Toys and family games have become more important than ever to keep us occupied and laughing throughout an unforgettably difficult year. We think everyone deserves a toy or whimsical gift this season. Here’s what we found for kids of all ages — at local shops and online — to help spread holiday cheer.
A 5-in-1 convertible scooter — grows with your child as it switches from balance bike, to tricycle, to scooter. It’s designed for ages 2-5 and is made from recyclable materials. $99-$119 at larktale.com
2. Masked Stuffies
Perfect for this COVID-19 holiday season, Bunnies By The Bay created huggable stuffed bunnies, lambs, puppies and soft dolls wearing face masks to “encourage wee ones, and adults alike, to wear their masks, … to stay protected and protect others with our actions.” Customize your doll or bunny by choosing one of nine face mask designs. $19.95-$42.95 at bunniesbythebay.com
3. STEM-ulating Discovery Gift Box
Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix and Tempe has weathered the pandemic in part by creating some amazing curated care packages, book bundles and gift boxes. Their STEM-themed box for kids includes an “Awesome Science Experiments for Kids” book, a thermochromatic pencil that changes colors, hydrophobic sand, a grow-your-own-crystals kit, balloon experiments, faux winter snow and much more! $50 at changinghands.com
4. Yoto Player
This screenless speaker system was created by parents who were concerned about screen time for young children — its potential for sleep disruption, delays in fine motor skills, etc. Yoto lets kids make decisions about the stories, music and podcasts they listen to. Using a system of inserted cards, the Yoto player reads classic storybooks, plays classical music and much more. $99 and up at us.yotoplay.com. Cards sold separately.
5. Balance Jousting Set
All ages can try this, and KidStop’s toy testers report it’s a blast for the whole family. Step onto one of two balance boards and duel it out using giant inflatable joust-boppers. $39.99 at KidStop Toys in Scottsdale or kidstoptoys.com
6. Rainbow Ukulele
Why settle for toy instruments? Amahi makes beautiful musical ukuleles, recommended for ages 4-12. While you’re at it, sign the recipient up for some ukulele lessons, and everyone benefits! $49.99 at KidStop Toys in Scottsdale or kidstoptoys.com
7. Fujifilm Instax
Remember Polaroid prints? Fujifilm has preserved the fun of watching instant photos develop. It’s a great holiday gift for a tween or teen with an artistic eye — or anyone wanting to preserve precious memories on film with a retro flair. $95 on amazon.com with 20 photos (instant film), a photo album, frames and stickers. target.com
8. Zurg Glow-in-the-Dark Blaster
Step into the role of Toy Story’s evil Emperor Zurg battling archenemy Buzz Lightyear for control of the universe with this tri-barrel blaster that shoots glow-in-the-dark foam balls. With flashing lights and sound effects. Recommended for ages 6 and up. $24.99 at shopdisney.com
9. Original Song
Want something your family will treasure for decades? How about a one-of-a-kind song for your child. The song title is your child’s name, and all the lyrics are about him/her and what he/she means to you. Choose from an a cappella or studio-recorded package, and professional songwriters will customize the song based on provided details about your child. $99 for an a cappella recording up to $600 for a completely original tune recorded in-studio with checkpoints along the way to review the final product. Songs take 2-6 weeks at mamasingmysong.com
10. Disney Sketchy Tales
This new family game is like a drawing and guessing game of telephone sprinkled with Disney magic. Choose a character card and a scenario card, and draw a doodle of the combo. Earn points for the best drawings and silliest guesses. Recommended for ages 8 and up. $19.99 at Target and Amazon.
11. Rolling Stone: The Rock & Roll Party Game
This music trivia game features pop culture, rock music and karaoke showdowns. Face off in a quick-fire karaoke battle, then move to a charades round. Recommended for ages 14 and up. $19.99 at amazon.com
12. Retro Tag Game
Get everyone in the family up and running for a retro game of tag featuring Velcro vests and balls that stick to them. Ikea sells a LUSTIGT tag game featuring two vests and accessories for $14.99. ikea.com
13. Desert ornaments
Frances Boutique — which until this year hosted a popular Crafeteria holiday fair featuring local artisans — still sells adorable handmade holiday ornaments in store or online. Find them in the shape of glittery saguaros or the Grand Canyon state. $12-$15 at Frances Boutique in Phoenix or shopfrancesboutique.com
14. LOL Holiday Present Surprise
Girls ages 6-7 and up seem to go crazy for all things LOL, mostly because they don’t know which 3-inch doll they’re getting until they unwrap it. This round package doubles as a holiday ornament, and the limited edition series features one glittery LOL doll with wintry accessories and a tiny elf character in a present box! Recommended for ages 6-11. $10 at most retail stores that carry toys, including Target and Walmart.
15. Pinball Science: Everything that Matters about Matter
This STEM book doubles as a kit to make your own pinball machine! Engaging graphics help young scientists understand gravity, force, acceleration and more. Recommended for ages 7-10. $14-$22 at Costco, most bookstores and Amazon.
16. Ooly Smooth Stix Gel Crayons
Art supplies are always a great gift idea for creative kids. These crayons are smooth like gel pens. But you can add water and use the included brush for an artistic watercolor effect. Recommended for ages 3 and older. $5.99 at The Container Store.
17. Spirograph Retro Design Tin
Here’s a throwback that’s fun for a whole new generation. Create intricate art designs with this system of wheels and rings, originally designed for mechanical engineers. This Spirograph kit comes in a sleek carrying tin with six precision wheels, ring, rack, reusable putty, two pens, a design guide and drawing pad. Recommended for ages 8 and older. $14.99 at The Container Store.