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This past summer I made the decision to ditch the scale. Then the school year started and all the kids went back to school and this was the first year ever that ALL the kids were in school and so instead of getting tons of stuff done in September I kind of went hog wild […]
It’s nearly November and, in my world, that means one big thing. I’ve been behind the scenes working like crazy on this year’s MPMK Gift Guides.
If you don’t know, our gifts guides have become somewhat famous and lots and lots (and lots!) of parents use them each year to find the perfect gift for their kids.
That’s a lot of pressure! And I work really hard to try to live up to the expectations.
Where do I research? Everywhere.
Every year I spend hours upon hours talking to friends, school teachers and even toy store owners as well as reading reviews, polling our readers, and scouring toy award lists to come up with these finds.
I am really close to debuting this year’s guide but while you wait just a little longer, here’s some good news:
#1) The cornerstone of my toy guides is finding tried and true toys that last the test of time and provide long lasting play value (the kinds of toys your kids return to again and again, being continually engaged and stimulated by them).
Because of that, each year only about 10% of my recommendations are the flashy new toys of the year… Which means that the guides from this year will be about 90% the same as last year. So if you are on-top-of-it and ready to shop now, you can already find tons of great recommendations in last years’ gift guides.
#2) Although the complete guides aren’t quite ready yet, I’ve got a sneak peek for you today… The top 20 new toys of the year!
One last thing, I do my best throughout the year to keep our readers up-to-date on any sales I see on our gift guide items. To be in the loop, be sure to:
Top 20 New Toys of 2016
#1 Bugs in the Kitchen by Ravensburger $19.99 (2 – 9 years)
Put out by Ravensburger, a time-honored producer of wonderfully stimulating games, Bugs in the Kitchen is one of the most interesting new games I’ve seen in a while! If you already have a hex bug lover in your house, then this one is a no-brainer. If not, this is a great way to introduce the awesome little robot bugs.
But even if hex bugs aren’t your kiddo’s thing, there is still a lot to love about this engaging and straight-forward game. Big on fun, action, and building critical thinking skills, kids will absolutely love playing with while flexing their thinking ahead and strategy skills.
I’ve also noticed that my 2 1/2-year-old likes to play with some of his big siblings games all on his own during quiet time and I think this one will be a hit with him for that reason as well. If you have multiple kids in the house and they’re all past the mouthing stage, this one could be a winner with them all (which is always worth the money in my book!)
#2 Kangaroo’s Pretend Doctor Kit with Light Up X-Ray Machine $29.95 (2 – 8 years)
A quality doctor kit is an excellent dramatic play toy for both boys and girls. Kids like being patients but really enjoy the power involved in getting to play care-taker (which can be really nice when your tired because you can play with your child by basically laying still and playing “patient”). These kits are also nice for easing doctor visit anxiety.
This new kit from Kangaroo has an unprecedented amount of unique props that do some really cool things– too many to list here in fact!
This includes battery operated instruments such as the thermometer (press tip down and see the temp change), the stethoscope that plays a heart beat, the x-ray machine, heart monitor, and blood pressure monitor that have actions and lights, the light up otoscope, spring-back syringe and so much more! It also include some great imagination props like glasses, a clip board and x-ray sheets.
You get a lot of bang for your buck with this toy and, accordingly, it gets a lot of rave reviews.
#3 LEGO Duplo My First Number Train Building Set $14.99 (18 – 36 months)
There’s a lot to love about this duplo set, perfect for introducing your toddler to LEGOs. Duplos are the perfect size for 1 1/2 – 3 year old hands and the addition of numbers makes it that much more engaging.
Plus, it’s a train! What toddler doesn’t love trains?! And when they do get board with the train, kids can rebuild into a tunnel, building or dog house with a roof that opens!
You can’t beat the price either. This is a go-to gift for any toddler birthday party or any toddler on your Christmas list this year.
#4 LeapFrog LeapStart Interactive Learning System for Preschool & Pre-Kindergarten $29.99 (2-4 years)
This is the pre-cursor to the Leapfrog Leapreader Reading and Writing System that I rave about in my Top Learning Toys for Independent Play Gift Guide. It’s a great toy for your older toddler who is becoming interested in naming letters, numbers, etc. and who wants tablets and books all their own. The magic behind LeapStart is a stylus that reads invisible dots on every page of the books triggering engaging audio like questions, challenges, songs, jokes and more to teach school and life skills in new, exciting ways.
