The All-Time Best Kids’ Gifts Under $30
Your kids are pros at coming up with big wish list gift ideas (nice try, playhouse that cost more than my first car). But fun stuff that’s actually affordable? And will entertain them for more than three minutes? That’s a bit tricky. Before you lose hours scrolling Amazon and wandering Target, check out our parent-vetted, kid-recommended list of the best kids’ gifts under $30. There’s bound to be something for your brood—as well as anyone else on your list.
The Best Toys for Kids 4 and Under
1. SkipHop Sort & Spin Yeti
You’ll love it for helping your kid develop her fine motor skills while learning shapes and colors. She’ll love making Eddie the Yeti spin out of control, sending those shapes flying. For 9 months to 3 years.
2. Blockaroo Rocketship
It’s become one PureWow mom’s go-to gift, because these magnetic foam building blocks (A) double as bath toys, (B) were developed by teachers to help kids develop STEM skills, (C) won’t kill your feet if you accidentally step on one in the middle of the night and (D) keep kids entertained for up to an hour on end. For 18 months to 3 years.
3. Doc McStuffins Wash Your Hands Singing Doll
Getting kids to wear a face mask is no simple feat, but this doll makes things a bit easier. Doc comes with her own mask, and when you press her stethoscope, she sings “Wash Your Hands” from her Disney Junior series. For ages 2 to 4.
4. Blippi Recycling Truck
Blippi is the Harry Styles of the preschool set, and his YouTube episode about garbage trucks has amassed 11.2 million views (and climbing). This recycling truck—which lifts and dumps trash—will lure them away from the screen. At least for a bit. For ages 2 to 4.
5. Origami Color-Changing Boats
Bring some fun to bath time, and you won't just have happy kids—you'll have their parents thanking you too. These origami-inspired, BPA-free boats are fun to play with on their own, but the true delight is watching them hit warm water and change colors. For ages 1 to 4.
6. Wooden Name Puzzle
This cute, custom puzzle is one of Etsy’s bestselling toys, and on Black Friday, it’ll be 20 percent off. For ages 1 to 2.
7. Little Tykes Hoop It Up Play Center
With winter coming, you’ll want any excuse to help your kids burn out energy—without jumping off the walls. This ball pit doubles as a mini court for playing basketball, football and soccer. Walmart’s selling it for half its retail price this holiday season, which means you’ll have to be quick to hit “add to cart”—it keeps selling out as fast as they can restock it. For ages 2 to 4.
8. Melissa & Doug Catch & Count Fishing Set
As we polled parents for the Happy Kid Awards, the Catch & Count Fishing Set came up multiple times. Kids spin the wheel to see which color (or number) fish to pick up with their magnetic poles, helping them develop their hand-eye coordination as they play. For ages 3 to 4.
9. Li’l Woodzeez Travel Suitcase
Remember that time your kid tried to haul an entire Barbie Dreamhouse to Grandma’s? This lunchbox-sized playset opens up to serve as a mini house for their Li’l Woodzeez (aka fuzzy, poseable critters that are sold separately). Playdates just got so much easier. For ages 4 and up.
The Best Toys for Kids 5 to 8
10. Magna-Tiles Treasure Hunt
The magnetic tiles your nephew loves to build with just got an upgrade. In this version, you build the course for your own Treasure Hunt board game. It comes with all of the pieces to play two different games, or you two can use the coins, characters and die to make up your own. For ages 5 to 6.
11. Mini Brands Mystery Capsules
Fact: Tiny things are cuter. Even miniature Kool-Aid containers, Lunchables and A1 bottles. Mini Brands balls pull apart like orange slices, and you peel open each slice to reveal a fingertip-sized replica of a popular food. With 70+ brands to collect, they’re the Pokémon of the supermarket. And as bizarre as they may seem, they’re a hit with kids this year. For ages 5 and up.
12. Land of Dough Planet Earth
For a true surprise-and-delight moment, dig into this all-natural play dough. It comes with a little scoop, so you can dig into the layers of the Earth, revealing the mantle, core and inner core. It'll inspire an impromptu science lesson, and kids will enjoy turning the dough into their own rainbow-swirled creations. Plus, it comes in eco-friendly packaging, and the dough air dries, so kids can create their own sculptures. For ages 3 and up, though we've found kids 5 to 8 enjoy it most.
13. Air Hogs Soft Stunt Shot RC
An RC monster truck? You better believe it. And this one has massive foam wheels, so it can drive over anything in your home—your foot included—without causing harm. For ages 5 and up.
