing with here…
To get the egg to hatch, kids have to pay attention to the color of the eyes inside the egg as well as the sound the hatchimal is making and respond to it appropriately. My biggest question was how long the hatching would take and it turned out to be about an hour. Check out the whole process in the video above.
Turns out my daughter’s enthusiasm didn’t lessen any once the thing hatched and a year out it’s still one of her top toys… So what’s new this year?
First up are CollEGGtibles.
Seizing on that love of all things mini that I wrote about above, the Hatchimal people made a whole variety of mini eggs.
Open these guys by rubbing the hearts until they change color and they crack. Works a little differently but the excitement is the same and the lower price point sure is nice! These will make great stocking stuffers and kids will love this nursery playset once they collect several collEGGtibles.
Next Hatchimal Surprise.
Along with going smaller is also the option of going bigger… and that’s all I can tell you right now because what’s inside is a mystery until October 6th. This one is pretty much guaranteed to sell out way before Christmas.
Lastly is the Hatchimals Glitter Garden.
This guy works exactly the same as last year’s hatchimal but with a little more sparkle!
So those are my top picks for the hottest new toys but there will be a lot more to come in the next couple of months leading up as I finish up the 2018 MPMK Toy Gift Guides so stay tuned!
In the meantime, don’t forget to check out all of our picks from last year’s…
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