Shopping for toys for kids can be the ultimate exercise in trial and error. Young children are cute and cuddly, but they aren’t as predictable as older kids and adults who have settled into lifelong preferences. Just when you think you have them all figured out in the gift-giving department, they’ll throw you unexpected curveballs. Since children change so much from year to year, that can make buying birthday gifts for kids a particular challenge.
Babies are easier because they can’t give you any real feedback on first-birthday presents. Once they grow into toddlers, though, you’ve really got to up your gift-giving game. Ultimately, the best birthday gift ideas will differ from kid to kid, but while you’re deciding which way to go, there are several tips that should help you with the process. Most importantly, think safety first. A kid’s birthday gift should be age-appropriate and not pose any threat to their well-being.
Fun always goes over well, but gifts with educational value will be even more beneficial in the long run. And since kids can be fickle and grow out of what they love today by tomorrow, it’s never a good idea to spend too much money on one gift. If you keep it within reason price-wise, in the unfortunate event that your choice doesn’t go over so well, you’ll have a little more to spend to get them something else. Now that we’ve gotten the preliminary considerations out of the way, let’s go shopping for toys for kids.
How to pick out fun toys for kids
Have no idea what to get the child in your life? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Birthday gifts and toys for kids are just a click away. For better or for worse, the opportunities are fairly endless, so let’s narrow them down.
Best outdoor toy for kids: Lifetime Geometric Dome Climber Play Center
Rise to the Top
This comes in three different heights to accommodate kids from 3 to 10—and it can hold up to 600 pounds of weight. Lifetime
Every childhood deserves a great set of monkey bars, and with a good set-up in the backyard, there’s no need to make special trips to the playground. This free-standing climbing structure doesn’t require a cement base, and it reaches a height of up to five feet, six inches, depending on which size you get. There are no dangerous lead-based materials involved, and it’s stain- and UV-resistant to retain its original color. The monkey bars come in six different color combinations, so you can get one to match the favorite colors of the kids who will be playing on it.
Best ride on toy for kids: Kidzone DIY Race Electric Ride On Bumper Car
This battery-powered item requires no assembly, comes in 10 colors, and reaches a maximum speed of .75 miles per hour. Kidzone
Ride on toys for kids are good because they promote physical activity and independence and help build their confidence. They assist in the development of motor skills and mind-body connections that will come in handy when they’re old enough to ride a bike. Even if they won’t be getting behind the wheel of a car for many years, these toys help children develop skills that will become increasingly important. This ride-on electric car is safe for children from 18 months old and can spin a full 360 degrees with the use of a joystick or a remote control. A protective border keeps drivers safe when the vehicle bumps into walls and furniture. Just be sure to strap in the little one with the safety belt.
Best water toys for kids: HONEY JOY Inflatable Water Slide
Wet and Wild
The set-up includes a carrying bag for storage and portability and four patches to cover up accidental tears. Honey Joy
Who doesn’t love fun in the sun with water? This inflatable bouncy house brings it on, with integrated water sports, a pair of slides, a climbing wall, and a basketball rim. An inflatable basketball, by the way, is included. This is perfect on days when parents can’t make it to the beach or to the local waterpark. All they have to do is set this up in the backyard, and let the fun and games begin. It’s durable, stable, and big enough to hold up to three children ages 3 to 10 with lots of space to play. It is a bit of an investment, but it can provide hours of active entertainment at a playdate for three. Just add water.
Best educational toys for kids: ThinkFun Zingo Sight Words
This match-up’s mix of pictures and letters can also help children improve their spelling skills. Think Fun
There’s no reason why children can’t have fun and learn at the same time. The best birthday gifts for kids are educational toys that will provide hours of entertainment while also offering them mental and intellectual stimulation. This Bingo-style game can be played by up to six pre-kindergarten to second-grade kids, and it can help kids recognize essential words. A winner of ASTRA’s Best Toys for Kids Award, it’s perfect for future word nerds.
