There are so many toys flooding the market each year, it can be hard for a well-intentioned parent to choose! We want to spend our hard-earned money on something that will make our kids’ eyes light up on Christmas morning and keep them engaged and stimulated for long periods of time…and, hey, a little learning is never a bad thing either.
Check out our list of top-notch, high-quality toys for every kind of kid under the sun including the bookworm, the builder, the computer whiz, the artist, and more!
Favorite Series Starters Boxed Set: A collection of first books from five favorite series for early chapter book readers $19.31 (six to nine years) – The best gift you can give to a true bookworm is the opportunity to discover a new beloved literary series. Children (and adults) love following their favorite characters across multiple books and adventures. We love that this boxed set will introduce kids to not one, but five, classic kid lit series through the first book in each.
The Computer Whiz
Sifteo Cube Intelligent Game System $129.95 (seven+ years) – Called “building blocks for geeks” by Wired Magazine and “a kick in the imagination” by The New York Times, Sifteo cubes are a tactile and interactive game system that allows kids to play tech games and puzzles in three dimensions. We love it because it turns normally passive screen time into a much more interactive experience.
The multi-award winning cubes sense each other and your gestures, display full-color graphics, respond to touch, and communicate wirelessly. Great for individuals or groups – tilt, shake, neighbor, press, scootch, wiggle, slide, flip and stack the cubes for lots of hands-on play.
Primary Science Set by Learning Resources $29.99 (four+ years) – This kit of real science tools is perfectly sized for little hands. It comes with 10 double-sided activity cards, a beaker, a magnifying glass, a funnel, an eyedropper, a flask, tweezers, goggles, a large six-inch test tube and stand, and two small test tubes. The authenticity of these items will have your little scientists dying to experiment.
Magna-Tiles Clear Colors 100 Piece Set $120 (two to twelve 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 towering structures, with marbles and cars to make tunnels, bridges, and marble runs, or even with dolls to create doll houses.
The Board Gamer
Qwirkle by Mindware $24.95 (five+ years) – My son got this strategic domino and Scrabble-like game for his fifth 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 reasoning. It’s also a great critical thinking game that’s challenging and engaging for kids and adults alike. This is one that our family is sure to be playing for years to come.
Crayola Oil Pastels $5.99 (two+ years) – 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. The compact size and inexpensive price of these fancy crayons make them the perfect stocking stuffer.
The Great Pretender
Melissa & Doug Puppets starting at $19.99 (three+ years) – When most parents think “make believe” their brains go straight to dress up (which is fantastic for kids), but don’t forget about the wonderful play potential of puppets too. They’re great for storytelling and for learning about emotions.
These are very high-quality puppets that remind me of the type real puppeteers would use. If you want to go all out, Melissa & Doug also has a nice puppet theater. We also really like the creative component of this Deluxe Fuzzy Make-Your-Own Monster Puppet kit.
Kickback Soccer Goal and Pitch Back by Step2 $34.99 (three to seven years) – This versatile set gives you a lot of bang for your buck. It includes a soccer ball, two hockey sticks, a street hockey puck and a pitch back ball. That means young kids can use this to play soccer and hockey as well as to practice their pitching and catching with the pitch back feature of the net. If you have a little sports lover, this set will give him or her lots of ways to have fun outside for a wallet-friendly price.
Red Vintage Kitchen by KidKraft $149.99 (two to eight years) – The play kitchen is a quintessential play toy that I would recommend for every child if you have the space and budget. There are so many different ways kids can play with them – cooking at home, setting up a restaurant, having a tea party, going shopping and unloading the groceries, etc.
We bought this one for the kids two years ago (when they were one and three), and couldn’t be happier with it. I really like the look of the thing and I think the vibrant red is gender neutral. Despite a small footprint, this kitchen still has all the amenities 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 95th 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!
Backyard Safari Field Scope/Insecto-Scope by Summit $9.99 (four to twelve years) – This scope’s large, easy-to-handle design is perfect for little hands. Kids can trap whatever they want under it, then use the light and knob for 6x magnification. Bonus: A lot of parents also report kits like these helping their little ones to overcome their bug phobias.