This is also a fantastic toy to start to introduce “quiet time” or, as we call it, “me time”. This is something that you REALLY, REALLY want to introduce around this age, even just for 15 – 20 minutes, trust me!
I really appreciate the large number of books that are available as add-ons with this system as well as the fact that most replayable activities are designed with two levels so that kids can play and learn at the right level and move up when they’re ready. Highly considering it for under our own Christmas tree this year.
#5 Hot Wheels Criss Cross Crash Set $38.88 (2 – 12 years)
My 8-year-old son just got this for his birthday and I can tell you that the 2-year-old and 6-year-old (and, let’s be honest, the 35-year-old) in our house love it just as much as he does. The great thing about this particular Hot Wheels set is that it’s self-contained. Not meant to be connected to anything else, it’s enough fun all on it’s own.
As the name would suggest, the cars rocket around the four loops at crazy fun speed and smash into each other. Sometimes this happens almost immediately, sometimes they go for an exciting amount of time before their inevitable doom.
This is one of those rare toys that is fun to play all alone or during a play date with a group of friends. My son especially loves trying to predict which car will outlast the others and challenging himself to see how many cars he can get racing around the track before they crash.
I highly recommend this particular Hot Wheels set for the play value, price, and the fewer number of pieces making setup and take down easier and quicker than a lot of other sets.
#6 Doc McStuffins Hospital Care Cart $39.99 (2 – 8 years)
Just like it’s predecessor, the Doc McStuffins Vet Checkup Center, this new Hospital Care Cart packs a lot of play punch. The mobile cart features a light & sound patient scanner with two interchangeable cards, a talking EKG area with a printout EKG roller, a kid powered blood pressure pump, a real working drawer, and a patient bed.
If your child is a fan of Doc McStuffins, pretend play, animals, or all of the above, they will play with this thing for hours on end giving their stuffed animals top notch healthcare.
The great news is that, unlike the Vet Checkup Center, the Hospital Care Cart has a great price tag for a toy this size. That could go up as Christmas gets closer but for now it’s a great deal.
#7 Fisher-Price Think and Learn Code-a-Pillar $39.27 (3 – 8 years)
The coding trend in toys is here to stay- and with good reason. Basic understanding of computer program is a big deal in today’s world. Code-a-pillar is one of the new Think & Learn toys from Fisher-Price that goes beyond ABCs and 123s to help children learn how to think independently. Each toy fosters 21st century skills like curiosity, experimentation and problem solving in ways kids haven’t seen before. They’re engaged in hands-on, open-ended discovery that helps them become lifelong learners.
The perfect first coding toy, kids use the sections to program the caterpillar to move around obstacles they set up, from start to finish. This is one I highly recommend for siblings of multiple ages as they can enjoy it in different ways and work together as a team to achieve their goals. Santa will be brining it to my 2, 6 and 8 year olds this year!
Hint: Reviewers have noted that the addition of the basic expansion pack that includes pieces for 90 degree turns really helps curb kids’ frustration, especially in tight spaces.
#8 Fur Real Friends Torch, My Blazin’ Dragon $59.00 (3 – 8 years)
Another hot item in the tech toys genre this year is the newest Fur Real Friend (this sweet dog on a leash from the line is also a BIG hit with girls). Torch doesn’t hatch out of his own egg but he does breath fire – or at least flame colored mist- so pick you poison?! (Wondering how this works? One reviewer wrote, “The red misting he does is pretty impressive indeed. It’s a SUPERfine mist, combined with the red throat light, makes it look like fire and dragon smoke for sure.“)
Along with his signature party trick, Torch also makes a variety of cute little sounds when his nose is pet – chortling, gurgling, burbs, sneezes, purring sounds, meow like sounds, snoring – and turns his head and blinks his eyes. Parents also remark that he is markedly cuter than other robotic plush toys and this inspires nurturing type play in their kids. Also, because he doesn’t try to do 300 different things, he’s fairly low on the parent annoyance scale!
Hint: Make sure you buy C batteries as he doesn’t come with any.
#9 Shopkins Happy Places House Playset $29.99 (4 – 9 years)
Shopkins has a new dollhouse out that, although it doesn’t look like much, is sure to please any Shopkins lover you have at home. It’s a great place for your child to play with all those Shopkins they’ve been collecting- arranging and re-arranging them to their heart’s content.
