Christmas is coming!
We’ve rounded up the 25 best-selling toys this year from all 350+ of our picks across all 10 of the 2016 Gift Guides.
We’re really hoping this will help ease your stress by making toy shopping a total breeze guaranteeing happy faces come Christmas morning.
Oh, and in case you have gotten your shopping done but still need one or two small things for the stockings – we’ve got you covered there too. Just scroll down for our go-to stocking stuffers for every type of kid including the art lover, the chef, the learner, the adventurer and more.
Best-Selling Toys of the Year (arranged by age)
- Lamaze Cloth Books $13.99 (0-2 years) – Baby’s love soft books because in the beginning all they do is mouth them. These books (there are 7 to chose from), with their bold and beautiful illustrations and built-in peek-a-boo games are a parent favorite and provides a great multi-textural sensory experience. Two or three of them packaged together is one of my go-to gifts for parents who have just welcomed a new baby.
- Mega Bloks First Builders Big Building Bag, 80-Piece (Classic) $14.59 (1 – 2 1/2 years) – I still remember my son receiving his first set of award-winning Megabloks for his first birthday. It took him a little while to figure out (kids typically grasp block building somewhere between 12 and 18 months), but once he did he started building like a mad man and never looked back! All my mom friends and I love Mega Bloks for our youngest kiddos, even more than the classic LEGO duplos (although we did use both!). The locking mechanism is just a little bit easier for beginners to put together and pull apart. Plus the colors are beautiful and the zippered bag is very handy.
- Magna-Tiles $120 (2 – 12 years) – I discovered magna-tiles last year and they were the big present under the tree for the kids. They’re definitely more of an investment, but have been totally worth it. The kids have played with them multiple days a week for the last year straight. 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 doll houses. We splurged for the 100 piece set and got hours of rainy day fun with these. If you have the space/budget for a personal light table to use them, the translucent pieces would look fantastic lit up from underneath.
- Kidkraft Waterfall Mountain Train Set & Table $152.99 (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. Over four years later both he and his sister still play with it several times a week. At 4 he 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 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). Also, over the years we’ve amassed quite a collection of Thomas trains to go with this table.
- Learning Resources Primary Science Mix and Measure Set $24.99 (2 – 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, it’s a great toy for siblings of different ages as 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.
- Hot Wheels 20 Car Gift Pack $21.63 (2 1/2+ years) – A decent set of small hot wheels are a must for us. They’re great for playing with the toy garages listed here or for using with blocks, up-cycled paper towel rolls, and even painter’s tape tracks for all kind of innovative an open-ended play. We also like the Hot Wheels Track Builder Total Turbo Takeover Track Set $34.86 (4+ years) – If you do want to get yourself some tracks, this is my favorite starter kit. It’s well-priced and comes with not one, but two, loops – which always seems to be the kids’ favorite part – plus a “two way booster” that gives them multiple ways to race and launch the cars. This is an ideal rainy day toy and also great for multiple kids to play with together. The only drawback, is that this one can be noisy and you need a little more space – another great set that’s noise-free and has a small foot-print but TONS of cool options and tricks for the cars is the Color Shifters Flame Fighter Playset $27.99 (4+ years) (note: we don’t use the color-changing water features but may add it in as the kids get older).
- Educational Insights Magic Moves Talking Electronic Wand $14.06 (3 – 10 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 on a rainy 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 together. 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.
- Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late $8.51 (3 – 7 years) – My kindergarten son started really getting into math this year and began asking for story problems at night before bed, so imagine my excitement when I saw this book, which contains just that! From the publisher, “Inside this book, families will find fun, mischief-making math problems to tackle—math that isn’t just kid-friendly, but actually kid-appealing. With over 100 math riddles on topics from jalapeños and submarines to roller coasters and flamingos, this book bursts with math that looks nothing like school. And with three different levels of challenge (wee ones, little kids, and big kids), there’s something for everyone.” This is a great way to change up story time at night and encourage math skills in kids that are excited about the subject as well as those who need some help getting excited. This one will be under our tree for sure this year.
