It’s been a tough year for everyone and kids are no exception. So yeah, they deserve a great gift this holiday season. But not just any old thing. We reached out to the experts—child therapists, nannies, teachers, toy shop owners, parenting coaches and actual parents—to get their recommendations for the absolute best gifts for kids. Because we know that you’ve got enough on your plate right now.
1. Infantino Squeeze and Stack Block Set (Ages 0+)
Abbi has been a nanny in New York City for over eight years and specializes in early childhood. One of her favorite playthings for infants are these colorful blocks that babies can chew, squeeze and practice stacking. “The reason I love them is because they don’t make a crashing sound when they fall down and scare the baby!” she says. They’re also great for toddlers to practice learning their numbers and letters.
2. Mushie Stacking Cups (Ages 0+)
“I am obsessed with these!” raves Abbi. These pretty stacking cups are great for developing hand eye coordination, plus they can be used in the bath tub for water play. “They also work great in a sensory bin or in the sand.” And teething babes will love to gnaw on them.
3. Play Silks (Ages 0+)
Tiny tots love playing with these lightweight silks but Abbi uses them with kids up to 8 years old. “Tie it like a cape and play superheroes, flutter them through the sky like butterflies or play peek-a-boo with your babe...the options are endless!” You can find similar items in craft stores on big-name retailers but you can’t beat real silk for softness.
4. Wooden Egg Shakers (Ages 0+)
“These little egg shakers are so fun for tiny babies to rattle and chew but also wonderful to teach rhythm to older toddlers,” says Abbi. Made from sustainable nature wood, they are smooth to touch with a non-toxic finish.
5. Little Likes Kids Educational Two-Sided Placemat (Ages 0+)
Chickens, waffles, marching bands, and ice-cream cones...what’s not to love? These baby placemats feature bright and playful original illustrations to make mealtime fun. And as an extra bonus, you’re supporting a women-owned, certified-minority business founded by a mom who found a lack of toy options that represented her son and his experiences. Each mat incorporates an educational activity on one side and is easy to wipe clean when the meal is done.
6. JC Toys Baby Doll (Ages 1+)
What’s nanny Abbi’s number one favorite toy for kids? Dolls. “I am a huge believer that any child of any gender should have at least one baby doll,” she says. “It teaches empathy, compassion and allows kids to learn about their own anatomy.” This one is lightweight, fragrance-free, comes with a pacifier and blanket and is available in multiple skin tones.
7. Bath Pipes (Ages 1+)
Give your tot’s daily wash a seriously fun upgrade with these colorful and BPA-free tubes. “These Building Bath Pipes can be used individually or put together to make a chain and help children understand cause and effect,” says Claudia Walker, founder of The Black Toy Store.
8. Black Fairy Tales Coloring Book (Ages 1+)
This pick from toy shop owner Walker depicts scenes from classic tales (like Cinderella, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Little Red Riding Hood) with black characters. Because representation matters.
9. Woom Bike (Ages 1.5 to 3.5 Years)
This lightweight balance bike (only 6.6 pounds) makes it easy for toddlers to hop on and roll away. Even if your kid has only just started to walk, the low step-through frame and a wide range of saddle height positions means that they can easily glide around the park. Available in five different colors.
10. ‘We’re Different, We’re the Same’ Sesame Street book (Ages 2+)
“I love this book because it’s a great intro for babies and toddlers to learn the parts of their body, what each part does, and how to celebrate the beautiful ways we are similar and different from one another,” says Abbi.
11. Square Panda Multisensory Phonics Playset (Ages 2 to 8)
“This is a favorite of mine to help little learners with phonics and reading,” says Princess Netherly, a primary school teacher in Wylie, Texas. There are multiple free apps you can use with this toy that allows kids to manipulate letters on the base to practice spelling and phonics. “Directions on how to play the games are easy to pick up as soon as you connect the game,” she adds.
12. ‘Antiracist Baby’ Book (Ages 3+)
Dr. Han Ren, a psychologist based in Austin, Texas and whose specialties include working with children of immigrants, recommends this best-selling book for little kids. “[It has] catchy rhymes and important messaging for a critical time in our society,” she tells us. “This book is great for kids ages 3 to 6 and highlights Dr. Kendi's nine antiracist steps in a simple way that's helpful for parents too. With babies as young as 6-months already showing racial discernment and preferences, it's never too early to teach kids about equity.”
