We say this every year, but it remains true: toys have never been better. Seriously. This year, companies released an onslaught of incredible products for kids of all ages: innovative infant stacking toys; a robotic bird that talks back to its owner; a Nerf gun that fires darts 120 feet. These are just some of the items that made their way onto our list of the 50 Best Toys of 2019. On it, you’ll find toys across all age groups that our team of Fatherly editors, everyday dads, and enthusiastic kids have deemed innovative, educational, or just really, really fun. (You can jump to toys for Infant+, Ages 2–3, Ages 4–5, Ages 6–7, and Ages 8+).
How do we select our winners? It is daunting. The sheer volume of products available — not to mention bells and whistles — makes it difficult to separate the fun-and-innovative from the actually-loud-and-frustrating, the surprisingly thoughtful from the supreme time-wasters. We asked: What can be played with over and over again? What will entertain them? What won’t make you want to smash it to bits after you hear it turn on for the millionth time? And we whittled down our list from there. We’re sure both you and your kids will find something on it to enjoy.
Hape Beaded Raindrops Shake & Rattle Rainmaker
Is this the best rattle ever? Quite possibly. The gentle rain noises that come from it stimulate baby senses and parents’ nerves, its unique shape offers an easy grip, and it’s handsomely built using sustainably harvested wood. In short, it looks beautiful and its soothing sounds are a happy break from high-volume maracas that pass as rattles these days.
Brio Record & Play Parrot
This multi-tasking parrot is without a doubt the most high-tech stacking toy out right now. It comes with a plastic base and four wooden stacking pieces and once it all comes together, he speaks. He also listens. Yes, this parrot doubles as a voice recorder: Press a button and record someone talking, and when the stacking is completed, the parrot will play the phrase back in bird-speak. It’s also a giveaway as to who last played with baby: Will it be “Mama” or “Dada”?
Fat Brain Toys Spinny Pins
These weighted pins are like an amusement ride in toy form. Out of the bowl, they wobble and shake and offer an array of colors and textures. Once in the bowl, they spin, tilt, and wobble in unison. It’s a very smart puzzle that parents might find themselves playing with when baby isn’t around. It’s just that fun.
Learning Resources Hoot the Fine Motor Owl
Hoot is adorable. But there’s more to him than just good looks. He helps kids hone their preschool skills, letting them practice pincer grips by spinning his eyes, boost their hand strength by squeaking his nose, and developing hand-eye coordination by dropping coins into his slot. Once the coins are inside, kids use scissor skills to flap Hoot’s wings and send them falling back out again. The thing is, well, a hoot.
Melissa and Doug Turtle Ball Pit
What kid doesn’t love a ball pit? Now, you can bring one home, without having to clear a room for it. The Melissa and Doug Turtle ball pit comes with 60 balls, in a mix of hues and sizes, as well a variety of holes in the turtle’s shell to push the balls through. The turtle has self-stick tabs so you can open them when it’s playtime and close them to store the balls. There’s also a non-slip bottom, crinkling feet, a textured ring for kids to yang, and an attached ball rattle. Think of it as one fully tricked-out playmat.
Janod Pure Fox Bead Maze
This is hands-down the most handsome baby bead maze ever. Constructed from real wood, this is a motor skill activity center that, thanks to a fox centerpiece and colorful array of blocks and beads, would be at home on a mantelpiece (of a parent with a toddler).
Sesame Street Friends Wooden Stacking Toy
Stacking toys make for essential baby gear — great for fine motor skills and learning to love the sound of crashing blocks. These chunky wooden pieces teach kids colors and shapes and are easy for little hands to grasp. Also, this set is a great way to indoctrinate them into Sesame Street’s biggies, including Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, and, of course, Elmo. There’s a ton of stacking toys out there, but the Sesame Street hook will keep kids, well, hooked.
