The best new toys!

Gymotion Robo Playland

$74.95 | birth and up

Why we love it: Lots of floor gyms for babies are supposed to fold up and store easily. But this one actually does — with no twisting or acrobatics on the parents’ part. We liked the totally mod color scheme and patterns as well as the high-quality, drool-resistant toys with crinkle-fabric accents, plus an adorable large dog, mirror toy and an awesome rattle-teether. Toys can be attached to the gym’s motorized motion track, which can hang upside down from the arches or laid flat for tummy time to put on a show of side-to-side movement.

Of note: Multiple online reviewers said the car isn’t built to last. We recommend you don’t buy this gym just for that feature. 

Where to buy: Amazon.com

 Follow-Bee Crawl Toy

Follow-Bee Crawl Toy

$25 | 5 months and up

Why we love it: This award-winning motorized gadget from Skip Hop is designed to encourage crawling. It includes a removable rattle-teether-wobbler and a Roomba-like cloud-shaped device that can be set to move in circular or random patterns to encourage chasing. It’s a bit blinky and noisy with its colorful lights, songs and buzzing sounds, but our test kids liked it anyway.

Where to buy: Skiphop.com

Juballees

$14.99 | 6 months and up              

Why we love it: These magnetic little fidgets from Mirari encourage babies to engage in mixing, matching, clicking, stacking and rolling. Each ball breaks in half to create three sets of maracas that even the adults in our toy test couldn’t put down. 

Where to buy: PlayMonster.com

 

Shellby

$19.99 | 9 months and up

Why we love it: This little cutie pie is the latest sensory delight for infants from Mirari, the makers of the beloved Pop Pop Piano. Drop the balls into Shellby’s shell and watch them pop out of his mouth when you tap his tail or roll him along the floor.

Of note: Our testers found it takes a bit of trial and error to make the balls consistently shoot out of Shellby, but that’s part of the fun.

Where to buy: ABC & Toy Zone

 Zookeeper Sorting Box

Zookeeper Sorting Box


$34.95 | 1 and up

Why we love it: This wooden treasure goes beyond the typical sorting box. Each hole includes a slide: If the slide is pushed down, only the half-shapes fit through the openings. If the slide is pushed up, the openings become large enough for the full-size shapes.

Where to buy: HabaUSA.com

 Spin Again

Spin Again

$29.95 | 1 and up

Why we love it: This toy made such a huge splash when it hit the market in 2016, we just had to include it in this year’s test. Six gear shapes spin — rather than slide straight down — a corkscrew spiral pole. It comes with a reversible base that can be set flat for stability or rounded for a wobbly challenge.

Of note: When you turn it upside down, the pieces can spin off rather quickly and clatter to the floor if you don’t catch them.

Where to buy: ABC & Toy Zone (In-store only. Get it online at Fat Brain Toys.)

Tow 'N Go Tuff Truck

Tow ‘N Go Tuff Truck 

$34.99 | 1 and up

Why we love it: This tough Tonka Mighty Builders construction play set was a big draw for our testers, who seemed to enjoy pushing and pulling it even more than using the building blocks. Parents liked that its 23 blocks could be stored inside the truck’s lockable lid, which is also a buildable surface. 

Of note: Because it rolls, it may require supervision for early walkers.

Where to buy: Target

 Waddle Bobbers

Waddle Bobbers

$19.95 | 3 and up

Why we love it: These penguins got us with their total cuteness and their ability to sink (if filled with water) or float (when not) and their knack for wobbling, spinning and stacking on land. During home-bathing testing, this set also scored points for its waterslide, which also works with ping pong balls, super balls and other bath toys, including action figures. And there are no holes in the pieces — so there’s no need to worry about mold.

Where to buy: ABC & Toy Zone (In-store only. Get it online at Fat Brain Toys.)

 Drip Drip Bath Toy

Drip Drip Bath Toy

$24.95 | 18 months and up

Why we love it: Even though we didn’t have a bath tub on hand during our test, kids were immediately drawn to this set of suction cups, funnels and lids, designed to teach basic engineering concepts. During home trials, one 2-year-old tester — an extremely reluctant bather — fell in love with this set and has started to actually ask for baths.

Bonus: A mesh bag is included for easy clean up.

Of note: Getting the propeller to spin is actually a challenge, but that’s not a dealbreaker.

Where to buyABC & Toy Zone (In-store only. Get it online at Fat Brain Toys.)

