The festive season is around the corner and moms, dads, aunts and uncles, not to mention grandparents, will be looking at magazines and websites to find the top toys for tots and preschoolers. While tweens and teens will be writing, emailing and ‘yik yakkking‘ their own gift requests to poor old Santa.

When I look around my kids’ playroom all I see is a wasteland of toys. One of my daughter’s most expensive gifts from Christmas 2015 was a rather hi-tech doll. To be fair, she hadn’t asked for it, but I was impressed with everything it could do and so I bought it as her ‘surprise’ gift. It cost over $200 and I have had zero return on investment. That doll has maybe been played with once.

My philosophy is that anything difficult in life must have a lesson attached, otherwise, what’s the point? I have learnt two very important things while being a parent – the best toys for tots do not have to cost an arm and a leg nor do they need to entertain us, the adult.

Best Toys for Tots

Fisher-Price Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo
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Mega Bloks First Builders Big Building Bag
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First 100 Words Board book
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Educational Insights Magic Moves Electronic Wand
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Moluk Bilibo
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Alex Toys Learn to Dress Monkey
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1. Fisher-Price Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo

Fisher-Price Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo - Toys for Tots

Winner of Infant/Toddler Toy for 2016’s Toy of The Year Awards, Fisher-Price Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo is definitely my No.1 choice as far as fun, interactive and educational toys go. One press of his tummy, or any of the buttons on his feet, activates fun songs, learning content and dance moves. You can record baby’s favorite phrase and Beatbo will remix into his favorite song. The award winning toy includes three modes – Dance ‘n Move, Learning & Games, and Customized Sing-Along – which are designed to ‘grow’ with baby

Best for: introducing baby to letters, colors, counting, music, cause & effect and developing motor skills

Ages: 9 months – 3 years

 

2. Mega Bloks First Builders Big Building Bag

Mega Bloks First Builders Big Building Bag

Fisher-Price’s Mega Bloks First Builders Big Building Bag still features on all the top toys for tots reviews and best seller lists and it’s easy to see why. With 80 classic-colored building blocks, including special shapes, there’s no limit to what your little one can create. Perfect for little hands, Mega Bloks is a mega-good idea for your toddler.

Best for: imagination and learning skills; encourages discovery, fine motor skills, open-ended play and language

Ages: 1 – 5 years

 

3. First 100 Words Board book

First 100 Words Board book

Books aren’t traditionally considered toys for tots but I think it’s worth including First 100 Words by Roger Priddy, It’s a geat addition to a nursery and it’s afforable. The book includes 100 color pictures and 100 simple first words to read and learn.

Best For: language development, brain development, physical participation and increasing attention span

Ages: 1 – 3 years

 

4. Educational Insights Magic Moves Electronic Wand

Educational Insights Magic Moves Electronic Wand

The Insights Magic Moves Electronic Wand is all about movement and it’s definitely one of the top toys for tots, as far as I’m concerned. Stomp like an elephant! Soar like an eagle! This fun interactive wand encourages little ones to move their bodies and get their minds working. It features over 90 fun and physical commands, plus a few surprise ones, like ‘Freeze!’ and ‘Let’s Dance!’

Best For: exercise and creativity; listening skills, gross motor skills, enriches vocabulary and ability to follow directions

Ages: 3 – 10 years

 

5. Moluk Bilibo

Moluk Bilibo

The award-winning Moluk Bilibo is a deceptively simple designed toy, which is what makes it so awesome. The iconic shell shape arouses curiosity, engages the imagination and encourages creativity. Whether it’s rocking, hiding, sliding or spinning, Bilibo provides endless hours of fun, for boys and girls, indoors and out, at the park, at the beach and in the snow.

Best For: open-ended play, creativity and imagination

Ages: 2 – 7 years

 

6. VTech KidiBeats Kids Drum Set

VTech KidiBeats Kids Drum Set

The VTech KidiBeats Kids Drum Set comes with a pair of drumsticks that can be used to tap the electronic learning drums. Whether it’s freestyle or playing along to the nine pre-set melodies, your child will feel like a real rockstar.