Apple Park Baby Doll
Dolls are important: Kids learn empathy through nurturing behaviors when they play with and take care of dolls. But the kids don’t need pooping, crying, elaborately fancy dolls to learn how to be kind to others. They just need a simple doll, like this one from Apple Park. It’s cuddly, it squeaks and rattles, and it’s made from organic cotton. It’s machine-washable and doesn’t have any of those hyper-realistic doll features that are bound to creep out parents.
Manhattan Toy Lemur Baby Travel Spiral
There are plenty of stroller toys out there — the kind you clip on to entertain baby when you are trying to get some chores done — but the Manhattan Lemur is a standout. There’s a rattle, beads, and mirror, all packaged on a lemur, helping your child feel at home on their next trip to Madagascar. There’s also a soft plastic leaf that’s built to feel good on teething mouths.
Green Toys Dune Buggy Pull Toy
Simply put, this is one handsome pull toy. Not only does it help budding walkers with their balance and coordination, but as they pull the buggy around, the wheels roll and the giraffe driver rocks back and forth and the monkey in the back bounces around. When kids get sick of using it as a pull toy (this happens), it works as a standalone vehicle as well. To top it off, it’s made from recycled plastic milk jugs, which is something every parent can feel good about.
The Organic Cotton Tunnel by Lovevery
Whether they crawl, rock, or toddle with great speed, every baby needs a tunnel — and you can find tunnels in just about any toy store, or heck, Ikea. But this tunnel has two tricks that make it stand out: One, it folds into a smart zipping case that is extremely simple to manage. Two, it’s made of organic cotton — a big deal if you’ve ever wallowed in the pungent plastic-y smell of the cheap knock-offs. Also, when dad gets stuck in the tunnel (hey, it happens), he happens to look like a caterpillar thanks to the cool colors. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make the difference.
Tender Leaf Toys Magblocs Magnetic Building Blocks
Wooden blocks are staple playthings. But wooden blocks with magnets in them? Now that’s an advanced toy. These blocks, made from rubber tree wood, come in a 10-piece set each with a non-polarized magnet inside. This means toddlers can build extra high towers that will allow them to step back and say, “I did it!” The curving connecting pieces also provide lots of different design possibilities. A drawstring bag is included to keep the blocks corralled when not in use.
The draw of dinosaurs is that they’re frightful roaring beasts that are no longer of this world. To a two- or three-year-old, however, they’re just as fun without the teeth. These wooden creatures make for a happy and cartoonish set of toys that snap together in a number of entirely not realistic, but entirely fun ways. There are 38 pieces that can create either five specific dinos or any monstrous combination. It’s open-ended creative play at its best.
Maileg Micro Yellow Pram
Toddlers want to follow your every move, do what you do, say what you say, and learn from it. As such, they probably want to push a stroller. Plus, they love what development experts call “real world toys” because they help kids make sense of their environment. This pram, which is six inches wide by six inches long, is the perfect miniature toy. Kids can push it on the floor, on the table, wherever they want, and sing to the imaginary tiny baby inside. Each pram is hand-painted and assembled by hand, so it’s as unique as the child playing with it.
Fisher-Price Wonder Makers
This might look like a beginner train set, but it is so very much more. The Wonder Maker sets (so far, there are nine total) encompass entire worlds, connected by trains. While these sets are specifically built for toddlers, their complexity and handsome design might make your big kids — with their snap-together tracks and electric trains — jealous. Kids mix and match pieces to build recycling centers, schools, campgrounds, and package delivery centers. You’ll be hard-pressed not to get them all.
Magna-Tiles Metropolis Set
Magna-Tiles never fail to have a place in our playroom. The magnetic building toys are tough, travel-ready, and each set can be played with in 1,000 different ways. In other words, they’re the ideal toddler toy. This 110-piece set features two big and 56 small squares, 34 triangles, and a few fun accessories — arches and car chassis — that can be used to create everything from an earth city, to a lunar colony, to whatever weird, awesome setting your kid’s brain dreams up.