One reviewer wrote, “Heavy duty playhouse for Shopkins. My daughter received this for her birthday along with the individual room sets (bought separately) and she loves redecorating each room. Good quality. If your little one loves Shopkins this is a great addition for them.”
#10 MegaBloks American Girl Building Sets starting at $9.34 (4 – 12 years)
I’m so impressed with this line of LEGO-like building sets for girls. First of all, it’s American Girl brand, so that’s guaranteed to attract a lot of girls, even those who don’t gravitate towards building. Second, each set has a lot to it for girls to not only build, but also use as props during imaginary play- something girls are known to love to engage in.
There are a large variety of sets to chose from. I’m loving the Horse Stables Construction Set as well as Saige’s Art Studio and at $2 – $4 a piece, the American Girl figurines make great add-ons to any of the sets or stocking stuffers!
#11 Hatchimals $59.99 (5 – 9 years)
These interactive, magical creatures that come (and eventually hatch out of) their own egg are The “It” Toy of the Year! Every elementary aged girl I know, including my kindergartener daughter, has one at the very top of her list and as of this writing in late October they are sold out everywhere.
The magic in this toy is how kids are encouraged to nurture it both to come out of it’s egg (tap and it will tap back) and once it’s in the world (Give your Hatchimal a name and raise it through 3 stages: from baby, to toddler, to kid). My suspicion is that this toy isn’t quite as cool once it hatches, but it does do a lot (walk, talk, dance, play games, and more) and though you can’t put it back in the egg, you can start it over as a baby whenever you want.
Hopefully, they will be back in stock by Christmas- you can pre-order on Amazon now and they won’t charge you until it actually ships.
#12 Watch Ya’ Mouth Family Edition $19.73 (Reading age and up)
Last year the big hit for family game night was Pie Face (also now available in Pie Face Showdown version for this Christmas), this year it’s Watch Ya’ Mouth. This game has a similar amount of silly fun that will have every kid (ages 7 to 70) eager to play. Originated in viral videos and launched on Kickstarter the game has teams of players, hampered by cheek retractors like those used at the dentist, attempt to read and interpret/speak out phrases.
One reviewer wrote, “Not only does it make you look funny but it makes you talk funny. Each player wears a mouth piece and picks a card. The other players have to guess what your trying to say. Most the time we laughed so hard we couldn’t even finish reading the cards before the timer ran out. This is a great game for all ages. I recommend it to everyone.”
#13 Lil Lockitz starting at $7.99 (5 – 12 years)
My 6-year-old daughter loves, loves making rainbow looms for her friends and trading them with her friends. So, I’ve been looking around to see if there were any other jewelry-making kits that would equally capture her interest. I think Lil Lockitz is definitely it.
Last month my husband purchased this rubber band refill set and she absolutely loved the charms that came with it… The Lil Lockitz sets are all about charms. The sets supply kids with gems, backgrounds and charms to fill and personalize each locket. Kids love the ability to customize the locket to fit their personality and if boys aren’t into the necklaces, there are bracelets and keychains to be made too.
Plus they’re large and easy to manipulate. And, like any good toy, there are a million different themed sets available. This Christmas I’m leaning towards starting my daughter off with the Best Friend Party Pack,which comes with a photo puncher to use your own photos in the lockets.
#14 Spy Gear Video Walkie Talkies $40.99 (5 – 12 years)
Walkie talkies have always been a fun toy for kids to play with siblings or when friends are over, but this set really takes it up a notch. You can not only hear, but also see, the person you’re talking to at a range of up to 160 feet and WITHOUT any wifi or data required. Parents report that the video quality is good too.
I know my kids are going to think this is super cool. I think it’s going to get them up and moving both inside and outside and playing nicely together (something that doesn’t always happen around here these days). That’s more than enough for me!
#15 Barbie Careers Line of Dolls Starting at $12.97 (5 – 10 years)
I’ll admit it, I’m not a huge Barbie fan… but that doesn’t mean my daughter doesn’t love her. So when looking for Barbie dolls for her, I try to compromise by at least going for the lines that I see as having the most play value and setting the best example.
The careers line is one that fits the bill. Instead of putting the emphasis on clothes, it focuses on various occupations and sets up girls to focus on those things in their play.
