These are awesome! I waited to make Christmas lists until they came out- and now I’ve shared with all my friends. The past two years I’ve used them and the gifts are ALWAYS a hit!
-MPMK Reader, Ellen
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-MPMK Reader, Lauren
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Now, onto our very favorite, most engaging, toys for preschoolers…
$59.99 $44.44 (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!
$89.99 On Sale for $79.00 (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.
The Full List…
$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.
When switched to the Dual Racetrack layout, two side-by-side tracks open up a whole new 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 racing element of the toy will be.
From the manufacturer:
Now, for the first time ever you can 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 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 can hold over 100+ trains, has over 35 feet of track, and features all the iconic Thomas 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 preschooler in the neighborhood asking to come play at your house – guaranteed.
$119.99 (2 – 10 years)
I discovered Magna-tiles when my oldest son was 3-years-old via his preschool and they were the big present under the tree for the kids that Christmas. They’re definitely more of an investment but have been COMPLETELY WORTH IT.
Teachers absolutely rave about these blocks and the play possibilities are endless. Because they join together using magnets, kids can create elaborate structures (often taller than they are) without becoming frustrated by crashes.
They’re also great for use with other toys. They can be used along with blocks and LEGOs to make elaborate structures, with marbles and cars to make tunnels, bridges, and marble runs, or even with dolls to create dollhouses.
All of my kids, ages 2 to 8, still play with them multiple days a week. Currently, my 6-year-old loves making elaborate pet stores with ramps and rooms for each of her Disney Princess Palace Pets while my 2-year-old always asks for these first to take to build in his room during “Quiet Time”
We splurged for the 100 piece set and got hours of rainy day fun with these- the higher price was completely worth it.
Note: For an extra $10, these magnetic train bases take the play possibilities to a whole new level and make a great stocking stuffer.
$15.99 (18 months – 8 years)
Normally I’m not big on electronic toys with lots of sounds and lights, but when said toy can help my kids get rid of all their pent-up energy inside on a stormy day, it becomes my new best friend.
This inexpensive magical wand uses 90 silly commands (sway, creep, stomp like a dinosaur, leap) and 26 songs, along with a light show to get kids moving.
This is one of those rare toys that’s great for siblings of different ages to play with together (my kids have loved it at various ages ranging from 18-months-old to 7-years old).
It will keep the bigger kids interested (who doesn’t like having the mic and being the star of the show?) while developing listening skills in the younger set along with enriching their vocabulary and ability to follow directions.
Note: If animals aren’t your kids’ thing, there’s now also this gym version.
$23.99 (3 – 8 years)
I particularly like how this particular toy combines fine motor skills with pattern recognition AND adds a great dramatic play element. We got it for our son when he was 4 and he played with it quite a bit until his little old sister took it over.
Our 1 1/2-year-old is started to getting in on the fun sorting and manipulating the pieces with his hands and was off and drilling around the time he turned 2. Now this is one of the first toys he goes to, again and again, when given a choice.
The popularity of this toy has also led to some cool variations, including the Design & Drill Flower Power Station and, my favorite, the Design & Drill BrightWorks– which is like if the Design & Drill had a baby with the classic Lite Brite from my childhood (in other words, the pieces light up and it’s totally awesome).
$99.95 (2+ years)
The aunties bought this for my kids several Christmases ago, when my oldest was 3. I have to say, I had my reservations. My son, of course, thought an excavator that he could actually sit on, drive, and manipulate was just about the coolest thing ever but I was concerned about the space it would take up in our yard, especially with a non-rainy season of only about 3 months here in Seattle.
What I failed to realize was the versatility of this toy. Yes, it’s awesome for digging in the sandbox or bark in the summer, but it’s also great for picking up leaves in the fall and snow in the winter (see here).
This thing gets played on year-round and is often the one of the main things that lure my kids out to play on a rainy day (they put out buckets to collect the rain water and use the bucket shovel to scoop it out). This one’s definitely a big ticket item but the return on investment is high.
$49.99 (Ages 2 – 6)
When I saw this Sea Patrol boat/land vehicle in person the other day I was surprised by how big it is and my toddler son immediately flung himself at 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 interesting accessories like the rescue ATV, moveable crane, attachable cage, and the fact that it literally shoots life preservers into the water.
