Best toys for 2021: 20 must-have games and toy gifts for kids

Need to find the best gift? These are hottest toys for kids this festive season, from the creative and educational to pure silly fun

Included in this guide:

Best toys 2021
(Image credit: Hasbro)

We've done it again. T3's cabal of on-trend kids has given us their list of the best toys for the 2021 festive season (which honestly looked a lot like a list of demands, written in red crayon with numerous exclamation marks) and we're here to share it with you. If you're looking for the best toys for teens, the best toys for toddlers, or the best toys for that one kid of indeterminate age who really likes cuddlies, we've got you covered.

We've not just gone for top-of-the-list main presents, either. There's a wide selection in here covering all price brackets, and we've considered the best STEM toys too: hiding learning behind fun is just about the greatest psychological tool there is.

Just don't sit on your wallet. Not only because it's an ergonomic nightmare, but because a large number of these toys are likely to be in short supply. If you want to make sure there's an amazing present under that tree, you need to act fast. Just bear in mind kids' fickle nature, and the ever-changing nature of their Christmas lists as you do.

Best toys 2021: Galactic Snackin' Grogu

(Image credit: Hasbro)

1. Galactic Snackin' Grogu

You'll form a strong attachment to him

Reasons to buy
+Plenty of interactivity+Super-cute reactions+Neat accessories

The character formerly known as the Child (and before that, Baby Yoda) gets a new animatronic spin for 2021, paying tribute to his insatiable appetite in season 2 of The Mandalorian. He reacts to snacks both delicious and disgusting, beckons for a hug and, yes, uses the Force. We're not sure how many kids have actually seen The Mandalorian, but we know this: they seem to bloody love Grogu, and this will sell like hot bone broth.

Best toys 2021: Cocomelon

(Image credit: Jazwares)

2. Cocomelon Bedtime JJ Doll

Yay, yay, yay, I like it, oooh

Reasons to buy
+Massively popular+Cuddly body+Plays music

If your young kids are glued to YouTube or Netflix - as today's youngsters tend to be - then you've probably been subjected to more than your fair share of CoComelon. It's absolutely huge. This cuddly JJ isn't going to help stop the songs rolling around your head, given that it plays 'Yes Yes Bedtime' with a squish of the tummy, but it'll certainly delight those for whom CoComelon is a way of life. And that's really the point, isn't it?

Best toys 2021: Lego Question Mark Block

(Image credit: Lego Group)

3. Lego Super Mario 64 Question Mark Block

Unquestionably a great set

Reasons to buy
+Super-cute microfig Mario+Hidden stars to find+Plenty to play with - or just look at

One for the older kids in your life, or perhaps particularly digitally advanced youngsters, Lego's epic 2064-piece set stashes away microfig-scale dioramas of iconic scenes from Super Mario 64, including Bob-omb Battlefield, Peach's Castle and Cool, Cool Mountain. And scale be damned, it's also compatible with the interactive Lego Mario and new Lego Luigi figures for a little extra play potential.

Best toys 2021: LOL Surprise OMG House of Surprises

(Image credit: MGA Entertainment)

4. L.O.L. Surprise O.M.G. House of Surprises

There is, a house, under the Christmas tree

Reasons to buy
+Neat rotating rooms+Compatible with both doll sizes+Sturdy construction

MGA's super-deformed surprise toys continue to be a huge hit, and this four-floored wooden Dreamhouse-baiter is sure to be topping a whole lot of Christmas lists. It's compatible both with smaller L.O.L. dolls and their larger O.M.G. counterparts, includes transforming furniture, spinning rooms and a whole bunch of furniture - though unlike last year's O.M.G. House there's no doll included. 

Best toys 2021: Barbie Extra

(Image credit: Mattel)

5. Barbie Extra

You're like so extra, gag me with a spoon

Reasons to buy
+Fun outfits and accessories+Comes with a pet+Curvier build

While there's definitely part of us which prefers the slightly more sensible Barbie You Can Be Anything Range, which puts Barbie and chums in a number of ambitious jobs, there's no denying that a Barbie completely overdoing it in ludicrous outfits - with an accessorisable pet, to boot - feels right. Mattel says this range has a 'more is more' attitude, which sounds about right. Expect one to grow to many before long.

Best toys 2021: Bluey & Family

(Image credit: Moose Toys)

6. Bluey & Family

Australia's greatest export since Kylie

Reasons to buy
+Poseable construction+Encourages creative play+It's Bluey - honestly that's enough

There is no kids' show more wholesome and lovely than Bluey, to the point that it has become actively encouraged viewing in many kid-packed households - not something that can be said for every screeching headache of a franchise. These are uncomplicated articulated action figures of Bluey, Bandit, Bingo and Chilli, but they're perfect for little imagined adventures. 

