The Best & Worst Toddler Toys for Christmas 2018

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5 Favorite Toddler Toys to Gift & 2 NOT to Gift

Buying for toddlers can be tough with so much on the market. Some toys are grown out of so fast, or they end up in the black hole at the bottom of the toy box, never to be seen again. We’ve come up with the top five toys that make great toddler gifts, along with a couple which definitely don’t.

Let’s start with the 5 toys that are great for toddlers:


1. Play Tunnel

💰💰💰: Pacific Play Tents Tunnel 6 ft.

💰💰: Melissa and Doug Bug Tunnel

💰: Poco Divo 6 ft. Play Tunnel

Have a toddler party coming up and don’t know what to buy? Tunnels are a great toy for any toddler! It’s a fun, inexpensive gift idea everyone loves! Whenever I have gifted this toy, the parents always rave about how much their little one is enjoying it. As a parent, I especially love them because they fold up easily, and within seconds you can store it behind the couch or in a closet. Parents and even pets can have fun with this one, making this a perfect toddler toy to have at home.

2. Magnetic Tiles

💰💰💰: Valtech Magna-Tiles 37 piece set

💰💰: Magformers Rainbow 30 piece set

💰: PicassoTiles 60 piece set

These building tiles are one toy that is sure to grow with your toddler. Another bonus is that these magnetic tiles are easy to clean up since they stack together so easily. Build fun castles, forts, roadways – basically, whatever your little one’s heart desires, they’ll be busy for hours!

Since these products contain magnets and are intended for ages 3 and older, please make sure children are supervised while playing with magnetic building toys. Always follow the safety guidelines as instructed on the package.

“My eight-year-old got these for Christmas when he was 2 and he still loves them!” – Sara

3. Mess-Free Drawing Board / Mat

5 toys toddlers need — boogie play and trace board

💰💰💰: AquaDoodle Classic Mat

💰💰: Boogie Board Play and Trace

💰: MegaToyBrand Magna Doodle

Sure, kids are going to use crayons and markers, but we love these mess-free alternatives for their writing and drawing development. Portable drawing boards are the perfect tools since your child can erase and start over with the click of a button. We found that these are great for road trips, too, because who wants markers all over their car?

Another great mess-free option to keep at home (or maybe to fold up and bring to Grandma’s) is the AquaDoodle. Just fill the marker with water, and you have a mess-free drawing mat for your little one! And even if they end up drawing with the “marker” on the floor, you won’t be upset. Easy peasy!

4. Play Kitchen

Step2 Play Kitchen

💰💰💰: KidKraft Ultimate Corner Play Kitchen

💰💰: Hearth & Hand Magnolia Kitchen

💰: Step2 Espresso Bar Play Kitchen

Hearth & Hand Magnolia Kitchen

This is a timeless toy every kid loves! Add some play food, pots, and pans, and your little one will be busy for hours. Watch your little chef cook up some delicious creations. They’ll love feeling like they’re cooking just like mom and dad!

5. Balance Bike

strider balance bike

💰💰💰: Strider Balance Bike

💰💰: Banana Balance Bike

💰: Radio Flyer Glide N Go Balance Bike

We don’t think your toddler will even need training wheels after getting the hang of these bikes! Balance bikes are light-weight and an amazing way for kiddos to start their riding journey. As they ride, they’ll be learning to balance, rather than adapting and becoming dependent on training wheels.

“Both of my boys went straight from riding their Strider balance bikes to riding on two-wheelers like they had been doing it their whole life! I recommend these to all my friends with toddlers!” – Laura

Here are a couple of toddlers toys we are not fans of:


1. Digital iPotty

digital ipotty training potty with ipad holder

While this isn’t exactly a “toy”, this digital iPotty associates games and playtime with learning to use the toilet. Ummmm… 😬 We don’t want our little toddlers getting hemorrhoids from excessive straining, and we certainly don’t want to encourage unnecessary and more screen time. With all the bad habits this iPotty will give your little one, we don’t think it’s practical; therefore, we wouldn’t recommend putting it in your home.

2. Little Tikes® Junior Ballpit

little tikes ball pit

We wouldn’t recommend ball pits for a lot of sanitary reasons, but this toy, in particular, we would never consider spending the money on. After reading only bad reviews on this inflatable Little Tikes Junior Ballpit, we’ve found that it doesn’t hold air and pops easily. For this reputable company, we believe there are much better Little Tikes options worth your investment.

Which toddler toy is your favorite? Which one could you do without?

Please let us know in the comments below!

Up Next: 5 Hot Christmas Toys From Amazon (And 3 That Are Not-So-Hot)

About the writer:

Sara is a self-taught blogger & photographer and brings 9+ years of experience to her craft. Her work has been featured in numerous esteemed publications, spanning building, travel, and fashion. Beyond her creative pursuits, Sara’s primary mission is to empower others to embrace a toxic-free & sustainable lifestyle.

Join The Discussion

Comments 27

  1. Julia

    Love the Magnets and the Kitchen Set. Dislike the Ball Pit.

  2. Sara

    My son has a ball pit and it’s his favorite. He’s two now and kind of growing out of it, but he got it for his 1st bday and it’s been his favorite toy for the last year. I got it on Amazon, but it’s one that’s larger than the little inflatable ones, it doesn’t inflate at all, it’s big and can fold up to be put away. But then what do you do with the 300 balls to go in it?

    Also he loves those slicing fruits and vegetable toys. He spends like 20 mins every night ‘cutting’ up his food, he loves it. We got a really cool set from Target for like $8 on sale, and it comes in a bread box looking plastic container.