Best For:encouraging free play, sensory development, learning numbers, letters and music appreciation

Ages: 2 – 5 years

 

7. Little Tikes EasyScore Basketball Set

Little Tikes EasyScore Basketball Set

Another favorite on my toys for tots list, the Basket Ball set from Little Tikes gets kiddies active while teaching essential skills. The height of the hoop can be adjusted to six settings, between two and four feet, accommodating the tiniest of players and the oversize rim and kid-size basketball ensures easy scoring.

Best For: social skills, coordination and motor skills

Ages: 18 months – 5 years

 

8. Alex Toys Learn to Dress Monkey

Alex Toys Learn to Dress Monkey - Toys for Tots

Finally, you can encourage your tots to monkey around with this rather cute little fella from Alex Toys. The award-winning plush toy monkey features 11 dressing activities including snap on straps, buttons, hook and loop, zipper plus a whole lot more. He teaches children to dress themselves, in a fun way, from head to toe and he’s a cute companion too.

Best For: encourages independence and develops fine motor skills

Ages: 18 months +

 

9. VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Ultimate RC Speedway

VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Ultimate RC Speedway

VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Ultimate RC Speedway was named TTPM Most Wanted toy for the 2015 holidays. The play set features more than 13 feet of interchangeable track and a chunky car that toddlers and preschoolers can easily control with a two-button, steering wheel-shaped remote.

Best For: developing motor skills, social skills and language

Ages: 1+

 

10. Rub a Dub Shaving in the Tub Shaving Kit

Rub a Dub Shaving in the Tub Shaving Kit

I’ve had to child-proof all my razors because the little guy in our house is always trying to be ‘just like dad’ and get rid of his ‘mouse-tache’. The Rub a Dub Shaving Kit in the Tub set from Alex Toys includes one play razor, 7-ounce foaming body soap, comb, shaving brush and an unbreakable child-safe mirror.

Best For: developing motor skills, role play and imaginative play

Ages: 3+

 

11. Smart Snacks Shape Sorting Cupcakes

Learning Resources Smart Snacks Shape Sorting Cupcakes

I love this educational cupcake set from Learning Resources almost as much as I love real cupcakes. The set includes 8 two-part cupcakes which pull apart to reveal a circle, square, triangle, rectangle, oval, hexagon, star and heart. Match the shapes to put them back together then match the shape to the pan bottom. Loads of delicious fun for all!

Best For: imaginative play, learning early basics such as color, shape, number, and letter recognition, communication and fine motor skills

Ages: 2+

 

12. Little Tikes Gas ‘n Go Mower

Little Tikes Gas 'n Go Mower

Strange how they love doing chores when they’re too little and yet, when they grow up and can manage them, suddenly the enthusiasm has waned. The Little Tikes Gas ‘n Go Mower includes a clicking key and moveable throttle as well as a removable gas can they can ‘fill’.

Best For: physical activity, role play

Ages: 18 months +

 

13. Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Piggy Bank

Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Piggy Bank

The Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Piggy Bank from Fisher-Price introduces baby to counting, colors, language and more through music, silly sounds and phrases. With 10 colorful coins to drop into the Piggy Bank’s back, and a door for put-and-take play, it’s a toy with lots of exploration. Featuring Fisher-Price’s Smart Stages Technology, the piggy bank will ‘grow’ with baby at their pace.

Best For: counting, colors, thinking skills and motor skills development and cause and effect

Ages: 12+

 

14. Little Tikes Garden Table

Little Tikes Garden Table

I love this ‘pretend’ gardening table for growing kids’ imaginations. With two pots, two flowers, and two soil disks for planting. It includes real watering can and table basin with plug, as well as a rake, shovel and sifter tray.

Best For: dramatic, creative, imaginary play and social interaction

Ages: 18 months – 5 years

 

15. EIGHTBIT Swivel Car Rolling Ride On Car

EIGHTBIT Swivel Car Rolling Ride On Car

The EIGHTBIT Swivel Ride on Car relies on gravity and friction created by the rider. It’s strong enough to handle the most enthusiastic adults and safe enough for adventurous toddlers. A definite favorite on my toys for tots list, the wheels won’t scratch or dent your floors, making it inside-friendly.

