Today, we’re going to start with the holiday gifts that get the biggest reaction from kids when the wrapping paper comes off – the gifts that really make them say “wow!” Part of what makes a “wow” gift is simply a large box under the tree (or the menorah) – that’s where ride-on toys and large building sets come in. New technology also can make for a big “wow.” But ultimately, what makes these the coolest gifts for kids is their extended play value: many of these items grow with your child, and they’re all designed to be compelling for far more than a minute or two. All of these toys will give kids years of fun, and that has us impressed!
Kettler Air Navigator with Pushbar & Seatbelt ($239.99), Ages 12 months – 5 years
Ride-ons are often the centerpiece of an assortment of gifts, in part because of their sheer size, and in part because they’re toys that kids beg for. There’s also a rite-of-passage element to a lot of ride-ons – remember how it felt to get your first bike? A tricycle, a bicycle, or a scooter is a holiday gift that few kids ever forget.
Consider the Air Navigator to be your child’s first “wow” gift, then: it’s big, shiny, and lets even toddlers feel like a big kid on their first bike (even though you’ll be pushing them along at first). This terrific trike grows with your child both physically and developmentally, with a removable pushbar and rear navigation (so you can steer from behind), adjustments that let kids that aren’t old enough to pedal just rest their feet, and a limited turn radius; as your child grows and becomes more coordinated, you can extend the frame and transform the Air Navigator into a regular trike.
Individual kids can get as many as four years of use out of it, and because Kettler trikes are made to last forever, the Air Navigator will still be around to provide years of fun for younger siblings!
Kickboard USA T-Bar Maxi Kick Scooter ($129.99), Ages 6-11
For the next stage up in ride-ons, the Maxi Kick makes a big impression as well: learning how to use Kickboard scooters is easy as pie, with a three-wheeled design that makes balancing easy, and kids will love “surfing the sidewalks.” Kickboard scooters are speedy, tough, and made to last – the Maxi Kick has an adjustable handle that extends as your child grows, and holds up to 120 pounds, so this is a gift that will get tons and tons of use!
Sparkup, the Magical Book Reader ($59.99), Ages 12 months – 10 years
We’ve given this cool device a lot of space here on Spilling the Beans already: you can use it to record your voice reading a storybook to your child, and it assigns sound clips to certain pages so kids can have Sparkup “read” the book back to them when you’re not there. The technology is nifty – kids love having their own gadgets! – and the benefits of Sparkup are endless. It enhances your bond with your child (great when a parent is away), keeps kids busy for extended periods of time, and helps them to develop early reading skills. We love it!
Hape/Educo, Quadrilla Cyclone Marble Run 198-piece Set ($199.99), Ages 4-10
Ask your kid what her favorite thing about her marble run is, and you’ll get a whole lot of answers: is it the fun of building an enormous, elaborate structure as tall as her waist, that takes up a huge chunk of your playroom? Is it the glow of achievement she gets when the marble zooms down the spiraling funnel, zips down the accelerators, and zings out the bottom the way she planned? Is it the even better glow of achievement she gets from designing her own runs and making them work? Or is it the fun of knocking the whole thing down in the end? Long story short: wooden marble runs are fun, and this is a HUGE MARBLE RUN.
Hape/Educo, Geometrics House ($59.99), Ages 3 & up
This innovative toy takes dollhouse play to the next level… or, well, we suppose you can build it to just one story if you like, but it’s pretty fun to stack, too! The Geometrics House is a dollhouse in four segments that can be arranged any way your child prefers, adding a whole new creative dimension to a traditional childhood play pattern. It also comes with all the furnishings a little dollhouse needs, and two dolls to get playtime started!
A dollhouse always makes a big impression as a holiday or birthday gift, so if you don’t think this is the right one for your kid, check out the rest of our dollhouse selection – there are also some amazing Playmobil dollhouses and Calico Critters houses that will really wow ’em!
Lego Systems, Lego Mindstorms EV3 ($449.99), Ages 10 & up
As “wow”-tastic as the rest of this assortment is, I think this is the most impressive of all: if you have a little smartypants in your family who loves to build and loves problem-solving tasks, there’s no better gift than a set that lets them make their own robotic minion!
The Intelligent EV3 Brick is the key to building robots that walk, talk, and obey your child’s every command. Kids can follow the intuitive 3D building instructions to build TRACK3R, R3PTAR, SPIK3R, EV3RSTORM and GRIPP3R, and then the fun REALLY starts: once they get how the parts work together, they can start designing their own amazing LEGO bots that really work.
This set is suggested for ages 10 and up, but you know your kid best – as we pointed out in our blog on age recommendations, there are plenty of little LEGO geniuses out there who are ready for really intense building tasks at younger ages, and they’ll lose their minds with delight over this LEGO set.
Looking for more of the best gifts for the upcoming 2014 holiday season? They’ll be on their way – a new blog will be coming up every week, and the full list will be released soon!