The best new toys!

Squishmallows

$14.99–$39.99 | 1 and up

Why we love it: Insanely soft, adorably designed and truly marshmallow-like in their squishiness, these super-snuggly stuffies proved irresistible to our testers. (Watch out, Beanie Boos!)

Where to buy: Walgreens, Amazon, Five Below, Costco, Squishmallows.com


Fox xylophone

Explore & More Fox Xylophone

$16 | 1 and up

Why we love it: This reinvented classic from Skip Hop isn’t just fun to pull around! It ensures you’ll never have to go hunting for a missing mallet again.

Where to buy: Kohl’s


V-Tech Turn and Learn Driver

VTech Turn and Learn Driver 

$14.99 | 6 months and up

Why we love it: Beep beep beep! A wide range of kid ages in our test found this imaginative toy engaging, thanks to two modes of play — music and driving — offering opportunities to learn the ups and downs of a musical scale, animal noises, forward/backward motions and more.

Good to know: We love its take-anywhere size (11 inches wide) and its reasonable price. Two volume settings let you tone down the noise.

Where to buy: BuyBuy Baby


Edushapes

Edushape Stackers ‘N Nesters

$25.95 | 6 months and up

Why we love it: Our infant testers loved these textured nesting shapes, which can be made into a tower of blocks, stacked into a pyramid-like structure and, of course, nested neatly. 

Good to know: Because they aren’t traditional blocks, they’re much easier for little ones to pick up! 

Where to buy: Creative Kidstuff


Bandana Buddies

Bandana Buddies

$14.99 | 0 and up

Why we love it: This on-the-go toy/lovely/soother/teether series is a winner! Though the unicorn was the favorite during our test with one 6-month-old boy, there are tons of other characters that squeak, crinkle and more to keep Baby engaged. 

Good to know: The bandana teether detaches for Mom or Dad to wear around the wrist for quick access. 

Where to buy: Target


Spider

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider Soft Activity Book

$12.99 | 4 months and up

Why we love it: “Great size. Great stroller/car/playmat toy. All over fun. LOVE,” wrote one mom, whose daughter (at left) chewed on the legs of this positively adorable spider during much of the test. We love the super-cute illustrations and the attached pieces that crinkle, stretch and lift to reveal hidden pictures.

Where to buy: ABC & Toy Zone (in store only) or see Melissa and Doug


Dimpl

Dimpl

$13 | 6 months and up

Why we love it: All ages in our test (inlcuding adults) loved the colors, soft silicone feel and satisfying bubble-toggling action of this sensory toy. One tester mom said it best: “Amazing. Chewable. Fidgety.”

Good to know: There’s a keychain version with two buttons called Simple Dimpl and a shapes/colors version called Dimpl Duo.

Where to buy: Kiddywampus (in store only) or see Fat Brain Toys


Baby car

Baby Car

$15 | 6 months and up

Why we love it: Beloved wooden toymaker PlanToys creates playthings you might actually want to leave out when company comes over, including this flexible little fidget for babies that — we found during testing — won’t pinch fingers. “Great teether,” said one mom. “Tastes great!”

Where to buy: Moss Envy


Dog Rattle

Hudson Glow Rattle 

$25 | 0 and up

Why we love it: We don’t necessarily expect parents to splurge on this little gem, but what a perfect gift idea for expecting grandparents, friends and aunts and uncles! Lean the puppy’s green legs forward to see him glow green. Lean his red legs back and watch his spots glow red. His textured legs are just right for teething babies, and his soft rattling sound stimulates the senses. “Great size, easy to grab, kept her attention. Really fun!” said one tester mama.

Where to buy: Creative Kidstuff


3-in-1 sports zone

Little Tykes 3-in-1 Sports Zone

$54.99 | ages 1 to 3 

Why we love it: Our test kids were immediately drawn to this multi-faceted entertainer, featuring soccer, basketball and bowling. Special features include an adjustable-height basketball hoop, a light-up backboard that makes sounds when your kid makes a shot and more than 75 sounds and phrases. “Endless fun for a 3-year-old,” said one tester dad. 

Good to know: It weighs only 6 pounds and folds up for easy storage.

