The following was produced in partnership with our friends at Mattel, who are committed to making a meaningful difference in the lives of children around the world through play.
Tis better to give than to receive. But, when it comes to toys for your kids, tis better to give stuff you want to play with. While the best you could’ve hoped for back in the day was “lifelike karate chop action,” your kid’s holiday wish list is loaded with virtual reality, vehicles, games they can code, gadgets they can build themselves, badass superhero gear, and even a dang electronic fart machine. It’s the stuff your childhood Christmas dreams were made of, only it’s really real, and now you can finally play with all of it! Er … your kid can play with all of it. Even those modernized versions of your old favorite Christmas presents are totally for them and not you. But, they still have to give old dad a turn, right?
The click-click-click 3D View-Master of your youth is now a sleek, safe-for-kids-to-drop, Google Cardboard-compatible virtual reality headset that holds any 6-inch (or smaller) smartphone. This starter kit allows them to experience life as a National Geographic wildlife documentarian, a spacewalking astronaut, or world explorer in stunning, 360-degree realism. It’s almost enough to convince them it’s as good as a real vacation. “See, kids? It’s virtually the same thing! Get it?”
View-Master® Virtual Reality Ultimate Gift Set ($48)
Hot Wheels® Ai Intelligent Race System
Prepare your kid for the driverless age with this next-gen racing set that uses artificial intelligence to keep the cars on the track. A video game-style controller lets you drive and launch virtual hazards — although slapping the controller out of their hands remains a tried and true analog hazard. They can even play solo. Because, much like your kid’s future preschool transport, the other car can drive itself.
Hot Wheels® Ai Intelligent Race System ($81)
STIGA Snowracer FSR GT
All sleds can race down a hill, but only one can call itself a snowracer. Literally. STIGA owns the trademark. Your kid will look X Games-ready atop this bad boy, especially considering it’s capable of this. (You may want to invest in a decent helmet while you’re at it.) They’ll also likely learn a valuable lesson: just because you’re gripping a steering wheel doesn’t mean you’re going to avoid that tree.
STIGA Snowracer FSR GT ($205)
Batman V Superman™ Batman Voice-Changer Helmet
This guy already took it viral, but you can embrace your Batdad alter ego, too. Or, you can let your kid play the part of the Dark Knight, with light-up eyes, push-button sounds, and that throat-saving integrated voice-changer. Although, there must be some way to turn this into a present for yourself. Hmm, they do love all your bedtime story voices …
Batman V Superman™ Batman™ Voice-Changer Helmet ($30)
You feel good that your kid still plays with actual blocks. They feel good, because they’re building their own video games. That’s because the blocks represent coins, keys, walls, hazards, enemies, entry points, and actions, and transform into playable video game levels when photographed with a smart device. Bloxels calls this “13-bit” building because the game grid is 13 x 13. Sounds like a good excuse to brag to your kids about your 16-bit dominance in the 80s.
Barbie® Hello Dreamhouse®
It’s like the coveted Dreamhouses of old, except this modern version has 15 areas that light up, move, play sounds, and respond to 100 voice commands — just like your Internet of Things home. And, lest you think this toy isn’t for you, you can record your own sounds to mess with your kids while they’re playing. There’s also a light-up dance floor. Hey, your house doesn’t have a dance floor!
Barbie® Hello Dreamhouse® ($300)
These 3-string beginner guitars make playing music easy without dumbing down the sound. Each one includes a printed guide and link to the Loog Academy app for more lessons. It also comes unassembled — because you’ll be damned if every toy isn’t a building toy. Putting it together supposedly strengths the bond between player and instrument. It’s just like that bond you have with their IKEA bedroom set.
Loog Guitars ($200 And Up)
Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots®
Your kids may fight you on playing a game with them that doesn’t involve a screen — but what if fighting you was the game? Maybe a clean shot at dad’s kisser is enough to entice them? If not, this classic toy is exactly as you remember it. And there’s probably a bunch of fathers in the neighborhood already lining up to spar.
Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots® Game ($20)
Tyco™ Terra Climber™
Improve your chances of getting your kids to play outside with this giant remote-controlled green dragon looking thing. It can scale stairs, piles of rocks, logs, and … uh … what else is outside, again? At the very least, you have a fun way to keep gophers out of your flowerbeds.
Tyco™ Terra Climber™ Radio Control Vehicle ($100)
This game with a fart machine is more than just sharts and giggles. Players take turns playing numbered cards from the deck and pressing Guster The Gas Cloud the corresponding number of times. If he farts, everyone laughs. Also, you’re out. The winner is the last player to throw a card without getting crop dusted. And you. You’re also a winner for securing an electronic whoopee cushion disguised as a counting tool.
Gas Out™ Game ($15)
littleBits Gizmos & Gadgets
LittleBits are electronic building block kits full of buttons, triggers, switches, wires, batteries, motors, LEDs, and more (the “Bits”) to encourage your kid (the “Little”) to invent all the things. This kit was dubbed “The ultimate invention toolbox” because its 60+ parts can create 12 included inventions — among them a “Bubblebot,” pinball machine, and RC car — plus hundreds of other ideas you can find online. All those hours of creativity and distraction should take care of a few dozen weekends.
littleBits Gizmos & Gadgets Kit, 2nd Edition ($200)
DC Superhero Girls™ Slingshot Flying Supergirl™
All of the DC Superhero Girls™ line lets your kid play out their favorite superhero moments, but only the Slingshot Flying Supergirl™ is a slingshot, which lets you play out your favorite childhood delinquent moments. Go for distance and accuracy while teaching them physics principles such as gravity and flight dynamics. Also, you get to shoot a slingshot.
DC Superhero Girls™ Slingshot Flying Supergirl™ ($10)
Mega Bloks Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Battle Truck
Whatever you thought of the recent movies, you definitely loved the heroes in a half-shell growing up. This truck comes with Donatello and Michelangelo — the 2 best turtles — and features a sewer cap launcher, net launcher, and moving forklift arms. What? Don’t make that face. Nobody likes Raphael the best! Maybe if he cooled it with all that attitude … Sorry, were you buying something for your kid?
Mega Bloks Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Battle Truck ($50)
BOSEbuild Speaker Cube
Apparently, making a speaker isn’t nearly as hard as Best Buy might have you believe. According to the instructions, an 8-year-old should have it put together in about an hour. Bose provides the cables, connectors, and a 4.75 x 4.75-inch, high-performance plastic cube — you provide the tunes. No soldering or tools are required, just 15 fun, step-by-step activities on the included iOS app that sneakily teach the science of sound; everything from magnets (how do those work?), to frequency, to waveforms. Sadly, they won’t teach your children why Kidz Bop is inferior to Led Zeppelin.
BOSEbuild Speaker Cube ($149)
Invented by comedian Jo Firestone and her father, Fred, whose groaners were presumably her inspiration to write jokes that are actually funny, this game is Cards Against Humanity for pun lovers. Players take turns drawing 2 cards from the deck and reading the prompts to the group. They then have just 90 seconds to come up with the best possible pun combining both prompts. It’s #DadJokes for the win. Literally.
Barbie® Star Light Adventure Flying RC Hoverboard
Remember when you were a kid and you just couldn’t wait for hoverboards to finally be invented so you could fly around the park with your hoverpals? Yeah, keep dreaming. At least in 2016 your kid can control an RC action figure that rides a hoverboard which actually hovers. That has to count for something, right? Damn it hoverboards, you will happen!
Barbie® Star Light Adventure Flying RC Hoverboard ($60)