If you’re looking for gift ideas, it’s hard to go wrong with toys. That said, you still want to get the most value for your buck. You want toys that are durable, fun, refreshing, and even educational. There’s no shortage of great stuff out there—which can make shopping for a neat toy even more confusing. This list highlighting 10 great toy picks should take some of the muddle out of your decision-making.
Sbyke S-16 – Frankly, the Sbyke looks like the product of muddled love between a skateboard, a bike, and a scooter, but it’s a hot toy—and it’s also a great in-between vehicle for younger bike/scooter enthusiasts who still need a little practice with balancing. Older kids will have a good time attempting to pull off tricks, too.
Switch & Go Dinos – Dinosaurs are always a popular toy pick. Robots and cars are safe bets, too. So you can imagine why VTech’s Switch & Go Dinos, which transform from cars into robot dinosaurs, will completely make any robot-crazy kid’s day. Each dinosaur is also equipped with a screen that tells dinosaur facts.
FurReal Friends – The FurReal Friends line of stuffed toy pets is a warm and fuzzy alternative for kids that love animals, but suffer from allergies. Popular picks include GoGo My Walkin’ Pup, the Hop N’ Cuddle Bunnies, Baby Butterscotch pony and the Walkin’ Snuggimals dog breeds.
Imaginext’s Samurai Castle – This samurai-themed playset is a good choice for kids enthralled with tales about warriors and swordfights. The Samurai Castle is packed with fun secrets, including a hidden exit, a zipline, and a firing canon. The playset comes with everything a kid needs for an epic battle, including armed samurai and ninja warriors.
Barbie Mega Bloks – Barbie has so many playsets, it makes sense that she’d eventually opt-in for a fixer-upper. Mega Bloks’ Barbie line has tons of accessories kids can assemble themselves, including the Build ‘N Style Convertible, the Build ‘N Style Beach House, and even a Build ‘N Style Ice Cream Cart.
Apptivity – Apptivity blends the tactical and the digital by letting kids using specialized toys to interact with iPad applications (included with purchase). Real Hot Wheels cars run along tracks that are generated on-screen, WWE wrestlers tussle in virtual rings, and the guys and ghouls from Monster High socialize in digital hallways. Don’t worry—Apptivity toys are screen-safe and won’t scuff up your iPad!
Monopoly Zapped – Few board games have undergone an overhaul as often as Monopoly, so it makes sense that the classic game of buy-and-sell would be re-outfitted for the digital age. Players utilize the game board and an iPad app to buy, sell, and auction property. iPad not included.
Angry Birds – The Angry Birds franchise has a robust presence at retail. What, you thought those temperamental birds would let themselves remain cooped up behind a tablet screen forever?
Jake and the Pirates Musical Ship – Between scurvy and an assured death at the end of a rope, the lifestyle of a pirate was anything but glorious. But the nice thing about being a kid is that you don’t have to know about any of that. This music-playing pirate ship is chock full of secret passages, and is equipped with a working canon.
LeapFrog LeapPad 2 – The LeapPad 2 is a great in-between step for young kids who may not be ready for their own tablet just yet. It’s durable, and is able to download exclusive learning and entertainment apps from the LeapFrog Connect App Store. Also see handheld educational video game system the Leapster GS, great for portable learning and entertainment.
Looking for other great options? Target’s got a great deal on Disney’s Ultimate Princess Doll collection; Hasbro Games is offering 21st century versions of Star Wars, Twister, Monopoly and more, as well as low-tech tabletop versions of Angry Birds; Imperial Toy’s Kidz Bop musical microphones and guitars rock; and Playskool’s Spider-Man toys are fun for boys as well. The good news: Whichever way you turn, there are tons of great options to please kids, and kids at heart.
Kids to together like ice cream and nuts, like peanut butter and jelly, like—well, you get the idea. Even though video games have reached far beyond the youth market, young people are far and away the most enthusiastic patrons of the pastime and there are still plenty of safe, fun games for them to enjoy.
In fact, this list of 2012’s best games for kids shouldn’t exclusively be viewed as a collection of games that are for children; every game named is capable of ensnaring any player of any gender or age. The important thing is that they’re thematically safe and easy to learn.
Epic Mickey 2: Power of Two (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, Windows, Mac) – This sequel to 2012’s Epic Mickey for the Wii lets to players adventure side-by-side as Mickey Mouse and his compatriot, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The duo team up to save the Cartoon Wasteland once more, and much like the first game, splashing paint or thinner on the scenery plays a big part in getting things done.
Skylanders: Giants (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS) – It’s no surprise that 2011’s monster hit Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure received a sequel. As was the case in the first game, this action/adventure experience pairs up a digital experience with collectable plastic toys that become “real” in the game world. The merger is sure to continue to be a hit with kids.
Super Mario Wii U (Wii U) – Kids love Mario games, and for good reason. Nintendo is launching the Wii U alongside its latest side-scrolling Mario platformer, and both look great. Four players can work through the game simultaneously, which should put an end to “I’M NEXT!” battles.
Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita) – The Lego property and comic book heroes tend to fit together like, uh, Lego bricks. This open-world action/adventure game starting Batman and his pals (and enemies) is colorful, fun, and will delight young new fans and veterans alike.
Scribblenauts Unlimited (Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, Windows) – Scribblenauts Unlimited is more than a fun game with a great sense of humor. It’s also an opportunity to let kids practice creative problem solving. Players reach the goals outlined in each stage using a magic notebook that can make almost any object come to life.
Paper Mario Sticker Star (Nintendo 3DS) – The latest entry from the weird but wonderful Paper Mario game series combines action, platforming, and role-playing. Of course, there are battles to be fought—lots of them—which Mario accomplishes by collecting and utilizing stickers. The shinier, the better.
