Does hunting for the perfect toy get you a little Grinchy? Fretting about getting a case of toy buyer’s remorse? Don’t worry – we won’t tell Santa. After all, finding a special gift with holiday wow can be a tall order (and, sometimes, a pricey one, too).
So, to ease the hassle and boost the holly-jolly, we sent out our crew of elves to do the work for you. This year, Metro Parent’s Holiday “It” List features 50 unique toys – all under $50. They’re divided by age, too, and include special needs picks – plus pointers to indie toy shops where you can buy them. Wanna splurge? We’ve also sprinkled in a few jaw-droppers worth the extra green.
Get ready for squeals of joy from the kiddos – and a sigh of relief for your credit card.
Gifts for Babies
Whether it’s for your little bambino or someone close to you, try these engaging and entertaining choices.
These colorful half-ball shapes let babes learn stacking without scattering the pieces all over the place. By Fat Brain Toys. $24.95.
Inconceivable, holy grail, gigawatt and kryptonite are among the delightful words in this baby-geared title by Familius. $9.99.
This bright and fun drum by Sassy mimics sounds of do-re-mi for musical interludes – and throws in some STEM learning, too. $19.99
These musical board books produce several of kids’ favorite songs with a push of a button – and they’re compact enough to fit in a diaper bag. $16.49.
This adorable softie by Gund sings and plays peek-a-boo with babies with her big floppy years. $40.
From a teether to a cuddle-friendly velour body, this plush offers a sensory experience of crinkles, twists, beeps and honks. $29.99.
Gifts for Toddlers
From tykes to borderline threenagers, the active little explorers in your life will enjoy these toys that keep pace with them.
These weighted plush friends are microwavable, safe and offer up the soothing scent of lavender. By li4 group. $19.95.
Ready for takeoff! This engaging toy airplane’s propeller spins when kids tilt it forward or backward. By Fat Brain Toys. $19.95.
This fun creation from Fat Brain Toys features an orange, watermelon and pear that stack and offer fun puzzles. $29.95.
A sweet 18-piece set by People Blocks lets kiddos attach, mix up and reattach cars and parts. $34.99.
Chill with some cozy critters inside this interactive treehouse play set by Fat Brain Toys that spurs imaginative play. $49.95.
Irresistible “click-to-count” buttons are the star of this bubble-popping activity book by Melissa & Doug. $12.99.
Water & Lightning’s handmade wooden “stones” look like odd-sized circles and stack like blocks. $29.99.
Gifts for Preschoolers
Give the gift of fun, creativity and plenty of play with these choices for kids who have graduated to preschool.
This fun building toy centers on the story of two kids trying to create an automated candy factory. By Kids First/Thames & Kosmos. $49.95.
This soft, non-sticky, stain-free clay transforms into amazing monsters as the related app teaches youngsters to be sculptors. $15.95.
Screen-free coding? It’s possible with these play sets by Learning Resources as kids learn how to move over obstacles in STEM play. $39.99.
Hugo the Hippo helps kiddos develop memorization, categorization and identification – and, bonus, he poops! By Educational Insights. $21.99.
Act like a dog, talk like a cat and make the matches in this action-filled game created by ThinkFun. $14.99.
Hide and seek takes a fun spin with this Toysmith offering that lets kids hide lit bugs to collect for nighttime play. $29.99.
Use a supplied “drill” to create these easy-to-build radio-controlled vehicles from Flybar. $29.99.
Gifts for Early Elementary Kids
Kiddos in kindergarten through third grade are learning at a rapid rate, and these toys provide the perfect companions.
A savvy puzzle packed with 60 total challenges. The games get harder as kids get older, making it a versatile pick, too. By SmartGames. $22.99.
Looking for active play? Look no further. Fat Brain Toys is behind this toy invented by a kid that lets you ping pong without a table. $24.95.
Make – then eat – your own gummy creations, including unicorns, clouds and rainbows. By Thames & Kosmos. $19.95.