There is so much potential for great imaginative play, and quite possibly unheard of amounts of quiet play, here!
$99.97 (2 – 8 years)
We bought our son a train table for his 2nd birthday and we always say it’s one of the best purchases we’ve ever made.
For over four years both he and his sister played with it several times a week. At 4-years-old our oldest was able to completely construct the track by himself using the map and that added a whole new level of building play to this fantastic toy.
I think the model we bought has been discontinued but this one is the same brand and has all of the same key components: a bridge, waterfall mountain, helicopter landing pad, and the all-important drawers for storing all the little pieces.
If you’re going to be putting your train table in a main living space, you may want to spring for the more expensive KidKraft Metropolis Train Set Table with Trundle Drawer. It’s got a nicer “furniture” look (and that double-decker bridge is pretty cool too).
Note: Over the years we’ve amassed quite a collection of Thomas trains to go with this table and they work great.
$24.99 (walking – 6 years)
One of the most surprising things about having toddlers and preschoolers is seeing how much they absolutely LOVE to clean! We’ve had
We’ve had a broom and dust pan set for years and it’s always been super popular. The kids really enjoy breaking it out to help with clean up when the opportunity arises or just using it to play pretend. Every toddler we know has this set and totally adores it and around 18-months-old our son started completely freaking out if he can’t find it.
This year, though, I’m thinking of upgrading and totally eyeing this Melissa & Doug Cleaning Bundle- it comes with so much amazing stuff!!
You can also buy The Spray, Squirt, and Squeegee Set at a very reasonable price.
Not only will my toddler be able to sweep, mop, and dust to his heart’s content- he will also get to spray, wipe, scrub, and even squeegee. Do you KNOW how much toddlers love, love, love to spray and wipe down windows, cabinets and anything else they can get their hands on?
$19.44 (18 months – 6 years)
This set includes a scale, bowl, 3 self-standing spoons and 6 unique cup designs to help children visualize quantities as well as activity cards to guide children in making mystery goo, puffy paint, slime and more.
Because it allows those not quite ready to experiment to get in on the fun too, this is a great toy for siblings of different ages.
Older kids can partake in real concocting while their younger counterparts pour to their heart’s contentment. This is a fabulous toy perfect for playing with at the sink, in the tub, or at the water table.
$14.46 (no longer mouthing toys – 3 years)
As I said, finding engaging toys that build fine motor skills and concentration skills for this age group is HARD. They aren’t interested in the baby toys anymore but a lot of the more advanced toys are still too difficult for them.
This pegboard set seems to be specially designed for the curious two-year-old.
The pieces are the right size for them to easily manipulate and the colorful puzzles are interesting enough to keep their attention but not so hard that they become frustrating.
This one gets great reviews from parents of two-year-olds looking for that elusive perfect toy and we’re getting it for our toddler this Christmas.
$54.96 (2 – 12 years)
If I could buy my children only one toy, a large set of basic wood blocks like these would be it!
They are the ultimate creativity toy and this is a wonderful basic set at a great price. Enough said.
$14.88 (2 – 12 years)
This super fun game has been a huge hit ever since it debuted. We got ours for my son’s 8th birthday and had the best time playing with it.
Everyone from my 2-year-old son to the grandparents was rolling on the ground laughing.
The premise couldn’t be more simple; spin a number, put your face in the holder, crank the number of times that you spun and see if you get a “pie face”. Because kids love getting dirty and silly, this one is always a winner.
$24.50 (3 – 8 years)
The entire line of single player puzzle games from SmartGames gets such stellar reviews that it was hard not to recommend all of them!
The bold colors of these two 3-D wooden castle puzzles especially caught my eye. I bought it for my daughter a couple of years ago and it was an absolute winner.
Assemble the wooden blocks and towers to match the challenges included in the booklet. With simple challenges for inexperienced builders to complex puzzles that will challenge skilled architects, these puzzles serve to develop logical thinking skills and spatial reasoning abilities.
$120.00 (12 mos – 6 years)
I know what you’re thinking – a one-year-old is too little to enjoy a big dramatic play toy like this. Once upon a time, I would have agreed with you – but then my baby boy starting pulling up and I got to see first hand how much he LOVES opening and shutting the doors, turning the knobs, taking the sink in and out and putting food in and out of all the compartments.