Also, the props that come with some of the sets are pretty cool and you really can’t beat the price – perfect as a birthday party gift or for a deluxe stocking stuffer!
Especially notable options include:
- Barbie Careers Eye Doctor Playset $16.58
- Barbie Careers Game Developer $12.97
- Barbie Careers Farm Vet $23.99
#16 DC Super Hero Girls Collection starting at $11.99 (5 – 10 years)
Speaking of dolls that send the right message to our girls, I’m loving the new line of DC Super Hero Girls. Not only do they have a very fun look, they also send a great message of empowerment. I also really appreciate the articulating limbs so kids (both girls and boys!) can use them for acting out all sorts of super hero moves. You can buy the larger 12″ dolls individually or go in for the 6″ versions in a three pack or six pack.
#17 Pokeman Z-Ring Set $29.99 (6 – 12 years)
If you’ve got a Pokeman lover at home, this will make you the most popular Mommy/Daddy/Grandparent/Aunt/Uncle around! All by itself, this Z-Ring bracelet with light up crystals is great for dramatic Pokeman play. The “Z-Ring” holds up to 7 crystals (3 come with it), each of which display different lights, colors and vibrations when the button on the bracelet is pushed.
If your child has a Nintendo 3DS, they can also use the Z-ring to physically experience the game. While wearing the Z-ring and playing the new Pokeman Sun or Moon games, kids are able to feel to feel the electric-type Z-moves at the same time as they appears in the video game.
#18 Simon Air $16.44 (6 – 12 years)
This is the super cool, futuristic version of the original addictive memory game we all knew and loved as kids. My son went nuts for Simon when I introduced it to him and I knew I had found a great toy. Afterall, what’s not to love about something that doesn’t have a bunch of pieces to scatter around the house, will entertain the kids for an hour or more, and is less than 20 bucks?
The new touch-free technology that senses movement only adds to the fun and is a hit when playing alone or with friends. This one is becoming our go-to for birthday parties, it’s always opened with a big smile.
#19 SmartLab Toys Secret Formula Lab $29.99 (8+ years)
This is the science kit you always wanted as a kit, but didn’t really exist- a kid-friendly chemistry set that actually looks legit. The big fun here is in the apparatus. The beakers and test tubes are connected to each other via tubes and a plunger that make it possible to pump chemicals from one to the next and create lots of cool concoctions. Check out the video to see how it works.
I’m seriously considering this one as for my 8-year-old this year as I know it’s something he’ll have a lot of fun with on his own or with me. I also love that the kit comes with the chemicals required for the “40 epic experiments” and only requires the addition of basic kitchen ingredients, so we can play with it right out of the box.
This one looks like the rare STEM toy that will get kids excited about science in a way that involves something other than programming and technology. That gets a big gold star from me!
With the massive resurgence of Star Wars this year, I just couldn’t leave it off the list- but which toy to chose? Here are a few favorites:
- Interachtech Imperial Storm Trooper $29.84 – brand new interactive figure with over 65 sound effects and phrases, also compatible with the Hasbro Star Wars Studio FX app
- The Force Awakens Chewbacca Electronic Mask $23.99 – made famous by that lady on youtube who can’t stop laughing, this mask really is as fun as she makes it look.
- Star Wars Bop it! Game $20.62 – Just like the original Bop it! game, you have to push, pull, and twist but this time you’re doing so on R2D2 as C3PO calls out commands.
- Star Wars Pillow Buddies starting at $12 – Eight different options to choose to cuddle up to including Chewbacca, Yoda, and Kylo Ren.
- LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon $119.99 – It’s LEGOs and the Millennium Falcon. Enough said.
*Post contain affiliate links.
P.S. See all 15 of our 2016 Gift Guides here.
Still want more ideas? Don’t forget to check out all 10 of the MPMK Gift Guides,organized by your child’s interest, including:
Plus, our five guides organized by age:
If you like these recommendations, I encourage you to pin or bookmark them for later when you’re ready to start shopping. I would also love it if you forwarded the list on to your parenting friends or shared it on facebook – trust me, your friends will thank you for the help and you get to be the cool mom (or dad) with all the best resources. It’s a win-win.
Also, don’t forget for even more recommendations and alerts when we spot our gift guide items on sale:
The post MPMK Gift Guides: Hottest 20 New Toys of the Year! appeared first on Modern Parents Messy Kids.
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