The highly-anticipated Great Big Toys R Us Toy Book has finally made its way into my house. You know what that means? I get to be well-versed in the hottest toys of the year thanks to my four-year-old niece.

My niece can’t stop poring over the catalog. The decision-making process is serious business. If a toy doesn’t light up, play music or have an accompanying animated series, then it doesn’t make the cut. Her wish list is endless. I can now see why my parents made an effort to hide the toy book when I was a kid. Man, she talked my ear off. (Sorry, Mom and Dad.)

After an hour of her child equivalent of a TED Talk, I am now an expert* in toys and games.

*I am not an expert.

There is a whole collection of popular toys that I missed once I checked out the 2018 Toy of the Year Awards finalists for gift ideas. The Toy of the Year Awards are essentially the “Oscars” of the toy industry presented by The Toy Association. So far twenty judges, including toy and play experts, retailers, academics and journalists, selected 122 toys, games and properties from over 600 nominees to battle it out for the overall Toy of the Year title and as the winner in their respective categories. Creativity, design, play value and marketing were just some of the factors considered to determine the best of the best for this holiday season.

My Holiday Shopping List

Which popular toy will I be buying? Neither.

Why even bother looking at these toys, you ask? Hear me out.

I have made it a tradition since my nieces and nephew were born to gift them books instead of toys. Birthday? Book. Easter? Book. Graduation? Book. Christmas? Tough, you’re gonna get a book. They get enough toys from everyone else in our big family, mind you, many of them end up being donated by the end of the year. What survives the purging? Books!

I prefer gifting something meaningful, something they can grow with. (Me to me whispers: something that will get your money’s worth.) Books are timeless and beneficial to their skill development. Try to @ me to tell me kids shouldn’t be reading or learning. I tend to give my nieces and nephew books that are thematically relevant to what they are into, where they are at in life or the year of their special occasion. The gifts are a bit more personal and thoughtful that way.

Take a look at a few of the finalists for the 2018 Toy of the Year Awards below. While I won’t be buying any of these toys as gifts, I will look to them for inspiration. It doesn’t hurt to scope out the list for gift ideas. Also if toys aren’t your thing, perhaps you might like the books I suggested to go along with each category. Please note the numbers listed along with each toy do not equate ranking.

With families gearing up for Christmas and the holidays, finding the best kids toys can be tricky. Pick from these top action toys competing for the Action Figure of the Year title on The Toy Association's Toy of the Year list.

Heroes that Kick Ass

What’s in this category: action figures and their playsets/accessories

Age group: 3-8 year olds

Focus on books with: a crime-fighting protagonist or a strong team of characters and an empowering message

Consider these book titles: The Adventures Of Sparrowboy, The Princess in Black, SuperHero ABC, or Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest

 

With families gearing up for Christmas and the holidays, finding the best kids toys can be tricky. From Star Wars to WWE to Paw Patrol and more, pick from these action toys that have topped The Toy Association's Toy of the Year list.
Photos courtesy of The Toy Association

Finalists include:

1. Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy Dancing Groot Figure, Retail Price: $34.99 || 2. PJ Masks Duet Figure Packs, Retail Price: $8.99 || 3. Star Wars Forces of Destiny Adventure Figures, Retail Price:$19.99-$24.99 || 4. Imaginext® DC Super Friends™ BatBot Xtreme, Retail Price: $109.99 || 5. Stikbot, Retail Price: $4.99 || 6. IAmElemental’s Series 2/Wisdom Lunch Box Carrying Case, Retail Price: $69.99 || 7. WWE® Superstars Action Figures, Retail Price: $9.99

With families gearing up for Christmas and the holidays, finding the best kids toys can be tricky. Pick from these top board games and puzzles competing for the Game of the Year title on The Toy Association's Toy of the Year list.

Thinking Skills Are Put to the Test

What’s in this category: children’s board, card, electronic, or other physical game formats or puzzles, excludes video games and apps.

Age group: 4 years old and up

Focus on books with: brain teasers, a mystery or puzzle that need to be solved

Consider these book titles: I Spy Mystery: A Book of Picture Riddles, The Mystery of King Karfu, Patterns in Peru: An Adventure in PatterningSkeleton Creek, Sammy Keyes, Holes or The Westing Game

 

With families gearing up for Christmas and the holidays, finding the best kids toys can be tricky. From Roller Coast Challenge to card games to Boom Blast Stix and more, pick from these board games and puzzles that have topped The Toy Association's Toy of the Year list.
Photos courtesy of The Toy Association

 

Finalists include:

1. Boom Blast Stix, Retail Price: $14.99 || 2. Happy Salmon, Retail Price: $14.99 || 3. HEARING THINGS, Retail Price: $19.99 || 4. Soggy Doggy, Retail Price: $19.99 || 5. Roller Coaster Challenge, Retail Price: $29.99 || 6. Ultra Dash, Retail Price: $24.99 || 7. Beasts of Balance, Retail Price: $99

With families gearing up for Christmas and the holidays, finding the best kids toys can be tricky. Pick from these most popular dolls competing for the Doll of the Year title on The Toy Association's Toy of the Year list.