Where to buy: BuyBuy Baby


Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog

Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog

$14.99 | 18 months and up

Why we love it: Kids get to help this little hedgehog regain his quills, which can all be stored inside his body for on-the-go fun, including lessons in counting, sorting and color-identification skills.

Where to buy: Creative Kidstuff


Kaos ball

KAOS Soccer Ball

$24.99 | 1 and up

Why we love it: This entire line of artsy soccer balls is gorgeous, just the thing to get kids interested in the game. Bonus: It won’t be so easy to lose these at practice!

Where to buy: Hub Hobby (in store only) or see KAOS Soccer


62000 Mix or Match All Animals

Magnetic Mix or Match Animals

$29.99 | 2 and up

Why we love it: These magnetic animals proved popular among kids of all ages in our test. They loved putting them together in matching — and mismatching — formations,
and you could see them learning spatial concepts in the process while also having whimsical fun. Win!

Where to buy: ABC & Toy Zone (in store only) or see Popular Playthings


Take-Along Train Station

Take-Along Train Station

$49.99 | 3 and up

Why we love it: This sturdy, well-designed set features a train-station case that turns into a working tunnel. And, when it’s time to clean up, it’s a fun challenge trying to figure out how to fit all the pieces (38 in all) inside the station, which closes tightly with two stretchy bands on each side.

Where to buy: Lakeshore Learning


Fairy Friends Beginner Puzzle

Fairy Friends Beginner Puzzle

$15 | 3 and up

Why we love it: Petit Collage — an eco-friendly line of modern children’s decor, gifts and playthings — is killing it these days. And this is just one example, a delightful little puzzle with cute designs. 

Good to know: One mom said: “Background colors help you separate the four puzzles. Pieces have similar notches so they also fit together incorrectly.”

Where to buy: Pacifier


Serving Shapes Tea Set

Serving Shapes Tea Set

$19.99 | 2 and up

Why we love it: We’d like to see this come down in price a bit, but it was a HIT with the kids. Each cup sits on a saucer with a corresponding shape/color/number. Bonus: All the pieces fit inside the teapot. 

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


Scoop and Learn Ice Cream Cart

Scoop and Learn Ice Cream Cart

$39.99 | 2 and up

Why we love it: This interactive toy from Leap Frog is BEYOND cute, yes. But we parents — and the kids — loved the magnetic ice cream scooper that can sense what flavors you’re scooping! This rolling little cutie encourages stacking, ordering, counting and imaginative play, too.

Where to buy: BuyBuy Baby


Green Toys Car Carrier

Green Toys Car Carrier

$24.99 | 3 and up

Why we love it: This line of toys isn’t just made with 100 percent recycled plastic, it’s also popular with toy-testing kids. Thanks to its cool design, three miniature cars, two working ramps and detachable trailer, it was a top choice for our kids. 

Where to buy: ABC & Toy Zone (in store only) or see Green Toys


Servin Up Food Truck

Servin’ Up Food Truck

$69.99 | ages 1½ to 3

Why we love it: Who needs a play kitchen parked against the wall when you can have a food truck that allows you to serve up orders to others through a cute window? Parents and kids loved this taking-turns toy, including easy assembly (three cheers for handy sticker-installation notches and minimal screws) and tons of opportunities for pretend play, including a light-up grill, recycle bin, refrigerator, service bell and a cash register that magically reads menu cards.

Good to know: There’s a steering wheel, a gear-shift and a key clicker, but no horn!

Where to buy: BuyBuy Baby


Manimos

Manimos 

$49.99 | 3 and up

Why we love it: This heavy, floppy frog — weighing in at about 5 pounds — was strangely calming. He was really fun to hold, like a baby without the responsibility. Originally designed for children with ADHD, autism, anxiety and other disorders, Manimos can be placed on the shoulders, waist, thighs and/or stomach for 15 to 20 minutes to stimulate relaxation and/or concentration.

Where to buy: Hub Hobby (in store only) or see Amazon


Jumbo Glow Magnatab

Jumbo Glow-In-The-Dark Magnatab 

$35 | 3 and up

Why we love it: “You can draw in the dark,” said a 7-year-old tester. “This is the coolest.” Yep, Kid O’s addictive magnetic drawing tablets are now available in big, glow-in-the-dark sizes. Using the magnetic stylus to pop individual beads to the surface, you can create shapes, letters and more.