13. The Laugh and Learn Grow-the-Fun Garden to Kitchen (Ages 3+)
“[This toy] provides kids with so much play value,” says Marissa DiBartolo, Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Insider. “You get a kitchen and a garden play set in one toy, and it doesn't take up a ton of space which is a major plus for parents. The accessories are super adorable and versatile, and we love how much learning is packed into this toy. It also features Smart Stages technology, so it grows with kids from 18 months to 3 years, making it a super high-value toy.”
14. Worry Eaters (Ages 3+)
Presenting the most adorable plushies that we’ve ever seen. These playthings have zippers mouths that “eat” kids’ worries and fears (just ask your child to write or draw what they’re feeling and then put it in the creature’s mouth). “There’s power in naming fears out loud and being intentional in releasing them,” says Dr. Ren. This clever (and cute) toy can be a useful tool for parents to talk to their kids about anxiety and coping skills. “This holiday season is unlike any other we've had and it's normal for kids to feel uncertain and scared about these changes. Sure, these fears don't disappear, but they also take up less space after naming them.” Available in multiple designs, each with a sweet name (and have such cute names too.
15. The Pinkfong Baby Shark Dancing DJ (Ages 3+)
“This one encourages kids to get up and get moving — which is especially important now with stay-at-home orders still in place all over the country,” says DiBartolo. “This toy takes one of kids' favorite characters, Baby Shark, off the screen and into the real world while also encouraging kids to put down the tablets and get ready to boogie! The ‘Baby Shark’ remixes are also super catchy with some pretty sick beats that even parents will enjoy.”
16. Brave. Black. First. Postcards (Ages 3+)
Published in collaboration with the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, these 100 cards celebrate 50 groundbreaking African American women, from Harriet Tubman to Beyoncé. Extra bonus? “They also give kids a way to keep in touch even if they can't be with friends and family in person,” says Kristene Geering, content director of Parent Lab.
17. Giant Globe Beach Ball (Ages 3+)
“My kids love this ball,” raves Geering. “It's a fun way to move and play even when you're stuck indoors, and they can play fun games while learning geography.” Here’s a game she likes to play with her children: Pick a country and then throw the ball to a sibling. That person then has to find that country before throwing it back. “It may sound corny, but when we were stuck inside for weeks on end due to smoke the kids really had fun with it!”
18. KidKraft Amazon Alexa Enabled 2-in-1 Kitchen & Market (Ages 3 to 10)
This two sided playset (a kitchen on one side and a grocery store on the other) is no ordinary toy: The ingredients are equipped with RFID chips so that they can interact with an Amazon Echo device. Let Alexa “guide” your budding chef through recipes and let them know if they add the right ingredients to a pot—with realistic sound effects, to boot. Let’s say your kid is making a hot dog recipe—Alexa will tell them to put a pot of water on the stove, and then make a bubbling sound when the water is “boiling” and a splashing sound when the hot dog is dropped in. Cool, right?
19. Barbershop Memory Game (Ages 3+)
“Kids of color rarely see themselves reflected in games,” says toy shop owner Walker. “But Little Likes Kids, the creator of this memory game set, is out to change that! Children get to test their skills while playing with cards that depict familiar scenes at the local barbershop.”
20. Prank Camera (Ages 3+)
Whether your kid is distance learning or not, it’s safe to say they could use a break from screens (even if just for an afternoon). “Get your kids back to ‘old school’ fun where they prank their family or friends with a camera that squirts water,” suggests family therapist and author of Anxiety...I'm So Done with You! Jodi Aman.
21. Waterfuls Game (Ages 3+)
Yes, this game is designed for toddlers and up, but Aman tells us that it’s an effective relaxer for adolescents. “I loved this when I was little and always have one in my office when I see teen clients. It is mesmerizing and soothing.” Just add water and use the buttons to fire up the balls into the pockets.
22. Magna-Tiles (Ages 3+)
“These have been a fav of all my kids!” says Abbi. “They are magnetic and easy to stick together, allowing imagination to soar.” Seriously, you can create houses, castles, cars, towers and more out of these tiles—the possibilities are endless.
