Best Toys of 2016, Recommended by Local Toy Experts + Giveaway

If your kids are like ours, they’d buy everything in the toy store if they could (heck, even in the grocery store!). So, it should be pretty easy to get your kids some Christmas presents, shouldn’t it? Well, it isn’t. At least not for us. We want toys that are age appropriate, durable, wallet-friendly, fun, and if possible parent- or expert-approved. That's why we’ve reached out to local toy stores in and around Austin and asked for their recommendations for the following categories:

Best Toys of 2016: Baby
Best Toys of 2016: Toddlers
Best Toys of 2016: Preschoolers
Best Toys of 2016: Big Kids
Here are their recommendations, plus enter to win one of 5 awesome toys for your little ones on the bottom of this post:


Lakeshore Learning

Best Toys of 2016: Baby

Soft & Safe Doctor’s Kit
From healing boo-boos to making house calls—little doctors can do it all! Our doctor’s kit comes complete with 6 soft-sewn pieces—including a syringe, stethoscope, blood pressure monitor and more…so tots can fix you right up! Made to withstand lots of dramatic play, the super-plush pieces are machine-washable…and all the tools store easily in the doctor’s bag—for on-the-go play.
Manufacturer recommended age: 12 Months - 3 Years

Best Toys of 2016: Toddlers

Slot & Build Texture Shapes
These builders are truly sense-ational! Each flexible shape has a unique textured surface that tots can explore as they build. Just slot the easy-grip shapes together to create fascinating, freestanding structures! Set includes 24 plastic builders in 3 shapes & 4 bright colors—all in a convenient storage jar.
Manufacturer recommended age: 18 Months - 4 Years

Best Toys of 2016: Preschoolers

Counting Cars
Kids take their counting skills for a spin—with cool cars that really roll! Kids just grab a car…look at the numeral & number word…and count out the matching number of passengers into the “seats.” Each car fits exactly 1-10 passengers, so the set is self-correcting—for no-fail practice! Set includes 10 durable plastic cars with rotating wheels and 60 passengers that snap securely in place; largest car is 8 1/8" long.
Manufacturer recommended age: 3 - 6 Years

Picnic Time Playset
Now is always the perfect time for a picnic! Our durable plastic basket comes complete with a gingham tablecloth, 4 place settings and 4 pretty mugs, so you have just what you need for a picnic anywhere…from your own bedroom to your favorite park! Basket measures 8 1/2" x 11".
Manufacturer recommended age: 3 - 8 Years

Best Toys of 2016: Big Kids

My First Fashion Designer
Unleash your inner fashion designer! Our kit lets you create outfits without sewing or cutting—so you can mix & match fabrics, ribbons and buttons again and again…creating tons of runway-ready styles. Just choose your fabrics…wrap the dress form…then use the super-safe buttons to hold each outfit in place. Kit comes with 30 pieces, a 9 1/4" plastic dress form and a design booklet.
Manufacturer recommended age: 4 - 11 Years

The Maze Cube
Kids can’t resist our amazing maze cube! Twists, turns, traps and more make completing this maze a nonstop adventure! Just roll the ball to START to begin…then follow the helpful arrows to guide the ball through the maze—twisting and turning the cube to get the ball all the way to the finish!
Manufacturer recommended age: 4 - 11 Years

Specials and Events:

Lakeshore Learning currently has a Buy One Get one 50% Off coupon valid until December 31, 2016.

Like Lakeshore Learning?

'Tis the Season, so why not leave them a review?

Terra Toys


Best Toys of 2016: Toddlers

The MyLand Car
For the curious toddler, this sturdy yet elegant car requires no buttons or instructions. Just place the toy passengers into their color-matching seats, and the car magically lights up with soft driving engine sounds! Rear or front view lights are automatically triggered when the car is moved forward or back. Beautiful and modern, this toy is an excellent way to encourage play and STEM education!
Manufacturer recommended age: 2 - 6 Years


Evolution Y-Bike
This ride-on vehicle evolves to match your growing child’s ability! The Y-Bike evolution starts as a tricycle, then converts to a 2 or 3 wheeled balance bike. Everything your young rider needs to graduate to a bicycle pro! Excellent for building strength, coordination and balance.
Manufacturer recommended age: 2 - 5 Years

Best Toys of 2016: Preschoolers

For the construction block lover! These new Japanese-made building blocks employ a unique ball-joint connection, allowing the builder to create fully poseable figures, leaving no limits to the shapes you can design!
Manufacturer recommended age: 3 years and up

