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Searching high and low for the perfect present for a special child? You can close all of those browser tabs because we’ve compiled a list of sure hits for a variety of ages. These in-demand toys all provide hours of fun, but also feature some sort of learning component you’ll love. (Shhh—we won’t tell if you don’t!)
A few thing to keep in mind as you browse: The best toys are age appropriate, highly interactive to inspire all kinds of creative play, and durable so that they can provide many years of fun.
Here, the must-have toys of 2021.
Learning Resources Botley the Coding Robot 2.0 Activity Set
Teaches the foundations of coding and STEM skills
Comes with 40 coding cards
27 obstacle building pieces
Coding mode can be glitchy
This cool robot-building toy gives kids ages five and up a much-needed screen break, while still teaching the foundations of coding and STEM skills. The set comes with a remote programmer, detachable robot arms, 40 coding cards, six double-sided tiles, and 27 obstacle building pieces.
Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Grow-the-Fun Garden to Kitchen
Perfect for toddlers and preschool-aged children
Features a home garden and kitchen
Plenty of pretend fruits and vegetables to "harvest"
Small pieces may get lost easily
Perfect for toddlers and preschool-aged children, this two-sided playset features both a home garden and kitchen. There are plenty of pretend fruits and vegetables that kiddos can "harvest," along with plates, cups, and other utensils that can be used for pretend meals.
LEGO Super Mario Adventures with Mario Starter Course
Kids can construct their own obstacle course
Course can be rearranged and combined with LEGO Super Mario Expansion Sets
Small pieces may get lost easily
This interactive LEGO set takes one of the most classic video games to new heights as kids construct their own obstacle course with bricks and characters, then watch their creation come to life through the companion app.
Crayola Build A Beast Craft Kits
Build-it-yourself STEM kit
Teaches kids to construct something out of model clay that can move
Great introduction to the skeletal system
Only includes two texture tools
This build-it-yourself STEM kit teaches kids how to construct something out of model clay that can wiggle and move, just like other toys. It's a great introduction to the skeletal system for young children, with all of the fun of making the colorful creatures of their imagination come to life.
HEXBUG JUNKBOTS Dumpster Kit
Over 50 pieces
More than 30 collectible figurine assortments
Surprise assortment may not appeal to all
A special dumpster pack with over 50 pieces that can be used to build four separate JUNKBOT characters. To add to the fun: Since there are more than 30 collectible figurines, you never know which assortment you’ll get.
Lakeshore Learning The Ultimate Fort Builder
45 poles and 25 connectors
Step-by-step guide for all types of forts
Blanket not included
Make teetering pillow structures a thing of the past with this fort builder. In the set, you'll get 45 poles and 25 connectors, along with a step-by-step guide for all types of forts. While it's recommended for kiddos 4-11 years old, who's to say you can't pop in?
Ryan’s World Vending Surprise
Working vending machine
Includes lights, sounds, and phrases
Lots of hidden goodies
This working vending machine is filled with surprise after surprise! The included coins can be used to select a "snack" that contains a special surprise. As an added bonus, there are lights and sounds that help bring this vending machine to life.
Kinetic Sand Sandwhirlz Playset
Mix and match colored sand
Comes with 10 different tools
Kinetic sand never dries out
Only comes with one base
Mix and match the colored sand to create a beautiful and unique creation! This kit comes with red, yellow, and blue sand plus 10 different tools—including a cloud-shaped extruder tube—to mold the squishy sand again and again. Kinetic sand never dries out, so this kit will provide endless hours of fun.
Blue's Clues & You Dance-Along Blue Plush
Music and phrases from the show
Included guitar acts as a remote control
Needs many batteries
This plush, interactive toy is sure to delight little ones with music and phrases from the show! Blue can move her head, ear, and paws along with the music, and the included guitar acts as a remote control.
Pottery Barn Kids Ride-On Fire Truck Pedal Car
Comes with a ringing bell and functioning steering wheel
Classic vintage look
A larger-than-life gift that’s sure to provide hours of entertainment outside or in a large indoor space, like the basement. The fire truck-style ride-on toy, suitable for ages one and up, comes with everything your child will need to play firefighter: a ringing bell, functioning steering wheel and decorative wooden ladder. It's a truly special gift that they'll cherish for years to come—and its classic vintage look won't look too shabby in your home, either.
American Girl Courtney Doll, Book & Accessories
Stylish '80s-style outfit
Children will love reading her story
With a totally awesome crop top, denim skirt, hot pink tights, and white boots, Courtney Moore is the quintessential '80s girl. Children will love reading her story and following along as she creates her own video game with a female heroine.
Treasure X Sunken Gold Treasure Ship Playset
25 levels of adventure
Comes with figurines
Hidden treasures to be discovered within the ship
Small pieces are a choking hazard
This single boat promises hours of fun, as it comes with 25 levels of adventure—complete a series of challenges to figure out how to save the captain of the ship and destroy the evil sea monster. As they play, they’ll discover hidden secrets within the ship, like weapons, cannons, anchors, steering wheels, and even gold. The ship comes with figurines, so once all of the challenges are complete, your child can still act out pirating adventures.
PJ Masks Transforming 2-in-1 Mobile HQ
Two-in-one, transformative toy
Features a vehicle lift and three drop-down ramps
Stickers must be self-applied
Bring your child’s favorite superheroes to life with a larger-than-life 3-foot, two-in-one toy. In an instant, it transforms from a poseable Catboy figure to a cat car vehicle lift with three drop-down ramps.
Spin Master Games HedBanz
Fun for the whole family
Categories are simple
Educational for kids
Only 69 picture cards
Take family game night to new heights with a silly game in which participants try to answer the question, “What animal am I?” It’s easy: Players simply grab a headband and card, don it, then ask “yes” or “no” questions to figure out what animal they are.
Plays a wide range of stories and songs
Screen-free fun for ages three and up
Personalized messages and bedtime stories
Only seven hours of battery life
This colorful cube plays a wide range of stories, songs, and more based on the character you've chosen, providing plenty of screen-free fun for ages three and up. You can also choose a "creative" tonie, which can have personalized messages or bedtime stories uploaded to them via an app, so grandma can record a story for bedtime or your child can record themselves singing their favorite nursery rhyme.
American Girl Joss™ Doll & Book
Teaches your child the power of positivity
Great for aspiring-surfers
This year, give your child the gift of a fiercely cool companion. Joss, the American Girl of the year, is a fun-loving surfer girl with a special story that will teach your child the power of a positive attitude, an open mind, and a little perseverance.
Chalk of the Town Speech Bubble Short Sleeve T-Shirt
Water-based, non-toxic chalk marker included
Perfect for camp and birthday announcements
Only comes with one marker
Consider this the most unique—and interesting!—piece of clothing your child has ever owned. Thanks to a cool patent-pending chalkboard technology, you can use the included water-based, non-toxic chalk marker to design a “new” T-shirt whenever the mood strikes—simply wipe it clean with a wet washcloth.
LEGO DOTS Creative Picture Frames
Lets children create their own decor
Includes six vibrantly colored building blocks
The largest frame is only about four inches high
For the budding DIYer, a LEGO kit that lets them create their very own decor: working picture frames. The set comes with six vibrantly colored building blocks that easily snap together to make frames up to 4 inches tall and 2 inches wide.
HABA Little Friends Vacation Camper Play Set
Encourages imaginative play
Set includes an all-terrain vehicle with a push and go motor
Camper with a detachable awning
Camp chairs are slightly too lightweight
Encourage imaginative play with this fun play set. It includes everything your little one needs to plan a special road trip—an all-terrain vehicle with a push and go motor, a camper with a detachable awning, two chairs, and a figurine.
LEGO Creator 3-in-1 Monster Burger Truck
Three-in-one set kids won't tire of
Working suspension and foldable stairs
Small pieces may get lost easily
A three-in-one set the kids won’t soon tire of, thanks to multiple levels of play. First, they’ll have to rise to the challenge of constructing their monster truck, then they can pretend to serve up burgers before rebuilding the whole thing into an off-roader or a tractor-pulling vehicle.
PLAYMOBIL® Back to The Future Delorean
Complete with working lights and flux capacitor
Includes character figurines
Doesn't have sound effects
Introduce your kiddo to a bit of your own childhood with the iconic time-traveling DeLorean. The vehicle is complete with working lights and the must-have flux capacitor, plus comes with Marty McFly, Dr. Emmett Brown, Einstein the dog, a skateboard, plutonium cores in an accompanying case, and more.
Star Wars The Child Animatronic Edition “AKA Baby Yoda”
Touch-activated for movie sound effects
Includes a full range of emotions
This toy, inspired by the fan-favorite character from The Mandalorian, really is out of this world. Simply touch the top of its head to activate familiar sound effects from the movie, including a full range of emotions—happy and excited, giggles and babbles, tired and sleeping, and Force effects.
Ravensburger Disney Hocus Pocus: The Game
Fun, cooperative card game
Fun for the whole family
Only for players ages eight and up
Add something new to family game night with this fun, cooperative card game based on the hit Halloween movie Hocus Pocus. To win, players ages eight and up must work together to stop the infamous Sanderson sisters from brewing their magical potion before the sun rises.
Fat Brain Toys Shape Factory
High quality, BPA-free materials
Fun, engaging, and strengthens spacial reasoning
Shape sorter could be larger
A fun, engaging toy that puts your two-year-old's fine motor and problem-solving skills to the test, as they explore and experiment to fit all ten shapes into the corresponding compartments.
Mattel Minions Laugh & Chatter Otto Interactive Toy
Interactive minion doll
More than 20 signature sounds and phrases
Bring one of their favorite movies to life with an interactive minion doll that comes programmed with more than 20 signature sounds and phrases when you move him in a variety of different positions.
LEGO DOTS Bracelet Mega Pack
Children can create their own jewelry
Features five adjustable bands
295 tiles in an assortment of vivid colors
Only five bracelets in a pack
Children age six and up will delight in creating their very own wearable jewelry out of colorful LEGO DOTS. There’s no shortage of options—the set features five adjustable bands and 295 tiles in an assortment of vivid colors.
Educational Insights Design & Drill Bolt Buddies Recycling Truck
By using a real, working, kid-safe toy drill to build this cool truck, kids will have fun learning about the basics of construction and engineering, while also improving fine motor skills. Once the truck is constructed, it’s a great vehicle for pretend play—or can be disassembled and reassembled time and time again.
3Doodler Start Make Your Own HEXBUG Creature 3D Pen Set
Allows your child to make personalized, robotic insect body parts
Activity guide with five projects
Short battery life
If your child can hold a pen, this doodler will give them the unique ability to create an endless array of insect body parts to create a personalized and fully functioning robotic structure called a hexbug.
Blockaroo Magnetic Foam Builders
Easy building system for young learners
Make bath time fun, educational, and easy
Material could be denser
These colorful soft foam blocks offer a new way to build for the youngest set of curious, imaginative minds. The magnetic blocks all click together like magic and rotate 360-degrees to create cool, functional animals, sculptures, and more.
PLAYMOBIL® Scooby-DOO! Mystery Machine
Rear doors that fully open to reveal an illuminated monitor
Includes the series' iconic characters
Scooby and Shaggy not included
Jinkies—this is one toy you’ll definitely want to tuck under the tree this year. The infamous Mystery Machine has rear doors that fully open to reveal an illuminated monitor, where you can insert ghost cards to learn more about the Scooby-Doo team’s latest mystery. The set also includes beloved characters—Fred, Daphne, Velma—plus a map, flashlight, spyglass, and other mystery-solving accessories.
VTech KidiZoom Creator Cam
Easy-to-use HD camera
Built-in microphone and special effects
More than 20 animated backgrounds
Videos can only be uploaded via the included USB cable
For your budding star, an HD video camera on a sturdy tripod with a built-in microphone and special effects, like time-lapse video and more than 20 animated backgrounds.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Brigitt Earley, a freelance writer who covers home decor and gifts for The Spruce. Previously an editor, she's written about everything from bedding to organization and knows what makes a product great. For this list, she considered the recommended age, durability, and how interactive the toy is.