What’s better than knocking stuff down, over and over and over again? To a toddler — nothing, that’s what. You’re going to want a nice carpeted (or grassy) space for this set of wooden bowling pins resembling meerkats. You can argue this is educational destruction because it’s all about movement, and hand-eye coordination, but let’s be honest, this is how to raise a bowling partner who can throw strikes with the best of them.
Milton & Goose Dairy Play Set
There’s play food and then there’s Milton & Goose play food. This gorgeous five-piece wood set of dairy staples — including milk bottle, almond milk bottle, butter, and two free-range eggs — is so hipster it hurts. But also, it’s simply the best-looking set of play food out there, just right for the aspiring toddler chef (or, let’s be honest, craft beer snob and ‘cado toast addict). You can grab a veggie set, or pasta set, to complete your culinary toy tasting menu.
V-Tech Mix and Match-a-Saurus
This inventive robotic dinosaur helps kids learn about feelings in a unique and brilliant way. It comes with three emotion tiles: Happy, angry, and sleepy, as well as music tiles and character tiles. Every time your child inserts tiles into the dinosaur, the dino behaves accordingly. And it helps kids learn about expressing emotions (and sleepiness), when, say, irate dino stomps around and practices the best ways to calm down.
Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found It Game
The Eye Found It games are the rare series that grab kids attention and are pretty damn fun for parents too. Simply roll the dice, move your piece, flip a card, and follow the prompts to search the visual feast of a board for hidden objects. The formula worked for a Disney-themed game (think, Peter Pan to Beauty and the Beast), but Eye Found It does one better with a Richard Scarry-themed board, including all the favorite characters, from Lowly Worm to Huckle Cat.
Star Wars Scream Lightsaber
The latest entrant into the Star Wars merchandising galaxy is also one of the coolest. Aspiring young Jedis can choose between three sound modes, depending on the type of epic battle they want to start. The lightsaber can sound like a Wookie or an Ewok or just your average Jedi warrior. But the most awesome part is that kids can record their own sounds by pressing the record button and making whatever noise they want. Over and over. We’re talking burps, farts, shouts, yells, what have you. This is basically a dream toy for younger Star Wars lovers.
Kid Made Modern My First Arts + Crafts Library
This is simply the best set for beginner crafters. From Todd Oldham, a creative whiz who’s designed clothing lines and hotel interiors, this set includes a crazy 200 plus pieces of craft-ables, including 12 wooden beads, 49 fuzzy sticks, 20 paper straws, 16 jumbo craft sticks, 12 colored clothespins, plus stickers, yarn, glitter paper shapes, canvas squares, and three rolls of tape. From castles to clowns to cows, kids can create whatever their minds dream up.
Haba Little Friends Vet Clinic
This intricate, detailed, yet totally modern veterinary clinic puts yours grandma’s dated dollhouse to shame. It has everything aspiring Dr. Doolitles need to treat dogs, cats, and other four-legged pals. This includes a doctor, black kitten, a doctor’s bag, stethoscope, tweezers, syringe, bandages, a treatment table, an animal scale, and of course, two kennels for the critters being treated.
Monster Jam Mega Grave Digger
This remote-control monster truck is huge (measuring at two feet long), has working lights, and can operate as far as 250 feet away from the remote control. It not only looks like the real thing, but it drives like it too. The 2.4GHz frequency dual joystick controller makes it easy for adults and kids to maneuver the over two-foot-long truck in any direction. The custom rubber tread provides superior traction control and the mega-sized shocks and suspension make it virtually unstoppable on and off the road. The only problem we see here is that parents are going to want a turn at it too.