Green Toy Farm Set
Made in the USA from 100% recycled bottles, this 13 piece compact and portable set is adorable, versatile and even dishwasher safe! Its ideal size integrates well into most other play sets from trains to water toys and building blocks.
Manufacturer recommended age: 3 years and up

Best Toys of 2016: Big Kids

Quercetti Pixel Art Sets
Create an astounding work of art with over a thousand tiny colored pegs! Using the included guide sheet, reveal an entire image pixel by pixel, illustrating the principle known as “spatial color mixing."  This unique, Italian-made kit is excellent for enhancing fine motor skills and exploring artistic creativity.
Manufacturer recommended age: 5 - 15 Years


Laser Peg Dinosaur
Build 24 different dinosaurs from colorful interlocking bricks, then make them light up and flash with the sound-activated power base! This 220 piece set enhances fine motor and spatial reasoning skills. Excellent for the "Lego- Brick" fan!
Manufacturer recommended age: 5 - 15 Years


Konus Microscope Set
Explore the micro-world with this high-quality microscope, with magnification strong enough to see cells! Everything about this microscope feels like a professional piece of scientific equipment. Get started with one of the prepared slides, switch on the LED illuminator, and look through the lens. The larger-sizes knob turns smoothly to let kids easily adjust the focus, allowing them to see a clear image of something they could never see with the naked eye. This microscope comes with supplies for conducting all kinds of experiments. Encourages exploration, scientific learning, an interest in biology and chemistry.
Manufacturer recommended age: 6 and older


The Swurfer
The most versatile swing ever!  A surfboard-like plank is combined with sturdy rope and two wooden handles, allowing for the rider to sit or stand; making for a variety of cool moves and tricks! Stand up for an extreme, high-flying thrill – or sit for a relaxing rocking swing. No matter how young or old you are, the sturdy handles are fully adjustable to match any size and height. The 100% hard maple board and mold-resistant rope hold up to 250 pounds.
Manufacturer recommended age: 6 and older


Onyx Magic Set
The ultimate magician’s kit, featuring every tool your little illusionist needs to start a career in magic! This "staff-tested" box includes 200 magic tricks as well as detailed instructions to guide you through each surprise! Learn to make a handkerchief materialize out of an empty glass… Make a pencil pass through a playing card without leaving a hole! Master them all with this engaging, comprehensive set.
Manufacturer recommended age: 8 - 15 Years

Specials and Events
Join Terra Toys for their Christmas Princess Party on Saturday, December 3 from 11-12 and to enter for a chance to win one of two sets of two tickets to the opening night of Rodgers + Hammerstein's CINDERELLA (Tuesday, December 6th at the Bass Concert Hall).


Like Terra Toys?

'Tis the Season, so why not leave them a review?

Kaleidoscope Toys

Best Toys of 2016: Baby


Spin Again from Fat Brain Toys
The first ever stacking and twirling toy! Encourages hand-eye coordination and baby engineering skill. Instills a sense of wonder as kids watch their builds twirl and spin!  Eye-catching colors include magenta, lime, teal, lemon, red, sky blue, and more!   Includes: 6 discs, a reversible wobble base, and a corkscrew pole. Made of strong, coated ABS plastic, BPA-free.
Manufacturer recommended age: 12 months - 5 years

Best Toys of 2016: Toddlers


Pic N Pop from Tomy Inc
The Pic N Pop Ball Blaster is a unique walk-behind toy that gets your little one moving. One click of the button launches a colorful ball from the chute. Your little one chases after the balls and simply rolls over them to magically pick up and start the fun all over again. A simple-to-operate toy that gets your toddler toddling and teaches them cause and effect. Perfect for use either indoors or outdoors.
Manufacturer recommended age: 18 months - 3 Years

Best Toys of 2016: Preschoolers


Lift Off Rocket from International Playthings
The Lift Off Rocket has sounds and features that will excite and inspire your child's imagination. Open up different compartments in the rocket. Lights and sounds. Great for encouraging early speaking skills and inspires the imagination. Helps develop hand-to-eye coordination skills and motor skills
Manufacturer recommended age: 18 months - 3 Years   

Best Toys of 2016: Big Kids


Bloxels from Mattel
Ever wonder how to make your own video game? With Bloxels it’s never been easier. Meet Bloxels®, a first of its kind technology that enables you to build, capture, design, play and share your very own video games. Designed with blocks, a universal element of childhood play, Bloxels cultivates imagination while encouraging discovery and experimentation.
With Bloxels, you can realize your own video game ideas, build and animate original characters, develop villains, add in power-ups, and more - all done directly on the Bloxels® Gameboard and then activated with the FREE Bloxels® Builder App and your mobile device.
Manufacturer recommended age: 8 - 13 Years

Specials and Events

Join Kaleidoscope Toys for their KIDS' CHRISTMAS AT KALEIDOSCOPE! on Saturday, December 3rd, 9am-10am for a special shopping hour just for the kids, a time to find the perfect gift for their family members and BFFs! Make a Christmas card + fun goody bags for all kids. ADMISSION: one non-perishable food item per person for the Round Rock Area Serving Center

Like Kaleidoscope Toys?

