The best toy

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Which toys are best?

Toys are one of the best parts of childhood, allowing kids to learn, explore their imaginations, and just have fun. Toys can run the gamut from simple stuffed animals to complex electronics and anything in between. What was popular a few years ago probably won’t be the hot toy these days, though. Finding just the right toy requires a bit of work and understanding about what’s available on the market now. That’s why we’ve created a buying guide to help you make the best decision. Our top pick is the Makeblock mBot Starter Kit, which encourages children to learn the basics of robotics as well as coding.

What to know before you buy toys

We’ve collected a few categories of toys you should consider before purchasing one:

Group play vs. solo play

Some toys, such as board games, are made for more than one person to play. Others are made for one person, such as a handheld video game. However, the majority of toys can be played with alone or with multiple people.

Free play vs. structured play

A free play toy doesn’t have any rules, allowing the child to use his or her imagination. A structured play toy has rules that must be followed. Both types of toys have their advantages.

Electronic vs. non-electronic

Many modern toys involve some sort of power source, allowing the toy to provide visual and audio feedback. Others have no electronic component, such as a basic doll or a basketball. Again, both types have advantages.

Indoor vs. outdoor

Some toys are only able to be used indoors because they cannot become wet or dirty, such as electronics or board games. Other toys demand use outdoors, such as sports equipment.

What to look for in a quality toy

Once you’ve determined the overall categories you’d like to see in a toy, there are some types of toys you can consider:

Games

Toys that involve game-playing can be board games, card games, sports games, or video games. Games are a versatile type of toy because they often can be played alone, with others, indoors, or outdoors.

Figurines

Figurines are popular toys for many children. Some won’t have a high price point, resulting in a budget-friendly gift. Figurines can include dolls, stuffed animals, and action figures. They’re available in almost any size, and some will provide electronic feedback.

Building

Building types of toys can be fun for one or multiple people. Some building toys have instructions to follow to create a certain shape or item. Others allow for imaginative building, where there are no set guidelines. Building toys aimed at older kids can even involve creating working electronics.

Real life

Some toys are made to allow children to mimic real life. Kids can use these toys to pretend they are adults, trying out different professions, or they can act out scenes from their lives at school or on the playground.

Vehicles

Kids’ toys that double as vehicles include tricycles, bicycles, scooters, skateboards, and electric riders. Some of these toys help the child exercise, while others are made only for riding. These toys can be dangerous if not used properly, so always follow age-appropriate guidelines.

How much you can expect to spend on toys

Another reason toys make a great gift is because there is such a wide range of potential price points. Some toys are as inexpensive as $1 or $2, while others can cost $500 or more. You can always find a toy to fit in a budget.

Toys FAQ

What is a STEM toy?

A. STEM is short for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. So, a STEM toy will draw from one or more of these categories.

How do I find age-appropriate toys?

A. Many toys will have a recommended age range printed on the box. This is a good starting point most of the time.

What toys are best to buy?

Top toy

Makeblock mBot Starter Kit

Makeblock mBot Starter Kit

Our take: Fun toy that will keep kids occupied while learning extremely useful things.

What we like: Amazing way for kids to learn how to code from a young age. Boys and girls love it. Parents can help put it together for younger kids.

What we dislike: Because the main game is based around learning how to control it, the design is rather fragile, so it’s good to warn kids about it.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top toy for the money

Makedo Discover Toolbox

Makedo Discover Toolbox

Our take: For those who love making things and only need some tools to unleash their imagination.

What we like: Great to bring your kids’ cardboard projects to the next level! Comes with a cute toolbox to keep everything organized.

What we dislike: The cutting tool is not the best but then again, it is a toy for young children that should probably not be using sharp things anyway.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Peg Perego’s John Deere Tractor with Trailer

Peg Perego’s John Deere Tractor with Trailer

Our take: Kid-sized tractor has multiple power settings, ensuring the child can drive it safely and stay in control.

What we like: Toy made for outdoor play, encouraging kids to put down their screens. Includes a trailer for towing small items.

What we dislike: Some questions regarding build quality. Needs plenty of open space to use it properly.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Kyle Schurman writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money

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