Plus, I know he has years of enjoying it still ahead of him. The ideal time to buy this toy is around 18 months so your child gets the maximum amount of years out of it.
In case you are wondering, we bought this for our oldest kids when they were 1 and 3 and couldn’t be happier with it six years later.
I really like the look of the thing and I think the vibrant red is nicely gender neutral. Despite a small footprint, this kitchen still has all the amenities a kid could want and both my kids enjoy regularly playing at it simultaneously.
(Side note: people sometimes ask if kids will get too big for this smaller kitchen – mine are 95% percentile in height and haven’t had an issue). If you’re looking for a big wow gift from Santa, this could very well be it!
Based on how much my 2-year-old (and all my other kids) love the play kitchen, I was so excited when I found the line of Hape Playfully Delicious kitchen tools!
Toddlers absolutely love mimicking what they see adults doing in the kitchen and these toys do such a great job of allowing them to do that. The toaster is my favorite but the bottom two are close runners up:
- Hape – Playfully Delicious – Pop Up Toaster Wooden Play Kitchen Set
- Single Serve Coffe Maker (think a play Keurig)
- Might Mixer (think a Kitchen Aid mixer)
$15.99 (3 – 6 years)
We got this cutting food from Melissa & Doug before we ever got the kitchen and it was an excellent toy all on it’s own, both for dramatic play and for building fine motor skills.
Our kids have been playing with these pieces for years and still found them very enticing on their own up to age 3 or so (after that they were good props for kitchen play).
$49.98 (walking – 7 years)
We have owned a basic water table for years and still get so much use out of it! My toddler plays with it so much that we gated off a portion of our deck, that also has doors into our living room, so that he can freely walk in and out to play with all day long.
To my surprise, even after years of pouring, dunking, sailing, etc. my 5 and 7-year-olds still found themselves drawn to the water table too.
It’s such an excellent toy for getting your kids playing outdoors and we use it in all types of weather. It’s actually great fun to put on our rain gear and go play with it on the deck while it’s raining (plus there’s pretty minimal clean up for playing outside in the rain because they stay out of the mud).
I highly, highly recommend this one and so do the multitude of positive reviews. Just look how next level cool it is!
$22.00 (3+ years)
I’m kind of in awe of these Take-A-Part kits (there’s an airplane, crane, 4×4 and roadster available). They combine my son’s two absolute favorite activities: building and playing with things that go vroom.
Plus kids put together their sets using a working power drill with 3 different bits. The reviews on this one are stellar and I’m totally sold!
$27.99 (4+ years)
A basic set of LEGOs is a must-have for any child, boy or girl. Start early with a basic duplo set or a set of Mega Bloks and transition around age 4 to a standard sized set. This is a good one to start with!
$11.99 (3+ years)
$12.74 (5+ years)
$12.16 (4+ years)
Large floor puzzles are great to introduce around ages 3 or 4. We have all three of these and our kids have loved them from preschool through 2nd grade and counting. It amazes me that they can construct the entire map of the US completely on their own!
It amazes me that they can construct the entire map of the US completely on their own!
$19.99 (3 – 8 years)
I have heard great things about this cooperative, non-competitive game from multiple sources but was really convinced when a mom on one of my son’s good friends was raving about it. Everything about this game is impressive, from the 6-foot-long game board to the amount of imagination and teamwork required.
In fact, the company behind this game, Wonder Forge, has won over 120 prestigious awards by creating good-for-you games that encourage teamwork, healthy competition, and get-up-and-go active play. This is the perfect game for children of multiple ages to play together and for when you hit that stage when kids pout a lot about losing or start to become ultra competitive as it focuses on teamwork instead of competition.
$143.99 (22 months – 5 years)
I think a balance bike will probably make it onto my gift guide for as long as I’m writing them.
All of my kids have been zooming around on bikes since they were 2-years-old thanks to this genius idea of taking away the pedals and letting the kids pick up their feet and balance when they’re ready. I also really love how lightweight they are.
My kids could easily pick theirs up and carry it around as soon as they started using it. I
In previous years I’ve always recommended the Strider Balance Bike because that’s what we have and it’s worked great for us and I continue to do so because the price is so great. Check out this video of some of the cutest bikers ever and you’ll be totally sold.