- Kidoozie Foam Pogo Jumper $14.95 (3 – 10 years) – The key to a good indoor toy is it’s ability to wear a child out without requiring a lot of space to do so. This soft pogo jumper is an Amazon #1 Best Seller because it does just that. It will keep the kids happy (and get them good and tired) and you won’t have to worry too much about them knocking over your stuff (or each other).
- Castle Logix $21.25 (3 – 8 years) and Camelot Jr. $24.00 (4 – 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. 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. We bought Castle Logix for my then 3 year old last Christmas and she really enjoys playing with it alone for quiet time as well as with me. There are 4 levels of puzzle difficulty which means this game has also done a great job of growing with her and continues to be a favorite a year later.
- Educational Insights Design and Drill Activity Center $25.02 (3 – 6 years) – This toy has been a big hit in our house and is consistently one of our very best-sellers each year on the gift guide. It’s a pattern building toy disguised as a construction toy that has a very cool and easy-to-use working drill. Both my 3 year old and 5 year old spent lots of quiet time occupied with this toy and we highly recommend it for both girls and boys.
- Leapfrog Leapreader Reading and Writing System $37.49 (3 – 8 years) – The leapreader has been a leader amongst educational toys since it’s debut, and with good reason. My son first got his when he turned 4 and not long after we decided to get one for our 3 year old too. Both kids (now 4 and 6) still spend large chunks of time “reading” stories with the pen and they used it to practice their letters as well. This is one of our top tier toys that has really helped instill a love of reading in my kids and never really makes it out of rotation.
- Stomp Rocket Jr. Glow Kit (3+ years), Dueling Double Stomp Rocket Kit $14.95 (3+ years) and Ultra Stomp Rocket $14.50 (8 – 16 years) – My kids both got to play with this at science camp this summer, during their study of physics, and fell in love. They both, my son especially, get a little hyper in the afternoon and I knew we’d all love having this around for them to stomp to their hearts content in the backyard. Lucky for us, we got one for C’s 6th birthday and I was absolutely right. The concept is simple, stomp (or jump) on the launch pad to send a foam tipped rocket up to 200 ft in the air. I like that both sets come with 4 rockets so the kids get to launch multiple times before running around to pick them all up and do it all over again. Obviously the glow-in-the dark aspect of the Jr. Glow Kit is pretty cool. Siblings will love going together, and not having to take turns, and hosting friendly competitions with the Dueling Double Stomp Rocket Kit. In summary, these simple battery-free toys are multi-award winners and get great reviews. Plus they’re cheap – gotta love that!
- Learning Resources Teaching Cash Register $42.38 (3 – 9 years) – An obvious extension of all the play food that comes with a play kitchen, is playing store. And the biggest prop needed for some good store play is a cash register – which as an awesome tool for burgeoning math skills. My kids started hoarded the register at a local drop in play center for over an hour at a time a couple year and I knew we had to get one for Christmas. A lot of research pointed to this one as being the best learning register on the market thanks to a working calculator and scale as well as being able to recognize real money and even incorporating some math games. This is a toy that will grow with your kids.
- Playskool 2-in-1 Digital Camera and Projector $50.21 (3 – 7 years) – Photography is an amazing art to introduce to your children at a young age. Encouraging them to get behind the lens gives them a different perspective on their surroundings as well as control of their world. Plus, if you tend to take a lot of photos of your kids (ahem), getting them into photography will make them more likely to put up with your shutter bug tendencies. We’ve had a few digital kid cameras in the past and, while the kids have always been excited about them, they all were difficult for the kids to operate on their own and broke easily. So I’ve been on the lookout for a better designed kid camera for quite a while and this Oppenheimer award winning version is it! We got it for the kids for Christmas and their favorite feature has to be that with the flip of a switch this camera will instantly project captured images up onto a wall (cool!). Coming in a close second are all the funny clip art images you can superimpose onto the photos within the camera. Big buttons and screen, along with durability, good photo quality, storage of 1000 photos at a time and those instant special effects means the kids continue to reach for it for play time again and again.
- Mini Micro Scooter $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. And 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.
- Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Books $4.99 (3 – 10 years) – It will truly surprise you how engaged your kids are with these deceptively simple (and inexpensive!) reusable books. My parents gave the kids a couple a few years ago for Christmas and they’ve been a consistent stand-by for us every 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 tons of book themes to choose from too. Along with quiet time, 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 is without toys for them.
- Robot Turtles Game $24.99 (4 – 8 years) – As one of the only products out there with the real ability to get preschoolers and kindergartners interested in programming, this is the new toy I’m most excited about adding to the gift guide this year! The most backed board game in Kickstarter history, it sneakily teaches preschoolers the fundamentals of programming, from coding to functions, while making silly turtle noises. Takes seconds to learn, minutes to play and provides endless learning opportunities. This game has been featured by NPR, Bloomberg, Make: Magazine, Boing boing, TechCrunch, Reddit, Geekmom, Geekdad and essentially lets kids write programs with playing cards. One reviewer wrote, “There are no winners/losers. (You could make a competition out of it with several kids, seeing who can make the shortest program/have the fewest bugs/etc., but it’s not set up that way.) But it does teach kids the basics of how computers think… Once he got the hang of it, we just let our son go nuts with it. He makes up his own boards and then “writes” a program to solve it. Finally, something he can play by himself that doesn’t have a ton of annoying noises/beeps/music!” You can read more about this game from The New York Times here.
- Zingo $17.99 (4 – 8 years) – This is another super popular game with families with young children and it was another of our family’s first games. A lot like BINGO, players get picture cards and try to fill them up. There is a speed component too that we use about half the time with our 5 year old and skip with our 3 year old. We have both the standard version and the numbers version and both are regularly requested by the kids. Side Note: When your pre-readers become emerging readers, Zingo Word Builder, What’s Gnu? and Zingo Sight Words are also excellent!!
- Qwirkle $19.21 (5+ years) – My son got this strategic domino and scrabble-like game for his 5th birthday and asks to play it during our one-on-one time or as a family several times a week. Although we’ve altered the rules and points system a bit to adjust for his age, this Parents’ Choice Gold Award and Mensa National Competition winner is still fantastic for working on shape and color recognition as well as pattern perception and spatial and critical thinking skills. Recently my 4 year old daughter has been getting in on the fun and I can tell this is one that our family is sure to be playing for years to come.
- Snap Circuits Jr $20.55 (5+ years with parental help, 6 or 7+ for independent play), Snap Circuits $45.07 (8 – 15 years), and the Snap Circuits Student Electronics Training Program, down this year from $199.99 to $124.18 (8 – 15 years, younger with parental help) – This clever kit is another multi-award-winner that takes advantage of kids’ natural interest in building toys (like LEGOs) to teach the principles of electricity. The components aren’t intimidating, snap together simply, and can be used to create a bunch of cool projects. The standard set comes with 60 pieces+ to create over 300 different electronic projects. The pieces include snap wires, slide switches, an alarm circuit, a music integrated circuit, and a speaker and are numbered and color-coded to make identifying them easy. These components combine to create working circuit boards just like the ones found inside televisions, radios, and other electronic devices. (Note: there is a conversion set that turns Snap Circuits Jr into this bigger set when your kids are ready to move up.) For bigger kids, you’ll definitely want to check out the reduced priced Snap Circuits Student Electronics Training Program as well as the Alternative Green Energy Kit and Snap Circuits Lights – just connect any MP3 player and be amazed as your music creates a mesmerizing light display. No two songs will ever produce the same light show. Includes prepunched patterns for motor, strobe light, and color-changing LED, lighted and glow-in-the-dark fans, strobe integrated circuit, color organ controlled by MP3 player, voice, or finger. Builds over 175 experiments.
- LEGO Creator 3-in-1 Kits starting at $11.24, (age varies by kit) – This is another series of kits, much like the LEGO City collection with the difference being that each kit can be used to create 3 totally different things. My son thinks this is especially awesome and I did a lot of research to find the perfect set for his 6th birthday. We settled on the LEGO Creator 31011 Aviation Adventure and we were not disappointed! The photos don’t do justice to the sheer size of this thing! That and the number of pieces involved in the build truly make this the next level in LEGO builds. Plus it actually has moving parts (pull back the landing gear to make the propellers move, slide the cockpit windshield back and up to insert and remove the two pilots, etc.). My son has been playing with it non-stop for weeks and he still hasn’t even gotten to the boat and helicopter he can build with this set. This toy has already given us hours and hours of fun and promises to give lots more – a great investment in my eyes.