23. PJ Masks Transforming 2-in-1 Mobile HQ (Ages 3+)
Dubbed one of the hottest toys of the year by Amazon, adventure seekers can fight crime at lightning speed now that their headquarters can quickly transform into the PJ Seeker. With multiple levels and ways to play, this one’s a true hit for fans of the show.
24. OSMO (Ages 3 to 5)
“This is a must have for primary aged kids,” raves Netherly. “Osmo helps kids learn math, reading, and problem solving. You simply connect the Osmo base and reflector to an iPad and select which free app you'd like to use while playing. Play and learning can be customized based on age level.”
25. Animatronic Baby Yoda (Ages 4+)
With over 25 sound and motion combinations (including giggles, babbles and sleeping), this Mandalorian toy is both adorable and fun. Your kid will love patting The Child (AKA Baby Yoda) three times on its head to activate The Force (i.e., raising its arm, closing its eyes and sighing) and laying it to rest for a “Force Nap.”
26. ‘We Are the Gardeners’ by Joanna Gaines (Ages 4+)
Calling all Fixer Upper fans: This children’s book is full of beautiful drawings and adventure as the shiplap queen and her kids chronicle their journey of starting their own family garden. “According to the American Journal of Public Health, kids do better overall when they spend time in green spaces,” says parenting coach Deborah Ann Davis. “Their focus, memory and attention all improve, even after the gardening activity is over for the day.” Get beginner gardeners excited about spring with this sweet book about how to grow a happy garden (little readers in particular will get a kick out of the bunnies that ate everything!).
27. GeoPuzzle Africa and the Middle East (Ages 4+)
“I love this puzzle,” says Geering. “One of my goals this year is to help my kids understand the world is a diverse place, and to understand the real pain that so many people of color experience. A good start is understanding that Africa is not a country! It has many countries, and many cultures and languages.”
28. Squeakee the Balloon Dog (Ages 5 to 15)
This robotic, interactive balloon dog is one of the most creative (and silliest) toys on the market. “He has so much humor that kids will absolutely love, and he's highly responsive so they can engage in tons of imaginative play with him,” says DiBartolo. “Kids will love feeding this strange little pet, who is definitely going to bring lots of laughs this holiday season.”
29. Little Likes Kids Musical Crossroads Jigsaw Puzzle (Ages 5+)
Beautifully illustrated, this fun but challenging 72-piece puzzle will keep small hands occupied. (And you’ll be supporting a women-owned, certified-minority business to boot.)
30. Crazy Forts (Ages 5+)
Kids love building forts and experts say that they may need these safe havens now more than ever. This cool set comes with 69 child-safe toggles and rods that join together so kids can build whatever structure they can think of (a pirate ship! A castle!). Just throw on a couple of old bedsheets and their imaginative play space is ready to go.
31. Kapla Blocks (Ages 5+)
Unleash your kid’s inner architect with these wooden blocks that can be engineered and played with in endless combinations. “While my older daughter loves to build homes for her dolls, my 4-year-old son has a blast pretending they're firewood and knocking down his sister's creations!” says Dr. Ren. She’s a big fan of open-ended building toys without rules and endpoints, and these blocks in particular are great for nurturing creativity.
32. Circle Society Classic Adjustable Childrens Roller Skates (Ages 5 to 14)
Like drive-in theaters and tie-dye, roller skates are back, baby! These neon skates can adjust from sizes 12 to 3, making them a great investment for years to come (unlike your kid’s regular shoes that you have to toss out every six months). Just push a button to adjust the sizing. Another reason why we rate these colorful skates? They can be used indoors or out.
33. Hatchimals Mega Secret Surprise Egg (Ages 5 to 7)
The hottest toy of last year is still going strong, but now with even more mystery to uncover. There are more than 40 surprises inside this 9-inch purple egg, including 10 CollEGGtibles characters, stickers, lip gloss and a Pixie doll.