GeoSafari Jr. Kidnoculars Extreme
For your aspiring birder, or just kid who needs a little encouragement to come hike with you, these next-level binoculars should do the trick. They amplify everything three times — sight and sounds — so kids can wear them like sunglasses and see the wonders of nature up close but also hear the birds by means of a locational microphone. Look at the Chickadee, hear the Chickadee (“chicka-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee”), memorize all seven species of Chickadee (genus Poecile), become a bird genius. It’s that simple. The volume is adjustable and the breakaway neck strap keeps these from getting lost. You’ll have a budding explorer in no time.
Little Tikes Stem Jr. Wonder Lab
Who needs a toy kitchen when you have a full-service kid-sized lab? This is no plastic facsimile: Kids can make everything from snow to slime and 20 other experiments using common household ingredients like vinegar and, yup, baking soda. The lab tray is removable, and the set even comes 20 other lab accessories, including maze pieces, maze balls, test tubes, stirring spoons, an eyedropper, and lab goggles.
Kettler CAT Digger
If you’re willing to give up a sizable patch of grass, this superb digger will make your toddler happy as, well, a kid in dirt. This CAT digger for kids rolls, spins, and digs sand, gravel, and dirt with its realistic shovel. This toy is up to spec: It has a high carbon steel frame, a metal digging shovel that easily scoops up rocks, and 360 rotation so everything is within reach. Its tread tires give the digger added stability. The only thing missing? A hard hat.
Cubby the Curious Bear
This bear moves his ears, head, eyes, and arms like a reanimated Teddy Ruxpin, but a whole lot cuddlier, and more high-tech to boot. He has more than 100 sound and motion combinations, plays peek-a-boo, and responds to petting and feeding (he comes with a honeycomb toy that sets him off) like a very contented little cub. His greatest trick: He doubles as a sound machine. Flip the switch in the back to sleep mode and he realistically (and, yeah, a bit creepily) yawns, closes his eyes, and plays either lullabies or white noise as your child sleeps through the night — no doubt with one eye open, considering there’s a sleeping bear in their bed.
Hape Robot Factory Domino
Hape’s Robot Domino Building is a simple yet simply ingenious toy, but also one that has all the right parts. Kids get a tipper car, a ball track, a tipper arm, and a series of ramps that they use to form a robot production line. However they want. Whenever they want. There’s no limit to how many ways you can play with this toy, which is entirely the point. And there’s no wrong or right way to do it. Simply put, we love this thing. And kids do, too.
Craft-tastic Mythical Pom Animals
We’re sure some smartass kid is going to point out to you that while pandacorns and meowmaids are mythical, narwhals are totally real. But really, this crafting kit lets kids dream up creatures they’ll never see in National Geographic. The shapes are made of pre-sewn felt, so no thread or needles (or Band-Aids) required. Kids just stuff them, decorate them with stickers and other accoutrements, and wind up with three beasts that make for a perfect rainy day screen-free activity.
Playmobil Explorers Hidden Temple with T-Rex
There’s a reason the center of this Playmobil set is a well-munitioned tree fort: There’s a freaking T-Rex (included) coming after you. From a “functioning” laser gun to treasure maps to trap doors and hidden pulley systems, this Playmobil set evokes (equally) Indiana Jones, Swiss Family Robinson, and Jurassic World. In other words, it’s super cool. Still not convinced? There’s a test tube made out of UV-activated plastic. When your intrepid explorer shines his or her flashlight on it (which is included and actually works), the test tube glows. The jungle plant’s leaves open and close, and the laser gun actually has an LED light that flickers.
LEGO Series 19 Minifigures
Bear Costume Guy. Galactic Bounty Hunter. Mummy Queen. Fox Costume Girl (with Chicken!). The latest batch of Lego minifigures — there are 16 total, each of which come in a blind bag — features a menagerie of oddball and wildly cool characters that complement the imaginative structures and play spaces kids build. These and other minifigures, which have been their own standalone product since 2010, more than Mindstorms coding kits or wildly complex Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Bugatti-themed builds, are the biggest improvement to kid-based LEGO play. They’re a killer stocking stuffer for kids and adults alike.
