Somehow this holiday season feels like it’s starting sooner than ever — maybe it’s just that we need that magic and cheer even more than usual this year! In the interest of lighting up little faces everywhere, Romper is thrilled to present Toy Box, our annual roundup of the year’s best toys for kids in every age group. Every item listed below has been carefully curated by our team of parenting editors and our toughest critics: our kids. Whether you’re looking to load up your sack with things that zoom, blink, sing, and cuddle, or are determined to find that one special toy a child will treasure forever (or at least till next year), you’ll find well over 100 winners here.
Now we know that not even Santa gets it right 100% of the time, but if all the hours of researching (read: playing) and smiles from our own children are any indication, we think we sorta did.
We only include products that have been independently selected by Romper's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
0-12 MONTHS: Colorful Bots & Insta Bait
What makes a good gift for a baby? The best toy for an infant will hold their attention for longer than two seconds, is age appropriate, and intriguing but not overly stimulating. The toys from this group are easy on the eyes and will activate Baby’s brain in more than one way: A Disney-themed recycling truck will help them practice their fine motor skills, a pop-up toy featuring the famous bird from Mo Willem’s Pigeon books series will teach Baby about cause and effect, and a simple selfie camera with bunny doodle will elicit tons of giggles from little ones.
Here’s a long-lasting toy that offers endless ways to play. Separate this friendly-looking robot into three parts, each of which acts as a separate toy with its own distinct features (ball popper, clicking knobs, lights, spinners, and more). Stacked, the toy becomes a moving bot that sings, dances, and plays games. It’s designed for babies as young as 6 months, and will keep most children up to age 5 well entertained.
You’ve likely seen stacking rainbow toys before, but these are made out of silicone which makes them lightweight and dishwasher safe. Free of BPA, PVC, latex, and phthalates, you also don’t have to freak out about it being used as an impromptu teether. Think of it as Baby’s first puzzle, and as a modern stacking toy for the Instagram-ready infant. If pastel’s not right vibe, it’s also available in a classic ROYGBIV palette.
12-24 MONTHS: Music & Wheels
At this age, children can really benefit from toys that engage multiple senses, and they’ll definitely start making their preferences known (if they haven’t already). We’ve got instruments for the musically inclined, an activity board that doubles as a walker for those taking their first steps, a splish splash tabletop water station that’s small enough to fit in the tub, and so much more. For CoComelon fans (ahem, every child in this age range), an interactive doll might become their new best friend, and Peppa fans will love a sit n’ spin decorated with their favorite English pig, even if it takes them a while to figure out how to use it. Once they do though, be warned: they’ll never want to let go of it.
CoComelon fans will truly flip for this new interactive JJ Doll that plays songs and phrases they’ve come to know, love, and listen to on repeat. The JJ doll can be undressed (so creative kids can outfit him in another toy’s clothes or their own), and he comes with a spoon and bowl of “magical” peas. Little ones can feed JJ by strategically placing the spoon against his mouth and watch the peas disappear. When they stick the spoon back in the bowl, the spoon will refill with more vegetables to feed JJ.
Made in partnership with Baby Einstein, the Hape Magic Touch Piano is part of a collection of first instruments (a drum and guitar are also offered) designed to introduce babies and toddlers to music. There are a few ways to play: as a traditional piano or with the accompanying song cards that teach children how to follow music by identifying colors as opposed to the actual notes. The keyboard can also identify the individual song cards and play an advanced version of the tune when prompted.
2-4 YEARS: Ride-Ons & Imaginative Play
Kids at this age really start to let their personality shine. Your special recipient might be perfectly content sitting quietly with an XL fidget popper (honestly, same). Or they might be type that’s always on the move and could really benefit from a ridiculously fancy gilded balance bike or a stationary safari truck designed for climbing. Perhaps their favorite person (other than you, of course), is the friendly mail carrier. These toys answer to all those personalities and more.
Hands down, essential workers have been the real-life superheroes of the past 19 months. Now your children can take imaginative superhero play to a whole new level with this ride-on USPS® mail delivery truck from Kid Trax. Designed for children 3-5 years old (up to 60 pounds), this one-person rideable comes with a mailbox and three envelopes. Not included: an adorable official mail carrier costume for kids, but you can pick that up from the USPS’s official website.
This talking Blippi doll wants to help kids perfect the art of getting ready. He’s got working suspender snaps, a zip-up jacket, buttons on his shirt, and shoes (hook and loop on one foot, and laces on the other) to help children practice those milestones in an adorable way.