Best For: coordination, motor skills and physical play

Ages: 2+

 

16. Discovery Space Center Wooden Play Set

Discovery Space Center Wooden Play Set - Toys for Tots

 

The 37-piece Discovery Space Center provides endless fuel for imaginative explorations into any galaxy. The highly detailed, four-level spaceship is designed like actual space shuttles with areas for mission control, an onboard laboratory, a living compartment and even an exercise room all connected by a working elevator for children to utilise as they launch into the great universe.

Best For: imaginative play, fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination

Ages: 3+

 

17. Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Chair

Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Chair

Some toys for tots don’t take into consideration that children develop at their own pace, but the good people at Fisher-Price have with the Smart Chair and Smart Stages Technology. There are various levels available, each one suited to your child’s development, at his or her own pace. Activities like turning the book pages, pressing the remote control buttons or lifting the seat cushion introduce the concept of cause and effect.

Best For: gross motor skills, coordination, concept of language, counting, numbers and imaginative play

Ages: 12 months – 3 years

 

18. Battat Take-A-Part Toy Airplane

Battat Take-A-Part Toy Airplane

The Battat Take-A-Part Airplane allows curious little minds to discover how pieces work together to make a larger whole. This set includes 21 parts and a power screwdriver with three interchangeable bits. Parts and fasteners are oversized, made for small hands to manipulate.

Best For: fine motor skills, creativity, problem solving, logical thinking

Ages: 3+

 

19. Step2 Naturally Playful Lookout Treehouse

Step2 Naturally Playful Lookout Treehouse

The cute shingled roof treehouse from Step 2 allows little ones to climb, slide and spy in this elevated playhouse. It’s sturdy and can hold up to 50 lbs.

Best For: interactive play, social skills, motor skills

Ages: 18 months – 5 years

 

20. Harley-Davidson Motorcycles Tough Trike

Harley-Davidson Motorcycles Tough Trike

Your little one will love cruising along on this Harley-Davidson styled trike. Cool features like a ‘clicking’ key and the secret storage compartment under the comfort-ride seat add to the fun! And the wide, stable wheel base, easy-grip handlebars and big foot pedals help even the littlest riders get rolling.

Best For: physical activity, developing motor skills

Ages: 2 – 6 years

 

21. Kidoozie My First Purse

Kidoozie My First Purse

I’m not big on ‘pink’ and ‘blue’ toys for tots and have always encouraged my two to play with whatever they want. But every little girl (or boy) wants to be like mom with their very own purse. What I like about My First Purse is it includes just enough pieces to be engaging without being overwhelming.

Best For: imaginative play, critical thinking, roleplay

Ages: 2 – 10 years

 

22. VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker

VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker

You can’t go wrong with the Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker by VTech. It helps your baby develop from a crawler to a walker through adaptive technology. Your little one will have endless fun as they learn to walk and learn colors, shapes, animals, music and a whole lot more.

Best For: encouraging creativity, developing fine and gross motor skills, encourages role-play

Ages: 9 months – 3 years

 

23. Nuby Octopus Hoopla Bathtime Fun Toy

Nuby Octopus Hoopla Bathtime Fun Toy

As far as fabulous toys for tots go, the Nuby’s BPA Free Octopus Floating Bath Toy is a fun and interactive way to make bath time more enjoyable. It comes with one floating octopus and three rings to toss on the octopus’ tentacles. The octopus and his friends provide endless fun in the bath or pool.

Best For: hand-eye coordination, motor skills, stimulates baby’s senses.

Ages:18 months +

 

24. Brilliant Basics Baby’s First Blocks

Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Baby's First Blocks - Toys for Tots

Babies love the fun and repetition of Baby’s First Blocks from Fisher-Price. While they put all the blocks into the bucket, one by one, and then dump them all over the place, again and again, they’re having fun and learning colors, shapes and language.

Best For: eye-hand coordination, fine and gross motor skills, thinking and problem-solving skills

Ages: 6 months – 3 years

 

25. Kidoozie Foam Pogo Jumper

Kidoozie Foam Pogo Jumper

Made from soft, durable foam and great for indoor and outdoor play the Kidoozie foam pogo jumper squeaks with every hop! The bungee stretches to accommodate children of all sizes and heights and can support up to 250 pounds.

Best For: physical activity, balance, fine motor skills

Ages: 3+

 

What toys for tots are your kids loving? Let us know your favorites in the comments below!

 

Feature image adapted from image courtesy of Flickr, Marcin Moga.

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