14. Skipper Playground Play Set
Bring the park to your living room…without having to maneuver around a three-foot-tall plastic slide. This Barbie play set comes with two dolls, a full playground and moldable sand to fill the sandbox. For ages 5 to 8.
15. Soggy Doggy
Your mission: Make it around the game board and wash the dog before he tries to shake dry and soak you. It’s a little mess and a lot of fun—no wonder it was a Toy of the Year Award winner in 2018. For ages 5 to 8.
16. Sharper Image RC Speed Bumpers
It’s the fun of remote-control cars and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots combined. When the cars collide, one person’s driver pops out. It better not be yours (because your kid will never let you live it down). For ages 5 and up.
17. Spider-Man Blaster & Mask
After seeing Spider-Man: Far from Home, your daughter’s takeaway was: Mom, can I play with a radioactive spider, just for a little bit? Give her the next best thing to Spidey sense with this mask and suction-dart-shooting combo. Fifteen minutes of quiet is totally worth the target practice on your sliding glass doors. For ages 5 and up.
19. The Child Bop-It
With a new season of The Mandalorian out on Disney+, it’s safe to say Baby Yoda fever is still going strong. And this little doll doubles as a memory-boosting game—you’ve got to follow Mando’s commands for playing with The Child, in order (and fast!). It’s a fun challenge for kids and parents to see how many commands they can follow before making a mistake. For ages 5 and up.
The Best Toys for Kids 8 and Up
20. LEGO Super Mario’s House & Yoshi Expansion Pack
Not long after its debut, the LEGO Super Mario Starter Kit skyrocketed to the top of Amazon’s “Most Wished for” list. And if you know a certain kid who will be getting one this year, take his fandom a step further with this kit. It’ll let him build Mario’s house, as well as his pal Yoshi, and create a hammock for the plumber to lounge in. (P.S.—the Starter Kit’s Bluetooth-enabled Mario will actually close his eyes and snore when he’s rocked to sleep in it.) For ages 8 to 12.
21. KumiKreator Necklace and Friendship Bracelet Maker
Inspired by Japanese Kumi bracelets, this DIY kit teaches kids to design and create their own jewelry. It comes with 60 spools of thread in five colors, giving them enough material to create a bracelet for every member of their pod. For ages 8 and up.
Telestrations was deemed best game for kids 6 and up in our 2020 Happy Kid Awards, and for good reason: It brings the whole family together...and leaves everyone cry-laughing at the end. The game's a mix of telephone and Pictionary, where everyone is given a dry erase board and a secret word to draw. Under a time crunch, you sketch it, hand it to the person next to you, and they write down their guess for what it is. Then, the board is passed to the next person, who sketches that guessed answer, with the process continuing until everyone's had a turn. Good luck not doubling over when you see how much the answer changes over the course of playing telephone. For ages 6 and up.
23. Throw Throw Burrito, Outdoor Edition
A riff on the original, the Outdoor Edition is like a game of cards meets dodgeball—only you’re hurling 3-foot-tall inflatable burritos at each other. But the part parents love the most? “Outdoor.” For ages 8 and up.
24. StikBot Zanimation Studio
Complete with a phone stand, poseable Stikbot characters and a greenscreen backdrop, this kit has everything a kid needs (OK, minus your phone) to film their own stop-motion videos. Consider it a win-win: After all this time quarantining, you could use a new show to binge, right? For ages 8 and up.
25. Wireless Karaoke Mic with Built-in Speaker
To be honest, you might try to borrow this gift. This wireless mic connects to Apple and Android phones via Bluetooth, and has a built-in speaker, so your kids can get their karaoke on wherever they are. The ride to soccer practice will never be the same. For ages 8 and up.
26. Vdealen Speed Cube Set
Oh, so your kid’s already mastered solving a Rubik’s Cube? Challenge them to a whole new level of color-coded puzzle-solving with this five-pack of brain teasers. For ages 8 and up.
27. American Girl: Courtney’s Accessory Kit
This Care Bear-loving, arcade-dwelling American Girl doll is so popular that half of her accessories are on back order. It probably won’t be long before this set—which includes a pretend cassette player, bangle bracelets, headphones, a “Maureen for Mayor” button and pretend Lip Smacker lip balm—disappears too. Plus, you’ll have fun explaining that yes, eons ago, people had to rewind a song in order to hear it a second time. For ages 8 and up.