With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing— toys are more important now than ever. A toy refresh provides hours of indoor entertainment (essential for rainy days), offers educational elements (from STEM skills to all-important role play and imaginative play), brings the family together and provides much-needed fun and laughter during difficult times. Families are especially lucky, because toy companies are on the ball, and the toys this year looks especially bright.
So, what trends are we seeing in this years crop of the best new toys and games? Anything that helps enhance at-home learning, be it STEM toys, art kits or even fidget toys. TikTok is at the top of everyones mind, so lots of toys this year are meant to help kids create their video experience. With stress at an all-time high, theres also a spate of sensory toys out there, offering experiences like water play, music and new compounds to squish and stretch. And, as families spend more and more time at home together, family game night is even more important, so clear the table and get your game face on.
While many of these are still too new to have gone through the full Good Housekeeping testing process, here are some of the toys the Good Housekeeping Institute Little Lab is most excited about this year.
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Kids have always wanted to make their LEGO minifigurines come to life, and now they can — in music video form. Kids can collect different minifigurines representing different musical styles, from pirate punk rockers to the Party Llama. Then they can use an app to form a band, make an album cover and get those minifigurines moving in music videos (which use real songs, thanks to a partnership with the Universal Music Group). Best of all, kids can also collect BeatBits, or pieces that look like vinyl LPs, but create different effects within the video. One BeatBit might create a slow-mo effect, for example, while another will turn all the characters into pandas. Kids can share their creations, with no identifiable personal information, through the app.
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World Colors Modeling Clay
This set comes with clay in both bold hues and a range of skin tones, and the clay is designed to be blended together to create any skin tone imaginable. The clay doesnt dry out and harden, so it offers hours of sensory play and helps kids with their fine motor skills.
RELATED: The Best New Toys of 2020
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SNAP Ships Fusion Drone Fusion Build
With each Snap Ships drone, kids get enough pieces to build a vehicle — and then dismantle and build whatever strikes their fancy. If they collect all three drones, however, they can complete a Fusion Build and make an even bigger, cooler creation. There are two sets of Fusion builds, one for the good Forge side, and one for the evil Komplex.
$6 drone, $18 set
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Cute Retro Toy for Kids
Laugh & Learn Puppys Mix Tape
Your baby may never know the artistry of making the perfect mix tape, but this is the next best thing. This cassette lights up and plays songs that teach the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes and greetings. Kids can also use their fine motor coordination to press the play button, turn the reels — even pull the tape out. This is part of a series of retro-inspired toys that includes a boom box and a handheld video game.
Ages 6 months+
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Refresh family game night with this easy tabletop game — just roll the dice and grab an alien card that matches the characteristics on each die. The best part is that the dice are in a bubble that pops when you push it (fun, and also makes it so you dont lose the die at Grandmas house).
Available Summer 2021
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PLAYMOBIL 1.2.3. Aqua
One prevalent trend is this years new releases is toys that use water to incorporate a sensory experience into their play. PLAYMOBIL, for example, has a new line of toddler toys that have floating pieces, scoopers, watering cans and other splashy features. The line ranges from a small duck boat with scoopers (Aqua Duck Family, $10) to lazy river where kids can use a crank to make the current flow (Splish Splash Water Park, $65).
Ages 18 months+
$10 – $65
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Sensory Toy for Toddlers
Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog Fidget Friend
Learning Resources amazon.com
A companion to the the 2018 Good Housekeeping Award-winning Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog, this toy offers kids a lot of satisfying sensations. Little hands can spin the wheel, turn the crank, press the button, twist the knob, push the plunger and move the switch, building motor coordination skills along the way. This is one of a whole new line of Spike toys that includes a sensory playset, a rainbow stacker and a puzzle.
Ages 18 months+
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If you have a kid whos into crystals, or decorating their rooms with light-up LEDs, this is definitely their toy of the year. Each of these light-up fairy dolls is associated with a different color that embodies a certain crystal power (love, wisdom, luck or healing). They also come with crystal shaped amulets for kids to wear that can collect all of the different colors — and even pass them to friends who might have their own amulet. The dolls can share their colors on the moon-shaped doll stand, too, to make for a cool room display.