Pokemon Black Version 2/White Version 2 (Nintendo DS) – Pokemon lives. Pokemon Black Version 2/White Version 2 are direct follow-ups to Pokemon Black/White for the Nintendo DS. That equals a lot more exploration, a lot more story, and, needless to say, a lot more Pokemon-catching.
Minecraft (Xbox 360, PC, iOS, Anrdoid) – Though Minecraft was released to a mainstream audience in late 2011, it has endured through 2012 as one of its most popular games. The world of Minecraft is as open-ended as a world can get. Players can choose to survive against enemies and hunger while they build shelters and forage for food, or they can simply build, build, build whatever their hearts desire.
Rhythm Heaven Fever (Wii) – Rhythm games that utilize licensed music (Guitar Hero/Rock Band) may have overstayed their welcome, but rhythm games that feature original, odd visuals and music are still thriving. Rhythm Heaven Fever for Wii is one of the best entries in the rhythm genre, as it features unique graphics and incredibly catchy tunes. It’s easy to play, but scoring a coveted “Perfect” on every stage is going to take hours of practice.
Kid Icarus: Uprising (Nintendo 3DS) – If you remember the original Kid Icarus for the NES, you might be a little old. But you can be any age to appreciate Kid Icarus: Uprising for the Nintendo 3DS. It combines non-stop shooting and action with one of the funniest game scripts to hit gaming in a long time.
Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.
With winter comes another holiday season. And with another holiday season comes an opportunity to wade into the candy-colored plastic land that makes up the kids’ toy market. Some kids are very clear about what they want for Christmas, but offer up items that are difficult to obtain (fire-breathing ponies). Other children are shy about suggesting what they want, or they just can’t make up their minds.
In either case, you don’t want to give them something uncool—that would burden your conscience for the rest of the season, wouldn’t it? Heck, that’s the reason why our very own Scott Steinberg has a blog at Sears Toy Shop where, as resident Toy Tech Expert, he saves himself untold embarrassment in his family’s eyes under the guise of helping other parents pick the perfect technology gifts for kiddos. Looking for a quick cheat sheet to the best the year has to offer? Check out his blog, or have a look below, to quickly get yourself up to speed on the top 10 best holiday toys for 2012.
Furby – Furby is back. Sorry. The little gremlin-thing with “A Mind of Its Own” was in huge demand back in the mid-‘90s, and Hasbro is hoping that 2013 will be the year that everyone starts speaking Furbish again. Furby’s personality will develop according to how you interact with it, and if all else fails, it’ll dance to your favorite songs.
Wii U – Nintendo’s next video game console features a built-in tablet that changes how players interact with the game on the TV screen. Games can be switched to run off the tablet exclusively mid-play, so no more battles over the family TV. The Wii U is also launching with tons of games, including New Super Mario Bros. Wii U and Nintendoland, a Nintendo-themed collection of minigames.
LeapFrog LeapPad 2 Learning Tablet and LeapsterGS– If your kids aren’t quite at the iPad stage yet (maybe you’ve decided the time won’t be right until their fingers aren’t perpetually covered in jam), LeapFrog’s LeapPad 2 Learning Tablet is a safe, hardy alternative. Kids can use the LeapPad 2 to play with exclusive games and apps that are easy to download and use. Also check out the LeapsterGS – among the best new learning handhelds parents can find for kids today.
Kidz Bop Ultimate Hits and Musical Toys – The Kidz Bop kids are back, and “Ultimate Hits” ensures that everyone of all ages can enjoy today’s pop hits. Tracks on this collection include “Tik Tok,” “Party in the USA,” and “I Gotta Feeling.” Imperial Toy actually has a full line of musical gear that’ll help kids get the party started right, and quickly, from Mega Star microphones to Glimmerati electric guitars – definitely check them out this holiday season.
Razor Pocket Mod Electric Scooter – Kids love bikes, but they go absolutely bananas for small motorized vehicles. Razor’s Pocket Mod Electric Scooters can go up to 15 miles per hour and up to 10 miles on one charge. It comes in a variety of models and colors, and at $199.99 USD, it’s relatively affordable.
LEGO Ninjago Epic Dragon Battle – This huge LEGO playset delivers what it promises: Ninjas, epic playtime, and enormous battles wherein a four-headed dragon takes center stage. An ideal gift for the young ninja or kunoichi in your life.
Doodle Roll – Doodle Roll is essentially a tube of paper that’s easy to tear off, easy to unroll, and most importantly, easy to draw on. Doodle Roll is an inexpensive, mess-free and hassle-free way to promote your kids’ creativity. Crayons included.
Micro Chargers Time Track – Tiny cars are fun. Tiny cars that zip around tracks at incomprehensible speeds are even better. Toy cars go careening around the Micro Chargers Time Track at crazy speeds. Race your opponent to the finish line!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Secret Sewer Lair Playset – The Turtles have achieved relevancy again (it seems to go in and out with the phases of the moon). Help your kids celebrate with a TMNT “sewer” playset that’s almost as big as they are.
Monster High High School Play Set – Halloween is over, but the Monster High toy series remains popular. In fact, the Monster High School Play Set stands to be one of the hottest toys this holiday season. Your kids’ favorite Monster High dolls can hang out in the cafeteria, in the hall, and even in class—but who goes to school to study, right?
Don’t forget to check out other top picks like VTech’s Switch & Go Dinos (which morph between dinosaurs and vehicles – awesome!), Fisher Price’s Disney’s Jake and the Never Land Pirates Bucky Pirate ship and more either. The good news for parents? Dozens of great options exist for kids of all ages.