'Tis the Season, so why not leave them a review?

Learning Express Toys


Best Toys of 2016: Baby


Mirari Pop Pop Piano
Too much fun pressing those buttons and watching the shapes fly! Play a note to watch the stars pop and soar with the Mirari Pop! Pop! Piano. A clear dome keeps the stars contained, but it can be removed to launch stars across the floor.
Manufacturer recommended age: 12 Months and up

Hape Early Melodie Pounding Bench
Solid wood balls roll down the xylophone for a great pounding toy. The Early Melodies Pound and Tap Bench seamlessly combines fun and learning for a smile fest every time your little one plays! Youngsters can tap and hammer the bench to send the colorful balls through the holes, and they can brush up on their early music skills by playing the 7-note xylophone. The xylophone can even be pulled out and played separately. Xylophone comes with an easy grip handle. Balls make a pleasant octave sound as they roll down the seven keys.
Manufacturer recommended age: 12 Months and up

Best Toys of 2016: Toddlers

The gears spin their way down the post,  it's mesmerizing! SpinAgain is a colorful disc-stacking toy with spinning corkscrew motion. Once the discs spin to the bottom of the center pole, children can push the pole to release and allow the discs to spin right off.
Manufacturer recommended age: 12 Months and up

GreenToys Farm
Sturdy toys made in the USA from recycled plastics. Farm is new to the line,  and TOO cute.
An adorable plush toy for baby, My Barnyard Friends play set features a barn which holds a baby cow, pig, duck, and rooster. Animals make realistic noises! Encourages early learning.
Manufacturer recommended age: 12 Months and up

Best Toys of 2016: Preschoolers

These little suckers have been a perennial favorite for a couple years,  our customers LOVE them!
Squigz stick together using the power of suction. Children can create towering structures that stick to each other or any solid, non-porous surface. These gravity-defying building toys easily attach to windows, table tops, bathtubs, and more.

Best Toys of 2016: Big Kids


Our #1 in the store!  LED rubber balls on cords with instructional DVD.
Paint the air with light and color! Spin-ballS features a set of glowing LED poi attached to adjustable leashes. Spin them around to create a visual effect. It's fun to do and fun to learn!
Manufacturer recommended age: 12 Years and up

Melissa & Doug Perfect Pasta
Felt pasta playset. Stuff the raviolis and twirl the linguine with the velcro fork.
Fun pasta boxes hold felt penne, bow tie pasta, linguini & ravioli pockets that can be hand-stuffed with felt spinach, meat or cheese fillings. Follow the illustrated guide to order & "cook" the pasta in the large cook pot with lid & "strain" it in the colander.

Blankie Tails
Cute Mermaid and Shark pullover blankets.  Super soft and super warm!  
Manufacturer recommended age: 5 Years and up

Dr. Eureka
New game where you have to mix your molecules without touching them. Solve the scientific formulas by transferring materials between your test tubes without letting them fall on the table.
Manufacturer recommended age: 8 Years and up

Nightball Basketball
Light up Basketball is trending hard right now. Looks awesome.
Shoot hoops day or night! The ball's unique Matrix design makes it easy to grip, dribble, bounce, and shoot while the LED lights glow.
Manufacturer recommended age: 8 Years and up


Like Learning Express Toys?

'Tis the Season, so why not leave them a review?



