With all the stores trotting out their holiday finery and the weather getting cooler, it’s starting to feel like the holidays. And when you look at the calendar – YIKES – you’ll see that Christmas is only 43 days away!
One of the best ways to keep your holidays stress free is to plan ahead and do your shopping early. Well, Moms, MomsOutLoud.com has been working hard to figure out the best of the best toys for kids from birth – age 12 this holiday season. We’ve culled the parent’s magazines, the toy award results, the catalogs, and asked the experts on toys at Learning Express for the BEST HOLIDAY GIFTS for kids for this year. And now we’re sharing the best of the best to you.
And, so that you can do your shopping early and save money, Moms Out Loud is partnering with Learning Express and Safari Kids on an exclusive Moms Out Loud 20% Off Savings Event on Nov. 20 at their Plano locations (Parker Road / Tollway) – with free childcare while you shop at NexGym / PlayTime in that same shopping center. (More info click here.) Below, where you will be able to get great savings on a particular toy because it’s offered at Learning Express, we’ve highlighted the toy name in red….so if you like any of these ideas, take note and then join us on Nov. 20 in Plano to save money and get your gift wrapped for free!
***MOL note: One of the things we learned putting this piece together was to **comparison shop**! As you’ll see below, some of these items vary in price by retailer by more than 30% at times. Smart shopping will allow you to save considerable money – or at least help pay for some other stocking stuffers!*
The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition
You’ve probably heard the buzz this little elf has caused over the past few years since it’s introduction. But if you’ve been a hold-out (like myself), this is the year to buy. Two reasons: 1) I’ve heard from several Moms that the behavior incentive it provides to their kids this time of year is HUGE. (We can always use a little help, right!) 2) With the 20% discount you can get at Learning Express on Nov. 20, this will only be $23.99 vs. the $29.99 standard retail price at every major outlet. Very worth it!
If you haven’t already purchased this for your baby based on my early summer recommendation (see 36 Products for the First 3 Months), Christmas is a great time to buy it. At only $13, it is one of the biggest toy values for your money you’ll ever find. And it’s not just me who thinks it’s great: average Target guest rating is 4.5 stars – with 135 reviews! Available at major retailers for around $13 (Wal-Mart, Target).
Terry Tow Truck Rumblies
This cute little truck from Manhattan Toy is certain to entertain your little construction / car fanatic. Soft materials and durable construction ensures it will last through lots of hugs and chewing. Blinking lights and clicking wheels keep your child’s interest. Available at Lone Star Baby & Kids for $16.99.
Eddie the Elephant Tunes
No kid can resist tugging at a purple elephant trunk. And each shape on Eddie’s plays a different note; shapes on his feet allow you to record and reply. Includes songbook. Your little Mozart will have a great time….and for those less musically inclined, the ears will provide hours of chewing entertainment. $32.99 at Learning Expres (or $26.39 after 20% discount on Nov. 20).
Swap n’ Go Musical Snail
Your crawlers and sitters will get a kick out of this snail that’s really three toys in one! Interchangeable shells feature different fascinating features that turn and spin as the snail rolls. Kids can push the snail’s tail to keep the snail moving, or roll the two shafts connected by twisted rods of beads, or dissasemble the pieces to create a 5-piece stacking toy. Plays a “magical soothing” tune. Awarded a Parent’s Choice “Recommended” Award for Fall 2008 Toys. Available at Learning Express for $36.99 (or $29.59 after the 20% discount on Nov. 20).
Alphabet Stacking Blocks
These nesting blocks from Melissa & Doug stack to 3′ height. Your toddler will be amazed the first (and second, and third, and fourth….) time they stack the tower taller than themselves. Beautifully illustrated, the blocks are a sturdy yet lightweight cardboard to provide hours of pleasure. Only $9.99 at Learning Express ($7.99 after 20% discount on Nov. 20!).
Pull Along Zoo
This wooden pull toy from Melissa & Doug features three interlocking animals with stacking blocks that mix and match to form creative new creatures. Your toddler will love pulling the animals along and experimenting with the blocks to create new combinations (to your hearty, loud, clapping approval, of course!). Available at Lone Star Baby & Kids, $16.99.
Pull & Learn Carrier
Three vehicles and three fun characters fit nicely into the car carrier, load ’em up on the pull down ramp. Your child can tow cars and learn colors, numbers, and animals from the 12 button CB radio. Made by VTech; available at major retailers for $24.99 (Target, Toys R Us).
