The best toys entertain, educate and inspire kids of all ages. From a functional telescope designed in partnership with NASA and a Bluetooth-connected LEGO crane, to an art kit for the budding comic-book designer and an iconic treatment to a classic board game, toys are more impressive than ever.
There are also some big-impact toy trends to keep an eye on. Space, Spider-Man and Barbie dominated Toy Fair 2023, while we also saw a stronger pivot to screen-free experiences. Nostalgia remains a key theme, too, as parents are interested in ways to introduce kids to the best toys of their own childhoods.
Tom’s Guide visited Toy Fair 2023 in search of the best toys of the year. With the holiday season fast approaching, we found the top items for every kind of kid (and every budget), so there’s no secret about what should be on your gift lists. All of the best toys below are available now or will be available in time for holiday festivities.
Best Toy of the Year: LeapFrog Magic Adventures Telescope
While there were several convincing contenders for best toy of the year, the item that stands out to us most is the LeapFrog Magic Adventures Telescope. Designed in partnership with NASA, the Magic Adventures Telescope is both a functional telescope (with 110x magnification) and an interface to explore the universe with 100+ official videos and images of outer space.
Rather than squint through a lens, the Magic Adventures Telescope features a 2.4" color screen where kids can view NASA content as well as zoom in on their world during day and night. When they find a moment they like, they can even snap a picture. Striking the ultimate balance of education, real-world application, creativity and value — priced at $99.99 — the LeapFrog Magic Adventures Telescope is our favorite toy to recommend in 2023.
LeapFrog Magic Adventures Telescope: $99 at Amazon
Best Toy Innovation: Bitzee
Tamagatchi popularized the appeal of owning a pocketable digital pet, but there’s always been a drawback: you can’t actually touch it like you would a real pet. Bitzee from SpinMaster innovates on the genre as the first digital pet you can touch. Starting with a 8-bit puppy created by a flapping LED strip, kids can pet, swipe, tilt, and shake their Bitzee to show it love and help it grow.
Bitzee will evolve and unlock a total of 15 pets with enough care, and stowing away into what we can best compare to a ring box, it’s easy to take Bitzee on the go. While it’s true that digital pets are nothing new, Bitzee manages to introduce a fresh take on the genre.
Bitzee Interactive Digital Pet: $29.97 @ Walmart
Best Toy Value: Plus-Plus
Hailing from Denmark, Plus-Plus is an exciting brand that turned a singular brick shape into countless 3D constructions, puzzle by numbers, art-inspired masterpieces and invitation for creativity. Plus-Plus has a large number of competitively priced kits in its inventory, but it’s the 70-piece tube sets that earn the Best Toy Value award for 2023.
Sold for $7.99, a 70-piece tube sets you up to either follow instructions to build a creature or complete your own design with a carefully curated color palette. With kits to build a unicorn, wizard, semi-truck, dolphin, flamingo and more, there’s truly a Plus-Plus tube that matches anyone’s interests. We especially adored the glow-in-the-dark Axolotl, inspired by the alien-looking amphibian that has gained immense popularity since it debuted in Minecraft a few years ago.
Plus-Plus Axolotl 70-Piece Construction Kit: $7.99 @ Amazon
Best Construction Toy: LEGO Liebherr Crawler Crane
The Best Construction Toy for 2023 is literally a construction-themed toy. LEGO’s Liebherr Crawler Crane is a 2883-piece set that’s perfect for the fan of heavy machinery, producing a true-to-scale construction crane. What’s more, as part of the LEGO Technic collection, the crane pairs to a smartphone app for authentic-feeling operation.
At $699.99, the LEGO Liebherr Crawler Crane isn’t for everyone, but with Liebherr branding and other incredible details, the 38-inch unit is nothing short of spectacular. Having seen it built in person, it stands out as a total showpiece.
LEGO Liebherr Crawler Crane: $699 @ Amazon
Best STEAM Toy: TrainBots 2-in-1 STEAM Maker Kit
Thames and Kosmos TrainBots 2-in-1 STEAM Maker Kit puts the steam in STEAM toys with a steampunk-inspired robot build. Bringing the TrainBot to life requires learning about how an electric motor, circuit board, and ultrasonic atomizer work together to power a locomotive. Luckily, the instruction manual is easy to follow with an edu-tainment, comic book-style story.
