Most-Loved Toys

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From the best educational toys to special needs’ items, we chose gifts to fit perfectly under the tree!

Keeping kids’ engaged and on track while ensuring their brains stay stimulated has put us through a whirlwind this year. With kids staying at home more, pretend play, creative play and educational games are a must!

We gathered our top toy picks you can shop for online, or why not head to your local toy store for a safe, shopping experience – it’s also a great way to support local businesses this holiday season! If you are looking for new-to-you items, head to your local Once Upon a Child shop where you can give back unwanted toys to help families in need, and even purchase lightly used toys for your kids this year. Plus, see which toys we are giving away this month to give you a kickstart on your Christmas shopping! 

Arts & Crafts

Thames & Kosmos CREATTO Light-Up Crafting Kits; thamesandkosmos.com; $29.95; Ages 6+ (We’re giving one away!)
Consists of two primary components kids can weave together to make countless 3D creations. It has flexible and durable plastic tiles for them to interlock quickly and easily, great for all skill levels; includes assembly instructions for four different configurations, but the possibilities are endless! Available in three fun sizes: mini, medi and maxi.

MIXY SQUISH TABLETOP CREATIVITY DESK; amazon.com or walmart.com; $19.99 – 29.99; Ages 3+ (We’re giving one away!)
Go crazy transforming airy, fluffy clay into seriously squishy, textured fun! Throw in some crunchy, glittery add-ins -u plus kids get 14 different sculpting tools and three double-sided molds to create their own sensory fun. Once complete, let dry for 24-48 hours and their creation will be completely dry — but still soft and spongy – then paint and decorate away!

GHOSTWRITERS; puttyworld.com; $15; Ages 8 +
Hidden codes. Secret notes. Disappearing messages. Use the included Glow Charger to write with light, and be amazed as your words, drawings and doodles magically disappear!

PAINT YOUR OWN UNICORNS; learningexpress.com; $14.99; Ages 6+
Introduce the kiddos to an array of new arts and crafts to keep their creative mind stimulated such as this gem; paint and decorate two of your very own unicorns!

educational role play

SMARTY PAD; flycatcher.toys; $29.99; Ages 3 – 6 (We’re giving one away!)
Your prek and kindergarten student will find new ways to play and learn; comes with 12 smart games and age-appropriate curriculum. Motion sensors give the lightweight tablet an innovative spin, encouraging unique sensory play; speaks English and Spanish while your little one plays with colors, patterns, ABCs and numbers up to 25 learning languages, early math, critical thinking and more.

2-IN-1 LEAPTOP TOUCH; (major retailers) $24.99; Ages 2+
Little ones will learn about letters, numbers, music and more on a laptop meant for them! Switching from laptop to tablet mode, this nifty device features an A-Z keyboard and number buttons 1-10, and the tablet features a touch screen. Pretend to e-mail Scout, or tap away in ABCs, Numbers, Games, Music and Messages modes, plus, they can even learn their name!

MELISSA & DOUG PIZZA PARTY; onceuponachild.com; $19.99: Ages 3+ (We’re giving one away!)
Mamma mia! Your little chef will have a blast on your next family pizza night making their own delicious creations with over 50 toppings, six sliceable pizza slices and all of the tools including a bright colored tray, pizza cutter, spatula and a wooden box for storage – the pizza makes “slicing” noises when cut, too.

 

SOCIAL STUDIO; WeCool Toys; target.com; $19.99; Ages 6+
Your movie star can shoot her very own viral videos! Shoot at the best angles with the adjustable base and rotating head, and she can create anything from cooking, crafting and sliming shows. Includes fun backgrounds, mixing tools, various slimy compounds and sparkly mix-ins!

MY HOME OFFICE SET; fisher-price.com; $24.99
Kids can “work from home,” too! Features a laptop with four fabric “apps,” a smartphone, a headset for calls and, of course, a must-needed coffee cup.

MEGA CYBORG HAND; thamesandkosmos.com; $39.95; Ages 8+
Your big kid can build their own BIG hydraulic hand! Includes 200 pieces; they will learn to assemble the cyborg hand, fill the piston tubes with water and adjust to fit their hand. Even cooler, the hand allows every finger joint to adjust to different angles for accurate movement. Grip items like bottles, balls, pencils, small items — anything within reach!

PICK UP & COUNT VACUUM (major retailers); $27.99; Ages 2+ (We’re giving one away!)
Pick up learning with this smart vacuum! Little ones can help clean up while strengthening their fine motor skills and learning colors, numbers and counting with six learning games. Your tot will love the bouncing balls inside the spinning vacuum canister and the five light-up panels that match the color of the piece the vacuum picks up!

MIX OR MATCH; learningexpress.com; $29.99; Ages 2+ (We’re giving one away!)
Mix or Match the four jungle animals to make your own creative animal for endless fun! Other available options include: construction vehicles, emergency vehicles, trains, planes and more!

sensory & special needs

SCENTSORY COLLECTION; puttyworld.com; $7; Ages 3+
Kids will experience a total sensory experience. With a velvety soft touch and super cool dynamic look, kids will discover wonderful scents and feels.