    • Julia

      The exact reason for my dislike- those 300 balls. lol

    • celeste

      We use a little inflatabe kid pool for the balls… works just as nice.

  3. Lisa

    Open-ended toys are awesome!!

  4. Janet

    I just purchased that corner kitchen but dark and got it for $140!!

  5. Natalie

    The magnet tiles are probably the only my 4 yr old got for Christmas last year that he still consistently plays with!

  6. Lisa

    Anyone have any thoughts on the Step 2 Christmas Tree? I was thinking of getting it for my granddaughter but Idk. It seems really simple for the price.

    • Tara

      I bought the step 2 tree for my girls this morning from BJ’s for $23.99 I thought for that price I would give a try.

      • Lisa

        That’s a great price!!

    • animity

      I think it would be a toy they play with for 20 minutes and then never touch again.

  7. A

    I say to each there own. I disagree with some of the popular toys you recommended. We have 4 kids from 3-10. Boys and girls. We have owned several of these and the crawl through tent is a pain and only played with a handful of times. The magnetic blocks were not a hit in my household. None of my kids spent anytime playing with them. I also think the ipotty is genius. Anything to make potty time easier, more fun, and faster would get my attention. It isn’t any different than sticking them in front of a TV or giving them a coloring book to keep them occupied which is what I did during potty training, but this…this would have helped so much more!
    I really do not want to rain on anyone, but it concerns me that you are recommending and not recommending products that you yourself, a very influential person have not even tested. Unless you have actually tried the toy and tested to see how well it worked for you and your child than you should not be posting recommendations
    It isn’t fair to the company, product, or people purchasing to give an opinion towards an untested product.

  8. Jangel

    Walmart will have character play tent and tunnel sets for $15. Getting one for my toddler. I know he’ll love it.

  9. Michelle

    Save your money and just save some big cardboard boxes they are the best toys for toddlers… I keep telling my 4 year old Santa won’t bring you toys if you don’t play with!!!!

    • Lisa

      So true!!!

    • Jodi P

      Any fan of Hip2Save has a TON of shipping boxes just waiting for kids to play with them, lol

  10. Julie

    I would have 100% agreed with you on the iPotty BEFORE I went through potty training with my older daughter. We really struggled with her going #2 on the potty for a loonnnggg time and we had tried all the other recommended things. Long story short, she FINALLY went in the toilet for the first time after we gave her her kid’s kindle to play with while sitting on the potty. She calmed down and got distracted enough that she was finally able to just stop being scared and go. So, while it may not be for everyone, for some it might be worthwhile.

  11. Shannon

    Is there a list for preteens and teens? I feel like little kids are happy with anything but teens are so picky and everything they want costs an arm and a leg! Ugh

  12. Blue

    I never used an iPotty while potty training my own children, but I really wouldn’t be so judgmental about using one either.

    You don’t let them sit there forever when they are training…so for a child to be getting hemorrhoids as a result of using one is a bit far-fetched. Also, which bad habits are being encouraged exactly? If your child is getting either too much or unnecessary screen time then that sounds like a separate, unrelated issue that you need to address. If this device helps children that have been recalcitrant towards potty training learn to poop without fear and without making it a power struggle b/w parent and child, then that does make it very “necessary” and “practical” for some families. Parents use re-direction w/ toddlers all the time, so this is no different. Everyone should do what works for them- we as parents are all just trying to survive and it’s hard enough without people being critical of each other for no reason.

    • A

      🙌 my thoughts exactly. It was such a dramatized opinion and recommendation that was scoffed at without even truly knowing how well the product actually works. I think those poop slime toys are ridiculous, but in all honesty some kids love it, some don’t. I just find it unethical when someone who has so much influence on so many people would write a review like this. Then to bring in parenting and screen time as being a bad habit? My son is almost four and wasn’t communicating. He wasn’t able to form sentences. We got him a fire tablet that he plays on constantly and in 6 short months he can now speak fluently and he knows how to count and all of his colors. I praise it for helping him so much. He has 3 older siblings and 2 loving parents that worked with him, but what clicked for him was that tablet. It wasn’t just him.

    • Jodi P

      Potty training with a screen really has nothing to do with this special potty chair. I think THAT’S why this item seems silly.

      • Blue

        Did you read the post, Jodi?

    • Carolyn

      The parents in my hirshsprung’s disease (a colorectal condition) support group love this potty. It is a special circumstance, but kids with HD will undergo many surgeries, and thet often need daily high volume enemas to stay healthy. They are time consuming, uncomfortable, and difficult for the littles. Tablet time on the potty has been more than recommended by the surgeons and GIs we have seen, it has been demanded. I held the tablet for my son when he was plastic potty sized because he would have dropped it, but this would have been great. He could have interactive games instead of just videos. 🙂

  13. lexie

    My 1 year old got a 4 piece set of pop up tents and tunnels for his first birthday and we typically only put them out when other friends come over but it’s always a bit.

  14. Marie

    You can set a time limit for the potty attempt and turn it back to a chair. No big deal.

  15. Arlene

    We wanted a ball pit for our boys, but realized quickly that they were just too expensive. So what we did was buy a kiddy pool (those hard plastic ones) and a bag of pit balls. So much cheaper and they can play and sit for awhile in there. I’ll admit it’s a bit of a pain to store, but it’s worth it for them. I’ve been eye-ing those magnets though, haha. Thanks!

  16. V

    Freedom of speech. This is an opinion piece. Please just read it and make up your own mind. Parents get judged enough. Thank you Hip2Save. I enjoyed hearing your opinions about the different toys. I was curious and wanted to hear what your thoughts were and that is why I read this post.

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