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.
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
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
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 Patterning, Skeleton Creek, Sammy Keyes, Holes or The Westing Game
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
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
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
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
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
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: Oh, The Place You’ll Go, Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Wonderful Things You Will Be, What 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
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!