The Hottest Toys Kids Will Actually Play With and Really Want | Learning toys for kids that help with their social, emotional and overall development. Recommendations and reviews for baby to toddler, preschool, tweens and beyond.

Looking for that perfect gift that will have your kids squealing with excitement? We’ve got all the hottest toys that will engage, foster curiosity and power your child’s playtime with fun. Read on to discover them all!

It brings us such joy to see our children happy, so whether it’s the holidays or another special occasion, watching them overtaken by excitement as they unwrap a new toy is pretty magical. But what if that toy not only excited them upon opening, but also continued to engage them, and aided in their overall development the more they played with it…sounds like the perfect present, right?

These toys are becoming harder and harder to find, but they do exist, and we’re here to help you find them!

We’ve teamed up with one of our favorite toy brands, VTech, to bring you a special dedicated “Holi-YAY” Gift Guide of the best fun toys you’ll actually want your kids to play with. They’ll make both you and your kids say “yay”!

As with our other Toy Gift Guides, we’ve thoroughly tested all of the products on our list, and included only those that received the highest ranking with our kid testers. You won’t find any toys that didn’t elicit immediate excitement, plus continued to engage them in the following days and weeks. We also asked parents to weigh in, and all of our top ranked products received 2 big thumbs up for growth, development and keeping them busy (heeeello, quiet time!)

PIN for when you need to buy the perfect gift!


OK parents, if you want your toddler to have some productive play time that will allow you to drink your coffee while it’s still hot, the VTech Latches & Doors Busy Board is EVERYTHING! Our testers ranged from 1-3 years and their engagement with this toy was through the roof.

They loved exploring the 5 windows/doors that open with different elements like a latch, switch and key – all requiring a different hand motion to build their fine motor skills. The on/off porch light switch was definitely a favorite, and teaches them cause and effect – as demonstrated by one 2-year old who noted “mama, that button turns on the light!”

The Latches & Doors Busy Board also introduces numbers, letters and animals through catchy songs and classic nursery rhymes.

The built-in handle makes it easy for kids to take the busy board with them on-the-go, and it’s a must-have for long trips or anywhere where you might have to wait like the Doctor’s office or a busy restaurant (editor’s note: I bring it with me to the grocery store and my 18-month old now sits happily in the cart and no longer begs to get out! #momwin). Plus, you’ll have just as much fun playing along with them!


If your toddler is a construction aficionado, they will go WILD for the VTech Scoop & Play Digger. Push this interactive excavator forward and the scoop will automatically lower to catch a piece of falling debris, then lift up to drop it in the hatch. Our kid testers thought this was the coolest thing! As the pieces are loaded, the digger counts them from 1 to 10, and colorful gears spin, triggering playful sounds. It really is quite the sight!

To further extend the fun, there are 3 different play modes that encourage movement and pretend play. Music mode triggers songs and sounds effects, learning mode teaches about colors, objects and numbers, and Quiz mode asks engaging questions about colors, numbers and construction.

One of our construction junkie testers summed up how all of the kids seemed to feel about the Scoop & Play Digger, as he told his mom, “I never want to leave my digger…can I sleep with it?”!


Calling all mini-mateys, if you’re looking for a toy that encourages adventurous imaginative play, and packs in tons of interactive features, look no further than VTech’s Treasure Seekers Pirate Ship. This 2-in-1 playset can be transformed from a pirate ship to a deserted island, giving kids double the fun. We love that it offers two modes of play: “Explore” for discovering colors, letters, and numbers (a parent favorite!), and “Role Play” for exciting pirate sounds and phrases.

The kids we had testing the Ship were between 18 months and 4 years, and both were equally intrigued by all of the playable features like the turning sails, spinning steering wheel, open/close treasure chest, rolling octopus, and by far the most popular: loading and launching the canon!

The Treasure Seekers Pirate Ship can also be rolled along using the pull cord, and the pieces can be stored inside the ship when not in use…but with all these features and different ways to play, that won’t be often!