Little Hands My Giant Busy Box Kit
You won’t believe the treasure chest of fun in this big box for little ones. Kit includes 16 exciting projects for kids in one GIANT set! Inside this 12″x12″x4″ box with woven handle hides all the supplies to make dough animals, sticker art, a collage farm, paper bag puppets, and tissue art pictures. Your kids will surely get so creative they’ll think of some projects of their own, too. Available at Learning Express for $34.99 (or $27.99 after the 20% discount on Nov. 20!).
Smart Bounce & Spin Pony
This will be under our Christmas Tree this year for our 16-month old. This award-winning toy (awarded by both iParenting Media and Toy Wishes Buying Guide) is guaranteed for hours of fun for your toddlers. With every bounce or spin of the roller, baby makes something happen; hear songs, learn about animals and their sounds, first words, greetings and more. You can also make the toy interactive with your TV through a wireless connection, so your child can see what their actions do on the big screen. As your child gets older, you can set the learning to focus on Numbers and the Alphabet. Appropriate for kids who can get on/off the toy unassisted. $59.99 at major retailers (Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us, etc.).
Play Doh Magic Swirl Ice Cream Shoppe
The classic Play Doh fun gets sweetened up with molds to create ice cream cones, cookies, candy and other special treats. Scoop, swirl, dip, and shape to make your favorite pretend sweets. Playset includes 4 three-ounce cans of PLAY-DOH compound and over 40 molds and accessories. Available at major retailers (Wal-Mart– Rolled back to $10 right now, Target – $14.99, Toys R Us – $15.99).
Jumbo Chunky ABC puzzle
This alphabet puzzle features animal clues by each letter, plus full-color pictures underneath each piece. Each piece stands up alone for pretend play. The jumbo size helps keep pieces from being lost, measures 12″ x 9″. Available at Lone Star Baby & Kids, $16.99.
Disney Princess Sleeping Beauty Playset
What pre-school girl isn’t fascinated by the Princess stories from Disney? This playset has more than 25 play pieces for girls to play out their favorite Sleeping Beauty scenes over and over. Set in a castle-like carrying case. $17.88 at Wal-Mart.
Learn to Dress Emma
Your pre-schooler will love to practice dressing this cute cuddly doll. They can practice lacing and tying shoes, buttoning buttons, closing hook/loops, snapping, buckling, and more. The doll also includes play accessories that stick to her hands for pretend play. Available at Learning Express for $24.99 ($19.99 after 20% discount on Nov. 20!).
Every budding artist will appreciate their own place to work. This easel, sold at Ikea, is so affordable, you can pair it with their rolls of butcher paper (sold for $6.99) and a never-ending supply of markers, crayons, and paints. One side is dry-erase, the other is solid for use with paper. Folds flat. $24.99, Ikea.
Build a Road Set
This Top 10 Toy of 2008 Award Winner from Family Fun magazine is sure to be a hit with your pre-schooler. Battery operated cars follow the track up and over bumps and bridges, around curves and down straight-aways. Build the over 15′ of road differently every time. Won’t break your budget, either – only $29.99 at Learning Express ($23.99 after 20% discount on Nov. 20!).
Animal Scramble Game
Pre-schoolers will go wild for the Animal Scramble game. The electronic “tagger” (the giraffe) calls out one of the animal names or sounds. Players then race to tag the right animal with the giraffe. As kids master the easy clues, they increase in complexity. Can be set for individual or team mode. Available at Learning Express for $34.99 ($27.99 after 20% discount on Nov. 20!).
Your young race car driver or motor-bike cop will love donning his helmet and revving up the engine through these handlebars or steering wheel. Lights, sirens, and a microphone to issue orders (or get mission instructions from a dispatcher) lends to the realism for the role play. Just make sure your child takes off the helmet before bed! Available at major retailers for $30 (Wal-Mart – $24.88, Target – $34.99, Toys R Us – $24.99, etc.).
I Spy Memory Game15th Anniversary Edition
Children love I Spy. They’ll have fun honing memory, reading, thinking and language skills. Game features 2 ways to play: beginners search for matching pairs, advanced players solve the riddles. Comes in a special tin. A Parent’s Choice Award winner, Fall 2008. Available at major retailers, as well as Learning Express for $19.99 (or $16.99 after the 20% discount on Nov. 20!). Learning Express also carries the pre-school version, for ages 3 – 6 yrs old, for $15.99 ($12.79 after the 20% discount on Nov. 20).
Martian Matter Alien Maker
Make more than 90 different alien shapes using the Lunar Lava gel and Meteor Mud compound included in this spaceship creativity set that’s totally out of this world! Kit includes 14 alien half-molds (which you can mix and match), safety knife, roller, tweezers, cutter, three 2-oz. bottles of Lunar Lava gel and three 2-oz. cans of Meteor Mud compound. Available at major retailers for around $15 (Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us, etc.).
