I just got back from the Holiday Toy Showcase hosted by Time to Play Magazine. I’m sharing some of the editor’s picks (denoted by the MW icon for Most Wanted List) as well as my own discoveries. I was especially on the lookout for baby and toddler toys, while also hunting on behalf my own children (2 to 8 years). And I accidentally fell in love with a crazy big budget toy for
big kids parents.
So, with an eye on what’s great for ages 0 to 40, this is what I liked!
Cuddly toys for babies:
With a toy year dominated by Zombies, Robots, and Robot-Zombies, it was not as easy as I expected to find the baby toys. LeapFrog’s My Pal which comes in “Scout” or “Violet” characters (for ages 6 to 36 months) is a cute talking stuffed animal with a hidden agenda of education. Shh, don’t tell your baby.
More toys for bambinos:
- The Laugh & Learn Crawl Around Car is one of those living room-hogging plastic toys my kids love (that I love to hate). For about $50, you’ll probably get at least three years of use out of it whether you like owning it or not. It includes gross motor, fine motor, and driving skills and I know Sawyer would go bonkers for it, so what’s not to love? We have had the Laugh & Learn playhouse from this collection for EIGHT YEARS NOW and its still going strong. I think this would be an excellent Santa gift for a baby or toddler.
- Tranquil Turtle; parents love the sleep-friendly products by Cloud b. This one combines a twinkly nightlight with multiple versions of soothing white noise. I’d buy this for a baby or a baby shower.
- For ages 1 and up, the Lil Chirpers Sorting Eggs are completely cute for kids who love to open and close things. They are contained in their own plastic carton.
Learning toys for toddlers:
I loved this Go! Go! Smart Wheels Airport Playset by VTech. As the parent of vehicle-lovers, I am a sucker for an interactive interchangeable set of cars, airplanes, buildings, and tracks that also strengthens the brain. This retails for about $25, other sets and add-ons available at many price points.
- Big Hugs Elmo is the next in a long-line of interactive, walking, talking, silly Elmo dolls that little kids cannot resist. And this one hugs back. If you can stand listening to the voice 24/7, throw down the $50 and make your toddler the happiest on the block.
- Eric Carle floor puzzle of the alphabet; very cute and you’ll be happy to have it in your home to do over and over again. (I cannot for the life of me see why it is recommended for ages 8 to 18, it has 26 simple chunky pieces).
- Magformers building tiles. For toddlers and their big siblings, this construction set has a ton of repeat-playability. And the magnets are so sticky, you can pick up your creations with one hand!
Big toy for preschoolers:
Doc McStuffins Get Better Check Up Center leverages a popular new TV character and brings some high-tech creativity to the old game of playing doctor while teaching empathy. At about $100, it would be a super splurge (maybe to replace the beloved play kitchen) unless you have a ton of space and money. See detailed video review on timetoplaymag.com >
Smaller playthings for preschoolers
- Neat-oh! ZipBin and playmat. This road scene zips up as a toy bin to reduce the “dump out” instinct when our kids start to play. Other versions (like LEGO Star Wars!) convert from playmat into backpacks to take on the go. Around $20.
- RoseArt Magic Fun Dough: For about $20, this set of molding dough includes transfers (think temporary tattoos) that can let children easily build ships, princesses, dinosaurs or farm animals without the frustration of really sculpting. Of course, real molding is always an option. I like this for all 3 of my kids.
- ArtSee Studio by WowWee: Add your iPad (any generation will do) into this protective case and a creative play world opens up to your child. I know my kid would LOVE this, I’m not so sure how I feel about handing over my iPad though. About $35.
- Shop and Cook 2 in one playset. For about $50, it is another big toy but it’s a twofer: you get the shopping cart and the mini kitchen with lots of noisy learning features and a healthy dose of play food. Sawyer would LOVE this.
Digital fun for 6 and up:
Barbie Digital Makeover
I wish they’d have let me play with the Barbie Digital Makeover. It’s an iPad extension that lets a gal (or guy) put on pretend makeup and accessories on a live video of your face. I wish it were cheaper than $70 but I have to admit it looks so much fun. See full review on timetoplaymag.com >
I haven’t figured out yet if this game play experience is for my big boys or my husband, but the Disney Infinity video game is an epic digital world that includes beloved PIXAR characters facing off against each other, a build-your-own world (called toy box), and seemingly gajillions of mission-based adventures. The primary complaint from reviewers was that it was just too massive. About $60 for the base game. Available in xbox, wii, wiiU, and more. See full review on timetoplaymag.com >
Analog fun for 8 and up:
- Boom Boom Balloon is a turn-taking game that tests your strategy and nerves at the same time; like Jenga but shoving sticks into a balloon. My only problem with it is that my big kids better not play it during naptime. About $20.
- Air Hunterz Z-Curve Bow. Foam bow and arrow set by Zing is lots of fun indoors and out. Even though my own aim kinda sucks, it is quite accurate and addictive. Less than $20.
A huge splurge toy for mama:
Speaking of So Much Fun, I could not get enough of the Razor Drift Crazy Kart. But since it retails at between — cough, cough — $440 and $900 (and I live on a busy street, and my kids would probably want to use it!), I don’t think it’s in my future! But if Santa Claus has a big budget and you live on a friendly little cul-de-sac, I vote that it is “waterslide fun” for both parents and older kids. Recommended for ages 9+.
- TimetoPlayMag.com’s Most Wanted: Holiday 2013
- Best toy gifts for a one-year old (rookie mom picks)
- Best toy gifts for a two-year old (rookie mom picks)
Disclosures: Time To Play Magazine hosted my trip to NYC to check out these toys and others at the holiday toy showcase. All opinions are my own.