TrainBot can be built in either a walking or rolling configuration, and once assembled, the fun continues with a neat LED water vapor effect that makes the bot look like a real steam engine. Not only is it perfect for the budding train-lover — it’s an approachable introduction to one of the safest and more eco-friendly forms of energy production for the engineers of the future.
TrainBots 2-in-1 STEAM Maker Kit: $39 @ Amazon
Best Coding Toy: Learning Resources Space Rover Deluxe Coding Activity Set
There is no shortage of toys that teach coding, but many require Bluetooth-connected apps and screens. The Learning Resources Space Rover Deluxe Coding Activity Set is our favorite screen-free alternative to understand the fundamentals of coding language while exploring space.
Pitched for ages 4 and up, the Space Rover Deluxe Coding Activity Set encourages children to explore a space-like terrain with a roving vehicle that features a simple control pad on top. The order in which the directional buttons on the control pad are pressed determine the rover’s movement. With 51 pieces, the playset inspires coding challenges of varying difficulty, so kids can advance their coding skills over time.
Learning Resources Space Rover Deluxe Coding Activity Set: $69.99 @ Amazon
Best Robotic Toy: WowWee MINTiD Dog-E
The Poo-Chi robot dog you remember from the early 2000s? As you might expect, the 2023 version of a robot dog is far more impressive — and it’s also more personalizable. The MINTiD Dog-E from WowWee is an app-connected pet designed in such a way that it mimics realistic dog movements and responds to touch. It starts with curating your dog’s “mint” with a custom color combination, individualistic qualities and, of course, a name.
In the Dog-E app, you take care of your pet and play mini-games. Meanwhile, your dog’s tail wags with a persistence of vision-effect that lets it speak to you and tell you what it needs. Priced at $79.99, it’s certainly more affordable than owning an actual dog, yet you still get to experience what it’s like to tend to a pet factoring in its unique personality traits.
WowWee MINTiD Dog-E: $79.99 @ Amazon
Best Ride On Toy: Razor Crazy Cart Shuffle
Razor’s Crazy Cart Shuffle is a battery-free Go Kart that looks so fun, parents will want to steal it from their kids. This self-propelled rideable was designed to introduce younger users to drift systems. To operate, simply move your feet back and forth to build speed, and then lift the Crazy Cart Drift Bar to initiate drifting and spinning freely with the cart’s rear caster wheels.
Intended for ages 4 and up, the Razor Crazy Cart Shuffle frame has five length settings, so that the cart can grow with the rider and be shared between family and friends. Priced at $119.99, it’s sure to be a hot-ticket holiday gift, especially among parents who want to see their kids excited for outdoor play.
Razor Crazy Cart Shuffle: $119.99 @ Amazon
Best Electric Ride On Toy: Droyd Romper
For the parents ready to introduce their toddlers to electric mobility, the Droyd Romper is perhaps the safest and most intuitive ride-on toy in 2023. Made for ages 3 and up, the Romper is an electric, pedal-free tricycle with a number of safety measures in place. Not only does it feature a slow-start mechanism, but parents can set either 3mph or 6 mph as the top speed, depending on what’s better for their child.
The Droyd Romper also features a safety flag, LED lights, and an adjustable seat, so you can find the best fit for your kid. Up to 45 minutes of riding is perfect for playtime, whether it’s rolling around your driveway or taking a lap around the neighborhood.
Droyd Romper: $149.00 @ Amazon
Best Role Play Toy: KidKraft Ultimate Helicopter
All the best toys, especially the best role play toys, should inspire children to use their imagination. The KidKraft Ultimate Helicopter does just that, putting kids in the cockpit of a playset that mimics the feeling of being airborne with a 360-degree rocking motion.
The KidKraft Ultimate Helicopter comes with functional ignition, as well as some switches to change the lights and sounds. Plus, it features a puzzle med-pack accessory that attaches to the back of the unit. For $199.99, you get guaranteed hours of fun in a high-quality wooden set that’s built to last.
KidKraft Ultimate Helicopter: $199.99 @ Target
Best Plush Toy: BumBumz
If you love the super-popular Squishmallows and Jellycats, BumBumz need to be on your radar. As our favorite plush product of the year, Jazwares’s BumBumz by Russ collectibles have everything you want from a cozy toy. The exterior is incredibly soft, similar to the texture of high-end blankets; the interior features small beads that make the BumBumz feel sensory and sturdy; the designs are adorable and on-trend.
