The Best Toys of 2019

November 22, 2019
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: THE LEGO GROUP; SPIN MASTER; TECH WILL SAVE US; THAMES & KOSMOS; FLYCATCHER; THAMES & KOSMOS

The best toys of 2019 can hatch, tumble, light up, battle, and more. Some of the toys, such as Kano’s coding kits or Lego’s Hidden Side play sets, let users create or discover new worlds. Others, like Pictionary Air or the smART Pixelator, offer a new, high-tech upgrade to timeless kid-approved activities. Here, the editors of TIME for Kids round up the best toys of the year.

Jam Session

TECH WILL SAVE US

Ready to rock out? Kids can build their own mini electric guitar and amplifier from scratch with the Tech Will Save Us Electro Guitar Kit. Interactive step-by-step online instructions teach you how to put the instrument and amp together with cardboard, rubber bands, and other provided materials. Kids can then use video tutorials and an online recording studio to learn riffs, record sounds, and share tracks. The do-it-yourself kit takes music education to a whole new level. (Ages 8+)

High-Tech Hedgehog

THAMES & KOSMOS (2)

Maybe the best way to learn about robots is to build one yourself. And My Robotic Pet—Tumbling Hedgehog, by Thames & Kosmos, might be the cutest robot around. First, it must be constructed from 172 pieces, including gears, motors, and sound sensors. A colorful manual alongside a comic-book story will guide you through the process. But building it is only half the fun. Once you’re done, the bionic hedgehog responds to sound commands. Different patterns of claps make it bristle, tumble, spin, and more. (Ages 7+)

String Things

KAHOOTZ (3)

There’s something so satisfying about completing a hands-on art project. Y’Art makes that easy. These yarn-art kits give “by-number” projects a new dimension. Kids use the included yarn to create colorful, textured art pieces. Choose from a selection of designs—from the simple Y’Art Pug Puppy to the more complex Y’Art MasterPiece—The Starry Night. The best part? They’re mistake-proof: If you place the yarn in the wrong spot, just pick it up and go again. (Ages 8+)

Back to the Drawing Board

MATTEL (2)

A well-loved game makes a high-tech comeback. Pictionary Air offers a fun twist on the classic sketch-based version of charades. The original Pictionary relied on pen and paper. But this new version gets players up and moving in a whole new way. To get started, download the free app. As players take their turns drawing in the air with a high-tech pen, point the device’s camera at them. They’ll appear on a phone, tablet, or TV screen along with the sketch they’ve created. (Ages 8+)

A Paranormal Activity

THE LEGO GROUP (2)

Lego is changing the way kids play with its bricks. The company’s new Hidden Side play sets combine the fun of brick-by-brick building with the interactive experience of augmented reality. Download an app to your smartphone, and with a scan, the Paranormal Intercept Bus 3000 and J.B.’s Ghost Lab come alive in AR. With these sets, kids can venture out on ghost patrol—searching for clues, capturing menacing phantoms, and helping a team of ghost hunters solve mysteries. (Paranormal Intercept Bus, ages 8+; Ghost Lab, ages 7+)

Come Out of Your Shell

SPIN MASTER (2)

Want to train a dragon? Hatching Dragon, based on the popular How to Train Your Dragon franchise, lets kids do just that. The baby dragon’s name is Toothless, and he comes inside an egg. Make him angry, and he’ll move, shake, light up, and tap to be let out. When he’s mad enough, he’ll hatch. Once he’s out, he can play games like Toothless Says, Hot Potato, or Ask Toothless. You can teach him how to fly and dive-bomb, too. But there’s more to Toothless than just being playful. Put your hand over his head, and he’ll purr with affection. (Ages 4+)

Ready, Set, Code

KANO (2)

Step into otherworldly adventures with Kano’s Disney Frozen 2 Coding Kit and Star Wars the Force™ Coding Kit. From conjuring ice castles to creating spaceships, these new-for-2019 kits let users build the Frozen and Star Wars worlds while learning how to code. Kids build a sensor that connects to an app. The sensor picks up hand motions, which lets you swing a lightsaber, create a powerful blizzard, and more. (All ages)

A Smart Way to Art

FLYCATCHER

If Perler Beads and Lite-Brite—two classic, kid-approved crafts—joined forces, the result would be smART Pixelator. With smART Pixelator, kids can create their own digital designs and bring them to life. First, upload a photo to the free app, which pixelates the image. The app sends the pixelated image via Bluetooth to the beading device. Easy-to-follow light technology shows you where to place the beads. Just trace the pattern to make your creation. The app also comes with loads of graphic designs to choose from, and for extra fun, the company offers sequins and pegs that can be used instead of beads. (Ages 7+)

Mad Science

FROM LEFT: THAMES & KOSMOS; KLUTZ

Science meets fun in two new lab kits. With Ooze Labs: Alien Slime Lab, kids can concoct batches of unidentified “alien slime.” At first, the sticky, slimy creations will be a mystery. But conducting experiments to learn about each specimen’s special properties—its color, viscosity, ability to change color or glow in the dark—will help you identify just what type of slime it is. With Klutz Maker Lab Candy Science, you can create your own lollipops, marshmallows, fudge, and other sweets. As you follow along in the instruction manual, you’ll learn the science behind these tasty treats. (Ooze Labs: Alien Slime Lab, ages 6+; Klutz Maker Lab Candy Science, ages 8+)

Mission to Mars

PLAYMOBIL (2)

Playmobil’s Mars Space Station is the ultimate extraterrestrial play set. The 187-piece kit features everything from sleeping compartments to fitness equipment and a lab for analyzing samples. The main control center lights up, makes sounds, and features a removable roof. And two docking stations can be attached to other Playmobil space sets to create an even bigger base for exploring the cosmos. The set also includes two astronauts, plus all the tools and food they need to survive and thrive in outer space. (Ages 6+)

Drive Me up the Wall

SPIN MASTER (2)

Toy cars are no longer confined to the ground. Spinmaster’s Air Hogs Zero Gravity Laser race car can zoom on the floor—and up the wall! The toy’s vacuum technology uses suction to help the race car go vertical. A laser pointer guides it. Kids can play alone or race against others. Get ready to defy gravity! (Ages 6+)

Battle of the Bots

3DOODLER

3Doodler’s Start Robo Sumo 3D Printing Pen Set lets you use a kid-safe version of 3Doodler’s plastic-melting pen to create your own robots. Then you can cheer your robots on as they battle it out in the ring. The kit comes with molds to make arms, gears, wheels, and other robo-parts. The plastic also acts as a glue, so you can attach the robo-parts to one of two rumbling motors. Turn on the motors, place your bots in the center of the ring, and watch them fight to the finish. May the best robot win! (Ages 6 to 13)