34. Table Topics Family (Ages 6+)
Considering how much family time we’ve all been having this year, it’s only natural to run out of stuff to talk about. Enter this clever game. “These family-friend conversation starters have sparked excited fantasies and heated debates in our home,” says Dr. Ren. The family pack has a good mix of questions that are accessible for kids of all ages, ranging from silly questions (“Would you like to see an alien?”) to more thoughtful ones (“What do you look for in a friend?”).
35. Grow 'N Glow Terrarium Kit (Ages 6+)
“The Great American School Experiment is underway, and the accompanying uncertainty has everyone anxious, parents and students alike,” says Davis. And for parents who are looking for a way to lower their kids’ stress, increase their movement, get them to eat healthier, and positively impact their mood, she has just the thing: gardening. “It’s never too early to get your clan interested in growing their own food, and along the way, you can take a few measurements, try a few experiments, and get those STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) juices flowing.” This cool kit includes everything kids need in order to grow their own ecosystem (just add water). Extra cool factor? It glows in the dark.
36. Skywalker Trampoline (Ages 6+)
We’re all about outdoor fun these days and a giant trampoline is guaranteed to keep restless kids entertained for hours. This one comes with a safety net and is designed for older jumpers but there are plenty of options out there for younger kids, too.
37. PLAYMOBIL Back to The Future Delorean (Ages 6+)
Gift your kid this time-traveling DeLorean (that features working lights and a flux capacitor) then snuggle up for movie night to watch the iconic trilogy. The set includes Marty McFly, Dr. Emmett Brown, Einstein the dog, the skateboard, and plutonium.
38. Dash Coding Robot (Ages 6+)
“We love STEM toys and this Dash robot teaches children that they can create anything they can imagine,” says Walker. Dash is a real robot that teaches children how to code and actually responds to voice commands. (Sadly “go clean your room” isn’t one of them.)
39. 24 Challenge Card Game (Ages 7+)
If you feel like your homeschooling efforts this year have been below par (don’t we all?) then maybe an educational toy is in order. This math game comes with a deck of cards that is coded for difficulty level but each with four numbers. The goal? For your child to think her way to the sum of 24, using only the digits on the card and the basic mathematical functions of multiplication, subtraction, addition and division. This game can be played solo, like a flash-card exercise, but the real fun comes with a healthy dose of competition.
40. Crayola Paper Flower Science Kit (Ages 7+)
For a STEAM toy that you’ll actually want to display in your kid’s room, look no further than this science meets DIY craft. Kids mix up colors and dye, then plant a paper flower in the mixture. Afterwards, they get to learn about “water wicking” as the colors make their way up the stem and create a pretty pattern on the petals.
41. Animal Crossings New Horizons - Nintendo Switch (Ages 7+)
Got a kid who’s into gaming? This fan favorite allows children to build a community on a deserted island, customize their characters and bond with other residents.
42. Nintendo Switch (Ages 7+)
Oh wait, your kid doesn’t have a Switch yet? Here’s what you need to know about this popular game console: It’s a portable tablet with two detachable controllers (aka Joy-Cons) and can be connected to the TV (but doesn’t have to be). It’s easy to use and has games for multiple age groups, meaning that your little kid will enjoy it as much as your teen.
43. Nintendo Switch Carrying Case (Ages 7+)
Protect your Switch when you travel with this budget-friendly case.
44. Puffin Hardcover Classics Box Set (Ages 7+)
OK, but now it’s time for your kid to put down the device. Everyone should read the classics at some point and this set happens to be adorably color coordinated so that it doubles as bookshelf decor.
45. Beyblade Burst Turbo Championship Clash Battle Set (Ages 8+)
Cool new designs and features means that this is Hasbro's best Beyblade set yet. The new and improved Beyblade Burst Turbo set features a new battleground (dubbed, “Beystadium”) and six coveted tops, plus two launchers. And for more fun, scan the tops with the game’s app to challenge friends online—a great option when in-person playdates are limited.
46. Jenga Throw ‘N Go (Ages 8+)
“Jenga is a great game to exercise kids' minds and coordination,” says Davis. And while there’s nothing wrong with the OG version, this fun twist on the classic features hardwood blocks in six different colors. Players must roll the die to know which color gets pulled next, with special instructions (like “pick any two”) thrown in to keep things interesting.