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Young Raya and Kumandra Flower
Disney Princess amazon.com
This works like a typical fashion doll, with a striking blue jumpsuit inspired by the one Raya wears in Raya and the Last Dragon. But it also falls into the trend of spa-like wellness toys, since it plays a soothing melody if you lift the arm with the Kumandra flower.
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Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Stunt Tire Playset
Hot Wheels amazon.com
This track is large enough to launch either a Hot Wheels Monster Truck, or two regular Hot Wheels cars, and send them off and crashing through a ring of fire. When its not in use, it folds up into a case with a handle for easy portability. It also comes with the Tiger Shark monster truck and a Hot Wheels 1:64 scale vehicle.
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Disney Mad Tea Party Game
Its a stacking game, with a Wonderland twist! The wacky cups must be stacked on a tilted tea table, and cards affect which cups you can place and where.
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Space Jam: A New Legacy Super Shoot and Dunk LeBron James
SPACE JAM amazon.com
The object is simple: Launch LaBron from his starting pad and see if you can get him to fly across the air and dunk the ball. His hands are large enough to palm the ball — or hang off the rim for his signature dunk. And if your kids are big LeBron (or Looney Tunes) fans, theres a ton of figures for Space Jam: A New Legacy headed your way, too.
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Barbie Dreamtopia Rainbow Magic Mermaid
If these mermaids, with their rainbow-colored hair and tails, werent cool enough, they also have a neat trick: Dip them in warm water to see their hair, bodice and tails transform into pastel colors. Cold water brings the bright rainbow shades back.
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Sesame Street People in Your Neighborhood Collection
With all the emphasis on appreciating essential workers, kids are more interested than ever in the people in their neighborhood. This plush collection shows favorite characters like Elmo, Abby and Cookie Monster as healthcare workers, firefighters and other local heroes.
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Create Your Potato Head Family
Mr. Potato Head walmart.com
One potato, two potato, three potato — fun! This set comes with two large potatoes and one small one, along with 42 accessories, so kids can make lots of wacky potato families. (Perhaps one that looks like your own?) The bodies are also compatible with your old collection of Potato Head parts.
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Dream Seekers amazon.com
These 14-inch dolls come with an important job: They each have a pocket where kids can store their wishes, and the fairies will guard them. Each doll has its own colors and personalities, but the Stella doll (center) is extra special and comes with light-up wings.
$20 – $30
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Fun Stem Kit for Kids
GraviTrax PRO Vertical Expansion Set
For fans of building elaborate marble runs, the GraviTrax PRO expansion lets kids build higher structures with fewer pieces. Walls, pillars and balconies lets kids experiment with STEM concepts like magnetism, kinetics and, of course, gravity. The set is compatible with existing GraviTrax sets — or, if you dont have one already, you can start with the Vertical Starter Set.
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Marvel Villainous: Mischief and Malice
Every Marvel fan has wondered what it s like to be Loki, and this new edition of Marvel Villainous lets one lucky player step into the Frost Giants shoes. Each character — either Loki, M.O.D.O.K. or Madame Masque — must complete their own storyline-based objective using their own powers and strengths. This wont be out until August, but its available for pre-order. (For Disney fans, the new Disney Villainous edition is Despicable Plots, starring Gaston, Lady Tremaine or the horned king from The Black Cauldron. That one is out now.)
Available Summer 2021
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Light-Up Activity Board
With this light-up board, kids can try their hands at color-mixing in addition to shape recognition. The set comes with 22 shape clings, 12 colored lights, three markers and three transparency sheets, and the board has storage for all the pieces.
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Smashers Lava Light-Up Dino Mega Surprise
Theres lots of fun to be unearthed in each of these eggs! Each Mega Surprise comes with a dinosaur to build, light up and do battle. In addition, there are 20 different surprises in each egg, including four Smasher eggs and multiple compounds for sensory experiences.
