How to please the kid in your life this month? We rifled through the stack of catalogues, surfed web sites and conducted entirely unscientific surveys of kids we know to decide on these 15 stellar toy picks for 2014. Yes, we include a nod to the Frozen juggernaut, but we also uncovered dear handmade critters, tech-savvy gizmos and cool finds for young teens. We'll sit back now and sip some eggnog. Happy shopping!
In a sea of plush toys for newborns, there’s a welcome goofiness to the Hungry Pelican, who comes with various squishy and noisy seafood creatures to munch on. Also: an early lesson in how the food chain works. $29.99, birth and up. Mastermind Toys.
Eve’s Little Earthlings
It’s easy to get lost in the whimsical forest delights of the online Esty shop Eve’s Little Earthlings. Take this Hollow Log and its woodland inhabitants, for instance. Eve even posts photos of the critters who inspire her (check out the squirrel). Log is about $21 and critters start at $18, ages 3 to 10. Eve’s Little Creatures on Etsy.
My Pretty Playhouse
Yes, they usually do have more fun with the box. So how about this offering from Quebec paper company Cascades? My Pretty Playhouse is made out of recycled cardboard and is easy to assemble. This, despite including a dormer window, skylight and mailbox. $20, ages 3 and up. Boutiquecascades.com
Fidoodle DIY Creature Craft Kit
Feed their creative impulses with this Fidoodle DIY Creature Kit. Felt, wood, crayons and other tools add to the old-school vibe. The Toronto Esty seller suggests trying for a baker, a candle-stick maker, a ninja or a fairy. $18.71, ages 5 to 8. Fidoodle on Etsy
We all know gifting your husband or wife a vacuum (even a luxury one) won’t pass muster at Christmas. But your toddler thinks vacuuming up mess is great fun, so why not encourage a little industriousness with their very own Dyson? Best part: It actually works. $44.95, ages 3 to 8. Indigo.
Royal Palace Dollhouse
Will and Kate may be the most down-to-earth British Royals yet, but let’s not totally quash the fantasy shall we? Pottery Barn’s chic Royal Palace Dollhouse is tastefully over-the-top. All princes, princesses and Royal guards sold separately. $459, ages 3 and up. Potter Barn Kids.
Disney Frozen Cool Tunes Headphones
The Frozen merchandise boom is nowhere near letting up. Among the hundreds of dolls, games and costumes is this brilliant pair of headphones. With kid-friendly sound levels, your kid can “crank” up Let it Go and maybe, just maybe, spare you the ear worm. $19.95, ages 3 and up. Indigo.
Bruder Combine Harvester
For the wannabe farmer child, a puny little tractor won’t do; this combine harvester with “easy-to-handle steering” and loads of authentic details feels like the real deal and will have him or her dreaming of harvests to come. $125.99, ages 3 and up. Mastermind Toys.
Tabletop Air Hockey
A gift for the whole family, really. This classic air hockey game with wood grain panels will fill hours of holiday downtime. It comes with two paddles, two pucks, two scoreboards and two puck returns. $56, ages 5 and up. Pottery Barn Kids.
Zoomer Dino RC Boomer
The newest mini robot from the Spinmaster folks channels the fury of a T-Rex on wheels. Despite being cute, apparently this modern pet can get angry, spin around and roar when he’s ticked off. Yikes. $89.99, ages 5 and up. Mastermind Toys.
Alex Selfie Journal
If you think you can stop the selfie trend, be my guest. Or you could try to add a little retro scrapbooking to the phenomenon to keep it safely this side of Kardashian. The kit includes stickers, washi roll tape and other goodies. $19.99, ages 6 and up. Mastermind Toys.
The Kurio Xtreme
Keep their paws off your iPad by giving them this android tablet made just for munchkins. In addition to all kinds of apps that allow parents to filter and monitor for safety, the Kurio features body motion games that get kids jumping around IRL. $159.99, ages 6 and up. Toys ‘R’ Us.
Parrot MiniDrone Jumping Sumo
For tech-loving kids, these drones (there’s also a “rolling spider”) may be the coolest gift they’ll receive. The sumo takes turns at 90 degrees and can jump 80 cm in the air. Bonus: The embedded camera can tell you when exactly that lamp got broken. $179, ages 8 and up. Indigo.
Laser Star Room Projector
For kids just on the cusp of teen-dom, this star projector strikes a balance between whimsy and science. The projector sends constellations, nebula cloud formations and even shooting stars across a dark bedroom ceiling. A perfect antidote to homework. $149.00, ages 12 and up. Mastermind Toys.
PowerUp 3.0 Paper Airplane Conversion Kit
No, there’s nothing your smartphone can’t do. With this kit, you and the kids can convert a simple paper airplane into a remote-controlled one. So much better than hours of Angry Birds, right? $59.99, ages 14 and up. Mastermind Toys.