Tangerine Toys Bow & Arrow Set
Don’t like the concussive blast battles of Nerf? Understandable. This bow and arrow set is a bit more civilized — and quiet. The gorgeous wooden recurve bow comes with a simple cotton target, three colorful felt-tipped wooden arrows, and none of the clickity-clack of other forms of basement warfare. Think of this as the weapon for the kid with Olympic aspirations.
Great Pretenders Reversible Wonder Cape
Why confine kids to the Marvel-verse when their ideas of a superhero can be limitless? All they need are some cardboard “weapons”, accessories you might find lying around the house, and, sure, a cape. For this, look no further than the ridiculously high-quality reversible cape from Great Pretenders. It shows them that you mean it with pretend play and, also, you get to stay neutral on whether you’re a DC or Marvel fan. Leave that decision up to them.
Juno My Baby Elephant
This purple pachyderm is yet another new entrant in the world of robotic pets and shows how this category continues to make leaps and bounds in realistic, cool, and decreasingly creepy robotic playthings. Juno’s trick is found in her lifelike trunk, which eats peanuts, plays with her toy mouse, doles out kisses, and moves in an oddly human-like fashion. Is she a bit odd and uncanny? Sure, to an adult. Your kids, though, will likely accept her as one of the family.
Crayola Build A Beast Shark
There are a lot of building sets on the market, but few that allow kids to build a creature from the inside out. That’s what makes Crayola’s kit so much fun. With it, kids first construct an articulating shark skeleton and then layer modeling clay on top of it to create the shark’s body. And unlike a lot of STEM toys on the market, the Build-a-Beast leaves kids room for creativity.
Treasure X Aliens - Dissection Kit
Is it a bit weird to see kids slice open the body of an alien and then remove slime and organs from its carcass? Sure. But damn does this toy, which is part slime-toy, part science toy, make the process fun. Kids cut the carcass with a knife (don’t worry, it’s not sharp) and pull out the contents — which include a collectible alien action figure, body parts and, of course, ooze. And it can all be played with again and again.
Poopsie Rainbow Slime Kit
Part makeup kit and part slime factory, with a weirdly scatalogical angle, the Poopsie Rainbow slime kit comes with nail polish eyeshadow and bags of slime. The magic is that the makeup can be applied to kid’s faces while also adding tint to slime to make a variety of lovely colors.
Sphero has taken their smart, programmable robotic orb, shrunk it and turned it into a soccer ball. But unlike the more strictly education-aligned robotic balls, Sphero’s can be used by younger kids who can control it — “kicking” and moving it from the Sphero Play app. But don’t worry, it’s not all frivolous — Sphero has made sure that kids can use code blocks and paths to make the ball move while learning code basics.
Nurturing toys are huge. So are robotic toys. Not to mention drones. And behold a toy that hits every category in a bizarre mash-up that’s actually totally original and winning. Owleez is admittedly a very strange concept but one that works. Kids bond with the robotic owl, who is expressive and fun, and when she feels confident enough to leave her (charging) nest, she takes flight. But don’t fret: She always comes back.
Moulin Roty Botanist Kit
This absolutely exquisite botany kit encourages your little nature lover to keep on exploring. Made by a French brand that’s focused on preserving childhood, this set gives kids the tools to collect and preserve things they find out in the wild. They get a gorgeous case along with a wooden flower press, a magnifying glass, scissors, notebook and pencil, and three boxes for storing their treasures.
Mattel Creatable World Dolls
Leave it to Mattel, the makers of the very genderized Barbie, to come up with one of the coolest toy releases of the year: Gender-neutral dolls. You can get the doll that most resonates with you, from skin color to hair color, and then style it accordingly, swapping out outfits and wigs. Each doll wears clothes that you’d find at the nearby middle school as opposed to your local lingerie store.
