The making of a professional Toy Whiz is a multi-stage process. First, of course, there’s the hiring stage, where we select friendly, energetic folks who haven’t outgrown their enthusiasm for playtime. Next, budding Toy Whizzes get a crash course in child development as it applies to toys, since playing is how babies and kids learn their earliest physical, social, and intellectual skills, and it’s important to introduce the right toys at the right time.
Next, set loose in the world of Magic Beans, our toy experts familiarize themselves with our selection and get started talking to parents. After all, a toy can look great on paper or on the shelf, but the real test of a great toy is how it comes to life in the hands of an enthralled child (or winds up thrown into the corner of the playroom, forgotten). By getting to know our repeat customers, studying the kids in our own lives, and observing what works and what doesn’t, we learn which toys are duds, and which ones are on their way to becoming classics.
And thus, each Toy Whiz creates a mental list of top picks to recommend to every toy shopper: once we know how old the kid you’re shopping for is, we can direct you towards the items that will make their day. In minutes, our experts will find you the coolest gadgets, the cutest baby toys, the items that will make your baby nephew giggle and make his older sister cheer when the wrapping paper comes off.
We asked our team to tell us their time-tested faves, and today, we’re unveiling their greatest hits.
BABIES & TODDLERS
Lamaze Garden Bug Foot Finder & Wrist Rattle Set, newborn & up
Ashley from Magic Beans Cambridge says: Babies haven’t grasped object permanence just yet. So as awesome as the crinkles and rattles in the toy are, and they’re pretty awesome, the best part is the utter surprise on their faces when brightly colored bugs appear in front of their face seemingly out of nowhere only to disappear shortly after. It’s as if they’re playing peek-a-boo with themselves and this toy is guaranteed fun for both the infants and the adults watching.
Nat from Magic Beans Boston says: The perfect gift for new parents! The little bug rattles go on baby’s wrists and ankles, helping them practice fine motor control, and establishing object permanence. Also, it’s really stinkin’ cute to watch.
Fat Brain Toys PipSquigz, 6 months & up
Mike from Magic Beans Brookline & Boston says: I love these guys, and they’re a must for any registry. You can use the suction cups to stick them on any table, so they’re great for keeping babies entertained if you’re out at a restaurant, visiting a friend, or just keeping your baby busy in his high chair while you eat. The suction is really intense, so they won’t go anywhere! They rattle when shaken, they’re safe to teethe on since they’re made of silicone, and the interesting textures will keep a kid’s attention for a long time.
Manhattan Toy Whoozit Learn & Play, 9 months & up
Mike from Magic Beans Brookline & Boston says: This is the best travel toy for a year or under, basically a whole activity center in one little cube that fits in your purse or your carry-on bag (great for taking baby on a plane)! So much to interact with, and a lot of cause and effect stuff, lights, noises, tactile stuff, and mirrors!
Tomy Marco Light Up Toy, 3 years and up
Mike from Magic Beans Brookline & Boston says: This is the best! This little bathtime buddy crawls along the floor of your tub emitting a 30 second sequence of rainbow lights that keeps going as long as he’s underwater. I think he’s fine for even younger toddlers, starting at age one (the official age range is probably because it has batteries underwater), and I have one of my own who lives in my shower! The sensors in his feet are really accurate – he never turns on unless he’s completely submerged.
Melissa & Doug Suspend Game, 8 years and up
Meghan from Customer Service says: In this game, you roll the dice to choose colorful rubber-tipped rods to balance on a cool modern-art-looking structure. This intense balancing game is easy to play, and gets everyone in the family involved!
LEGO Spider-Man: Ghost Rider Team-Up, 7 years & up
Ricky from the Warehouse says: In this playset, you get to set up a street battle scene where Spider-Man and Ghost Rider join forces to defeat Hobgoblin. It’s just an amazing set, and Ghost Rider looks fantastic!