- No Stress Chess $14.99 (6+ years) – When my kindergartner came home from school one day asking me to teach him to play chess, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand I was excited because, despite spending a lot of our time together on sports-related activities, I have great memories of playing chess with my dad growing up. On the other hand, I was afraid he was a little young for it and might get frustrated and give up on the game all together. Enter “No Stress Chess”. This genius game uses cards to teach young kids how to play in stages. The cards tell you which piece to move, so even children (and adults) who have never played the game can jump right in. The moves for each piece are on the cards as well as on the game board and the first stage makes the game about chance, not skill – you simply draw a card and do what it says, perfect for learning how the pieces work. Once that is mastered, you can draw 3 cards at a time and decide which one you want to go with to introduce some strategy to the game. Finally, when you’re ready to play chess for real, just get rid of the cards and flip the board over to a traditional chess board… This one is going under our Christmas Tree this year for sure! Side Note: If your little one is really into the game, there’s also Thinkfun’s Solitary Chess. Featured below, this single player game takes it to the next level by using chess moves to solve logic puzzles. It’s the perfect thing for practicing when there’s no one available to play with.
- Ed Emberely Drawing & Art Books starting at $6.29 (6+ years) – These books are just so cool for kids that have a passion for art because they can use them to teach themselves how to draw all the things they want to. We started with the thumbprint book, which is great for younger kids, and recently added the animal and vehicle drawing books for my son’s birthday as well as Picture Pie, which incorporates cutting and pasting shapes to make things step by step instead of just drawing.
- The Everything Kids’ Science Experiments Book: Boil Ice, Float Water, Measure Gravity-Challenge the World Around You! $6.99 (8+ years) – This is kind of like Mr. Wizard in a book. Written by a high school science and math teacher, this guide will help school-aged kids explore scientific topics with themed chapters broken down into accessible experiments of varying difficulty levels. Fun for them to do on their own or along with you – this one is a great value!
Most years stocking stuffers are one of the last things I get around to buying because I’m never quite sure what to get. I want items that are inexpensive but will still lead to engaged, quality play – not junk that will liter my house. This time around, though, I find myself with the opposite problem – I’ve found too many great options.
While I struggle to narrow down my list, I thought I’d share it with you all in case you’re still in need of a small item or two. You’ll find something for every kind of kid here – enjoy!
The Game Player
You already know from our “Top Picks for Family Game Night” gift guide that I’m a big proponent of games and puzzles – both those you can play as a family and those that can be played alone for quiet time or on-the-go. Here are a few compact selections that will fit nicely in a stocking.
- Eeboo Color Go Fish Playing Cards $8.00 (2+ years) – This beautiful card set uses colors instead of the traditional numbers for Go Fish. This was one of the very first games I started playing with my son. It was easy for him to understand since no numbers or reading were involved and helped him learn his colors. He still enjoys playing it 3 years later at age 5. Eboo doesn’t stop with Go Fish either, they also have lovely Old Maid, Crazy Faces (like crazy 8s), Animal Rummy, and Hearts playing sets for the littles.
P.S. for beginner card players, check out this little hands card holder too!
- IQ Twist $9.99 (6+ years) – This compact, award-winning multi-level logic game contains 100 challenges suitable for all ages. It’s ideal for building critical thinking skills during long car rides or quiet time.
- Crocodile Creek Travel Puzzles starting $4.66 (5+ years) – I especially love the look and easy storage/travel capabilities of these travel 100 piece puzzles and at the price they make great stocking stuffers.
- Rush Hour Jr. by Thinkfun $15.20 (5+ years) – This is going in my 5 year old’s stocking this year. It’s a unique kind of single-player logic game that received a national award from Mensa and is used in elementary school math classes. Plus my car-lover will think it’s flat-out fun. Also check out the regular version for older kids!
If you’ve got a little explorer at home with a taste for adventure and a thirst for knowledge, check out these fun picks.