Best toys 2021: Nerf Ultra Select

(Image credit: Hasbro)

7. Nerf Ultra Select

A battle-ready blaster that's set to hit the mark

Reasons to buy
+New straighter-flying darts+Neat quick-switch magazines+Motorised firing

The Ultra line hasn't had the easiest of starts, but Nerf's latest Ultra Select looks to have got things much more on target. It's a twin-magazine motorised blaster which includes a bunch of standard black Ultra darts (built for distance but tending to fly a little wayward) and the new silver variety, which use a flat end and vastly improve accuracy. The magazine-switching gimmick is pretty cool, too.

Best toys 2021: Transformers Bumblebee Cyberverse Adventures Dinobots Unite Roll N’ Change Optimus Prime

(Image credit: Hasbro)

8. Transformers Bumblebee Cyberverse Adventures Dinobots Unite Roll N’ Change Optimus Prime

Autobots, roll out the wrapping paper

Reasons to buy
+Highly reconfigurable+Kids genuinely love it+Plenty of add-on packs available

A highlight of any Christmas list, not only because there won't be much more room on the list once its full name has been written down, this new generation of Optimus Prime switches quicker than ever, transforming from vehicle to robot mode with a push. That's cool - though transforming the other way is a ten-step process, so there's a good bit of fiddly fun remaining.

Best toys 2021: VTech KidiZoom PrintCam

(Image credit: VTech)

9. VTech KidiZoom PrintCam

Like the Game Boy camera, for a new generation

Reasons to buy
+Prints are cheap+Versatile camera+Easy for kids to grip

Pre-Insta kids are going to go mental for VTech's instant snapper. Yes, you'll be on the hook for thermal paper, but it's far cheaper than Polaroid at about a penny per picture, there's SD storage for photos and videos, the sensor flips up for selfies - everything kids want. They won't even worry too much about the resolution, which VTech is keeping quiet about (but which we suspect is pretty low).

Best toys 2021: Gravitrax Pro Vertical Starter Set

(Image credit: Ravensburger)

10. Gravitrax Pro Vertical Starter Set

Give your kids a rolling start in life

Reasons to buy
+Virtually unlimited ways to lay out track+Expandable with extra sets+Secretly very educational

Marble runs are still big business, though Ravensburger's system doesn't use the 'M' word. These are gravity spheres. That terminology isn't surprising considering its STEM roots, and the Gravitrax system is hugely extendable. The Pro line is entirely compatible with the basic Gravitrax range meaning you'll be able to create more and more complex runs while your kids watch and beg for a turn.

Best toys 2021: Playmobil Back to the Future DeLorean

(Image credit: Playmobil)

11. Playmobil Back to the Future DeLorean

I guess you guys aren't ready for this yet. But your kids are gonna love it

Reasons to buy
+Comes with Doc, Marty and Einstein+Awesome detail+Packs Playmobil plutonium

We see this set as a teaching aid more than anything: give this flux capacitor-packing, gull-wing-doored DMC-12 to a Playmobil-obsessed youngling and they'll soon learn just how cool Marty and Doc's adventures were. It also includes a nifty little Einstein dog figure and is, as far as we're aware, the first Playmobil set to come complete with a hazardous flight case filled with plutonium rods. 

Best toys 2021: Little Live Pets Gotta Go Turdle

(Image credit: Moose Toys)

12. Little Live Pets Gotta Go Turdle

Fundamental life fact number one: kids love toys which poop

Reasons to buy
+Fantastic punny name+Reusable food+Amusing sounds and tunes

The sequel to last year's smash hit sand-plopper the Gotta Go Flamingo, the Turdle - get it? - mixes up the poo-based fun by... actually, what does it do different? We're not entirely sure. Not that it matters. The fun of feeding it, watching it poo some hydrophobic magic sand into a transparent toilet, and then refeeding it those droppings is disgusting enough to keep kids entertained, and it'll repeat what they say in a silly voice, too.

Akedo Ultimate Arcade Warriors Battle Arena

(Image credit: Moose Toys)

13. Akedo Ultimate Arcade Warriors Battle Arena

Who knew that splitting someone down the middle could be so much fun?

Reasons to buy
+Easy to play, but deep too+Collectible element

Super-collectible toys released along with an accompanying cartoon, the way toys used to be, Akedo Ultimate Arcade Warriors takes the old Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots concept and dials it up a notch and down a size. Put a little dude on each plinth, and smack them together until one is so battered it literally splits in half down the middle. If that doesn't sound like fun, you need your priorities realigned.