4-6 YEARS: Cuddly Creatures & Multi-Tiered Towers
You’ll have a hard time keeping kids away from these toys. They’re the kind of gifts that everyone — even adults — will want a chance to play with, or at least will watch in fascination. An arm-hugging Koala is sure to make an appearance at the dinner table; kids will have hours of screen-free fun with one of the many multi-layered dollhouses, theme parks, and hero bases; and there are plenty of STEAM kits to teach curious kids the basics of how things work.
As far as interactive stuffed animals go, you can’t really beat this price point. For $25, get the special kid in your life the sweetest, cutest toy out there. This adorable “blushing” koala giggles, coos, snuggles, and cuddles when pet. Feed it a bit of pretend eucalyptus, and it farts. Position it against your arm and it will literally hold on (like how a real koala takes to a tree) and rub its face against you.
Chuckle & Roar enlisted an occupational therapist to come up with the activities for this sensory bin and it truly provides hours of entertainment with sand, letters, plastic bugs, tweezers, crinkle paper, water beads, and more. Kids will love digging through the bin and going through the various activities suggested activities (50!) again and again, as well as going rogue and come up with some fun ways to play on their own. All the pieces can be stored back in the blue bin.
6-9 YEARS: Tech & Surprises
At this age, you can’t go wrong with interactive toys, surprise toys, and tech items. Kids will love playing with the various interactive animals, taking and printing photos of their favorite things, and collecting surprise dumplings, tiny toys, and more. Some kids might just appreciate something to cuddle with, like a rose-scented doll or a Black Panther plush. Either way, there’s something here for the animal lover, tech enthusiast, musician, budding artist, and more.
This sturdy instant camera is so much more than a picture-taking device. Kids can take photos and slap one of 100+ fun filters or effects on it before printing it out in black and white to share or color, or both. The images are printed onto a paper roll that can fit about 80 prints. When kids are bored, they can play one of the dozens of games pre-loaded onto the device or print a classic game (like a maze or tic tac toe) to play in analog. The camera also has video recording capability and a micro SD card can be inserted for extra memory.
Last year’s “The Child” toys were a huge hit for good reason — people couldn’t get enough of Grogu’s adorable face, mannerisms, and sounds, especially when translated into a lifelike doll. This year’s interactive Grogu responds to a series of included accessories (a bowl of purple tentacles, a fancy French macaron, a shifter knob, and a spoon) and will express his pleasure or displeasure with each item. Even cuter — if that’s even possible — is that Grogu will lift both his arms up when he wants to be picked up and held. Yes, like a literal child.
TWEEN: Cool Gadgets for Cool Kids
Tweens. You love ‘em, but seriously, what are you supposed to give them? Honestly, cash is probably best, but some of us are not the money-giving-type so here’s a slew of presents that are cool, fun, interesting, and will earn you some well-deserved bragging rights.
Building this 806-piece Pikachu is only half the fun for brick lovers. Once assembled, the 12-inch figure can be posed in a variety of ways (sitting, standing or on all fours) thanks to its movable arms, legs, tail, and neck. The ears also can be maneuvered in any position, instantly changing Pikachu’s mood.
Meet Makena Williams, an American Girl doll who tackles social injustice head on. Her accompanying book, See Me, Hear Me, Know Me tells her story of experiencing racial injustice and includes advice on addressing racism in real life, a powerful tool all children and adults should be equipped with, no matter where they come from or what they look like.
FAMILY: Puzzles & Games
These family-friendly gifts are intended to bond kids and grownups alike. From cool versions of the classics (LEGO Harry Potter chess, anyone?) and the most Instagrammable Scrabble board, to the hottest game consoles, these games and puzzles can bring the whole family together, one competitive round at a time.
Mattel’s new Crossed Signals game really brings out the competitive side. A simple series of lights direct the player to move the controls a specific way. It may not sound complicated, but it can get hectic and intense fast. While it’s marketed for children 8 and up, younger ones will totally want to get in on the action once they see how much fun people are having and how easy it seems.
We’ve had months to perfect our puzzle skills and if you know a family that hasn’t taken their skills to the 3D frontier yet, it is time. This gradient sphere is hard, but not impossible — a perfect activity for a family that wants to get their bonding on. And it’ll look so great displayed once it’s complete.
The Best Of the Rest: More Finds
The sooner you shop, the sooner you can cross things off your list, so get to it.