SPINAGAIN; puzzlepiecesohio.com; $31; Ages 1+
This cool stacking and twirling toy encourages hand-eye coordination and baby engineering skills. Has eye-catching colors including magenta, lime, teal, lemon, red, sky blue and more; BPA-free.

SPINNY PINS; puzzlepiecesohio.com; $26.99; Ages 18+ months (We’re giving one away!)
Spin, wobble, sort and discover! Wobbly bowl for sorting textured, wobbly pins. The textured pins encourage fine motor skills, sensory exploration and early experimentation for Baby; BPA-free.

SLIMY SAND; puzzlepiecesohio.com; $9.99; Ages 5+
Stretches, molds and takes shape for endless scent-sory fun! Includes different colors and molds so kids can make their own creations, and parents, it’s an easy cleanup! This slimy, sandy texture is a therapeutic activity, too – the squishing and squeezing creates a calming effect, relieving stress while strengthening fine motor skills.

Get Moving! 

MOBO WOBO 2-IN-1 ROCKING BABY BALANCE BIKE; mobocruiser.com; $99.99; Ages 1 – 3
Helps littles reach their three milestones: rock, walk and ride. The rocking teaches them coordination between hands, arms, legs and feet while they build strength, balance and gain confidence, and it grows with them, too!

BMW BIKE K1300S ELECTRIC RIDE-ON 12V; samsclub.com; $129.98
Kids will feel like grown-up with the real key start function, igniting fun engine sounds and a light-up dashboard and front light! Then watch his imagination grow with the realism with three gears as he puts his foot on the accelerator and cruises away; reverse function to get out of tight spots; plays a selection of  eight songs.

toys for Baby

SHAPE SORTER TRUCK; amazon.com; $29.99; Ages 1+
A six-piece set, featuring the “Shape Management” truck, removable back bin and four chunky, multi-colored shapes. Kids can practice fine motor skills sorting the shapes into their corresponding slots – deposit the pieces and tilt the hopper back to dump the contents out the swinging door and repeat! Made in the U.S. from 100 percent recycled plastic; BPA-free.

SHORE BUDDIES PLUSH LINE; shore-buddies.com; $19.95; All ages
Made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles. In fact, it takes six plastic bottles to make one 12” stuffed animal. Try Sammy the Seal, Stephen Seagull, Shelly the Sea Turtle and Finn the Dolphin, each has its own unique sound when pressed.

GREEN TOYS DISNEY BABY MICKEY MOUSE STACKER; amazon.com; $14.99; Ages 6 months +
Takes a classic toy and makes it safer and more playful with no sharp edges, small parts or interlocking pieces. Has an adorable Mickey Mouse-themed topper and base plus the seven brightly colored red, blue and yellow nesting pieces make for easy stacking from large to small, while he uses his imagination to stack
away! Perfect for strengthening motor skills, coordination, categorization and sorting, problem solving and more; made from 100 percent recycled plastic; BPA-free.

KIDDOLAB JUNGLE ANIMAL ROLL & LEARN ACTIVITY BALL; amazon.com; $24.99; Ages 6 months+
Features a variety of tactile experiences to help your little one learn and develop. All of the wild animals of the jungle adorably come to life in this bright green ball; interactive lights and sounds; BPA-free.

TOUCH & SWIPE BABY PHONE (major retailers); $14.99; Ages 6-36 Months
Captures his imagination with his very own smartphone for role-play fun! Has two modes of play for a fun educational educational experience with twelve light-up pretend learning apps or he can switch to music mode for fun melodies and sing-along songs. The vivid colors touch screen keeps him engaged as he pretends to call family and friends.

FLORA AND FLAPPY ANIMATED PLUSH STUFFED ANIMAL TOY; learningexpress.com; $39.99; Ages 0+
Play Peek-a-Boo or sing along with Flappy and Flora! Their ears move along while playing and singing with your little ones, a must have baby gift; made from 100 percent recycled plastic; BPA-free.

About Our Sponsor: 

ONCE UPON A CHILD; onceuponachild.com
Purchasing gently used items or donating unwanted clothes and toys during the holiday season is one way to support a local business and give back to the community. Once Upon a Child offers the best lightly used items for all ages that will put a smile on their face. Buying second hand items, and sometimes still new, then becomes new-to-you items for the kids, comes with less packaging making it more environmentally friendly, there is less expense and even less hassle. Once Upon a Child has locations in West Chester, Fields Ertle, Anderson, Florence and more. Head to one closest to you and save on Christmas this year while watching your kids’ eyes light up with “new to them” gifts!

More Local Toys

KING ARTHUR’S COURT; kingarthurstoys.com
3040 Madison Road Cincinnati, Oh; 513-531-4600

LEARNING EXPRESS TOYS; learningexpress.com
2812 Town Center Blvd., Crestview Hills, Ky; 859-331-2094

PUZZLE PIECES – A SENSORY SENSATION; puzzlepiecesohio.com
11912 Montgomery Road, Cincinnati, Oh; 513-583-1874

TWO PINK BALLOONS; twopinkballoons.com
A local mom-owned business for crafts and educational subscription boxes for kids.

Amanda Hayward is editor of this publication. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio, a military wife and mom of two. If you don't see her writing for Cincinnati Family, you'll find her running, juggling kids, teaching group fitness classes and cooking up healthy recipes.

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