I’ve scoured my friend’s houses and studied scores of children playing at our local library to find out what the top toys are in 2016.
Unlike other toy review lists, I’m not getting paid to write these reviews.
So if you’re looking for a gift for your kid for the holidays- this is the last place you’ll need to go. It’s real, honest reviews from a real mom with no alternative motives.
What’s more – these aren’t toys that’ll take up room only to entertain your little one for a mere five minutes.
I’ve carefully selected only the toys that are going to burn that stir-crazy bundle of wiggles you’re snowed in with this year.
Most importantly, I’ll say it again: I’m not getting paid to promote any of these toys.
Get ready to laugh, stretch, learn, and get your kid nice and sleepy so mommy can sip that special holiday cider.
Stocking Stuffers ($10 & Under)
Best Stocking Stuffers for Age 6 Months +
Before my son could stack these blocks, he loved when we would stack them and he could knock them down. At two years old, he still loves pointing out the animals and colors. One day, I can’t wait for him to use them to build little houses and match up the colors, shapes, animals, and transportation figures in lines.
Best Stocking Stuffers for Toddlers Age One Year +
Watercolor paints | $1 – $5
I can’t stand how many fun things there are to do with watercolor paints.
My son is obsessed with eggs so we paint eggs that we giggle when we crack in the morning… or we paint the egg carton. It’s so sturdy. You’ll see one trick for travel that I’ve shared in my book Go Baby Go, I love coloring PIZZA BOXES. They’re huge, have tons of room to paint on, and it’s awesome to use something that would otherwise get thrown away.
I’ve found that coloring books are hard with toddlers because they don’d hold up well to the little curious, uncoordinated hands of my little one. (He always wants to flip the pages, making the endeavor messier than it has to be.)
Indispensable for plane, car, or train travel, these books allow your child to color with water and dozens of colors, but only one pen. When you fill the pen with water it lasts an incredibly long time. Special secret pictures appear in the basic photo when you add water. It’s so fun for a child as young as 9 months but just as fun for 3 and 4 year-olds who use it more independently.
It may not be summer, but you can still play with sand! (without the mess)
My son goes crazy for his bulldozer kinetic sand kit. Target carries a Frozen and Bulldozer version, but for a bit cheaper I found one that only had the bulldozer and sand. I liked that version better because with only two “pieces”, it was a great toy to bring into restaurants to let him play with. What’s more, he loved to concentrate on stamping the sand carefully with the wheels of the truck.
* I found a cheaper version at Target for $10
Walkers are great, but my son got to the age that he was sick of the “toy” and wanted to use something that mimicked real life. Enter my son’s little pink stroller. For $10 at Target, this stroller was the best money I could spend on a gift that has tons of uses. He carts my laundry around the house. He pushes his friends in the stroller. He even pushes his stuffed animals.
This has been my son’s #1 go-to toy in restaurants for at least 8 months. The Peek N’ Peep Eggs are designed brilliantly. Here are all the games you can play with this simple gift:
- You can line up the puzzle pieces on the bottom of the eggs.
- You can remove and replace the chicks
- You can line up the chick’s eyes in the peep holes when you close it
- You can learn colors and shapes
- You can press the chicks to make them “peep”
Best Gifts 2016 Age One Year +
Hunter loves his froggy so much I’ve considered taking it on planes with me, but decided that his Trunki would suffice. If I’m traveling by car, I bring it with me and he pulls it to breakfast, up and down the escalator, and through hotel lobbies. The frog “hops” when you push it and unlike other pull toys, it has a low center of gravity and sturdy base so it doesn’t topple over when your little one runs, turns, or goes up stairs with it.
Best Baby Gifts ($20-$50)
Best Gifts for Babies Age 6 Mos.+
We have a ton of baby brain-boosting music toys, but this one is the most amazing. The music plays more clearly than other music cubes and the buttons are easy to press for teensy wee ones. As you press buttons, the music adds or takes away the instruments you press, making this fun for babies as well as adults! I can’t say enough about this toy!
I never traveled without my Graco Bumper Jumper until my son was about 12 months old. He loved having a place to stretch his legs, gain mobility, and I loved how simply and sturdily it fit in door frames. I love that this jumper has attachable toys, but I used the links to attach different toys or books every time he used it. I’ve purchased a lot of jumpers on the road and this one, with it’s easy clean tray, has been my favorite.
