The following was produced in partnership with our friends at Mattel.
If you have kids, you have a birthday coming up. Maybe it’s theirs, but more likely it’s one of their friends. Or one of their other friends. Or one of those kids from the playgroup who you’re pretty sure your kid doesn’t even like, but that’s where you’re spending next Saturday afternoon, anyway. How much you spend it up to you (actually, it depends on some arcane social factors no one fully understands) — either way, something on this list will make elicit sincere delight from the birthday kid and gratitude from their parents. Which means you’ll probably have to do it again next year.
For The Kid
Hot Wheels Track Builder KitHere’s a fun game: Give the kid a Hot Wheels race car and … that’s it. When the kid utterly fails to keep disappointment from registering on their face, nonchalantly produce a few sections of orange track, loops, and launchers, as if you just had them lying around. Smile as disappointment is replaced with sheer elation, then apologize to the parents for the fact that they’re going to have die-cast cars flying around their living room for the foreseeable future.
Hot Wheels Track Builder Sets ($25 and up)
DIY Synth KitEvery activity kit from Technology Will Save Us teaches skills like electronics, programming, and design and reminds kids that technology doesn’t exist for its own sake — it’ a tool for making useful stuff. The Synth Kit just happens to do that while saving cookware from little DIY beatmakers. Their parents will thank you for starting the kid’s STEAM education early, as insurance against a future living in their basement. If they don’t, point it out to them and ask for a beer.
Technology Will Save Us DIY Synth Kit ($40)
Barbie FashionistasThe new Barbie Fashionista line made waves recently for being Barbies while resembling actual humans. The audacity! The traditional, tall, petite, and curvy body shapes come in 7 skin tones, 22 eye colors, 30 hair colors, 24 hair styles, and 14 face sculpts, so every kid can find a Barbie to which they can physically relate. Doll collection makeovers are so this season — whatever the season is.
Barbie Fashionistas ($20)
The Indie Rock Coloring BookYour kid is well on their way to kindergarten hipster status with their insider-approved Kindie music playlist and SXSW ticket stubs. Complete the transformation with this coloring book featuring challenges like finding hidden birds in Devendra Banhart’s beard or drawing whatever the cool new haircut is on the members of Rilo Kiley. They’ll be an insufferable blogger the minute they learn to write! At least the publisher donates the royalties to charity.
The Indie Rock Coloring Book by Yellow Bird Project and Andy J. Miller ($8)
Minecraft Mini FiguresYou might not be ready to decorate your desk with Minecraft mini figures just yet, a la this dad, but like him, you could use Minecraft to bond with your kid. These new mini-figs, whose identity stays a surprise until you open each one-pack, are a tangible way to interact and play with the virtual world of your kid’s favorite game, which you still aren’t any closer to understanding.
Minecraft Mini Figures ($4)
Sago Mini FriendsSago’s open-play apps essentially exist solely to, well, exist. Kids play without specific objectives, as in Sago Mini Friends, which mostly entails roaming the neighborhood, ringing doorbells if you want to go inside and eat pizza. That experience is now available in plush doll form; just check with the neighbors before letting your kid go door to door with their new toys, asking for pizza.
Sago Sago Toys Mini Plush Gift Pack ($40)
DC Super Hero GirlsGirls can be superheroes, too — and anything else, if you ask these 500 kids. This new line features a new generation of super girls inspired by classic DC heroes who are honing their powers at a special school. Give some little Wonder Woman one of these and she’ll be on her way to a standout college application with accomplishments like, “Successfully defended universe from forces of unspeakable evil.”
DC Super Hero Girls Action Figures ($10 And Up)
Imaginary FredYou could follow award-winning illustrator Oliver Jeffers’ advice to turn your kid into an artist — or could just read them his books and let them figure it out themselves. If you choose Imaginary Fred, they’ll learn about the power and confidence they have inside. You’ll learn it’s just fine for Junior to make those long-distance phone calls their best friend Gary, who may or may not exist.
Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers ($15)
Wooden ToysYou’re a parent, so coffee is good for you. Coffee made by your kid, if your kid happens to be this specific kid, is really good for you. Coffee made by your kid with a beech wood role-playing activity set is … well, imaginary, but damn it’s adorable. As is the rest of the Wooden Toys Collection, which promotes development in sorting, counting, stacking, music-making, and identifying a delightful a pastel color palette.
Fisher-Price Wooden Toys Collection ($8 And Up)