Our experts vetted 500-plus new toys for safety, quality and skill-building. Then we asked the toughest critics — kids — to name the "bestest" of all. Meet this holiday's top hits!
This cuddly friend responds to sound and touch — he'll roar when you roar and move when you pet him. Kids couldn't get over how fluffy and interactive this little guy was, and our engineers were wowed by his 100-plus sounds and animations. (Ages 4+)
Use the easy inflator to blow up dozens of Oonies, which are a cross between bubbles and balloons. They stick together, and you can add silly eyes, arms and more for endless designs and hours of fun!
GH Tip: We had some trouble with ones that just wouldn't inflate, but it's mess-free, and kids went crazy for the balloons. (Ages 5+)
Let your favorite trouble-makers run wild in Dru's lair, tricked out with a trapdoor, an ejecting chair and tons of silly sounds. The set comes with two Minions and Dru, but you can buy a pack of for $6. (Ages 5+)
Use the trays to make a 3-D masterpiece, like a star pendant or a heart key chain, out of the crunchy molding goo.
GH Tip: Be sure little ones know their art will harden if left out overnight — great motivation for cleanup! (Ages 5+)
Dip the brush into a paint pot, and it will light up in that shade — the paint is clear until you draw on the special paper, so no stains!
GH Tip: Keep wipes on hand; you have to clean off the brush every time you switch shades. (Ages 3+)
The only thing better than a mermaid? A seapony! Put Pinkie Pie in water, and she swims laps with a glowing tail. This character from My Little Pony: The Movie made kids extra excited. If she stops, remove from H20 and touch the metal sensors until her tail starts moving. (Ages 3+)
All kids screamed for ice cream! Line up and place your order at this full-service cart, which comes with a magnetic scooper, cones, ice cream, syrup, toppings and a talking register. Children of all ages scooped it up! It also has cards with orders that the register announces — great for listening and memory skills — but we found that our testers preferred to take orders from friends. (Ages 2+)
Budding musicians will love this set, which comes with a drum, a xylophone, a bell and a textured block. They can even play duets! This wooden toy was a bigger hit than any other musical one we tested. (Ages 2+)
Bring home your new BFF, a remote-controlled dinosaur that responds to sound and touch and follows you around. Our pros appreciated the remote's easy-to-use design, and kids got the hang of it in seconds. (Ages 5+)
Lead the firefighter on a climb to save the kitty or call in the spinning helicopter for extra help with this fun play set; it kept little ones engaged. We were wowed by the quality design, easy folding for storage and perfectly sized pieces. (Ages 1+)
Mini scientists will love this talking microscope. Recognize the voice? It's Bindi Irwin! Choose from one of 20 slides to learn about animals, plants and more.
GH Tip: Almost every tester needed help getting slides in and out. (Ages 4+)
Kids will love seeing their favorite Paw Patrol characters come to life with this supersize tower! Standing over two and a half feet tall, it's packed with a zooming slide, a periscope and more. It comes with only one vehicle and two characters, so if you want the full set, you'll have to . (Ages 3+)
$35 (for the barn)
Bring the stables inside with this top-quality barn featuring working lights, a water pump and tons of accessories. The barn, and are sold separately, but your kid will likely want them all.
Star Wars fans, rejoice! Follow the instructions to connect circuits and build R2-D2, then use the free Droid Inventor app to teach him tricks. The app's step-by-step videos were very helpful, and kids loved being able to pause and rewind as they built. (Ages 8+)
This ship is stocked with every amenity you'd find on a cruise, from lounge chairs to a lifeboat.
GH Tip: It comes with lots of small pieces (which fall apart easily if not secured), so make sure you keep things organized, especially if you have littler ones at home. (Ages 6+)
Tap your inner engineer and use magnetic pieces to build a one-of-a-kind exploring vehicle. It comes with how-tos for four designs, but kids preferred dreaming up their own creations. (Ages 5+)
Classic Legos meet top tech in this five-in-one toy. Use the free app to build and code a robot, a guitar, a cat and more. Even older kids needed a little help, so this is a perfect rainy-day activity for the whole family. (Ages 7+)
The set comes with a motor-ized elevator, a climbing gorilla and parking spots for more than 140 cars. Kids of all ages played together, but at over three feet tall, it takes up a lot of space. (Ages 5+)
Kids will geek out over this app-controlled Lightning McQueen car like the one in the three hit Cars movies. We were impressed with the realistic maneuvering. (Ages 8+)
Disney's Belle has always loved books, and now she's learning STEM. Use the free app to choreograph dances for the princess or have her lead you in a ballroom lesson (she sings too!). Our engineers got an early look at the prototype and found the coding a straight-forward and easy intro for kids of all ages. (Ages 5+)
A new kind of finger bling, this baby monkey reacts to touch, motion and sound. The teeny toy (about five inches long), with over 40 moves and sounds, kept kids busy. (Ages 5+)
Get the Things for Merge Cube app on your tablet or smartphone to unlock a 3-D world. Then, search "Merge Cube" in your app store for more games. (Ages 10+)
These scented characters come in a blind bag, so you won't know what you're getting until it's opened. Collectibles are super hot this year!