Best Gifts for Age 1 Year +
At nearly two years old, he’s still obsessed with this toy. Daddy even gets his friends to join in for a game of horse when the adults are playing with Hunter. It’s actually a hilarious drinking game. This toy has some lights and great music with fun, exciting sounds when the child makes a goal or a basket in the basketball feature. It’s very gentle indoors but sturdy enough for outdoors. He starts sitting in front of the buttons and basket but it grows for YEARS with your little one as he begins to throw the basketball or kick the soccer ball.
I DO NOT travel without my Trunki. Hunter loves pushing it through airports, digging in on planes to see what toys and snacks mommy has packed, and when we’re at our destination, it’s a clean way to keep his toys in one safe place (like a traveling toy box).
My son was a late walker (15 months) so we received at least three walkers for his 1-year birthday. Of all the walkers we have, this is the only one that he played with for almost a whole year. It’s very sturdy so even children who aren’t walking well can push it. Plus, it doesn’t get so much momentum when you push it that the child propels forward out of control. What’s more, we trashed the thing and turned it into a Mommy push toy. I push Hunter around in this thing for at least twenty minutes a day. We’ve trashed the walker but it amazingly still has wheels on it!
Best Santa Gifts ($51-$100)
Best Gifts For Toddlers Ages 18 Months +
This bike doesn’t have any pedals so it’s appropriate for children as soon as they feel comfortable sitting on it. Because the wheels are so soft, we’ve allowed our son to play with this indoors and he loves it! We once returned from a trip and couldn’t find it so Hunter ran around the house yelling, “bike! BIKE?!” until we uncovered it. (I called a friend who was house sitting to discover it was outside by our fishing gear.)
Mama’s A Boss Best Baby Gifts ($100+)
Best Gifts for Toddlers Age 18 mos. +
Don’t save the extra $50 and buy a trampoline that doesn’t have the safety net. It’s just too risky with little ones. I love to use this in the winter time to burn my son’s incredible excess energy in the evenings.
This bouncer wins as the best rated for ease of setup, appropriate floor space, safety (note net walls) and durability. (You won’t have to blow it up every five minutes.) Give your kid the chance to burn winter wiggles off and keep it indoors!
Best Gifts for Children Age 2+
My son received his Strider on his first birthday but hasn’t shown interest yet (21 months at time of this article) unless I’m pushing him around. YouTube Toddler Strider races – it’s the cutest thing once kids get the hang of it! There are no pedals so it’s totally toddler-friendly!
Best Gifts for Age 3+
You’ll get this if and only if your kid is begging for it. But thankfully, it’s pretty cool.
Although this is the most overpriced plastic toy imaginable (with high demand during the holidays)… it really has a lot of fun tricks. Our favorite feature is the “zipline” you can stick anywhere in the house. It ignites your child’s imagination. And best yet, there are tons of additional features you can purchase if your little one wants to, say, wear a PJ Masks character costume to bed or for dressup.
If you’re on a budget: beware! Catboy and his Car come with this set but you’ll have to order additional Gekko and Owlette figures with cars, and a villain, to boot!
My son adores looking through photos from our travels together. I design the albums to have neat shapes and bright colors so that we can use them for education. However, we also love to learn the faces and names of family and friends (and their pets) that we don’t see often. The Shutterfly “Lay Flat” pages are a $60 upgrade that’s ineligible for coupons (shucks!) but makes the pages indestructible for groping toddler hands.
Read more about Hunter and my fascinating travels here.
Best Books For Children’s Christmas Gifts
Bath Books For Kids
Babyfaces Board Books by Roberta Grobel Intrater (Splash! is our favorite)
Found You Magic Fish by Moira Butterfield and Jeremy Child
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Book & Squirty Set by Eric Carle
Touch ‘n Feel Interactive Books For Kids
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle
Jungly Tails by JellyCat
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Best Bedtime Books For Kids
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Is There Really A Human Race? And others by Jamie Lee Curtis
Beautifully illustrated and written these rhyming books are fun for mom and baby. I’ve purchased seven of her books for my nieces and three or four for Hunter. I’m in love with them.