Modarri Build-Your-Own Cars, 6 years and up
Mike from Magic Beans Brookline & Boston says: First, you build them – then, you drive them by sticking a finger in the driver’s seat! They have great steering and suspension, and you can do some really cool tricks.
Whether you get a single car or one of the three-packs we offer, building them is super fun and takes a nice healthy chunk of time for little fingers, without being too overwhelming. They really give a kid an idea of how many parts there are in a car and how they all come together, and they look by far the coolest of all of our toy cars (aside from maybe Automoblox). You can also mix and match the pieces – everything from the rubber tires to the driveshaft to the seat. You even get a little screwdriver to make building easier!
Tomy Dino Constructables, 3 years and up
Nat from Magic Beans Boston says: What’s better than a dinosaur? Designing your own dinosaur from scratch. What’s better than that? One that WALKS AROUND. Observe as it crashes into the Hot Wheels highway, decimating the city, hungry for food. Guaranteed to be a huge hit at the next birthday party for ages 3-5.
Gamewright Rat-A-Tat Cat, 6 years and up
Chelsea from Magic Beans Boston says: I could play this game every day for years and still love it! As an adult, I find that it still helps me with concentration and memory skills, so I try to play as often as possible. If we’re having a game night, I always ask to play a few rounds of this first. I have been a fan for years and love introducing it to new people – young and old!
Meeper Technology MeeperBot, more details soon
Nicole from Magic Beans Wellesley says: Everyone has LEGOs, it’s the easiest gift to give because you’re guaranteed a thumbs up. But what kid wouldn’t want to make their LEGOs come to life? With this little robotic car, you can turn your brick creations into movable masterpieces, and steer them using an app on your smartphone or iPad. It’s a no brainer, the MeeperBot is hands down one of the coolest toys I’ve seen in a very long time!
Hexbug Robots, 3 years and up (depends on the product)
Zendel from Magic Beans Fairfield says: My favorite is the Hexbug Battle Spider set! What kid wouldn’t love to battle their friends with remote controlled robots? If a kid likes action, this is the gift to give!
Shelli from Magic Beans Wellesley says: My brother and I had so many of these when we were younger, I thought they were the coolest toy you could have. Awesome for all ages; even my grandpa loves them!
Gamewright Sushi Go! Card Game, 8 years and up
Maria from Magic Beans Brookline says: Sushi Go is a really great fast paced older kid game that combines light strategy with a bit of luck. You won’t get tired of playing again and again, and because of its quick pace, it’s easy to figure out if you have the time and focus left for another round without having to disrupt the flow of the game. It also comes in a fairly small box! I like to keep it in my satchel and bring it with me to play with my family or friends. My favorite thing is that win or lose, with Sushi Go, it’s the game-play itself that is the MOST fun, so no soreness necessary! It says ages 8 and up on the package, but if you think a younger child can handle it, give it a shot – you can always handicap the game to make it easier for them.
Q-Ba-Maze Marble Maze playsets, 5 years and up
Stephanie from Magic Beans Fairfield says: This toy is AMAZING because it allows children to use their imagination to build their mazes in a different way every time, there are endless possibilities. Even when the maze is constructed you never know which way the marble will run!
Elenco Electronics Snap Circuits, 8 years and up
Evey from Magic Beans Norwell says: Kids of all ages love to play with Snap Circuits. This is a great toy to teach the basic electrical concepts. They will be creating their own circuit creations before you know it. I love that the kits can be intermingled. My kids play with our four sets for hours. My 9-year-old built his own flashlight during an extended power outage. I love that this toy helped him play with his other toys! It is one of my favorite gifts to give!
Boogie Board Jot LCD eWriter, 3 years and up
Moses from Magic Beans Boston says: It’s a never-ending doodle pad: just draw or write whatever you want with the included stylus, and then when you’re done, just press the button and everything disappears with a flash. It’s easy to use and endlessly creative!