 Robot Q

Robot Q

$16.99 | 2 and up

Why we love it: This posable clicky little cutie makes adorable retro robot noises with a press of a button on his chest. Little ones can change his eyes — from awake to sleeping to winking — with the press of a button or a turn of a knob. Rollable rattles on his feet are hidden until he sits down.

Where to buy: Creative Kidstuff

 My First Cookin' Kitchen

My First Cookin’ Kitchen 

$29.99 | 2 and up

Why we love it: Our test parents were attracted to the price point. And the kids were won over by the toy’s microwave, stove, oven and sink, plus built-in storage for all the kitchen essentials — forks, knives, spoons, tea cups and plates, as well as a spatula, ladle, frying pan, pot, lid and oven rack. The microwave and oven doors swing open, and the stove makes clicking sounds when knobs are turned. It’s also available in pink.

Of note: It’s shorter than the typical play kitchen, just 2½ feet tall, so it’s defenitely geared toward toddler-seize kids.

Where to buy: Walmart

 

Snap-n-Learn Number Turtles


$19.99 | 2 and up

Why we love it: Perfectly sized for little hands, these cute mama/dada and baby turtles encourage kids to learn shapes, numbers, colors and more. But hiding the baby turtles under their parents’ shells is the best part. 

Where to buy: Amazon.com

 Classic Train Set

Classic Train Set

$29.99 | 3 and up

Why we love it: You can’t beat the price of this 40-piece gift set. Our kid testers played with it almost continuously for two hours, despite real problems with keeping the trains on the track. One parent said she planned to buy it just to put it under the Christmas tree for decoration, thanks to its 25 feet of track and old-timey look.

Of note: You’ll have to be ready to adjust the track and the trains to ensure a functional railroad.

Where to buy: Hub Hobby (In-store only. Get it online at MightyToy.com.)

 

Magnetic Creation Station

$29.99 | 4 and up

Why we love it: What a novelty! These magnetic toys aren’t made with plastic or wood. They’re just plain metal — 35 pieces in five different shapes — that become magnetized only when connected to the magnetic base. A 16-page design book provides construction ideas — a rocket, helicopter, peacock, crocodile and more. Our kids couldn’t resist the shiny metallic pieces and the chance to craft their own structures.

Of note: Be sure to keep mobile phones and credit cards away from the magnetic base.

Where to buy: Lakeshore Learning

Pretend & Play Teaching ATM Bank


$39.99 | 3 and up

Why we love it: Most kids graduate from high school far behind in money smarts. Get your kids started early by practicing making change as well as learning how to withdraw, deposit and save money with this play bank, which recognizes the provided plastic money as well as real coins. Our testers needed help with this little machine, but they couldn’t get enough of it. (Yes: Parent involvement is recommended if you want your kids to actually learn about personal finance.)

Of note: You must manually enter the amount to compute paper money deposits because the mechanical bill feeder can’t “read” fake or real money.

Where to buy: Amazon.com

Fairy Land Playset

Fairy Land Playset

$39.99 | 3 and up

Why we love it: We thought our testers would be tired of fairies by now! But they fell for this set of poseable fairies (four in all) and their 9-inch-tall house with a swing-open door, a leaf-shaped lounger, a wishing well, a table, two mushroom stools and a footbridge.

Where to buy: Lakeshore Learning

 Perfect Pasta Playset

Perfect Pasta Playset 

$29.99 | 3 and up

Why we love it: Pasta is an entire food group for most tots, so it makes sense that our testers were drawn to this 58-piece play cooking set from Melissa & Doug, including a pot with a strainer and lid. Our kids adored the felt pasta shapes, including penne, linguini, bow ties and stuffable ravioli (veggies and cheese discs included). Cans of sauce and parmesan, a pat of butter, a salt shaker, a reusable menu card and a Velcro-enabled pasta fork complete this precious package.

Where to buy: ABC & Toy Zone

 Twister Tracks

Twister Tracks

$20 | 3 and up

Why we love it: This totally affordable awesome flexible race track from Mindscope was easily one of the top toys across all ages in our toy test. Kids can bend and curve the 11 feet of track into any shape or pattern, and the speedy little green car follows the path regardless. You can even create a circular hamster-wheel track to make the car travel around the room, taking the track with it.

Bonus: The car’s LED lights enable the track to glow in the dark.

Where to buy: Kiddywampus

 Kablocks

KaBlocks

$39.95 | 3 and up

Why we love it: One of the best parts of building is knocking down what you create. And that’s what this toy is all about: Stack the foam blocks into tall, teetering towers on the special building platform. Then jump on the Stomp Rocket-style pad to blast the blocks into the air (or at least into a pile of rubble onto the floor).