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Pop2Play Indoor Slide
During the COVID-19 pandemic, lots of families have been looking to bring the playground experience indoors — but its a big space-suck. This slide, made from 100% recycled materials, folds flat when its done, then sets up again in a flash. And yet, its sturdy enough to hold 50 lbs. (Its also a rainy-day lifesaver.)
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Lets Glow Studio
Sky Castle amazon.com
Kids can use these DIY crafts to amp up their videos. The craft kits come with materials that kids can use to make or decorate hair extensions, stickers, nails, sunglasses and other accessories. Then, they clip the Lets Glow LED clip on any smartphone, tablet or laptop, and they can use it to make cool glow-on-the-dark lighting effects on the accessories theyve crafted — you can even change the color! The LED clip doesnt need to plug in (no finding compatible wires!), and no apps are needed to control it.
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Musical Whale Fountain
Some toys have water. Some toys have music. This one has both! Kids can press each of the colored whales to play this like a piano, or put it in fountain mode and listen as it plays and spouts water at different heights. This can be used in the bath or in a kiddie pool — it has suction cups on the bottom to keep it in place.
Ages 18 months+
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Got2Glow Fairy Finder
Wow Wee amazon.com
Kids will get a thrill every time they open this jar and invite real fairies to come inside. There are more than 100 fairies to collect, and kids can say hi to them, feed them or even give them a hug and a kiss. If two friends have their own jars, they can actually swap fairies between the two. And keep an eye out for secret tips and tricks for catching different and rare fairies. (For example: See what kind of fairy you can catch when you hold your jar upside-down.) This will come out in August, but its available for pre-order now.
Available Fall 2021
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PAW Patrol True Metal Total City Rescue Playset
Paw Patrol amazon.com
With a new PAW Patrol movie coming to theaters this summer, kids are going to want to break out their pups and race them all around the city. This playset works with the True Metal die-cast vehicles, and it features locations from the movie that each have their own action feature. For true fans, theres also a separate, 36-inch-tall lookout tower on the way designed to look the the one in the movie.
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Air Hogs amazon.com
This innovative RC is meant to be driven indoors, with soft wheels that dont scratch walls or furniture. But the stunts are wild, and the car can jump up to 22 inches in the air! Kids can also try spins, flips, drops and rebounds.
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Elsas Enchanted Lights Palace
A new take on a 2019 Good Housekeeping Toy Award winner, the revamped Little People palace now boasts an elevator, multi-color lights and figures of Anna and Elsa. And yes, it still plays Let It Go.
Ages 18 months+
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KidiStar DJ Mixer
Kid will feel like real DJs with this setup, which lets them turn on and off instruments, scratch, adjust the tempo and add effects. It comes with buttons, sliders, a turntable pad, a microphone and, most importantly, a party light.
Available Fall 2021
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This instant camera takes regular photos and selfies, then prints them out immediately on thermal paper — no expensive film or computers required. There are also tons of in-camera effects that can be accessed at the touch of a button: Kids can take panoramic photos, turn their pictures into coloring sheets, put their face on money and play games. This comes from the makers of the KidiZoom Creator Cam video camera, one of Good Housekeepings Best Toys of 2020.
Available Fall 2021
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Baking Fun Puppy Activity Center
Let their sweet imaginations run wild! Theres so much fun packed into this activity bench: Kids can stack and count the layers of a cake, pretend to roll and cut out cookies, put treats in the oven or follow the maze on the fridge door. The set is two feet tall and comes with 18 accessories. Its part of KidKrafts Foody Friends line, which also includes a cooking elephant activity center.
Available Summer 2021
Marisa LaScala Parenting & Relationships Editor Marisa LaScala covers all things parenting, from the postpartum period through empty nests, for GoodHousekeeping.com; she previously wrote about motherhood for Parents and Working Mother.
Raena Loper Raena Loper is the Product and Reviews Associate for the Good Housekeeping Institute, covering home, textiles, wellness, tech, outdoors and more.
Rachel Rothman, Good Housekeeping Institute Chief Technologist & Director of Engineering Rachel is the chief technologist and director of engineering at the Good Housekeeping Institute, where she oversees testing methodology, implementation and reporting for all labs.
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