Where to buy: Creative Kidstuff


Royal Kingdom Adventure Castle

Royal Kingdom Adventure Castle

$49.99 | 3 and up

Why we love it: One of our 3-year-old testers adored this sturdy toy and all its fantasy characters and props — a dragon, king, queen and wizard, plus guards, knights, flags and a drawbridge and dungeon door that actually works. 

Where to buy: Lakeshore Learning


Santa Fe SuperChief

Santa Fe SuperChief 

$49.99 | 3 and up

Why we love it: It’s hard to go wrong with kids and trains, but we like this set for its rail cars (which stay together well) and its 8 feet of track (made with 14 rail pieces), plus a station, a viaduct, a bridge column and a tunnel. 

Good to know: It’s got history, too: This USA Train Series Collectors’ Edition set was modeled after a diesel-electric model popular with Hollywood VIPs in the 1950s.

Where to buy: Hub Hobby (in-store only) or see Amazon


Snap & Design Monster Trucks

Snap & Design Monster Trucks

$29.99 | 3 and up

Why we love it: Our test kids enjoyed building colorful monster trucks by mixing this set’s truck bodies, wheels and accessories. But they LOVED pulling them back and watching them go even more. 

Where to buy: Lakeshore Learning


Botley

Botley 

$59.99 | 5 and up

Why we love it: “Watch Botley! I coded him to do this!” said our 10-year-old tester as this Wall-E-eyed robot rolled and pivoted across the floor. All the kids wanted a turn with this award-winning toy, which comes with a remote programmer, detachable robot arms and 42 coding cards. 

Good to know: It’s also available in a deluxe 77-piece set that’s full of fun accessories and obstacles to put in Botley’s path ($79.99).

Where to buy: Hub Hobby (in-store only) or see Learning Resources


Brik Buster

Brik Buster

$29.99 | 3 and up

Why we love it: Is it just us or has LEGO become all about big and expensive sets — rather than free building? (A simple green baseplate costs $7.99!) Ah, but we digress. Strictly Briks sets, which are LEGO-compatible (but not so driven by the minifig market), can help parents who are on a budget. (You can get four baseplates for $13.99.) Our test kids LOVED the colors — and many baseplates — of this DUPLO-like 133-piece set, which comes with a hammer to let kids see just how sturdy their creations are when put to the test.

Where to buy: ABC & Toy Zone (in-store only) or see Strikly Briks


Lil’ Gleemerz

Lil’ Gleemerz 

$24.99 | 5 and up

Why we love it: Do you really want a toy that farts? Well, your kid probably does. Our testers loved this responsive little lemur, who offers 100-plus reactions to specific stimuli, such as clapping, pinching its tail and petting its head from front to back. (Pet back to front and you get a “Pfttt.”) Settings include “hangout mode,” “light party mode” and “game mode.”

Where to buy: Hub Hobby (in-store only) or see Amazon


Carrera VW Beetle

Carrera VW Beetle

$59.99 | 6 and up

Why we love it: This FAST remote-control car was the toy our test kids fought over the most. And even though they accidentally drove it down a 1.5-story flight of concrete stairs TWICE, it just kept on working. 

Good to know: It comes with a rechargeable battery you refuel using a handy USB charger.

Where to buy: Hub Hobby (in-store only) or see Amazon


Giant Inflatable Bowling Game

Giant Inflatable Bowling Game

$36 | 4 and up

Why we love it: Are your kids actually going to “bowl” consistently with these huge pins and the giant ball? Well, probably not. But they’re going to LOVE using them in all sorts of other ways. They’ll bowl a bit, but then they’ll hit each other with the pins, body surf across the living room on the black ball and, finally, kick all the pieces down the hall. Despite all this, we highly recommend this set for fun, physical play indoors or out. 

Good to know: Keep in mind the bases of the pins are somewhat hard and can hurt if they hit you directly. Also, we recommend using an automatic pump to inflate all the pieces. 