47. National Geographic Earth Science Kit (Ages 8+)
Young scientists will love this kit that comes with over 15 scientific experiments, including growing a real crystal, making a volcano erupt and generating a whirling water tornado. No wonder Amazon dubbed it one of the hottest toys of the year.
48. Juggling Balls (Ages 8+)
With so many things off limits this year due to the pandemic, now is the ideal time to pick up a new skill. “Since there are less activities, it is important to create some novelty for our kids,” says Aman. “Juggling is a great practice, because there is always more to learn.”
49. LEGO Creator 3-in-1 Monster Burger Truck (Ages 8+)
For the kid who loves monster trucks, hamburgers and LEGO, this one ticks all the boxes. Extra cool feature: After the monster burger truck is built, your child can take apart the pieces and use the same bricks to make an off-road vehicle, and then disassemble that to create a weight-pulling tractor. It’s three toys in one!
50. American Girl's 2020 Girl of the Year: Joss Kendrick (Ages 8+)
Joss Kendrick is a fierce surfer girl who's not afraid of new challenges—including trying out for cheer, a feat made more difficult due to the fact that Joss is hard of hearing. Read all about her life in her first book (included with the doll). She also comes with a zip-up hoodie, a pink swimsuit, a carrying case for her hearing aid, a backup hearing aid and pink sandals.
51. Sphero Ollie Robot (Ages 8 to 14)
“What makes Sphero a great toy is it promotes critical thinking while using technology,” says teacher Netherly. Kids learn how to code as they figure out how to make their Sphero move anywhere they’d like. “And the best part is this toy is waterproof and virtually indestructible,” she adds.
52. The Chocolate Pen (Ages 8+)
This sweet toy makes a great family activity, says DiBartolo. “Kids can create sweet treats in minutes, and that is a huge plus because there's nothing worse than waiting an eternity for your dessert to be ready!” Use the pen to add the finishing touches to holiday cakes or cookies, or create brand new chocolate treats. “I love that it comes with so many molds as well, because we know kids love a good variety,” she adds.
53. ‘When Stars Are Scattered’ (Ages 9+)
This beautifully illustrated graphic novel for middle grade students is about a young boy and his brother's experience as Somalie refugees in Kenya and their journey to the United States. “This book provides perspective for a different way of life in a way that also captures the protagonist's youth and humanity,” says Dr. Ren. “It was deeply humbling to read together with my 9-year-old daughter, and helped her find more gratitude in her daily life, pandemic and all.”
54. Arteza Gouache Paint (Ages 9+)
55. Pokémon Adventures Manga 7-Volume Set (Ages 9+)
Pokémon has been in the cultural zeitgeist for more than 20 years which is great news for OG fans who can enjoy these wacky characters with today’s kids. The Pokemon Adventures series is broken up into different arcs, some of which match up to each generation of the game (fans will understand what this means—if that’s not you, then ask the kid you’re buying for). Note: The books read right to left (i.e., in the original Japanese style).
56. Bloxels (Ages 8 to 13)
“Bloxels is another tech toy that combines coding and critical thinking,” explains Netherly. With this toy, you build your own video game with small cubes called Bloxels. Each color Bloxel represents a different component of the game such as water or land. It’s basically minecraft meets Legos and your mini programmer will love it.
57. Tie-Dye Kit (Ages 10+)
Haven’t you heard? Tie-dye is totally in right now. The whole fam can get in on this crafty project and the best part is that you’ll have a pandemic family uniform at the end.
58. Exit: The House of Riddles (Ages 10+)
This escape-room style game is a great way for siblings (or pod friends) to work together to solve a mystery—namely, how will they “escape” from the “locked” house? Only by completing the series of riddles and puzzles. Although each game can only be played once (since players have to draw on and cut up game pieces), it takes about 90 minutes to complete which means that it works out cheaper than taking your kids to the movies.
59. Proper Gnar Candy Skateboard (Ages 10+)
When your kid is ready to graduate from a scooter, get them a super cool board. “Proper Gnar is the first Black woman-owned skateboard company and this sweet candy-themed skateboard is sure to turn heads,” says Walker.
60. The Five-Minute Journal by Intelligent Change (Ages 12+)
Research shows that giving thanks makes people happier. This journal makes it easy for your teen to dedicate five minutes each and every day to gratitude.