Best STEM toys for kids: ThinkFun Gravity Maze Marble Run Brain Game
For Beautiful Minds
This comes with a game grid, nine towers, and a target piece, and the levels of its challenges range from beginner to expert. Think Fun
STEM toys help train the geniuses of tomorrow by sharpening their cognitive reasoning and problem-solving skills. This product includes 60 different games that will help young users develop crucial reasoning abilities. The goal is to set up the towers so that the marble falls from the top all the way down to a target tower below. It may sound simple enough, but it helps kids develop spatial reasoning and planning skills.
Best robot toy for kids: SGILE RC Robot Toy
All the Right Moves
This can keep going for 60 minutes after two hours of charging using the USB cable. SGILE
An imaginary friend can help a child get through tough times, and a real-life robot toy can be an equally beneficial diversion, offering fun and games as well as a learning experience. This one can perform up to 50 motions by tapping on the remote control, including walking, dancing, and even singing. Wheels underfoot help it move along on smooth surfaces, and it’s able to move forward, backward, left and right, with a built-in sensor helping it to avoid walls, furniture, and other physical obstacles. It doesn’t take an adult to figure it out. A child can use one button on the remote control to enter a variety of movements and let the robot do the rest. Kids love remote controls, and mastering the use of this one is a skill that will definitely come in handy later on.
Best building toys for kids: LEGO Ideas 123 Sesame Street 21324 Building Kit
Architecture and Nostalgia
There are more than 1,300 parts, but don’t worry. Step-by-step instructions are included to assist the little one. LEGO
Here’s to future architects. Even if the little one doesn’t grow up to design skyscrapers, building toys can provide the building blocks to excellent spatial skills. They’ll probably watch Sesame Street on TV, and this set will allow them to recreate the fictional neighborhood on their own. All the favorite characters are included, as well as Elmo’s bedroom and Bert and Ernie’s apartment. At 9.4 inches high, 14 inches wide and 8 inches deep, it’s large enough to impress young builders but compact enough to not overwhelm them.
Best sensory toys for kids: BunMo XL Pop Tubes Sensory Toys for Autistic Children
This comes in three different sizes: four-, eight- and 12-packs. BunMo
Sensory toys are great for children with autism because they can help them relax, calm down, and focus when they’re faced with a triggering situation. The fun, colorful tubes relieve anxiety through tactile stimulation, and the four-tube option comes in XL configurations that can be connected together to form one or two larger ones that make excellent hula hoops. You can also get an eight-pack of mini tubes that kids can connect and wear as a bracelet or wrap around their fingers.
Best wooden toy for kids: WOOD CITY Wooden Car Ramp Racer
Minimal assembly required. Simply put together the parking lot and start driving. WOOD CITY
Miniature cars can keep young kids occupied for hours. Throw in a ramp race track, and it becomes more than just fun and games. This set enhances hand-eye coordination in toddlers, and as they come to understand how the parts connect and work together, it will improve their thinking skills. The seven cars start at the top and flip at the end of each ramp onto the next until they reach the ramp at the bottom. The brightly colored cars provide visual stimulation, and the car parts are firmly attached together so there is no risk of a wheel falling off and ending up in a toddler’s mouth.
Best science toys for kids: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Dual LED Student Microscope
Kids can pull it out of the box and immediately get started on examining earthworms specimens, brine shrimp, and daisy leaves—all of which are included. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
Kids love toys that let them mimic adult activities. Every future scientist needs a good starter microscope, and this one definitely fits that bill. It comes with more than 50 accessories, including 10 curated pre-prepared slides of biological specimens so kids can work up to creating their own using the included blank slides and covers, tweezers, eye-droppers, and Petri dish. The two sets of glass lenses offer 20 and 50 times magnification for viewing that’s up close and personal, as well as upper and lower LED lights.
The bottom line on the best toys for kids
Looking for the perfect toys for kids can be a challenge, but it need not be an insurmountable one. You should be able to find some birthday gift ideas among this list of kids’ toys, from Legos to science gifts, just take your pick. Just think safety first, and remember: When it comes to birthday gifs for kids, fun plus educational is an unbeatable combination.
PopSci wants to help you find the most useful and expert shopping recommendations for the best gift ideas. Searching for more unique gifts? Check out more gift guides here: Relaxing Gifts, Educational Gifts, and more Great Gift Ideas.