Of note: You need a really big, brave stomp to get the blocks to explode!  

Where to buy: Mindware.com

 Magic in a Snap

Magic in a Snap

$14.99 | 4 and up

Why we love it: Melissa & Doug’s latest box in this series — the Abracadabra Collection — was a hit with our testers, who enjoyed the optical illusions made easy with the right props. And the price was right for parents, too. This is the just thing to kick off your kid’s speaking and presentation skills. Fun!

Where to buyABC & Toy Zone (In-store only. Get it online at Melissa & Doug.)

 Play & Explore Rocket

Play & Explore Rocket

$29.99 | 3 and up

Why we love it: Kids fought over this three-level, 16-inch-tall space ship rocket during our test (always the mark of a great toy). It has a control room that holds two astronauts; a living space with a shower, kitchen and computer; and a garage for a little rover (included). At night, the garage turns into a bedroom for the astronauts. Just flip down the bed when it’s time to rest. Time to fly? Snap the hatches tightly and take off.

Where to buy: Lakeshore Learning

 Automoblox

Automoblox

$29.99–$39.99 | 4 and up

Why we love it: If you’re interested in heirloom-quality toys that you can leave sitting out on a mantel or bookshelf, check out these show pieces, made of European beech wood. Our kids loved the interchangeable parts of these vehicles, including rims, tires, brakes, roofs and front, middle and back body pieces, plus LEGO-esque action figures.

Of note: Though we loved the large-size cars ($34.99–$39.99), you’d have to buy more than one to enjoy the interchangeable aspect of this toy. If you’re on a budget, a three-pack of smaller cars might be your best bet at $29.99–$39.99.

Where to buyABC & Toy Zone (In-store only. Get it online at PlayMonster.)

 KEVA Connect Builder Set

KEVA Connect Builder Set

$24.95 | 4 and up

Why we love it: The simple stacking fun of KEVA blocks takes on a new dimension with special connectors that lock the planks into place, allowing kids to create more complex structures and practice STEAM concepts (science, technology, engineering, art and math). Our test kids were attracted to the colors, ease of use and open-endedness of this 60-piece set.

Where to buyABC & Toy Zone (In-store only. Get it online at MindWare.)

 Bamboo Builder Marble Run

Bamboo Builder Marble Run

$89.95 | 4 and up

Why we love it: Chimes! We adored hearing the ringing of the chimes as the marbles made their way through the runs. And we like the high-quality components of this 119-piece set. They’re more complicated to assemble than the kind you might use when building a typical marble run, but they’re also more sturdy as well as more beautiful because they’re made with bamboo. Adults and kids alike were drawn to this toy’s towers and tracks and, of course, its spiraling vortex.

Where to buyABC & Toy Zone (In-store only. Get it online at Fat Brain Toys.)

 Jetson Jupiter Light-Up Kick Scooter

Jetson Jupiter Light-Up Kick Scooter

$29.99 | Ages 3 to 8

Why we love it: Though it looks like just another scooter, this stand-up toy was a hit during our test, thanks to more than 100 LED lights on the handlebar stem, wheels and deck. We liked its extendable aluminum handlebar stem that adjusts to various heights. The lights, which are visible even during the day, turn into a safety feature at dusk.

Where to buy: Target

 Groovy Blocks

Groovy Blocks

$24.95 | 4 and up

Why we love it: These colorful panels interlock using five types of small plastic linking pieces, allowing kids to create a variety of projects, using pictorial suggestions or just their imaginations. Hinges let kids add working doors, window shutters, fish tails and more.

During home testing, our 9-year-old tester came back to these day after day to make unique projects. Groovy, man.

Where to buy: Mindware.com

 

Magnaflex

$34.99–$49.99 | 4 and up

Why we love it: It’s hard to go wrong with anything magnetic when it comes to kids and building toys. And these strong bendy magnets from WowWee prove that rule. They’re fun for free play and fidgeting, or kids can create suggested designs such as animals, vehicles and more.

Of note: If baby spit-up got into the tiny, flexy grooves of these toys, it would be very hard to get out.

Where to buy: Toys R Us

 Xtrem Bots Smart Bot

Xtrem Bots Smart Bot

$49.99 | 5 and up

Why we love it: Our testers were immediately drawn to this 10-inch-tall remote control robot, who seemed more like a buddy than yet another gadget. He moves in all directions, makes R2D2-like noises, dances, displays 20 different electronic facial expressions (using 18 LED lights for eyes), offers 50 programmable actions and can even be controlled with simple hand signals.