These “eco pencils” by Faber-Castell come in blendable neutral tones that can create any skin tone. $3.99.
An assortment of puppies and kittens that breath just like real pets – but without the mess, food and other expenses. $39.95.
Professor Maxwell offers up this set of 18 interactive recipes. VR glasses teach the science behind cooking. $39.99.
Toysmith’s Warrior’s Mark delivers a bull’s eye on fun. The light-weight projectile features Velcro, which means no actual axes are involved. $24.99.
This fun game by Fox Mind has multiple ways to play – and is almost as addictive as popping bubble wrap. $7.99.
Gifts for Late Elementary Kids
Got a kid in grades 4-6? This section of the list of pre-tween picks is packed with options for this age group.
A collection of 25 fast-paced games and activities using putty from Crazy Aaron’s. $25.
Build, cook and then use your own erasers, including a llama, fox, otter and much more. The yellow clay glows in the dark! By Klutz. $12.99.
This Cooperative game by Repros uses lots of thinking and one-word clues. $24.99.
Draw and create using yarn for art. This creative toy by Kahootz snagged two awards for crafts/creative toys in 2019. $14.99.
It’s a line of shape-shifting boxes that defy the eye – and transform into 70 total formations. $19.99.
Make wacky pairs that look nothing alike, like a gorilla-giraffe or a shark-snail. $14.99.
Build a sweet machine and add various obstacles for the gumball to fall through. By Thames & Kosmos. $39.95.
A penguin-flicking game that’s already a multi-award winner in 2019. By Brain Games. $29.99.
Gifts for Tweens + Teens
A few eye-rolls are inevitable when it comes to gifting this age group, but we think these choices are solid unicorn candidates.
Blast some ’80s (or modern) jams on this box that blinks, plays sound and uses Bluetooth speakers. From Boom Box Couture. $49.99.
STMT serves up this set that lets kids make and use their own fragrances, lip glosses, mists and blush sticks. $24.99.
A deck-building game by USAopoly with Harry Potter-ability to create your own character. $49.99.
Outsmart cybercriminals in this game that turns kids into coders, hackers and security engineers. $24.99.
This 759-piece puzzle by Ravensburger requires answers to questions to solve. $19.99.
From “Unichord the Unicorn” to “PURRfect Pitch the Cat,” these little stereos pack a sound and personality punch. $39.99.
Build a prickly pal, then program your new pet with clap technology. By Thames & Kosmos. $39.95.
Gifts for Kids With Special Needs
Differently abled kids enjoy toys that have the right tactile and sensory aspects. Here are some of our favorites.
This color and shape toy includes Braille descriptions. Created by Fat Brain Toys. $24.95.
Glows in water and Developed by mom of kid with sensory needs, these blocks by Glo Pals glow when submerged in water. $10.
A constantly moving “sand” with kinetic abilities offers plenty of tactile play. By Moose Toys. $4.99-$19.99.
The popular Crazy Aaron’s line is at its wizardry again, this time with putty that’s scented like chocolate, berry, gumball and even pizza. $6.
Textured silicone “pebbles” by On Trend Goods with intense magnetism. Features unique soothing textures – and they’re fun to stack. $17.99.
These bright slap bracelets have a sensory feel thanks to soft silicone bristles. By Sensory Genius. $5.95.
Gifts Worth a Splurge
Go for the major wow in 2019 with these five gift gifts sure to make little eyes extra shiny and bright.
Wireless controls “talk” to engine and connect with existing Brio sets. $89.99.
Code this way-cool robot from Education Insights; then watch Artie draw and create art. $69.99.
A drone with LED lights that can fly up to 200 feet – and can used indoors, too. By Odyssey. $59.99.
Smaller beads make for comfy fit and washable outer shell. This model is primo for gaming, reading and relaxing. $189.
Got a box fan? It’s all you’ll need to add for an in-home fort. The fort itself is $49.95, but if you need a box fan, that’ll add another $20 or so.