Best Toys of 2016: Baby


Skip Hop Explore and More Activity Gym by Skip Hop
Our gym is bursting with dynamic friends, including a hooting owl, a musical hedgehog, a dancing fox and more! Position the arch overhead for newborn exploration, then bring it down for tummy time or to convert to a seated activity center. Slip your phone in the parent pocket to record those special milestones or let grandma observe the action from afar! Baby will think he's looking at a mirror– and not your camera– which means you'll capture some truly amazing moments!
Manufacturer recommended age: 0 and up

Green Toys Stacker by Green Toys Inc.
The Green Toys™ Stacker takes a classic toy and makes it safer and more playful. The eight whimsically colored nesting pieces stack easily from large to small, while also allowing little builders to use their imagination and stack in any order.  Little ones can develop hand-eye coordination and color recognition while having plenty of Good Green Fun™. Most importantly, the Green Toys Stacker is safe. Its unique design has no center post. No BPA, PVC, phthalates, or external coatings. This Stacker is made in the USA from 100% recycled plastic milk containers which save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Packaged using only recycled and recyclable materials and printed with soy inks.
Manufacturer recommended age: 6 Months and up

Melissa & Doug Musical Farmyard Cube Learning Toy
This "farmyard" is full of noisy animals and compact enough to take anywhere! Four animals sound off with their animal songs and play a lively melody when their noses are pressed. Or babies can grasp the padded handle and bump the block against the floor to start the sounds! This feature-filled activity cube also boasts a sturdy teether, knotted tags, crinkly flower petals and tabs, and a toddler-tough plastic mirror.
Manufacturer recommended age: 12 Months and up

Best Toys of 2016: Toddlers


Melissa & Doug Band-in-a-Box Drum! Click! Clack!
Kids will love to shake, rattle, and roll with this unique wooden Band-in-a-Box set of hand-crafted wooden rhythm instruments! Use the mallet to shake or rub the guiro, twist and turn the bendable kokiriko, gently thwap the foam beads on the spin drum, and use the mallet to scrape and tap the double bells of the agogo. Sturdy wood materials stand up to lots of joyful noise-making, and also produce wonderfully satisfying sounds. All instruments store in the convenient wooden box. Band-in-a-box is a great introduction to musical instruments, and helps teach children listening skills, auditory discrimination, and fine motor skills.
Manufacturer recommended age: 3 Years and up

Melissa & Doug Jumbo Knob Puzzles
Extra thick wooden puzzle includes eight pieces, with jumbo wooden knobs for easy grasping. Full-color, matching pictures appear underneath each piece. Encourage hand-eye, fine motor and visual perception skills.
Manufacturer recommended age: 12 Months and up


Skip Hop Giraffe Safari Crocodile Xylophone
Eight unique notes line the croc’s back, allowing little ones to make music with this activity-filled friend. Hear his mouth click and clack as this rockin’ reptile is pulled along the floor!
Manufacturer recommended age: 18 Months and up

Best Toys of 2016: Preschoolers


Melissa & Doug Deluxe Kitchen
Here is every pint-sized chef's dream kitchen, with room to prepare, cook, clean and create. This durable wooden kitchen includes a stove, refrigerator/freezer, see-through oven with knobs, microwave with turntable, and sink. Bright, colorful graphics, and an exceptional price make this the most attractive kitchen! Easy to assemble, here is the one perfect place to play with your food!
Manufacturer recommended age: 3 Years and up

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Tool Belt Set
Give little builders all the tools they need to for truly constructive play! Five child-safe wooden tools--hammer, screwdriver, wrench, ruler, and painted saw--fit snuggly in the adjustable tool belt and a child's hand. Saw apart the self-sticking blocks and use the nuts and bolts or safety nail (no sharp points) to connect them again! A name tag on the sturdy tool belt can be personalized with a pencil or washable marker. This set helps teach sorting, problem solving, and counting skills, and encourages fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and imaginative play.
Manufacturer recommended age: 3 - 7 Years

These tactile, colorful tiles make learning fun and inspire imagination! Shapes are sized just right and easy to use, whether creating designs on a flat surface or building 3-dimensional structures. This tiles helps children learn basic shapes through play and develops patterning, shape recognition, spatial problem-solving skills, and motor skills. It's great for guided activities or hours of open-ended fun and exploration!
Manufacturer recommended age: 3 - 15 Years

Best Toys of 2016: Big Kids


Melissa & Doug Sticker Collection Book - Fashion
This exiting sticker activity has everything kids need to outfit 80 "paper doll" stickers! The collection includes more than 600 stickers, including clothing and accessory stickers for every occasion. Choose from swimwear, party dresses, dance outfits and more, then dress the models in fabulous fashions. Great for arts & crafts and pretend play, too!
Manufacturer recommended age: 5 - 10 Years

Melissa & Doug Gallop-N-Go Stick Pony
Kids will have a "galloping" good time with this soft premium-quality plush stick pony complete with realistic "neighing" sounds. This handsome, huggable horse features handy reins and a hand-painted hardwood pole. This classic favorite is sure to provide hours of imaginative fun!
Manufacturer recommended age: 3 - 6 Years


Specials and Events

Join BabyEarth for "12 Days of Deals and Steals" where they'll have an in-store deal each day from December 1st-12th. Check the BabyEarth Round Rock Store Facebook page each day to see the deals going on! In addition, they have 20% off toys December 12th through 18th.

