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With the pandemic largely disrupting the past school year for kids of all ages, parents are on the lookout for ways to help bridge the gaps left by lapses in virtual learning. Even parents of young children who decided to keep their little ones home from preschool are worried about social delays that have resulted from spending much of the year largely isolated. Thankfully, there are lots of great toys available in 2021 that focus on emotional, developmental and academic skills, something we all need some help with after a year of COVID-19, not just kids.
When searching for a new toy for your child, opting for something that will keep them busy through independent play or allow them to interact with friends and siblings are typically at the top of a parent’s must-have list. Toys that help build important motor and cognitive skills and possess some STEM qualities are ideal. Anything that promotes creativity and doesn’t rely too heavily on screen time is always a bonus. And batteries? The fewer, the better.
With the summer months looming after a fraught school year, a toy that will help kids continue their education is always a great idea. Check out our list of some of the best new toys in 2021 for kids of all ages.
1. Educational Insights Circuit Explorer Deluxe Base Station
Circuit building has quickly become a big toy market thanks to young kids who thrive in hands-on learning and parents who are on the lookout for toys that include an educational element. Educational Insights has recently launched a Deluxe Base Station, which not only lets kids explore their building skills, but also explore their love of all things space. Kids can build their own planetarium complete with a color-changing dome light, a Voice Synthesizer Station, 10 space sounds, a powered space rover and more. All of the instructions included in the Educational Insights booklet are full-color photos with no reading necessary. The kit can be combined with other Circuit Explorer sets to create larger, custom creations.
Related: Best LEGO Car Sets
2. WowWee Toddler Kitchen Playset
BEST FOR SMALL SPACES
Play kitchens quickly became one of the hottest new toys during the pandemic thanks to their interactive design and ability to hold a child’s attention for an extended period (like, months and months and months …). Play kitchens are also great because they can be used by multiple kids at once and are suitable for a wide range of ages. While things are finally getting back to normal, play kitchens are still in demand and we like the new cardboard version from WowWee. Much less expensive than a typical play kitchen and not requiring hours of assembly, the play kitchen can support up to 50 pounds and can be folded and put away when not in use. An oversized toy for your child that won’t take up permanent residence in your living room? WowWee indeed.
Related: Best Baby Yoda Gifts and Toys
3. Playmobil 1.2.3 Aqua Splish Splash Water Park
BEST FOR WATER PLAY
Kids love playing in the water but depending on your outdoor space or the current weather forecast, enjoying a pool day or water table outside isn’t always feasible. That’s why we like the new Playmobil 1.2.3 Aqua Splish Splash Water Park, which gives kids the chance to get (a little) wet and explore sensory play and develop their fine motor skills just about anywhere. The water park comes with several figurines, including a baby octopus and fish, as well as floating rafts, a boat, and a bridge. Kids can enjoy playing with the lazy river and the ‘park’ is large enough for multiple kids to play at once.
Related: Best Outdoor Toys for Kids
4. LEGO VIDIYO Party Llama Beatbox
BEST USE OF SCREEN TIME
From YouTube to TikTok, kids love watching music videos, so help them make their own in a fun and safe environment with the new LEGO VIDIYO Party Llama Beatbox. The kit comes with a llama minifigure and maracas, as well as 14 beats and 2 special BeatBits. Using the free Lego Vidiyo app, kids can add special effects to their videos and bring their llama to life. Extension packs are available and when their video is complete, kids can share it to the Lego app where they can safely browse other homemade music videos.
Related: Best Pool Toys
5. Chi Flow and Phreeze Yoga Mat and Game
It’s never been more stressful to be a kid. Living through a pandemic has left little ones with a heightened state of anxiety, so help your child relax and gain some mindfulness with the Chi Flow and Phreeze Yoga Mat and Game. Sized for kids and tweens, the interactive yoga mat includes symbols printed clearly on the mat and a free app that includes easy-to-follow instructions and games to help little yogis make the most out of their practice. We received a set and were impressed with the quality of the mats. Chi also sells matching adult-sized mats so that parents can stretch alongside their kids for an activity the whole family can get involved in. Because let’s be real, we all need some zen in 2021.
6. L.O.L. Surprise! Clubhouse Playset
BEST TOY HOUSE
If you have a child that loves the L.O.L. Surprise! line, they will be very O.M.G. about the new Clubhouse Playset. Packed with, well, surprises, the three-story clubhouse comes with more than 40 surprises including two exclusive dolls. The clubhouse has a game room, skateboard zone, a movie room, a hammock patio and more hangout areas and expands to three feet wide. What kind of credit is needed for this place? We haven’t seen anything as cool on Zillow.
7. Numberblocks Math Link
BEST SHOW TIE-IN
If you have a Numberblocks fan in your life, they’re going to love the new toy based on the hit Netflix series. Set to be released in June 2021, we received an early copy of the kid’s game and were impressed by how interactive and easy to follow the math-based learning game is for young users. Great for little ones just learning to count or older kids who want to challenge their math skills through independent play, the Numberblocks Math Link includes 30 activities to help kids strengthen their addition, subtraction, division and multiplication skills.
8. Paw Patrol Rocky’s Reuse It Deluxe Truck
If there’s one thing kids like as much as Paw Patrol (be there on the double!), it’s garbage trucks. Watch your kids jump into action with the new Rocky’s Reuse It Deluxe Truck, which teaches kids about recycling, lets them use the compactor and ‘sweep and clean’ the street, and make tools. Best of all, it doesn’t require batteries. A gift for parents? Can it be?
9. Blobby’s Pizza Math Card Game
BEST EDUCATIONAL BOARD GAME
Virtual learning for much of the past school year has many parents concerned that their kids have fallen behind in academics. Thankfully, there are plenty of new toys and educational games that kids will love playing that teach valuable skills. Blobby’s Pizza Math Card Game is a great example of a game that both parents and kids will enjoy. Essential STEM lessons in math, including fractions, decimals and percentages are taught in an exciting way as kids try to make and ‘eat’ the most pizzas. We received a sample of the Blobby game and like that it includes three bonus games that target different skill levels, making this a great option for kids regardless of their proficiency in mathematics.
Related: Best STEM Toys
10. The Monster at the End of This Story Magna-Tiles
BEST FOR EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Magna-Tiles have been one of the best go-to new toys for kids for years thanks to their open-ended design and seemingly endless play options. Magna-Tiles have begun expanding with new collaborations that suit a wide variety of ages, including their latest partnership with Sesame Street. The new lineup includes sets that focus on colors, shapes and in this case, feelings. Kids help build Grover’s truck through the story on each tile and by the end they find that there is nothing to be scared of after all. Sometimes, monsters aren’t so bad. We received one of the first Sesame Street sets and loved seeing the partnership that combines the best of Magna-Tiles and the beloved children’s show.