You wouldn’t think that a toy dinosaur could teach your child about feelings and emotions, but the Mix & Match-a-Saurus does just that. This friendly Dino comes with 9 “tiles” that each represent a character (dinosaur, robot or monster), emotion (happy, angry, sleepy) or music style (hip hop, marching, ballet). The control is then in your child’s hands, as they can customize how they want to play by placing 3 tiles on the Mix & Match-a-Saurus’ back.

Our kid testers went wild as they joined in song and dance with the Happy Hip Hop Monster, and were surprisingly attentive when Angry Dino said “let’s practice calming down”, after some heavy stomping. The kids loved being in control of his behavior, and the parents loved that he was helping them learn strategies to express their feelings.

With 27 different tile combinations, the Mix & Match-a-Saurus has tons of play power, and easily kept our testers occupied for lengthy chunks of time. We also found that it is a great toy for encouraging sibling play – as kids can work together to select the tiles, and then both join in on the singing and dancing fun.

As an added bonus, the Mix & Match-a-Saurus also teaches colors and shapes, and placing the tiles on his back strengthens their fine motor skills.

He comes in 3 colors: green, pink and purple – so don’t discount this Dino for girls, kids of both genders were equally drawn to him.

And the final cherry on top: when the kids were done playing, they were able to store all of the tiles in the included dinosaur egg. Teaching clean-up skills as well!


When it comes to presents, some say go big, or go home, and this is a big toy that will truly knock their little socks off. Not only is the Explore & Write Activity Desk an impressive present to open, but more importantly, it’s packed with an incredible amount of engaging learning activities.

Our toddler testers loved that the desk and stool were just their size – making it easy for them to sit and play with the interactive desktop. It comes with 5 different activity pages that can be placed on the desktop for kids to explore and learn critical skills like letters, numbers, colors, body parts, and more. There’s also a neat writing pad and stylus which lights-up so kids can practice writing or tracing letters, numbers and shapes. Plus, a cute toy cell phone (always a toddler favorite!), and music player.

Flip up the desktop of the Explore & Write Activity Desk and watch it transform into an easel and chalkboard with a storage area for art supplies. This feature turns the desk into a 2-in-1 learning + creative center, that saves space, and as we quickly found, will make it one of the most used toys in your home. Add it to their wish list, pronto!


Do your kids love taking photos, but you’re always hesitant to hand over your phone or expensive camera? With the Kidizoom Duo DX Camera, they will never ask for yours again! The Kidizoom Duo DX functions far beyond a toy camera. It features a color screen and built-in memory (which can be expanded with a microSD card) to store their pics. There’s both front and rear facing cameras, so kids can easily take those lovable selfies. They can even record video and add frames, filters, stamps and silly stickers to their photos. Connect the camera to a computer with the included micro-USB cable to transfer photos or download MP3s to turn the camera into a music player!

Our kid testers found the camera easy-to-hold (it’s even adjustable for right vs. left-handed kids), and it survived some pretty rough handling.


Got a budding fashionista, hairstylist or music super star at home? How about a unicorn or rainbow lover? Well, they’re going to love their brand new unicorn bestie, Myla the Magical Unicorn. At first sight, this colorful toy elicited squeals of excitement from our toy testers, and the squeals just kept getting louder as they discovered her color-changing features and heard her talk and sing.

With Myla’s magic brush and butterfly palette, kids can select a color, then touch the brush to her eyes, wings or horn to decorate them with their chosen shade (a huge hit with our kid testers!). Her mane and tail can also be styled with the included hair clips, crown and comb. Kids can even learn and practice color-mixing by matching the light-up colors on the magic brush with new ones on the butterfly palette – they loved seeing what colors they made together.

Kids also enjoy singing with Myla – holding the microphone to her mouth starts the song, but the background music will continue to play if they decide they want to go solo.

We love that Myla gives kids a creative outlet for imaginative play – she really is mesmerizing, and a gift that will engage and delight your child, while teaching them confidence and positivity.


 You can imagine the excitement of your child unwrapping their very own smart device. But unlike some other kids’ tech in the market, the VTech KidiBuzz G2 comes at a reasonable price point, and pairs parental controls with learning games and creative play.

When connected to Wi-Fi, kids can securely send texts, photos and voice messages from their KidiBuzz G2 to those in their approved contact list on the KidiConnect app. You can also control the apps and websites that can be accessed, and set time limits for play.