61. Smartphone UV Sanitizer (Ages 12+)
They’re never without their phone, but those things are germ-magnets. This handy device will keep their phones germ-free (something that feels more important than ever this year).
62. Pivo Phone Tracking Stand (Ages 12+)
TikTok dancers, this one’s for you: This clever stand tracks your movement, so you’re never out of frame as you film. It’s basically like having your very own cameraman and crew for the perfect shot, every time. It comes with a remote control, plus Smart Capture modes so that you can take pictures and videos with a voice command, a snap of a finger, or just by striking a pose.
63. Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power (Ages 12+)
The Disney Villainous board game series is hugely popular, and now superhero fans can get in on the action. Players can choose to be Thanos, Hela, Ultron, or one of two other secret Marvel villains. They then battle for world domination over other Avengers including Iron Man, Captain America and Black Widow. Can they use their character's special abilities to their advantage while overcoming challenges from the shared fate deck? Play to find out.
66. LED Fairy Lights with Metallic Photo Clips (Ages 12+)
These battery-operated string lights are guaranteed to brighten up any teen’s room. (Plus, they can hang up pics of their friends… even if they can’t see them face-to-face right now.)
64. Carrom Balance Board (Ages 12+)
Want to work on your core? Pick up one of these for your teen and borrow it when it’s not in use. “This is a good way to build concentration and balance,” says Aman. (But seriously, can we borrow it please?)
65. Wireless Bluetooth Karaoke Microphone (12+)
Family karaoke night, anyone? This stylish mic lets you choose from thousands of songs using an app or their own Spotify, iTunes, or Pandora account. (Psst: Here are 60 easy karaoke songs to get you started.)
67. Oculus Quest 2 (Ages 13+)
International travel might be off limits this year, but here’s a genius suggestion from Dr. Ren about how to get an immersive cultural experience: A VR headset. The new and improved Quest 2 has a more accessible price point than its predecessor and is an all-in-one wireless device (i.e., no computer necessary). “We have the Quest 1 and we use it to tour museums, ride roller coasters, dance, create art, and try out professions,” says Dr. Ren. (Psst: Parents love it, too.)
68. Kiwi Eureka Crate (Ages 14
“Kids love to get mail, and packages are a pandemic treat for everyone!” says Dr. Ren. These monthly subscription boxes are catered to developmental levels and interests, starting from birth to the teenage years. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but we especially love the STEM-focused Eureka crate that allows teens to use their creativity to apply science principles to real-world problems (think: making an electric pencil sharpener or a wooden ukulele).
69. ‘P.S. I Still Love You’ by Jenny Han (14+)
Your teen was obsessed with the Netflix film, so they’re basically guaranteed to love this page-turner. Will Lara Jean end up with Peter Kavinsky in this sequel to the bestselling To All the Boys I've Loved Before? YA fans will have to read to find out.
70. Birthstone Stacking Ring (15+)
Who doesn’t want a pretty piece of jewelry that will go with everything? (Psst: Here’s how to stack rings like a pro.)
71. Portable Charging Device (Ages 15+)
Your teen can charge all of her devices (Apple watch, iPhone and airpods) with this silicone stand. And because the charging cables (sold separately) plug into the back, it will keep her desk (or your kitchen counter) clutter-free.
72. Weighted Blanket (Ages 15+)
For teens that toss and turn all night, try a weighted blanket. The benefits of weighted blankets (decreased anxiety, increased feelings of calm and a more restful snooze) are pretty cool. This one is available in a range of weights (from 8 pounds to 25 pounds) and colors.
73. AstroAI Mini Fridge (Ages 15+)
The fridge downstairs is packed, but your teen can store their skincare and snacks in this mini version instead.
74. The North Face Etip Tech Gloves (15+)
Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean that your teen shouldn’t be able to scroll through the ‘Gram.
75. Airpods Pro (Ages 15+)
Yes, they’re pricey, but these headphones are totally worth it. With noise cancellation, 24-hour battery life and a customized fit, she can practice her latest TikTok dance or focus on virtual learning in style. (Note: Apple doesn’t have an age recommendation for their pods so use your own judgement.)
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