BumBumz launch in collections, with some out now including RetroBumz, BreakfastBumz and HolidayBumz. You can buy one individually or try to build a bounty of BumBumz. Either way, we can’t wait to see what comes from BumBumz next.
BreakfastBumz Plush 5-Pack: $19.99 @ Amazon
Best Art Kit: Made By Me Manga Artist Set
We saw dozens of excellent art kits at Toy Fair 2023, but Horizon Group’s Made By Me Manga Artist Set stood out to us most. With this kit, anyone can learn how to draw like a manga artist following an interactive drawing guide suited for beginners. The goal is to help you create your own anime characters and tell their stories in a comic-book.
The Made By Me Manga Artist Set comes with colored pencils, sticker sheets, comic books and other accessories, as well as a carrying case so you can take your designs on-the-go. It’s confidence-building, creativity-inducing and screen-free, too.
Made By Me Manga Artist Set: $17.72 @ Amazon
Best Co-Op Board Game: Horrified Greek Monsters
Fans of ancient history need to check out Horrified Greek Monsters, a new installment from Ravensburger’s 2019 edition of Horrified. In this cooperative game, players become avatars of the Greek gods and must work together to capture escaped monsters.
Suitable for 1-5 players, the game is completed by uncovering the lairs of monsters like Medusa and Minotaur. But finding their locations and challenging their abilities gets more difficult as the game progresses. You’ll have to work with your fellow players (unless you’re playing the solo mode) to defeat the horrors unleashed by Pandora’s Box.
Horrified Greek Monsters: $39.99 @ Target
Best Board Game: Monopoly Barbie Game
Barbie was everywhere at Toy Fair, but one the best iterations of Mattel’s hottest license is the Monopoly Barbie Game from Hasbro. The all-pink twist on the classic real-estate board game is centered on the Barbie Dream. Throughout the game, you buy up streets in the Barbie dream world and build up Barbie DreamHouses. Gameplay is moved along by Dream Career cards and Dream Closet cards.
Our favorite aspect of the Monopoly Barbie Game is that it comes with pink zinc tokens that feel similar to the classic Monopoly tokens. Of course, you’ll have your choice from Barbie-inspired icons including a Dog, Shoe, Sportscar, Speedboat, Roller Skate, and Barbie herself.
Monopoly Barbie Game: $38.91 @ Amazon
Best Trading Card Game: Pokémon My First Battle
Collecting, trading and battling Pokémon cards has never been more popular, but it can be difficult to know where to start as a beginner. That’s what’s great about Pokémon My First Battle, a new trading card game that’s designed to introduce younger trainers to the world of battling Pokémon cards.
Pokémon My First Battle is available in two sets, with each including a pair of 17-card mini decks, two playmats, a rulebook, a Pokemon coin, damage counters, and prize tokens. It’s especially ideal for Pokémon-loving parents looking to welcome their kids to the game.
Pokémon My First Battle: $9.99 @ Best Buy
Best Licensed Star Wars Toy: Chatter Back Chopper Animatronic
With Star Wars fans fixated on Disney Plus’s Ahsoka, it’s no wonder Hasbro launched the 7.5-inch tall Chatter Back Chopper Animatronic featured in the series (as well as the animated Star Wars: Rebels show). Chopper is one of the most animated droids in the Galaxy, channeled through more than 40 sound and movement combinations. Sure, it’s a collector’s item, but it’s also a fully functional toy for kids of all ages.
The best part? Chopper can respond to background noises like talking or clapping, hence the “Chatter Back” name. So, if you’ve ever wanted to have your very own droid that talks back, look no further.
Chatter Back Chopper Animatronic: $79.99 @ Amazon
Best Licensed Marvel Toy: LEGO The Amazing Spider-Man
There’s never been a better time to be a Spider-Man fan. Between the building Spider-Verse franchise, Spidey and His Amazing Friends season 2, and the release of Marvel's Spider-Man 2 for PS5, webs are everywhere. And while there are hundreds of Spidey-themed toys and collectibles out now, our top pick is the LEGO The Amazing Spider-Man 3D canvas set.
Composed of 2099 pieces, the LEGO The Amazing Spider-Man is a fresh take on the iconic character. You essentially put together a piece of dimensional art in which Spider-Man seems to be crawling out of the frame. With the set, you’ll even get a QR code for a soundtrack curated to this specific build.
LEGO The Amazing Spider-Man: $199.99 @ Amazon