Companions that Teach Empathy and Responsibility

What’s in this category: plush, baby, toddler, and fashion dolls, and their play sets/accessories

Age group: 8 years old and under

Focus on books with: personable characters who have a big imagination, a story that celebrates individuality or questions the roles people play

Consider these book titles: The Paperbag Princess, The Ugly Duckling, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, Tough Boris, Free to Be…You and Me, Wonder, The Most Magnificent Thing, The Little Prince or My Choices Make Me Who I Am

 

With families gearing up for Christmas and the holidays, finding the best kids toys can be tricky. From Wonder Crew to Disney's Beauty and the Beast Belle to Barbie and more, pick the most beautiful doll out of this top selection that has topped The Toy Association's Toy of the Year list.
Photos courtesy of The Toy Association

Finalists include:

1. JoJo Siwa Singing Doll, Retail Price: $19.99 || 2. DreamWorks Spirit Riding Free Spirit & Lucky Deluxe Feeding Set, Retail Price: $49.99 || 3. Disney Princess Dance Code Belle, Retail Price: $99.99 || 4. Luvabella, Retail Price: $99.99 || 5. Barbie® Fashionista™ Ken Dolls, Retail Price: $9.99 || 6. BABY ALIVE SWEET TEARS BABY Doll, Retail Price: $49.99 || 7. Wonder Crew Superhero Will, Retail Price: $29.99

With families gearing up for Christmas and the holidays, finding the best kids toys can be tricky. Pick from these cool tech gadgets and accessories competing for the Tech Toy of the Year title on The Toy Association's Toy of the Year list.

Tools for That Future Startup CEO

What’s in this category: physical toys that are electronic or interact with a smart-phone, tablet or gaming device

Age group: 5 years old to young adult

Focus on books with: enterprising, engaging characters aspiring to make a difference, technology or innovation as a central theme, fun STEAM lessons

Consider these book titles: The Toothpaste Millionaire, What Does It Mean To Be An Entrepreneur?, Secret Coders, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, A Wrinkle in Time, The Phantom Tollbooth, The City of Ember or Hidden Figures

 

With families gearing up for Christmas and the holidays, finding the best kids toys for future leaders in technology and design can be tricky. From SoundMoovz to LEGO to Robotics to computer kits and more, pick from these cool tech gadgets and accessories that have topped The Toy Association's Toy of the Year list.
Photos courtesy of The Toy Association

Finalists include:

1. SoundMoovz, Retail Price: $69.99 || 2. Piper Computer Kit, Retail Price: $299.99 || 3. LEGO® BOOST Creative Toolbox, Retail Price: $159.99 || 4. VRSE, Retail Price: $59.99 || 5. Robotics Workshop, Retail Price: $245.95 || 6. Circuit Cubes, Retail Price: $59.95 || 7. Cue, Retail Price: $199.99

With families gearing up for Christmas and the holidays, finding the best creative toys for kids can be tricky. Pick from these awesome creative toys competing for the Creative Toy of the Year title on The Toy Association's Toy of the Year list.

Projects that Highlight Tinkering and Resourcefulness

What’s in this category: toys that encourages kids to build and/or make items that are unique to them

Age group: 4-9 years old

Focus on books with: characters who have a big imagination or a thirst for problem-solving, DIY activities, themes exploring creativity, innovation, and perseverance

Consider these book titles: OhThe Place You’ll Go, Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Wonderful Things You Will BeWhat Do You Do With an Idea?, The Little Engine that Could, The Search for Wondla, The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Chronicles of Narnia, or Harry Potter

With families gearing up for Christmas and the holidays, finding the best creative toys for kids who love DIY design projects and have a big imagination or a thirst for problem-solving. From Star Wars to Nickelodeon DIY slime to LEGO and more, pick from these awesome creative toys that have topped The Toy Association's Toy of the Year list.
Photos courtesy of The Toy Association

Finalists include:

1. Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit, Retail Price: $9.95 || 2. 3Doodler Start Powerpuff Yourself Pen Set, Retail Price: $69.99 || 3. Oonies Starter Pack, Retail Price: $19.99 || 4. Nickelodeon Slime Deluxe Slimy Creations, Retail Price: $15.99 || 5. Magnaflex, Retail Price: $19.99-$49.99 || 6. LEGO Make Your Own Movie, Retail Price: $24.99 || 7. K’NEX Imagine: Power & Play 50 Model Motorized Building Set, Retail Price: $49.99

Cast Your Vote and Win

You can get in on the action and also get a chance to win big in their Toy of the Year Awards Sweepstakes by picking a toy to earn the “People’s Choice” award. All you have to do is vote for your favorite toy in at least one of the 17 categories between now and January 5, 2018. Visit www.ToyAwards.org to cast your vote. Prizes at stake are a bundle of toys from the category of the entrant’s choosing, check the Sweepstakes rules for more details.

Stay tuned. The winner in each category, along with the coveted Toy of the Year and People’s Choice award winners, will be revealed at The Toy of the Year Awards gala in New York City on February 16, 2018.

 

What do you think of the top picks for Toy of the Year? If you could relive your childhood again, which toys would you like to unwrap for the holiday season?

Tell us in the comments below. We want to know!