- Toobs starting at $6.33 (3+ years) – After our Make Like a Montessori Mama: Animal Activities post a few years ago, I knew I needed to get C some small animal figurines as soon as possible. A quick Amazon search revealed exactly what I was looking for – Toobs. Not only is the handy container the perfect shape for a stocking, there are a million themes to choose from. Whether your little one are into the arctic, zoo babies, trains, pirates, dinosaurs, North American Wildlife, or the wonders of the world – there’s a Toob out there for them.
- Walkie Talkies starting at $14.99 (3+ years) – My 3 and 5 year olds have (thankfully) been engaging in quiet a bit of cooperative play lately. Some of their favorite games include hide-and-seek, joint flash light hunts, and back yard safaris so I figured a set of easy-to-use walkie talkies would be right up their alley. I’m thinking of buying a set and slipping one in each of their stockings.
- Robot Claw $9.87 (3+ years) – I picked one of these up on impulse while birthday shopping for my son’s 4th birthday. So glad I did – it was a HUGE hit. It seems to entice both my son and daughter to explore all kinds of things around the house in new ways and we need to get one for her as well this Christmas.
There are all kinds of kid creators – builders, artists, even mini-chefs – here are finds to keep all of their creative juices flowing.
- Automoblox Minis starting at $8.00 (3+ years – not for kids who may put small things in their mouths) – These are one of those rare toys that can hold children’s attention for long stretches of time. The fun is not only in pushing them around like regular cars, but also in taking them apart and switching around all their parts. To that end, it’s best to get 2 or 3 so you have lots of parts to play with – that’s what we did two Christmases ago. Luckily, kids prefer the more inexpensive mini versions (perfect for stockings) and there are a ton of models which you can purchase alone or in 3 packs. They have colors sure to be loved by both girls and boys.
- Curious Chef Kids’ Cooking Utensils starting at $6.61 (4+ years with adult supervision) – Curious Chef makes a great line of real yet safe kitchen tools for kids. My favorite are the nylon knives (that’s right, I’m advocating knives in the stocking this year) which allow kids to safely participate in their own food prep. I also really like the 6 Piece Fruit and Veggie Prep Kit. As an added bonus, at dinnertime you might even get them to eat some of those veggies they’ve been carefully chopping and peeling for the last hour.
- Crayola Oil Pastels $5.99 – With their creamy and vivid colors, kids can tell there’s something extra special about oil pastel crayons as soon as they start using them. They’re also fantastic for learning about color theory because they blend to create true secondary colors.
- Watercolor Set $7.99 (2+ years) – Watercolors are always a good less-mess choice for painting. So we picked this set up the last year when we were at Ikea and I was really impressed. The cakes are bigger making it easier for the kids to use them and they don’t seem to muddy up nearly as easily as the crayola version.
Young children have such a wonderful desire to learn, here are a couple of my favorite smaller toys for helping them do so.
- Leapfrog Mr. Pencil Stylus $11.24 (3 – 6 years) – This kid friendly stylus works along with iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches with a special app that teaches writing letters, numbers and shapes through interactive games and activities. It would be great for long car rides or waiting rooms and is an Oppenheim platinum toy award winner. Here’s what they have to say about it, “While we’re not big on most app-gear, this one makes sense. We also liked that the instruction for making letters was correct and included both upper and lower case letters. (Remember Joanne taught over 300 children how to write!) The app also includes instruction for numbers 1-20.”
- Kimochis Mini Bag of Mixed Feelings $18.95 (suitable for all ages) – I was first introduced to the Kimochi line at an emotional coaching workshop and I really love the concept. Basically, these little guys are a playful way to help kids recognize and express their feelings. Each bag includes one carabineer keychain and 12 mini feelings: Happy, Silly, Brave, Curious, Mad, Sad, Loved, Cranky, Sleepy, Hopeful, Sorry, Excited. There’s enough in this set to divvy them up between multiple kids’ stockings.
So that’s my list! Did I miss anything critical?
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P.S. If you’re really looking to have the holidays in the bag this year, we’ve got two more ways to help. First get the holiday shopping out of the way with all 10 of our 2014 Gift Guides here…