recommended by experts

The Holiday Toys to Buy Before They Sell Out, According to Toy Experts

Photo: Courtesy of vendors

For the fourth year in a row, we’ve asked toy-trend experts for their opinions on which of this year’s holiday toys will rise above the rest. (Hint: As opposed to last year’s pooping unicorn, this year’s hottest toy is a pooping flamingo.) Instead of endlessly scrolling sold-out links along with the other parents, we want you to have a head start on finding the dancing sloths, tiny collectible dolls, and ride-on recycling trucks that kids will be clamoring for.

Getting your hands on these coveted toys could be trickier than ever, thanks to shipping delays caused by the pandemic and more people than ever doing a majority of their holiday shopping online. But it’s worth it. With many of us forgoing travel and big family gatherings this holiday season, there will be more time for families to play together at home. Or maybe you just want to surprise your niece or nephew and cement your status as the coolest aunt or uncle alive. Whatever your reasons, we are here to help.

We also have gift guides for kids of all ages, including 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds, and 9-year-olds.

Editor’s note: As we approach the holidays, these toys are, in fact, starting to sell out. We’ve tried to find in-stock options wherever possible, and we’ll continue to update prices and availability as they change.

Who is it for?
Baby Yoda toys are popular with both kids and adult collectors, so you’ll be competing with a lot more shoppers to get one. According to Chris Byrne, also known as the Toy Guy, this one will lead the pack because “it really feels like it’s come to life.”

What does it do?
Touch the top of Baby Yoda’s head to make it coo, babble, and wiggle its ears. Touch it again and it will close its eyes and stick out one hand to activate the Force. Lay it down so it can take a “Force nap” to recharge. You can preorder yours now to get it in time for the holidays.

Editor’s note: This little guy is going fast and Walmart still has a few for in-person pickup, only.

Who is it for?
Squeakee the Ballon Dog and his cousin Spotty the Dalmatian are great for kids 5 years and older, and because they looks an awful lot like a Jeff Koons sculpture, they’ll be popular with adults, too. James Zahn, senior editor at the The Toy Insider, says, “Every kid and adult that I have ever seen interact with this thing is instantly enamored by it.”

What does it do?
Squeakee and Spotty make noises and do tricks. Pop them with their special pin and they play dead. Inflate them with the included pump and they pee or fart. Train them to sit or beg with the squeaker ball or tickle them and watch them roll over and ask for more.

Editor’s note: At Target, Squeakee and Spotty are available to ship, but they won’t arrive before Christmas. You can get them through in-store pickup depending on your location. Walmart has a few Squeakees left in stock, but they won’t arrive before Christmas either.

Zing Air Go Go Bird

Who is it for?
Byrne says this remote-control flying parrot was a big hit at the Hong Kong Toy Fair back in January and that shipping delays could contribute to it selling out in the United States.

What does it do?
The Go Go Bird’s flapping wings make it look like a real bird in flight, and its LED lights make it possible to fly the bird at night. The bird has a 6-axis sensor inside and will turn around automatically six feet away from a wall or other obstacle. Gently toss it in the air to get it to start flapping its wings and flying.

Editor’s note: This toy is available to buy but won’t arrive before Christmas.

Who is it for?
Young kids love watching the recycling truck (or any truck) drive by, and this year you can encourage their curiosity with a bunch of different recycling-truck toys. This model, however, is the only one they can actually ride on and drive around. It’s designed for children 18 months to 4 years old.

What does it do?
Zahn recommends this because, in addition to being a majorly exciting gift to open, it teaches kids about recycling and sorting the garbage. It plays sounds and music, responds when you insert one of the included toy cans or boxes into a shape-sorting slot, and lets kids dump out their recycling haul with the pull of a lever.

Editor’s note: The ride-on recycling truck is available at Target and Amazon but won’t arrive before Christmas.