From robots to race cars, the holiday toy lineup has never been stronger. Whether you like to fly planes, ride horses, play games or build things, there’s something cool for you.
Hundreds of thousands of toys and games were displayed in February at the 2016 Toy Fair in New York, filling a space bigger than seven football fields! Stephanie Oppenheim, KidsPost’s go-to toy expert, was there. Oppenheim and her mother have been toy testers for decades (yes, that is an actual job). They get kids and other adults to rate the newest toys, too.
“The biggest trend this year are toys that introduce kids to coding and robots that take what they do to an entirely new level,” she says. “These are truly 21st century toys that will be game-changers” for what we will expect from toys in the future.
Check out her top picks below and online at kidspost.com and toyportfolio.com. Prices listed are those suggested by the manufacturer. Shop around and you might find a better deal. Toys are available in many stores unless noted.
— Journey Girls Dolls, New York 2016
Toys R Us, $39.99 each.
Ages 6 to 12. At Toys R Us.
These seven BFFs have been globe-trotting since 2010, choosing a different vacation spot each year. Last year it was Italy. This year it’s New York, where the girls will take in the sights and sounds of the Big Apple and make a new friend, Ilee.
– American Girl Melody (and book)
American Girl, $115.
Age 8 and older. At American Girl.
Melody is an African American girl growing up in Detroit, Michigan, in the 1960s. Her book, “No Ordinary Sound,” looks at the emerging U.S. civil rights movement, Motown music and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
Age 6 and older.
Yikes! There’s a hexbug on the loose and it’s after you! The first player to move all of her own bugs to safety wins. But watch out: That sneaky hexbug could be lurking in one of the game’s drain pipes, just waiting to bump you off.
– Dr. Eureka
Blue Orange, $19.99.
Age 8 and older.
Looking for a fun science game? We have found it. This brainteaser challenges you to move molecules (marbles) from one test tube to another without touching them with your hands or dropping them. You can play with friends or go solo.
– Sushi Go Party!
Age 8 and older.
This yummy party platter expands on the original Sushi Go! game. You still earn points by picking winning sushi combinations, but the menu is bigger and you can choose your own dishes. Up to eight people can eat – er, we mean play – at a time.
Age 10 and older.
The twist to this card game is that everyone plays at the same time. So if you’re not super-duper fast at spotting colors, numbers and patterns, another player could solve the challenge first and claim all the points.
ARTS & CRAFTS
– It’s My Life Scrapbook
Creativity for Kids, $19.99.
Age 7 and older.
This kit puts the “keep” in keepsakes. The scrapbook has 16 colorful pages and plastic sleeves for items that need special care. Rhinestones, a marker, stencils and 200-plus stickers add to the fun. As a bonus, there is a mini-scrapbook keychain for your backpack.
– 3Doodler Start (pen sets)
WobbleWorks, $49.99-$99.99 (mega set).
Age 8 and older. At 3Doodlerstart.com.
Coolest toy ever, some kids say after using this pen to draw 3D objects in the air! The pen charges via computer. The special plastic comes out warm, not hot, and can be shaped for about 30 seconds before it hardens. The mega set has more plastic and eight stencils.
BUILD & PLAY
– Playmobil Furnished Children’s Hospital
Ages 5 to 10.
This 291-piece kit comes fully equipped for the would-be doctor. There’s an exam table, children’s room, nursery and working elevator! Medical supplies and tools are everywhere. Three adult figures, one child and a baby make up the staff and patients.
– The Magic School Bus Human Body Lab
Young Scientists Club, $39.99.
Ages 5 to 12.
No bones about it, this toy is both fun and educational. By the time you build the 17-inch skeleton, you will know the name of every bone in your body! And you will learn about fingerprinting, taking a pulse and other health tasks. Kids younger than 8 will need an adult’s help.
– Lego Friends Heartlake Riding Club
Ages 6 to 12.
Horse lovers will spend hours playing at the Heartlake stable. There are two horses to groom, two mini-dolls to do it, two stables to do it in and all the equipment you need in this 575-piece set. There’s even a teensy mouse, because every stable needs at least one! Adult help may be needed for setup.
– GoldieBlox Invention Mansion
Ages 6 to 12. At GoldieBlox.com.
Design your own mansion with Goldie, the first girl engineer toy. Want a trap door in your house? A zip line? A bridge? Let your imagination soar. No two mansions are alike. This company was started by a woman who loves engineering and wants you to love it, too. Adult hands may be needed.
– Rebel U-Wing Fighter
Ages 8 to 14.
We’ve got a good feeling about this toy, the latest in Lego’s “Star Wars” series. Let’s count some of the reasons: five minifigures, four big engines, three blasters and two blaster pistols in a 659-piece kit. Also new this year: Lego’s Resistance X-Wing Fighter. Same price. Same fun.
(more costly items)
– Dash Robot
Wonder Workshop, $149.99.
Age 5 and older. At Makewonder.com.
Dash introduces kids to beginning programming, with hundreds of puzzles to challenge the young robotics fan. The toy works with Apple, Android and Kindle devices. It’s ready to use right away, but Santa may want to charge it beforehand so it’s good to go. Users 8 and older: Check out the Blockly app.
– Lego Friends Amusement Park Roller Coaster
Ages 8 to 12.
Spend a fun day at the amusement park on the four-car roller coaster, drop tower and spinning Ferris wheel. Feeling hungry? Check out the hot dog and popcorn stands. With 1,124 pieces, this fun-packed kit will keep hands busy for hours and hours.
– CHiP Interactive Robot Pet Dog
Ages 8 to 15. At Wowwee.com.
This Canine Home Intelligent Pet, or ChiP, is always ready to play. He can learn tricks, chase a ball (and bring it back!) and nuzzle your nose. Like a real dog, he’ll tell you when he’s hungry; unlike a real dog, there’s no mess to clean up afterward. Download the free app for more fun. (Did you know KidsPost’s mascot is also named CHIP?)
– Max Traxxx Tracer Racers Remote Control Showdown Set
Age 8 and older.
This may be the Indy 500 of Max Traxxx sets. Classic Mustang and Camaro cars race one another down 60 feet of glow-in-the-dark track. Variable-speed remote control units make this perfect for both beginning racers and old pros. There are smaller sets in the series for those not quite ready for major motor sports.
Age 8 and older. At Anki.com.
“Cute” and “adorable” are just two of the words used to describe this little bot with the big personality. Like a good robot, he’ll obey your commands (some of the time), and play tricks on you at other times. Cozmo works with Apple and Android devices. New games are unlocked the more you play.