Of note: Though the infrared controller is intuitive, the manual is extremely helpful.

Where to buy: Hub Hobby (In-store only. Get it online at Smart Kids Toys.)

 Zipes Speed Pipes

Zipes Speed Pipes

$59.99 | 5 and up

Why we love it: We would like to officially declare this Oppenheim-award-winning “starter set” Toy of the Year. It’s like all the joy of a remote-control car, a marble run and a Hot Wheels track rolled into one. The electric car can climb vertically as well as speed around horizontally (in both forward and reverse). All the tubing can even be moved — or even put on like some sort of tube jacket — while the car is in operation. A flashing strobe ball adds an extra dash of sparkle.

Of note: You have to use a special type of port to keep the car charged via USB, so don’t lose it! Also, the car doesn’t operate outside of the tubes.

Where to buyABC & Toy Zone (In-store only. Get it online at Neat Oh!.)

 Rock and Roll It Rainbow Piano

Rock and Roll It Rainbow Piano

$59.99 | 6 and up

Why we love it: We didn’t expect the sound quality of this portable, 49-key piano to be all that great. But it was delightfully realistic and vibrant! Kids were immediately drawn to it during the test, and older children were even inspired to use the included color-coded songbook. Audio features include a headphone jack and the option of using external speakers.

Where to buy: Kiddywampus

 Ultra Dash

Ultra Dash

$24.99 | 6 and up

Why we love it: We love toys that inspire physical activity. This racing game includes a tagger baton and five color-coded targets you can place anywhere to create a challenge course in one of three game modes — beat the clock, target tally and relay race. When the tagging baton flashes red, kids must run to the red target and tag it quickly, followed by the other colors.

Of note: There’s a bit of a learning curve with this toy, so you’ll have to study the directions before playing. Also, the lights aren’t bright enough for daytime use outdoors.

Where to buy: Target

 Laser X

Laser X

$49.99 | 6 and up

Why we love it: This Real Life Laser Gaming Experience includes two laser blasters (offering “pinpoint accuracy up to 200 feet”) and receiving vests that count your hits. You can add an unlimited number of gaming sets to play in teams, indoors or out. Our kids liked suiting up in the vests and watching their stamina go from green to yellow to, finally, red.

Where to buy: Target

 Faux Bow Pro

Faux Bow Pro

$39.99 | 10 and up

Why we love it: We kept this toy away from the kids during the test because when the adults pretested it — indoors — it was extremely effective at shooting long distances. One test mom was bruised in the kerfuffle. One dad proclaimed it the ideal toy for a kid who wants a real archery set, but who might not be ready for the full power of a real bow or the sharp arrows.

Of note: Adult supervision is definitely recommended. Eye protection and arm guards are sold separately. “This isn’t a Nerf gun,” said one dad tester. “You can’t shoot someone from 10 yards away. It’s going to hurt.”

Where to buyHub Hobby (In-store only. Get it online at Marky Sparky Toys.)

 Star of the North

Star of the North

$20 | 8 and up

Why we love it: One of the Twin Cities’ most renowned artists (famed muralist Adam Turman) and one of the area’s coolest companies (PuzzleTwist) have partnered to create this Minnesota-themed 500-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Of note: What set apart the local company’s puzzles — branded as PuzzleTwist, Mixed Up!, Something’s Amiss! and 4 More! — is that each box cover image is different from the puzzles you actually assemble, adding to the challenge and excitement of completion.

Where to buy: PuzzleTwist.com

 Invezo RTF Stunt Drone

Invezo RTF Stunt Drone

$44.99 | 14 and up

Why we love it: This lightweight micro drone isn’t just easy to fly, it’s positively acrobatic. It ideal for novice flyers, including drone-rookie parents. It can perform full 360-degree flips or 180 half-flips — and then continue to fly in an inverted position. It can even land upside down. Control modes include Easy, Pro and 3D, so there’s room to grow with this gadget.

Of note: We recommend you stick to the age range or offer close adult supervision --— and keep your fingers away from the blades during operation. This drone, (which the manufacturer describes as “not a toy”) cut one of our mom tester’s fingers while she was trying to capture the wayward drone when it became stuck on top of a cabinet.

Where to buy: Hub Hobby


Find more gift ideas in our lists of stocking stuffersgames and crafts!