Watch It Kit
Exclusively at Learning Express, this very cool kit allows your little fashionista to change her watch band any time to match her outfit or just her mood. She’ll love coming up with new combinations and funky looks. $24.99 at Learning Express ($19.99 after 20% discount on Nov. 20!).
Fancy Nancy Doll and Frenchy the Posh Puppy
Every little girl loves to be fancy with Nancy! Exclusive to Learning Express, this Fancy Nancy doll is festooned in finery and out for a walk with her previous pup. She’ll remind us all that “purple” is boring, but “fuschia” is fancy, and a tiara really does work for everyday attire (that’s a fancy word for clothes). $26.99 at Learning Express ($21.59 after the 20% discount on Nov. 20).
Crayola Glow Station
The battery-operated light wand and over 20 stencil shapes and patterns allow kids to make luminous freehand drawings, or use the included stencils to make shimmering shapes and scenes. The drawings disappear after about 1 minute, so your kids can create new light-art again and again. A Family Fun magazine Top Ten Toy of 2008. Available at major retailers (Wal-Mart – $24.88, Target – $29.99, Toys R Us – $24.99, etc.).
Magnetic Mosaics Kit
Your kids will love creating their own works of art with these magnetic tiles, or using one of the 20 designs templates included. With 400 colorful tile pieces, they’ll have endless opportunity to experiment with color and design. Available at Learning Express for $24.99 (or $xx after the 20% discount on Nov. 20!).
LeapFrog Tag Reading System
Honestly, I didn’t know where to place this for age group, because even 4 year olds will enjoy the interactive reading this tool provides. The pen (which is easy to hold, but not too small to get lost easily) has a camera inside its tip that reads the code embedded on the pages of the accompanying books. New readers tap the pen on a word or image and the text is read to them. Kids can choose to hear one word at a time, travel uninterrupted through the story, or, if practicing their reading skills, can pause and work to master a stumbling block. The pen can even be connected to headphones (not included) for quiet play. A Parent’s Choice Silver Award for Fall 2008 Toys. Package includes a Tag Reader, USB cable, software CD, the book Ozzie and Mack. Additional books are sold separately for about $14 each. This system is available at major retailers for around $50 (Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us, etc.).
Cranium – Family Edition
I love playing Cranium with my own brothers and sisters when our family gets together, and now that I’ve learned about this game, I’ll be buying one so we can get the nieces and nephews in on the fun, too. You may have to act, sculpt, draw or any one of 16 other outrageous activities as you make your way across the gameboard, but you’re guaranteed to have a good time! Available at major retailers for around $15 (Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us – $24.99, etc.).
Spa Science Chemistry Kit
Wishing you could get your “tween” daughter more interested in science? Here’s your chance! This kit has everything she needs to whip her bath into a frothy fizzing sea of color and fragrance. Make colorful, fragrant bath gels, bath fizzers, spa lotion, bath balm, a face mask and shampoo. Mix colors and fragrances to create your own product line with secret ingredients. She’ll love playing with the beauty products; you’ll love some of the chemistry lessons she’ll pick up along the way. Available at Learning Express, $19.99 (or $14.99 after the 20% discount on Nov. 20!).
Air Hogs Zero Gravity Micro
The Zero Gravity Micro is a full function remote control car that drives on the floor, up walls and even upside-down! Carcomes with two power settings – floor mode with venture fan off, and suction mode that allows it to scale walls, invert, and run along the ceiling.
Comes in red, blue, or black, and has 4 frequencies so your kids (or you – since you’ll be playing with this too, it’s that cool) can race against their friends. Headlights allow for night-time racing, and also serve as power indicators so you know when you need to recharge. Available at major retailers (Target having a big sale now – $19.99, Wal-Mart – $19 and out of stock online, and Toys R Us – $24.99).
Project Runway Projector Kit
Project, trace and draw a unique fashion outfit of your choice onto a model. Then color, add embellishments or use the pattern slides to create any inspired look. Create unlimited fashion combinations. This kit includes projector, 6 viewing wheels, 2 slide holders, sheet of colored transparent slides, 10 colored pencils, croquis (sketch)pad and design instructions. Available at Learning Express for $29.99 (or $23.99 with 20% off on Nov. 20!).
SkyRail Roller Coaster
Your kids will love building their very own roller coaster with this 150 piece construction set. Over 27′ of track, fully assembled, shoots marbles up, down, and around. The track even glows in the dark for added fun! Available at Learning Express for $34.99 ($27.99 after the 20% discount on Nov 20!).