The only drawback has been when the kids get really good at it and can’t stop when going down steep hills due to the lack of brakes. This FirstBike version comes with a hand brake that could come in very handy for those scenarios (no pun intended).
$44.91 (ages 2-7)
Every day around 4:30 PM, when things get real, I used to wonder why we haven’t bought one of these yet. Such a great tool for getting kids’ energy out!
Two of my kids’ buddies had one and they each love to jump and jump and jump on it.
Last year I finally asked my parents to get our toddler an indoor trampoline and recommended this one due to the great reviews… It did not disappoint! It has really been invaluable for getting out pent up energy on cold and rainy days.
And now this year it is even better because this version has a handle that folds down!! That means the entire thing can be tucked away WAY more easily. If you’ve been on the fence about one of these, now is the time to finally get one!
$79.99 (3 – 5 years)
Hailed as “the quality choice in 3-wheel scooters for young children” this scooter has more than it’s fair share of rave reviews and awards (the Oppenheimer Toy Portfolio Gold and Platinum Award Seals for Best Toy, the Parent’s Choice Approved Seal, ‘Best Pre-School Scooter’ by Toy Report, ‘Best Outdoor Toy’ by Learning Express Stores and was featured on the NBC Today Show as part of its ‘Best Toys for Summer’ series).
The key is the “learn to steer” design and back brake, both of which grant preschoolers an extra element of stability. Also, the Mini can be ridden inside while learning (or waiting for Spring) as the quality wheels, made especially for Micro, are non-marking.
The Micro-Mini 3-in-1 Kick Scooter $114.99 (1 – 5 years) lets even new walkers in on the fun. 1-year-olds start out sitting on the scooter with the seat attachment and using it as a typical ride-on toy. Later they advance to the O-bar (which is lower than the traditional Mini Micro Scooter) and eventually graduate to the real deal.
$20.47 (2 – 7 years)
Whether playing with mommy or a favorite doll, tea time is always a fun way to pass some time. We’ve had this set for over a year and it still looks like new (despite lots of use in the playroom, bathtub and even sandbox).
Plus I love that Green Toys are 100% recycled, made from milk jugs, are FDA approved to eat and drink from, and do not contain BPA, phthalates, or lead paint. What more could you ask for?
(crawling – 8 years)
This is a new addition to this list this year (and somewhat of a “doh” moment for me). We’ve had several playhuts throughout the years – some cheap, some expensive but more durable – all extremely successful in keeping my kiddos of varying ages happy and busy.
Nevertheless, I still forgot them for this list until I polled my mom friends and they ALL brought up the power of the playhut. Because these guys can be so inexpensive, they’re kind of a no-brainer for me if you have the space.
Also, I LOVE playhuts with tunnels like this one (more than doubles the fun).
In fact, if you don’t have the space to have a play hut set up all the time, I would definitely recommend a tunnel that you can tuck away when not in use.
Last but not least, if your toddler is a huge Paw Patrol fan like mine this Paw Patrol Fire Truck Hut with a ladder is going to blow his mind. This one is a big contender for a Santa present this year!
$29.99 (18 months – 4 years)
A few years ago when we had a 20-month-old and a brand new baby, we bought an indoor slide and put it in the upstairs landing between the kids’ bedrooms and it was one of the best things we ever did.
A sturdy plastic slide used inside can be a life-saver when the weather is bad and the kiddos are restless.
This particular slide – highly rated for durability and usability for kiddos young and old – also serves double duty outside as an excellent safe place for toddlers to play while their big siblings scale taller play equipment.
Plus you gotta love how it folds away for easy storage when you’re not using it!
$24.99 (2 – 10 years)
Although not completely mess-free, Play-doh really is the ultimate quiet time art toy. It’s unbelievably engaging to kids of all ages (it started becoming a huge hit with my youngest around 18-months-old) and, as long as you prep your space well with a tablecloth or large placemats, allows for quick and easy cleanup.
Of course, you can always make your own, but I like to also have a few tubs of the pre-made stuff on hand for when we don’t have time.
I also highly recommend the clay center with storage case. It’ll give your kids tons of tools to keep them occupied and you a handy place to store them all when they’re done.