L.O.L. Surprise! 2-in-1 Glamper Fashion Camper
We’ll be the first to say we have huge issues with the amount of plastic waste L.O.L. toys generate. However, that doesn’t detract from the fact that this set is true #VanGoals. It is an RV? Is it a mansion? Is it a water park? Why, it’s all three. The glamper is the first vehicle for the L.O.L. Surprise! dolls and, to no one’s surprise, they’re not slumming it. The mega-mobile opens in the back to become a two-feet-tall by three-feet wide full glam life experience.
Invasion of the Cow Snatchers
This oh-so-clever magnetic maze game from ThinkFun tasks players with “lifting” cows off the board with a magnetic flying saucer. What seems simple at first (connect to cows; find route off board) becomes trickier thanks to a series of obstacles of varying height — silos, barns, etc. — that require serious puzzle, and STEM, skills to solve. There are no cow-pies to worry about in the game, but there are 60 challenges to complete, ranging in difficulty from “hardly a challenge” to “huh?”
Nerf One Ultra Blaster
Sure, this four-pound, motorized foam flinger has some serious firepower: with a squeeze of the trigger it lets loose a hail of 25 darts from its drum. But the real story is what it’s firing. This blaster is the first in Nerf’s arsenal to work with the company’s Ultra darts which, thanks to their lightweight construction and aerodynamic shaping, can hit targets as far as 120 feet away. Game on.
LEGO Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith AT-AP Walker Building Kit
LEGO released a number of epic sets this year. But we kept coming back to this 689-piece recreation of the All-Terrain Attack Pod — also known as the Sniper Tank — from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The completed stomper hits all the marks: it stands nine inches tall and features articulated legs, a spinning turret, and a mounted gun so that, when the build is over, it’s legitimately fun to play with.
Hot Wheels id Smart Track
Hot Wheels thoroughly planted itself in modern times with this teched-up track update without ever losing the car-crashing, model-collecting, stunt-jumping joy of racing cars around a loopy track. The new die-cast cars have the same weight and feel, but feature embedded NFC chips that record laps, speeds, distance traveled; the track pieces offer the same assemble-a-crazy-course feel, but they have USB connectors and sensors that track data and digitize the action, flinging it into a app-based virtual world where a virtual garage, challenges, and wild games await. It’s an ideal union of real world and virtual play that’s fun as hell.
Fat Brain Toys Jixelz
Classic cardboard puzzles are great. But once you’ve gone through the painstaking process of completing one, what do you do with the finished product? Frame it? Glue it together? Pssh. That’s why we like Jixelz so much. The pixelated puzzle sets are challenging and engaging to put together (there are templates to follow) and come in a variety of styles (including mermaids and kittens). But the best part is that once the plastic pieces have been snapped together, kids have a sturdy keepsake that doesn’t require gobs of super glue to stick together.
Nintendo Switch Lite
This slimmer version of the Switch has a few noticeable changes: it can’t dock with your TV, its Joy-Con controllers aren’t detachable, and its screen is only 5.5 inches. But the improvements these changes enable — a longer battery life, a more durable, portable body — and the fact that it’s lower in price yet compatible with nearly every game for the console make this an ideal travel companion, one that can slip easily in a bag or back pocket and be pulled out whenever the mood to play strikes.
Marvel Avengers: Endgame Electronic Fist
Thanos may have been inevitable, but Tony Stark was — and always will be — Iron Man. And when he snapped his fist to save the world and continue the marvel cinematic universe for another bazillion movies he made his power gauntlet iconic. This recreation of the weapon, featuring light up Infinity Stones and fully-articulating fingers is a blast, worthy of world savers and basement brawlers alike.
Ravensburger Disney Villainous
This role-playing board game, which features cards, deep character skillsets, and not an insignificant amount of rules, isn’t for casual players. But for the Disney obsessed, and those who want to vie for top villain and battle it out with spells and curses, it’s a fun, well-designed game with a big replay value. Plus, who doesn’t want to role play as Captain Hook?
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