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$19.99 – $49.99 for ages 4-13
Picking up the mantel from GoldieBlox, this engineering toy hopes to inspire girls to aspire to careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Studies show that girls begin to rule out engineering as a possible career path at as young as eight years old, one reason only 11% of engineers are women. Many researchers think that if there were more STEM toys for girls, they might see engineering or science as a viable career path. Created by two Stanford engineers, Roominate is a playhouse you can design, build and wire. Connect the motor and light circuits, and windmills will spin, lamps will light up and elevators will travel up and down. New Roominate toys for the holidays include a helicopter, a studio and a chateau.
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$149.99 for children capable of handling an iOS device
These remote control cars boast artificial intelligence. Created by Carnegie Mellon scientists, the Anki Drive set includes a roll-out race track and the smartest cars you’ve ever seen. The AI-assisted cars can tell when a curve is coming on the track, if there’s a car nearby and how to avoid collisions. The toy plays like a video game: Players can control the car’s movements and even deploy weapons or put up shields using an iPhone or iPad app, competing against AI-controlled cars at three different levels or each other. If they’re feeling lazy, players can also simply watch the cars race on their own.
$39.99 for ages 4-7
Fitness trackers aren’t just for adults anymore, as educational company LeapFrog is breaking into wearable tech. This year, it introduced the LeapBand, a watch that tracks kids’ activity. Like the Tamagotchi of yesteryear, kids can choose a pet on their LeapBand to take care of. But here’s the trick: Kids have to get moving in order to earn “joules” (get it?) to feed and care for their virtual friend. The pet suggests activities and challenges like “pop like popcorn” or “crawl like a crab.” The tracker has been endorsed by soccer legend Mia Hamm and aims to help solve the childhood obesity problem.
Doc McStuffins Get Better Talking Mobile Cart
$44.99 for ages 3-6
Doc McStuffins, the main character on her eponymous Disney show that ranks No. 1 among kids aged two to five, has become one of the most-wanted dolls in toy stores. She sold $500 million worth of merchandise sales last year, and her new Get Better Talking Mobile Cart will only boost those numbers this holiday season. Dottie ‘Doc’ McStuffins is a young, African-American girl who aspires to become a doctor—just like her mom—and treats her stuffed animals with ailments. (She has a stay-at-home dad.) Not only does she inspire girls and boys to science careers, but children of all races also love McStuffins, a rare trait on the toy market.
$79.99 for ages 6+
Tired of seeing your kids staring at screens like zombies? This iPad game brings virtual play to life. A reflector equipped with artificial intelligence snaps over your iPad’s camera and can sense when objects are moving (or being drawn) on a pad in front of it. Osmo comes with three games, all of which promote creativity and—because it’s best played in groups—social intelligence. The best way to understand how Osmo works is by watching the video of kids who have never played with the device before testing it out for the first time.
IAmElemental Action Figures
$65.00 for ages 4+
After realizing that almost all the female action figures on the market were designed for adult male collectors—with hyper-sexual curves and legs that splay out—two mothers decided to create action figures for girls that were both functional and encouraged girls to think of themselves as heroes. The Kickstarter campaign for the IAmElemental action figures reached its $35,000 goal in the first 48 hours. The first set of figures, which each personify values like “persistence,” will be available ahead of this holiday shopping season.
Breaking Bad Action Figures
$30.00-$40.00 for adults
The most talked-about toys of the year weren’t even designed for kids. Action figures of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman from the Emmy-winning AMC series Breaking Bad stirred up controversy this year when a Florida mother started a petition to get the toys removed from Toys’R’Us, claiming the action figures that came with detachable bags of money and meth migrated from the adults-only aisle to the kids’ aisle. Toys’R’Us eventually did pull the toys, to the dismay of the show’s stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul who both tweeted their disapproval. Luckily, Barnes and Noble, Walmart and several other retailers still carry the meth-dealing dolls.
$4.99 – $29.99 for ages 6+
Last year, Nerf decided to even the battlefield and create a new line of guns, arrows and crossbows specifically for girls. The resulting Nerf Rebelle line takes a cue from the success of The Hunger Games: The box is covered with tweens styled like that series’ hero, Katniss Everdeen.
LEGO Movie LEGOs
$12.99 – $249.99 for ages 7-14
This is meta: Some of the most in-demand toys since The LEGO Movie’s release in February have been LEGOs from that very movie. Characters from the movie like Emmet and Unikitty, along with their toys and vehicles, are all now available from LEGO. The movie revitalized the biggest toy maker in the world, making hands-on play cool again in the era of the iPad.
Frozen Snow Glow Elsa
$34.99 for 3+
The toy bound to sell out fastest this holiday season is Frozen Snow Glow Elsa. It’s everything a Frozen fan could dream of: She’ll light up, recite lines from the film and—perhaps to the chagrin of parents who’ve heard the song on repeat for the last year—sing “Let It Go.” The Frozen mania will truly never end.