Holiday shopping for kids is never an easy task, but this year, the desire to procure the perfect present is stronger than ever. Between remote learning, quarantining, and other disruptions, it's been a year of "No" for so many — all we want is to give these children something to scream "Yes!" about.
Whether you're shopping for a baby who won't stop putting things in their mouth, a rambunctious toddler who simply can't comprehend the art of sitting still, an adventurous kid who'd be psyched to unwrap anything on wheels, or a quiet tween who spends all their time crafting in their room, there's at least one thing here for every interest and age. Prepare yourself: You're about to make the lucky coder, crafter, dreamer, architect, musician, scientist, athlete, caretaker, artist — you name it — in your life so, so happy.
Babies don't need much, it's true, but that never stopped anyone from overdoing it in the gifting department. These eye-catching finds are designed to stimulate the minds of infants who are really just getting used to their newfangled senses. They’ll love teething on a silicone car from the Museum of Modern Art shop; feeling the textures and hearing the soothing crinkle of the Jellycats sea creature themed fabric book; watching and listening to the lights and sounds of the push light-up guitar from Gund. And that Oli & Carol zebra bracelet isn’t just a high-contrast accessory — it’s a teether, too. Brilliant.
Ah, the period when infants transition into toddlerhood and mental leaps abound. The toys we've chosen here will help little ones practice their fine motor skills and underscore the whole cause-and-effect thing they're so enthralled by. Push the sticks into the Le Toy Van cloud and try to catch them as they hop into the air. Watch the cars glide from the top to the bottom of the Plan Toys ramp, falling through discreet holes along the way. The Aila tablet comes pre-loaded with a preschool curriculum to introduce toddlers to colors, the ABCs, and more, all while encouraging them to sit up. And Fisher-Price's Rollin’ Rovee will sing, dance, and play catch with them (so that you don't have to).
At this age, investing in toys that will encourage endless hours of imaginative play — like the foldable Melissa & Doug dollhouse that keeps small accessories contained or the Haba doorway puppet theater that folds away like a bedsheet — is where it’s at. A collapsible climbing triangle from Wiwiurka is one way to keep young kids active, especially indoors. The magnetic Making Faces set from Moon Picnic is perfect for travel and also can be used as a tool to teach children about the range of emotions and how to express their own. And who wouldn't love having their very own Step2 unicorn roller coaster to ride whenever they please?
Children are a bit more independent at this age and many are already technologically savvy. In the world of interactive toys, the FurReal Moodwings Baby Dragon is a bundle of unpredictable moods and will keep kids on their toes. The newest Baby Alive toy can eat, pee, and cry like previous generations, but this one literally “grows” into a toddler. Unlike most other “aging” toys, this one can be reset to baby mode again and again. For more analog options, the Kiko+ & gg toy telephone is the perfect prop for so many pretend scenarios, and the Plan Toys car motor is a great way to introduce curious minds to the inner workings of an automobile. For the creatives, painting with pompoms just may become their new favorite hobby.
Perhaps your gift recipient is on the track to become the next Marie Curie or Steve Jobs. Maybe arts and crafts has been their passion since their first finger-painting session in diapers, or they’re already schooling you on how to use your new device. Here’s an array of smile-inducing gifts for curious, imaginative minds, including an alien-themed chemistry set from Learning Resources’ award-winning Beaker Creatures line; a build-your-own computer kit courtesy of Kano; L.O.L. Surprise’s 95-piece winter-themed dollhouse; and a toy archery set with felt-tipped arrows from Tangerine Toys. There’s even a dancing dog from the new toy line Pet Starz that will repeat everything it hears.
There’s a secret to shopping for this tricky age: Don’t be too hard on yourself. If we’re being totally honest, they’re probably holding their breath for some cold, hard cash, but they're not too old to play with toys: Mandelorian fans will fall for Hasbro’s animatronic “The Child” toy, which coos like a baby in your arms, or Mattel’s remote-controlled baby Yoda that can glide around the house. We also found a light-up basketball from Tangle that glows like a gilded orb; the latest Harry Potter LEGO set; and a pottery painting subscription box (you can also opt to just buy them one at a time), the proceeds of which go toward art therapy sessions for pediatric hospital patients.
This year, we've compiled a whole section of gifts that adults and kids alike can experience and enjoy together, because this winter is likely to mean more togetherness than ever. An affordable, quality projector from Vankyo (highly rated on Amazon) will make movie nights more exciting. To force some bonding moments, a scratch-off Adventure Challenge book will do the trick. And these new games will make family game nights a win: Hands Full! is a cross between Bop-It and Twister, while Upsidedown Challenge is guaranteed to make people laugh until it hurts. Seriously, you try pouring a glass of water while wearing these disorienting glasses.