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.
The best toys 2021 – the list
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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