Where to buy: Kiddywampus (in-store only) or see Hearthsong


Door Pong

Door Pong 

$24.95 | 6 and up

Why we love it: Invented by a local kid — 11-year-old Alexander Xiong of Brooklyn Park — this awesome game installs easily in any doorway and allows you to play ping pong without an enormous table. Xiong was the winner of Fat Brain Toys’ national Kidventor competition in which kids age 6 to 13 compete for prizes — and eventually get their toys on the market. 

Good to know: Our test kids enjoyed the pure novelty of a ping pong ball you don’t have to chase down over and over! Even when they smacked the ball so hard that it hit the ceiling and the door frame many times, no part of the toy broke. Other comments included: “Too fun! Genius. You can take it anywhere. Awesome,” and “Easy. Fun. Teaches ‘gentle touch.’”

Where to buy: ABC & Toy Zone (in-store only) or see Fat Brain Toys(You can meet the inventor on Nov. 10 at this store's Chanhassen location!) 


Speed stacks competitor set

Speed Stacks Competitor Set

$44.99 | 5 and up

Why we love it: Sport stacking, also known as cup stacking or speed stacking, is an individual and team sport. Yes, we said sport. Go online and see for yourself the astonishingly high speed at which kids and adults are able to “up stack” and “down stack” these specially designed lightweight cups. During home testing, our 10-year-old tester was immediately sucked in to the instructional videos and kept coming back to determinedly improve his skills. 

Good to know: This set includes 12 cups, a timer that’s accurate to 1/1000th of a second — for real — and an integrated stack mat. 

Where to buy: Amazon.com


Turing Tumble

Turing Tumble

$69.99 | 8 and up

Why we love it: It’s Plinko meets marble track meets pinball! And it’s a local invention from Paul and Alyssa Boswell, a former U of M professor and a former high school teacher from Shoreview, who wanted to demystify computers for their three kids. Using ramps, gear bits, interceptors and more, players learn to build mechanical computers, powered by marbles, to solve a series of logic puzzles “to rescue Alia the space engineer from a forgotten planet” — all explained in a 100-page activity booklet/comic book. 

Good to know: It’s named after British mathematician Alan Turing, who pioneered the concept of the modern computer.

Where to buy: ABC & Toy Zone and Hub Hobby (in-store only) or see TuringTumble.com


Flipside

Flipside 

$19.99 | 8 and up

Why we love it: Take Simon Says and give it 360 degrees of clicking and twisting, and you’ve got this fun new toy, which offers Speed Mode, Multiplayer Mode, Level Mode or Memory Mode. 

Good to know: It can be tricky a first to figure out how to change the mode settings. 

Where to buy: Amazon.com


Zing Air Storm Z Tek Bow

Zing Air Storm Z Tek Bow

$19.99 | 14 and up

Why we love it: We had a 3-year-old boy test this at home, even though the suggested minimum age is 14. Mom said: “He LOVED it. Super engaging for the whole fam. Being 3, he struggled to get it at first (muscle control, etcetera) but he figured it out fast. Indoor (thank you, long hallway) and outdoor fun!”

Where to buy: Hub Hobby (in-store only) or see Amazon


Rezo RTF Micro Camera Drone

Rezo RTF Micro Camera Drone 

$34.99 | 14 and up

Why we love it: We love this Horizon Hobby drone’s small size (3 inches across, so not too big for indoor use) and the option of automatic takeoff and landing, which can make even parents who don’t know how to operate it look cool. Our 10-year-old test kid loved it, even if he did crash it repeatedly. 

Good to know: We didn’t even tap into the device’s built-in camera, but it takes color photos and video if you want to get fancy.

Where to buy: Hub Hobby (in-store only) or see Horizon Hobby


Gravitrax

GraviTrax

$59.99 | 8 and up

Why we love it: It’s a marble track for the grade-schooler set! Kids love marbles, especially metallic ones, and this set provides endless hours of fun and experimentation. It’s ideal for big kids because it involves utilizing gravity, kinetics and magnetism in smaller increments with smaller pieces. 

Where to buy: Hub Hobby and ABC & Toy Zone (both in-store only) or see Ravensburger.