$19.99 and up (3 – 8 years)
If you’ve got a true vehicle lover at home then you know they can NEVER get enough construction vehicles to push around the floor (or around the sandbox).
The Brudler versions are each realistic, high-quality options that won’t disappoint. They cost more but they hold up and both my sons (2 and 8) are seriously smitten with how well their crane truck works as well as the sheer size of it.
$4.24 (3 – 10 years)
My parents gave the kids a couple of these reusable sticker books a few years ago for Christmas and they’ve been a consistent standby for us ever since. Each of the books contain a series of background pages and hundreds of various sticker clings that can be positioned over and over on them. There are tons of book themes to choose from too.
They are surprisingly useful on long car rides (despite their large size) and we always grab them when heading to someone’s house who doesn’t have younger children and, therefore, is without toys to entertain younger children.
$94.99 (2 – 6 years)
Several indoor play centers and community centers around our town have these Step2 rollercoasters and my kids always flipped when they saw them. Easy for younger kids to get on and off on their own, I have seen first hand how they will get on it over and over and over.
A friend of mine bought one for her kids a few years ago and said it was an excellent toy in the driveway on sunny days and in the playroom on rainy days. And, of course, there’s also a Thomas the Tank Engine version only makes it that much cooler!
One reviewer wrote, “The Thomas Roller Coaster Ride is absolutely amazing! I have two younger kids, a boy and girl who are two and three, and they can’t get enough of it. They have been playing with it for hours at a time. All they have to do is climb up the small steps and take turns going for a downhill ride. Not only does it keep them entertained, it also teaches them about sharing and taking turns.”
$19.99 (12 months – 5 years)
$21.99 (1 – 9 years)
Around the time they start walking all kids, girls and boys, ABSOLUTELY LOVE pushing around toy strollers. When my daughter was a toddler, she liked her dolls, but wasn’t obsessed like some other little girls we knew.
Yet she has always adored piling them into her stroller and taking them for a stroll around the house over, and over, and over again. Then her stroller was straight-up commandeered by her 18-month-old brother who also couldn’t get enough of pushing it around all day.
I promise you, if you a buy a toy stroller for your child, it will be one of the most-used toys you’ve ever purchased. Oh, and if you have a girl that does happen to be doll-obsessed, this 3-in-1 pram is a really fun and versatile option too!
Logic follows that if one baby to take care of is good, then twins is even better. And the facial expressions on these two are my favorite, so realistic!
Very similar to the Melissa & Doug Brianna Doll, these twins have soft bodies that allow for laying or sitting and hard arms and legs that easily wipe clean. Plus, there’s two of them! (Basically for the price of one.)
They are also some of the most life-like dolls I’ve seen. These two are now on the top of my birthday gift list for the 1-year-old to 3-year-olds in my life.
$29.99 (2 – 9 years)
The best thing about these dinos are their jumbo size, making them easy to hold and fun to play with. This is a great find if you have a dino lover at home and want a starter set.
If you find your dinosaurs starting to accumulate, this storage box that unzips into a deluxe playmat is also extremely popular.
$29.95 (2 – 8 years)
A quality doctor kit is an excellent dramatic play toy for both boys and girls. Kids like being patients but really enjoy the power involved in getting to play care-taker (which can be really nice when you’re tired because you can play with your child by basically laying still and playing “patient”). These kits are also nice for easing doctor visit anxiety.
This new kit from Kangaroo has an unprecedented amount of unique props that do some really cool things– too many to list here in fact!
This includes battery operated instruments such as the thermometer (press tip down and see the temp change), the stethoscope that plays a heartbeat, the x-ray machine, heart monitor, and blood pressure monitor that have actions and lights, the light up otoscope, spring-back syringe and so much more! It also includes some great imagination props like glasses, a clipboard and x-ray sheets.
You get a lot of bang for your buck with this toy and, accordingly, it gets a lot of rave reviews.
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Still want more ideas? Don’t forget to check out all 15 of the MPMK Gift Guides, organized by your child’s age:
For the hottest toys of the year see:
Plus, the rest of our guides organized by interest:
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If you like these recommendations, I encourage you to pin or bookmark them for later when you’re ready to start shopping.
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Also, don’t forget for even more recommendations and alerts when we spot our gift guide items on sale: