The 32 Must-Have Toys for Christmas 2021

Toys for all ages that are sure to delight

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Must-Have Toys for Christmas

The Spruce / Sabrina Jiang

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.)

Popular toy trends include family games and educational toys. "With more kids being home over the last year, parents naturally started becoming more involved in their children’s play and way of learning," says Kristin McGrath—shopping expert at BlackFriday.com. "Outdoor games are also trending as a result of COVID concerns keeping families at home," she adds, along with fidget toys, character toys based on film and television, and nostalgic toys.

A few things 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 are the hottest gifts of the holiday season.

Our Top Picks
Your child will go on epic and colorful adventures with this mini Raya figure and Sisu dragon set.
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Your little one can catch and collect over 100 fairies by playing games or searching for them around the house.
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Watching the Monster Truck soar through the flaming Ring of Fire always brings on excitement, competition, and cheer.
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This building toy helps her develop motor skills and strategy. Once completed, Detective Pikachu can double as a toy and decor.
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Toddlers actually have fun cleaning with this set—they get to help and be just like mom and dad.
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Fun and suitable for all ages, this push-and-pop sensory toy comes in tons of fun shapes like unicorns, ice pops, crabs, and more.
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Children 10 years and older—and adults—will appreciate the building process and finished product for years.
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This kid-friendly watch will teach little ones about telling time, and it's durable enough for them to wear to playdates.
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Kids will love testing their basketball skills with this Space Jam-themed playset, which includes a shooting-and-dunking Lebron James.
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Kiddos will have a blast playing with this musical yellow school bus, which plays a catchy "The Wheels on the Bus" jingle.
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Disney Princess Disney's Raya and The Last Dragon Color Splash

Disney's Raya and The Last Dragon Color Splash Raya and Sisu Dragon, Water Toy

Dimensions: 3.11 x 17.87 x 12.76 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 3 years and up

What We Like
  • Cool color-changing element

  • Can be played wet or dry

What We Don't Like
  • Takes a while to drain Sisu's tail

Dip Sisu's dragon tail in the water, and watch it sway back and forth—and change colors! The 2-foot dragon toy is nicely proportioned to the included Raya doll, whose accents also undergo a color transformation when immersed in water. Despite the set being water-friendly, both figures can be played wet or dry.

WowWee Got2Glow Fairy Finder - Electronic Fairy Jar

Dimensions: 4.5 x 4.5 x 7 inches | Material: Plastic, virtual | Recommended Age: 5 years and up

What We Like
  • Each fairy is different

  • Mini games included

What We Don't Like
  • Packaging is difficult to open

Boys and girls will love the thrill of catching a new fairy every time, because each fairy is unique with its own characteristics. Fairies come from four levels of rarity, and your little one can find them by playing games or bringing the jar to a new location. The virtual fairies can be fed, hugged, and greeted.

Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Stunt Tire Play Set

Dimensions: 4.25 x 17 x 10 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 4 years and up

What We Like
  • Can be folded up for easy storage

  • Easy to assemble

What We Don't Like
  • Trucks don't launch as well as the cars

It comes packaged in a tire-shaped case that can be used for portability later on. It's super easy to assemble and break down each time—simply open and close to set up your racetrack. Your child can launch cars or the included Monster Truck through the Ring of Fire, and even stack the included crushed cars to make more fun obstacles.

Mega Construx Pokemon Detective Pikachu

Dimensions: 9 x 2.65 x 10.3 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 8 years and up

What We Like
  • Spring-tail can wiggle

  • Building toy

What We Don't Like
  • Not all pieces snap together easily

Pokemon has always been relevant, but there's been a major uptick in trading and collecting cards and Pikachu-themed everything in the past couple years. This Detective Pikachu building toy features over 200 pieces and stands a little over 4 inches tall when completed. His spring-loaded tail can wiggle around, and the head and arms can move for added fun.

Melissa & Doug Dust! Sweep! Mop! Play Set

Dimensions: 11 x 4.5 x 28 inches | Material: Wood, plastic | Recommended Age: 3 years and up

What We Like
  • Great for pretend play

  • Actually cleans

What We Don't Like
  • Flimsy dustpan

Toddlers love copying you, even when you're cleaning—this set lets them play, help, and build confidence as they handle each housekeeping tool on their own. The set includes a broom, mop, dustpan, and hand brush, and each tool is perfectly sized for toddler play. When they're done, you can hang them on the included stand via the sturdy cords.

AKSDTH Push and Pop Bubble Fidget Sensory Toy

AKSDTH Push and Pop Bubble Fidget Sensory Toy

Dimensions: 5 x 5 inches | Material: Silicone | Recommended Age: 3 years and up

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Fun for a wide range of ages

  • Comes in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes

What We Don't Like
  • Not as durable as some parents expected

  • Some find the popping sounds too quiet

Though relatively basic, kids love these hugely popular toys, because they’re fun to squeeze, hold, stretch, and—of course—pop. The standard square is a bestseller, but they also come in tons of fun shapes and sizes like unicorns, ice pops, crabs, and more. It also makes for a great stocking stuffer.

LEGO Star Wars: The Mandalorian, The Child Building Kit

Dimensions: 7.5 x 8.5 x 5 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 10 years and up

What We Like
  • Fun to build

  • Can be played with groups

What We Don't Like
  • Long play time

Star Wars fans can bring The Child to life, thanks to this over 1,000-piece building kit and clear building instructions. Multiple players can help build the mini-figure, and once complete, The Child makes for a phenomenal display. You can even pose its head, ears, and mouth for various expressions, and prop the included gearshift knob in his arms.

Nickelodeon Paw Patrol Kids' Digital Watch

Nickelodeon Paw Patrol Kids' Digital Watch

Dimensions: 3.2 x 3.1 x 3.1 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 4 years and up

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Teaches time and schedule management

  • Non-toxic materials

What We Don't Like
  • Limited functionality

  • Strap could be a bit more durable

With this watch, the littlest set will feel all grown up—and just like their parents. Emblazoned with the ultra-popular Marshall from "Paw Patrol," this watch appeals to their interests, but the adults in their lives will love the fact that it teaches them all about telling time and accountability.

SPACE JAM: A New Legacy Super Shoot & Dunk Playset With Lebron Figure

SPACE JAM: A New Legacy Super Shoot & Dunk Playset

Dimensions: 7.01 x 6.93 x 10.04 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 4 years and up

What We Like
  • Compact

  • Suitable for a wide range of ages

  • Interactive

What We Don't Like
  • Could be more detailed

  • Only one player included

What’s old is new again, and thanks to the new movie, "Space Jam" is a hit with the younger set. Kids can test their own dunking skills with the help of modern cast member and basketball legend Lebron James.

CoComelon Musical Yellow School Bus

CoComelon Musical Yellow School Bus

Dimensions: 13 x 12.75 x 12.5 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 2 years and up

What We Like
  • Multiple play possibilities

  • Easy for young kids to maneuver

What We Don't Like
  • Only plays limited version of one song

  • Quality of the bus could be improved

This big yellow school bus houses six of their favorite "CoComelon" characters, plus plays the tune you’ve been hearing on repeat all year long: "The Wheels on the Bus." It’s the perfect way to jumpstart imaginative play.

Roll over image to zoom in Do, Re & Mi Blue Jay Plush Toy

Blue Jay Plush Toy

Kids aged 3 years and up won't stop dancing and singing along with these adorable, 8-inch plush toys, found exclusively on Amazon. Each figure features sounds and voices from the pre-school TV program, Do, Re & Mi—this specific plush doll represents Mi, the bubbly blue jay. Along with the super soft and cuddly plush dolls, you can also collect the series' musical instruments and playsets.

Dimensions: 7 x 6.3 x 8.5 inches | Material: Plush | Recommended Age: 3 years and up

  • Collectible

  • Encourages musical skill and appreciation

  • You can only purchase on Amazon

Madame Alexander My First Doll

Madame Alexander My First Doll

Dimensions: 8 x 4.5 x 10.5 inches | Material: Vinyl, fabric | Recommended Age: 0 years and up

What We Like
  • Comes in a range of skin tones

  • Soft and cuddly

  • Great for pretend play

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn’t come with any accessories

  • Pom-pom on hat could accidentally detach

A perennial favorite with toddlers for a reason, these 12-inch baby dolls are ripe for imaginative play but are soft and plush enough to cuddle with. Plus, now the Madame Alexander “My First” dolls come in an expanded range of skin tones, so more little ones will see themselves in their pretend toys.

GUND P.Lushes Designer Fashion Pets

GUND P.Lushes Designer Fashion Pets

Dimensions: 4 x 4.8 x 6.8 inches | Material: Microfiber | Recommended Age: All ages

What We Like
  • Collectible set

  • Soft and cuddly

  • No choking hazards

What We Don't Like
  • Packaging is lackluster

  • Care instructions difficult to read

There’s no question your little one will be excited to add another fashionable pet to a growing squad—or start a whole new collection. Each one of the award-winning plush toys features embroidered accents like a metallic bow, plus sparkling eyes, and lined ears.

Little Bridges Grandma & Me: In The Kitchen

Little Bridges Grandma & Me: In The Kitchen

Dimensions: 8.75 x 2.1 x 10.75 inches | Material: N/A | Recommended Age: 4-8 years

What We Like
  • Multiple activities in one

  • Great bonding activity



What We Don't Like
  • Requires adult help

  • Packaging a bit bland

This do-it-together activity kit is a practical and fun way for grandparents and other family members to get in on the fun. With "Grandma & Me: In the Kitchen," you'll work hand-in-hand in the kitchen to create a tangible product you’ll both love to show off. Each kit comes with conversation cards, a journal with prompts, and recipe pages, as well as a read-aloud storybook, a child-size apron that can be personalized, a keepsake potholder, and fabric paint.

DC Comics Batman All-Terrain Batmobile Remote Control Vehicle

DC Comics Batman All-Terrain Batmobile Remote Control Vehicle

Dimensions: 10 x 13.5 x 10 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 4 years and up

What We Like
  • Powerful

  • Fast

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Not as waterproof as indicated

  • So lightweight it frequently tumbles upside down

Whether your child loves "DC Comics" or simply has a penchant for speed, this remote control vehicle will be a welcome addition to their toy bin. It’s perfectly suitable for indoor or outdoor play—the all-terrain tires have no problem tackling water, snow, mud, rock, and grass. It also has out-of-range sensors, so it’ll never stray too far.

Barbie Career of The Year Music Producer Doll

Barbie Career of The Year Music Producer Doll

Dimensions: 1.34 x 2.76 x 11.73 inches | Material: Rubber | Recommended Age: 3 years and up

What We Like
  • Includes fun accessories

  • Great for collectors

  • Various color hair available

What We Don't Like
  • Packaging is hard to open

  • Younger set may need help understanding accessories

This year, Barbie is taking the music world by storm. The producer comes dressed in a trendy graphic tee, jeans, and an iridescent crop jacket, plus includes fun accessories like a sound mixing board, a computer, and headphones. Great for any musically-inclined kids—or the avid Barbie collector.

Tonies Toniebox Playtime Puppy Starter Set

Toniebox Playtime Puppy Starter Set

Dimensions: Not listed | Material: Not listed | Age Range: 3 years and up

What We Like
  • Durable

  • Easy for kids to use independently

  • Screen-free

What We Don't Like
  • Difficult to set up

  • Other characters cost extra

The whole family will undoubtedly enjoy this small, portable audio system. It plays classic sing-a-longs that’ll be on repeat for the foreseeable future. And you don’t have to worry about them fiddling with tech beyond their years—the speaker, available in six colors, is made of a material that's soft enough to handle but durable enough to withstand any accidental tumbles.

Playmobil Large City Zoo

Playmobil Large City Zoo

Dimensions: 26.8 x 11.8 x 6.3 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 4 years and up

What We Like
  • Multiple ways to play

  • Add-ons available

What We Don't Like
  • Pieces are easy to lose track of

  • Hard to assemble

Animal lovers and budding tinkerers alike will spend hours laboring over this build-your-own zoo kit. With the included parts, they’ll have the unique opportunity to play zookeeper, erecting a penguin habitat, a giraffe viewing platform, and even their very own souvenir shop. An add-on lion enclosure (sold separately) extends the fun.

The Woobles Penguin Crochet Kit

The Woobles Penguin Crochet Kit

Dimensions: 3.5 inches tall | Material: Acrylic yarn | Age Range: 8 years and up

What We Like
  • Lots of instructional help

  • Comes with (almost) everything you need

What We Don't Like
  • One-time project

  • Can be frustrating for younger kids

  • Crochet hook costs extra

For older children growing tired of the same old arts and crafts, consider this DIY kit, which almost instantly expands their repertoire—and teaches a very useful skill. The beginner crochet kit comes with everything they need to get started (hook optional, but certainly recommended!) to create a loveable little knit penguin they’ll proudly display or cuddle. They’ll also get access to step-by-step videos for a frustration-free experience.

Bluey Family Home Playset

Bluey Family Home Playset

Dimensions: 17.5 x 4.94 x 11.32 inches | Material: Plastic | Age Range: 3-15 years

What We Like
  • High quality

  • Lots of play potential

  • Screen-free

What We Don't Like
  • Characters don’t fit in furniture well

  • Could use more detail

  • Some feel house is too small

Toys based on hit television or movie series are always a sure bet, and this playhouse made especially for "Bluey" characters is no different. The two-story, four-room house is readily recognizable and comes with a variety of removable furniture to bring some of their favorite characters to life.

LEGO Super Mario Adventures with Mario Starter Course

LEGO Super Mario Adventures with Mario Starter Course

Dimensions: 12.48 x 10.32 x 3.54 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 6 years and up

What We Like
  • Very interactive

  • Lots of play potential

  • Add-ons available

What We Don't Like
  • Some parents don’t like that the app requires location services

  • Can be difficult to configure

This collectible 231-piece LEGO set gives kids the opportunity to construct their own obstacle course with bricks and star characters from an all-time classic video game. It’s not your average LEGO set—a compatible smartphone app brings the whole thing to life in new and exciting ways.

Crayola Paper Butterfly Science Kit

Crayola Paper Butterfly Science Kit, STEAM Toy

Dimensions: 2.75 x 11.5 x 12 inches | Material: Not listed Age Range: 7 years and up

What We Like
  • Learning components

  • Non-toxic art materials

What We Don't Like
  • Requires some parental help

  • Butterflies could use more detail

This fun arts and crafts kit gives kids hands-on learning experience in physics while making creations that are just as unique as the real-life creatures they’re constructing. The set includes 12 pre-cut butterfly wings and supplies, markers, and a display stand. The kit includes essentially everything kids need to get started.

LEGO DUPLO My First Number Train

Lego Luplo Train

Dimensions: 13.94 x 7.52 x 3.58 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 18 months and up

What We Like
  • Easy to handle

  • Durable

  • Lots of play potential

What We Don't Like
  • Requires help assembling

  • Blocks may come apart too easily

  • Stickers need to be applied

Consider this a first-foray into the wonderful world of LEGOs. These blocks are slightly oversized, so the tiniest fingers can stack and build to create a train set that helps them count from zero to nine.

Rainbow High Rockstar Vanessa Tempo Fashion Doll

Rainbow High Vanessa Rockstar Doll

This modern fashion doll brand has been a hit lately due to the dolls' creative and fashion-forward style. This set in particular features Vanessa Tempo, the drummer of the Rockstar band. She comes in her own outfit, complete with printed work boots, gloves, and jewelry accessories. Also included is a second outfit that she can mix and match, like a green mod jacket and platform heels. All Rainbow High dolls feature posable arms and legs during play or for display on the included doll stand.

Dimensions: 12 x 12 x 3.2 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 6 years and up

  • Stylish and fashionable dolls

  • Comes with accessories

  • Collectible item

  • Due to high demand, dolls are difficult to find

Blippi Bendable Plush Doll

Blippi Bendable Plush Doll

Dimensions: 6 x 3 x 16 inches | Material: Not listed | Recommended Age: 3 years and up

What We Like
  • Batteries included

  • Realistic

What We Don't Like
  • Can be difficult for a young child to press

  • Battery compartment is easily accessible

B-L-I-P-P-I. There’s a whole generation of kids who are learning to spell "Blippi" before their own name. And these toddlers will go crazy for the plush doll in the YouTube sensation’s likeness. The 16-inch figurine, which is largely soft enough to snuggle with, repeats some of the star’s most commonly-uttered words and phrases for plenty of playtime fun.

FFTROC Wooden Stacking Dinosaur Toys

FFTROC Wooden Stacking Dinosaur Toys

Dimensions: 0.6 x 9.45 x 7.56 inches | Material: Wood | Recommended Age: 2 years and up

What We Like
  • Well made

  • Durable

  • Lots of play potential

What We Don't Like
  • Smaller than expected

  • Watch for pointy dino tails

The youngest set will have a roaring good time balancing colorful wooden blocks on a teetering see-saw. But the fun doesn’t stop there—there’s plenty of playtime to be had using each of the figurines separately.

LeapFrog Blue’s Clues and You! Really Smart Handy Dandy Notebook

LeapFrog Blue’s Clues and You! Really Smart Handy Dandy Notebook

Dimensions: 1.3 x 3.74 x 6.1 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 2 years and up

What We Like
  • Batteries included

  • Realistic

  • Durable

What We Don't Like
  • Could be more interactive

  • Audio may be too soft for some

Just like the one in the show "Blue’s Clues and You!" this handy-dandy notebook features 14 light-up app icons that introduce toddlers and young preschoolers to educational concepts like colors, counting, shapes, and even health and hygiene. It also features phone, music, and mail apps for pretend play with Blue, Josh, and Mailbox.

YGJT Baby Balance Bike

YGJT Baby Balance Bike

Dimensions: 19.29 x 9.76 x 7.09 inches | Material: Carbon steel | Recommended Age: 10-24 months

What We Like
  • Easy to assemble

  • Easy for young kids to use

  • Great for burning energy

  • Can be used indoors or outdoors

What We Don't Like
  • Too small for taller kids

  • Back wheels could be further apart to stop tipping

  • Foam handles are soft, but bitable

For the most active youngsters, a small, low-profile, four-wheeled bicycle that’ll help them learn the fundamentals of riding. It’s suitable for both indoors and out, so they won’t need to wait for the weather to warm. And it comes in three fun colors, so you’re bound to find something just right for your tot.  

Kinetic Sand Sandwhirlz Playset

sand-whirlz

Dimensions: 3.25 x 12 x 11.5 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 3 years and up

What We Like
  • Vibrant colors

  • Pleasant texture

  • Lots of play potential

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn’t hold together as well as advertised

  • Molds can be awkward to use

This kit comes with three different colors of kinetic sand—squishy, moldable sand—that your little one can shape and reshape over and over. The 2-pound set also comes with 10 different tools (cutters, molds, and more) for endless fun. Parents will love that it’s all packaged in a plastic tote for easy storage.

ThinkFun Gravity Maze Marble Run Brain Game

ThinkFun Gravity Maze Marble Run Brain Game

Dimensions: 9.38 x 3 x 10.5 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 8-15 years

What We Like
  • Lots of play potential

  • Fun and challenging

What We Don't Like
  • Pieces can be hard to keep track of

  • Smaller than it looks in the photos

This award-winning toy doesn’t need any batteries or electricity (a win for parents everywhere). Instead, kids focus on building a marble run using one—or more—of the 60 challenges that come with the toy. Complete each task can improve everything from spatial reasoning to visual perception—all skills a budding engineer needs.

Learning Resources Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog

Learning Resources Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog

Dimensions: 9.1 x 9.1 x 3.9 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 18 months and up

What We Like
  • Lots of play potential

  • Easy to grip

  • Colorful

What We Don't Like
  • Storage compartment is hard to open and close

  • Parents need to carefully watch that quills stay out of toddler's mouth

Toddlers will love fitting this hedgehog's colorful quills into its back. Rather than the sharp quills that you might be used to seeing, the needles are actually chunky, peg-shaped pieces that are perfect for tiny hands to grab and explore. And as your child grows, they’ll also get the opportunity to use the toy to learn colors, counting, and even pattern play. 

Purse Pets Glamicorn Unicorn with Over 25 Sounds and Reactions

Glamicorn Unicorn Pet Purse

Dimensions: 4.25 x 6.2 5x 2.5 inches | Material: Faux leather | Recommended Age: 5 years and up

Children ages 5 years and up can wear this adorable purse and easily lug it with them so they can play on the go. Featuring a glitter horn, pink faux leather, and an adjustable strap for a more comfortable fit, this Purse Pet can go with virtually any outfit. Purse Pets come in a range of animal characters, such as Fox and Leopard, and each one can blink its eyes, play fashion show music, and make the cutest animal sounds. Note that the purse requires three AAA batteries to operate, but an initial set is included with the purse.

What We Like
  • Can be played on the go

  • Eyes really blink

What We Don't Like
  • Requires three AAA batteries to operate

What to Look for in a Toy for Christmas

Age Appropriateness

Though age may appear clear just by looking at the toy, it’s a good idea to check the formal manufacturer recommendation. This guideline is a great indication as to whether the toy is safe and engaging enough (or too complicated) for the child you’re shopping for, says Kristin Morency Goldman, senior advisor of strategic communications for The Toy Association

Safety

When shopping—especially for younger babies and toddlers—keep an eye out for toys with small parts that can be a choking hazard. In general, avoid toys for tiny tots that are labeled 3+, says Morency Goldman. 

Educational Value

Though overt learning components (numbers, letters, colors, and other technical features) are always nice, experts say toys don’t need to be complicated to have great educational value. Children are always learning—even during playtime, says Dr. Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician in South Overland Park, Kansas. Even traditional toys, like blocks and dolls, can help teach young children important cognitive, social, and motor skills, she says.

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. Brigitt also has four young children ages 3.5 and younger, so there’s a constant stream of toys in her home.

For this list, she considered the recommended age, durability, and how interactive the toy is—plus tapped into her personal experience. She also consulted with two experts to gain further insight: Kristin Morency Goldman, senior advisor of strategic communications for The Toy Association, and Dr. Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician based in South Overland Park, Kansas.

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