Our kid testers easily figured out how to use the device, and jumped right into playing the pre-loaded 40+ interactive educational games (they didn’t even realize they were practicing math, science, and spelling along the way!). They also enjoyed the free trial of LeapFrog Academy that adds over 2,000+ learning games and activities.

There’s also the ability to take photos (selfies with fun filters included!), videos, and listen to music.

From personal experience (we witnessed a 4-year drop the device down an entire flight of stairs!) we can attest that the KidiBuzz G2 has a tough protective shell and shatter-free screen. But the sleek design gives it that elusive grown-up “iPhone” feel that had kids chomping at the bit to get their hands on it.

This one will easily get you the parent-of-the-year award!


Walkie Talkies are good, clean fun, and these ones from VTech add extra features that really boost their play power. The KidiGo Walkie Talkies allow kids to chat back-and-forth within a 500-foot range. We had our testers go on opposite ends of the house, on different floors, and inside + outside without losing the connection or sound quality. We love that they have a safe digital connection that keeps their conversations secure, preventing other walkie-talkie users from listening in or chatting with them. Definitely a big bonus in today’s day and age.

Kids can also use the KidiGo Walkie Talkies to send present animated “texts” or emojis, which our testers thought was just about the coolest thing ever. They also come with 4 different 2-player games that can be played between the walkie talkies – they are pretty basic, and the kids seemed more interested in talking between them (much to our delight!), while wandering around the house playing spies and whispering secret messages.

It’s old school fun with a little new age technology mixed in. We found that they really sparked creative and imaginative play, and even helped develop conversation skills. They make an exciting gift, and are fantastic for siblings to play together, and to have on hand for playdates. We even think they’re pretty useful for letting our kids know that dinner’s ready!


If you’re looking for THE gift that is going to be the grand finale of your child’s holiday present-opening, the Kidi Star Karaoke Machine will get the jumping-up-and-down-while-shrieking-with-excitement response you’ve been hoping for.

We love that the Kidi Star Karaoke Machine makes kids feel like a star on stage – from the tall microphone stand, to the disco lights (which turn 180 degrees for cool, colorful light effects), to the audience sounds you can control with the press of a button for applause, cheering and laughter – your kids can easily put on their very own concerts.

Kids can either sing along to the included 8 original songs, or easily connect an MP3 player or mobile device to play their favorite tunes. The Kidi Star Karaoke Machine uses “Music Magic” mode to automatically decrease the volume of the main vocal track, so your child can take-over as lead singer. So clever!

We love the Record feature, which can capture up to 5 minutes of their performance, and the voice-changing effects are a guaranteed hit. The main unit can detach from the stand, so if they want to sit and sing instead, they have that flexibility.

All-in-all, the Kidi Star Karaoke Machine is a slam-dunk gift, that will spark your child’s creative energy and guarantee you a front-row seat to years of memorable performances.Thanks again to our sponsor, VTech, for developing such exciting, yet engaging toys, and making it easy for us all to have our very own “Holi-YAY” moment.And don’t head off without checking out the other extensive gift guides in our What Moms Love Gift Guides For Kids series:

And if that’s not enough, if you’d prefer to gift something that isn’t a toy but rather an experience that will stay with them for a lifetime, an educational present that can expand their horizons, a fun practical item that can be used every day, or a sentimental treasure with deeper meaning, head over to our popular Unrivaled Guide To Non-Toy Gifts. 200+ Presents For Kids Of All Ages (That Aren’t Toys!) This ultimate guide includes 8 parts:

And don’t miss out on downloading our awesome FREE coupon book (from our Making Memories guide– these are always a kid favorite! This includes 12 super fun coupons in Christmas, Hanukkah and Birthday designs that your kids will go gaga over. Plus blank templates for you to personalize your own. These make the best stocking stuffer! Get more details and get the link to download here.

And we’re always working on more guides (coming soon: The Best STEAM Gifts) – to get notification when we release each new guide, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter. We’ll also hook you up with exclusive deals, and freebies like our popular report: 10 Screen-Free Toys For Guaranteed Quiet Time That Will Let You Relax, Recharge or Put The Laundry Away

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