Santa’s little helpers

Tell Santa to skip some of the bags of candy this year and consider these little gems as stocking stuffers!


Beaker Creatures

Beaker Creatures 

$9.99 | 5 and up

Why we love it: Our home testers loved this pseudo-science line of collectibles that lets kids unearth creatures from “reactor pods” using water, which triggers a colorful bubbling reaction. Special “classification” cards help kids identify their creatures, and mini posters serve up real-life science facts. If you want to go all in on this, check out the Liquid Reactor Super Lab ($24.99).

Good to know: Because of the mystery factor, you don’t know which creatures you’re going to get, which can leave you with duplicates if your kid starts collecting. 

Where to buy: ABC & Toy Zone (in-store only) or see Learning Resources.


Plus-Plus Gray Wolf

Plus-Plus Gray Wolf 

$6.99 | 5 and up

Why we love it: If you haven’t discovered the toy joy that is Plus-Plus, now is the time. We especially love the Mini Maker Tubes for stockings, but Plus-Plus sets come in all sizes, including some with hundreds of pieces to create specific scenes or whatever your imagination desires — in two or three dimensions — with easy-to-manipulate pieces.

Good to know: Llama, Sloth, Unicorn and many other animals are available in tube sets as well.

Where to buy: ABC & Toy Zone (in-store only) or see Plus-plus.us.


Persian Cat Family

Persian Cat Family 

$22.95 | 3 and up

Why we love it: Every year, our test kids are drawn to the Calico Critters and this year was no exception. Are you not dying over the cuteness of this beady-eyed foursome, wearing their Sunday best? 

Good to know: This year’s brand-new Calico Critters mega-set is the Town Grand Department Store Gift Set. But it comes with only one rabbit character, so these cats will give the little lady some companions. 

Where to buy: ABC & Toy Zone (in-store only) or see CalicoCritters.com.


Mosaic Tin

Mosaic Tin 

$10 | 3 and up

Why we love it: Kids can create a variety of scenes and shapes with this handy set of geometric wooden pieces, which can be stored in a mini tin for
on-the-go entertainment. 

Where to buy: Moss Envy (in-store only) or see The Wooden Wagon.


Helix Hyperball

Helix Hyperball 

$4.99 | 4 and up

Why we love it: Equipped with a retractable string that coils up inside it, this little plastic ball (2.5 inches) was a HIT in home testing. To throw it, you grab the tab, swing it around (lasso style) and then fling it! Swinging it around adds so much momentum, it’s easy to send it flying 150 feet. 

Good to know: A football version — the Helix Power Swing for ages 6 and up — whistles and can fly 350 feet!  

Where to buy: Target