Like BabyEarth?

'Tis the Season, so why not leave them a review?

Live Grow Play Austin


And here are some of our favorites:

Best Toys of 2016: Baby


Baby Einstein Bendy Ball
It's been a while, so this definitely isn't a Best of 2016 baby toy, but our girls loved this ball. I just went through baby pictures and - almost like a photo bomb - that ball is on almost every photo.
It has bright primary colors and is easy to grasp for little fingers. The rattle ball inside is perfect for getting baby's attention (even for making her stop crying!) and, if your little one is mobile, always tells you where to find her. This ball went into my keepsake-box and be handed down to my grandchildren one day.


Best Toys of 2016: Toddlers


KinderGlo Night Light
We made it without night lights for a long time, but when our older daughter turned  3 and started with the "I-don't-want-to-go-to-bed", we got her the KinderGlo Elephant which made her happy and saved our sanity. It really is a cute little night light.
They come as Angel, Bear, Bronti, Elephant, Hippo, Moon, Dragon, Owl.
The light has cool LED lights that are never hot to the touch and are made out of non-toxic materials safe for cuddling (our daughter had the light with her in her bed and played with it for a while before drifting off). It has 4 different settings: continually changing colors or a constant single color of blue, red or green. It also comes with a timer; if activated, the nightlight will fade off after about 30 minutes.
It is portable and can be recharged. We took it with us whenever we went on a trip (even international).
We've bought KinderGlo Night Lights for both of our daughters and they absolutely love them.

Kinderglo provided us with a promo code for all Live Grow Play Austin readers which can be used to receive $5.00 off any purchase in their online store. Promo code: LGP2016. Shipping throughout the month of December is free for all orders shipped within the U.S.

Best Toys of 2016: Preschoolers



Our younger daughter is 3 1/2 and she's been playing with Magformers for a year now. Whether she sorts them by shape or color, builds houses, bridges, castles, rocket ships, forms them into balls, flowers, pizzas, or cupcakes, she never gets tired of them.
MAGFORMERS use cylindrical neodymium magnets. Because of this unique shape, no matter how they’re connected they always attract. Combine this with their strength and it means shapes can be laid flat on a table and pulled up to form different builds. Kids can create anything they can imagine by using walls, combining, rolling, folding, pulling and transforming. They come in different sets, each with its own idea booklet.


Best Toys of 2016: Big Kids


'lil Fairy Door
As a Mom of two precious princesses I have to say that the 'lil Fairy Door is one of the cutest room decos I've seen. I bought a purple 'lil Fairy Door and a bottle of 'lil Fairy Dust for my then 5 year old last Christmas. My idea was to use the door as entrance for the soon to be expected Tooth Fairy.
Mounting the door to the wall was super easy, I simply used the Velcro wall mounting strips that came with the door.
The door doesn't open and I told my daughter not to try to open it since only fairies can open it and if she touched it, the door might get damaged and the fairies won't be able to come in.
In March this year the Tooth Fairy visited us for the first time. My daughter drew a picture for the Tooth Fairy, left some Pixie Dust out for her so she can "refuel" before she sets sail for her flight back to Fairy Land, and left her tooth bedded on a cotton ball in a little heart shaped box outside the 'lil Fairy Door.
The Tooth Fairy was delighted and very thankful for the beautiful picture and the Pixie Dust and left my daughter a Thank You letter and a little Fairy gift. She has visited us 3 more times since then and the above has become a ritual now that my daughter loves and firmly believes in.


What are your favorite toys? Let's create the ultimate list of toy recommendations from Austinites for Austinites. Share your favorite toys here!


Hurray, hurray, a Giveaway! Enter to win one of the following prizes:

  • One of two (2) stocking stuffer baskets valued at $50 each, including all of the favorite toys, candy, and stocking stuffers hand picked by the staff at Terra Toys
  • One (1) Gigantic Step & Play Piano valued at $49.99 courtesy of Learning Express Toys
  • One of two (2) KinderGlo Night Lights (character of your choice) valued at $29.99 each courtesy of KinderGlo


How to enter: Leave a review for any of the awesome businesses in our business directory and tag the business you've reviewed on our Facebook post. Giveaway ends December 11, 2016.

Good luck!

And don't forget to show the above toy stores some love with your review.


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