Best toys 2021: Rainbow High Winter Break

(Image credit: MGA Entertainment)

14. Rainbow High Winter Break

High quality fashion dolls in a rainbow of colours

Reasons to buy
+Nifty fashions+Fancy hairstyles+Good range of options

Last year's must-have fashion doll is still a hot ticket. While this Winter Break line is pretty cool, packing outfits inspired by the likes of Supreme, Gucci and Dior, we imagine the doll fanatic in your life is going to want something from the Series 3 line - at the time of writing, still under wraps. Eyes on the prize, Violet: keep 'em peeled on the usual stockists and snap one up before they disappear.

Paw Patrol Dino Rescue Dino Patroller

(Image credit: Spin Master)

15. Paw Patrol Dino Rescue Dino Patroller

At last, a dog being eaten by a dinosaur

Reasons to buy
+Easy to operate motorisation+Fits up to six pups

The recent movie has heated Paw Patrol right back up again, as if it ever truly cooled off - and 2021's best Paw Patrol toy packs in everything younger kids love. It's motorised, it shoots stuff, there's an exclusive Chase figure, and it also includes a dinosaur for, we're sure, an entirely plausible reason. Given that we're dealing with a mysteriously-funded pack of somehow-talking dogs that can also drive, perhaps they don't exactly need a reason.

Best toys 2021: Squeakee The Interactive Balloon Dino

(Image credit: Moose Toys)

16. Squeakee The Interactive Balloon Dino

A balloon dino that's not a total let down

Reasons to buy
+A long list of functions+Plenty of personality+Cute in its own unique way

Another sequel, of sorts, following up last Christmas' wildly popular Squeakee balloon dog. This time there's more interactivity, with chomping, roaring and breakdancing functions joining the balloon-related gimmicks of the previous generation. This could be the robot of the year - it's certainly a whole lot of silly fun. Make sure you pick up some rechargeable batteries to go with it.

Best toys 2021: Pokémon TCG: Battle Academy

(Image credit: The Pokémon Company)

17. Pokémon TCG: Battle Academy

You wanna get the very best present

Reasons to buy
+Great selection of cards+Helps newcomers+Expandable later on

You can blame lucrative YouTube pack unwrapping for the recent resurgence in the Pokémon TCG's popularity - and there's no better way for kids to get into the game than through the Battle Academy pack. You get three custom decks, built around Charizard, Pikachu and Mewtwo, as well as a game board which neatly explains the various zones of play. Add on a couple of V Battle deck packs, and you've got yourself a meta.

Best toys 2021: Lottie Doll Young Inventor

(Image credit: Arklu)

18. Lottie Doll Young Inventor

A doll that encourages good things

Reasons to buy
+Great outfits+Totally non-brash

We're always going to suggest Lottie dolls: they're super-cute, brilliantly poseable, and backed by a very solid philosophy. If the glitz and glamour of Rainbow High or Barbie is too much for you, the Lottie Young Inventor (or the Fossil Hunter, or Kid Activist, or ESA-approved Star Gazer) might help convince your kids that there's a lot more to life, and that modest and well made clothes are pretty cool, too.

Best toys 2021: Jellycat Bashful Sparklet Bunny

(Image credit: Jellycat)

19. Jellycat Bashful Sparklet Bunny

Cuddly, cute, and supremely soft

Reasons to buy
+Really soft+Really, really cute+Really, really, really cuddly

Jellycat makes beautiful soft toys. While there are a host of very wacky designs available - think clementines, pieces of toast, octupuses and the like - the delightfully cuddleable Bashful Bunny line is probably its most iconic product. It's a proven hit with youngsters of all ages, and this new sparkle-eared variety (which also comes in a small version) is an absolute delight.

Best toys 2021: Fisher-Price Linkimals Cool Beats Penguin

(Image credit: Fisher-Price)

20. Fisher-Price Linkimals Cool Beats Penguin

Smart toys for toddlers

Reasons to buy
+Movement and sound+Pretty indestructible

Fisher-Price's Linkimals are pretty neat: they'll play music and jiggle about (both toddler mainstay features) but they'll also join up with other Linkimals so you can build an interactive network of creatures. Parents might wish to think twice about whether they'll actually want a noisy toy like this around; aunties and uncles, though, should absolutely inflict one of these on their siblings.

Alex Cox
Alex Cox

T3 magazine's own Gadget Guru is a 25-year veteran of the tech writing wars, and has the scars to prove it. He's written for the UK's biggest technology publications, and knows everything from smart doorbell voltage needs to how to bend Windows to his every whim.