Here They Come! – The Toy Guy

Holidays in Who-Ville!

Here at The Toy Guy, like Santa, this is the time of year we prepare for the other nine months of the year. We look at literally hundreds and hundreds of toys every year, play with a bunch of them, and talk to kids and parents about what they want. After a couple of years of pandemic, we wondered if things would be different.

Happily, the answer is no. In fact, there’s more creativity, more value (both financial and play value), and the only changes we see are for the better…at least where play is concerned. The one that excites us the most is that as a result of children and families spending a ton more time together, more people are playing, and playing together, more often. And that’s good news.

This is probably a good place to talk about how important play is for kids and families. It’s recreation, an escape from daily cares. It’s communication, a chance to encounter one another in a shared activity. It’s imagination, and we could write a whole thesis on how important that is for so many aspects of life. And, most importantly, it’s fun. And, when you consider how much you get from great toys in terms of those benefits, they really are very economical. That’s because the most sophisticated technology driving all aspects of play is the human brain. And every player comes with one pre-installed. How that technology works in play is nothing short of amazing…all the time.

So, before we get in to talking about some of the coolest toys we’ve found this year, let’s take a look at a couple of new and continuing trends:

What About Inflation?

Christmas is coming…no matter what.

Yes, lots of news media is talking about inflation, but don’t let that scare you. Will toys be more expensive this year? Some will. That’s because of increased prices of materials, shipping, marketing, and so forth. From what we’ve seen, though, that doesn’t appear to be more than 10 percent. Compared to some staple goods that have gone up as much as 30 percent or more in the past year, that’s not bad. Moreover, regular price increases are pretty much part of the game every year. (Recent reports at the beginning of November from tracking company NPD, puts overall inflation in toys at 7 percent, only slightly ahead of a regular year.)

Does overall inflation mean that gift givers may have less to spend? It may, and that’s an important issue. Here again, though, the toy biz can help. While there will always be some expensive toys (And this year, we think they’re really worth the money.), many hot toys are very reasonably priced and deliver lot of fun. Particularly for younger kids, too, the level of fun and entertainment is not always directly related to price. Ask any kid who’s had a sword fight with a stick, or some such, about that.

How About Shipping This Year?

The challenges of 2022 in terms of shipping were enormous. Many of those issues, however, have worked through the various systems, and there is good stock on the shelves. Of course, we always advise that if you know what you want and you can get it, go ahead and buy early. You’ll save yourself a lot of stress.

The advantage of online shopping is that, you can almost always find what you want, but you may also pay a premium for something. That’s your decision, of course, but we always advise against paying many multiples of a product’s price. We think that sends a bad message to kids, and can blow your budget in ways that aren’t great.

Ghosts of Christmas Past.

What About “Hot” Toys?

This is something we talk about every year. As we have said for decades now: “The hot toy is only hot if it’s hot for your kid.” A toy that a child will play with, that will inspire imagination, and create memories is the best toy you can give a kid.

As we also say, every kid has their own play style. Giving kids toys that let them express and explore their own unique personalities is the best gift you can give.

Great Toys For 2023

Now, before we get into these, we do want to preface this with saying that what we write about here are toys that are new for this year. These are the cool ones you may not have heard about…or you may. There are more than 160,000 toys on the market in the U.S. at any given time, so the choices can be a bit overwhelming. Still, looking and shopping is a kind of play experience in itself. If you have a local toy store, they have been doing more and more since the pandemic, and more people are discovering them in their communities. Plan a trip and prepare to be delighted.

Here’s What We’re Playing With

Daredevil excitement!

LEGO City Smashing Chimpanzee Stunt Loop from The LEGO Group
Ages 7 and up.
Where to Buy
Marvelous mayhem! So, this is the kind of great, active play that will keep kids laughing and playing for hours. Add to that LEGO quality and design, and you’ve got a can’t miss hit. Well, actually, you can miss…when you chase the loop that is. It may take a few tries to get the car around the loop and smash the rampaging chimpanzee, but that’s the whole point. This is classic play elegantly interpreted, which is exactly what we’d expect from The LEGO Group. Plus, it interacts with, and connects to,  other LEGO City sets, so you can keep expanding the play. A Great Gift For: Kids who love construction, vehicle play, competition, and challenge.

We’ve got magic to do!

Magic Mixies Crystal Ball from Moose Toys
Ages 5 and up.
Where to Buy
Last year, the Magic Mixies Cauldron was one of the most popular toys of the year. We wondered how they could even improve on it. But they did. You won’t believe the “magic” of this toy. The crystal ball looks clear, but wave your spell casting wand, and it fills with magic mist. When the mist clears, you’ve revealed a Magic Mixie, a cool friend who can tell fortunes and interact in different ways. Plus, you can make your Mixie appear and disappear over and over again. (It also doubles as night light with an automatic shut off.) The Crystal Ball takes sis AA batteries, and the wand takes two AAA batteries. A Great Gift For: Kids with big imaginations who love magic, performing (Who doesn’t want to watch this?), and playing plush friends.

Is there a doctor in the house? JJ needs you!
Cody is JJ’s bestie!

CoCoMelon My Boo Boo JJ and CoCoMelon My Friend Cody from Jazwares
Ages 2 and up.
Boo Boo JJ $34.99; My Friend Cody $21.99
Where to Buy
If there is a toddler in your world, chances are you know all about CoCoMelon, the adorable kids’ property that’s one of the biggest hits we’ve seen in a while. Sweet, fun, and with totally great music that appeals to the youngest kids. The toys have been hot sellers, and new this year is My Boo Boo JJ, a stuffed toy that lets kids play doctor and take care of their buddy’s boo boos. The “injured” areas light up so kids know just what to treat. My Friend Cody is JJ’s best friend, and he plays “Cody’s Special Dinosaur Day” when his tummy is pressed. These are great make-believe pals for kids. A Great Gift For: Little CoCoMelon fans with big imaginations.

For crafty kids!

PIxobitz Studio from Spin Master
Ages 6 and up.
Where to Buy
We have to admit we had a really great time playing with this. It’s a patented, 3-D crafting system that let’s kids design, make, and share pixelated creations. (It’s a style kids know and love from games like Roblox and Minecraft, among others.) Now that blocky design sensibility is right in kids’ hands. The bitz are like pixels, and you design and stack, using templates or whatever you come up with. Then, place your creation under the dome, spray it with water, and your bitz magically stick together. There’s no mess, not even water. Plus, you can decorate your finished creations with water-activated decals. We found it very relaxing to play with, and it’s fun to stack up the blocks. Here’s our pro-tip: Since you’ll have multiple layers of bitz, spraying each layer as you finish it and letting it dry gives you the best results. A Great Gift For: Kids who love arts and crafts. Don’t be surprised if the adults in the house want a turn.

Ready for rainforest adventure!

PLAYMOBIL Wildtopia Animal Care Station from PLAYMOBIL
Ages 4-10.
Where to Buy
Playmobil continues its line of amazing themed sets with Wildtopia. It’s an adventure set in the colorful Amazon rainforest where kids can pretend to care for local animals. There is a ton of fun and imagination, as you’d expect, from these gorgeous sets, but there’s also some engaging information about the diversity of the planet, animals, nature, geography , and sustainability. There are online apps and QR codes that unlock lots of things to engage kids’ curiosity and imaginations. This is the biggest of seven sets in the entire line. Because sustainability is important to many toy buyers today, they’ll be happy to know that these sets are made of 80 percent recycled plastic, and all packages and instructions are made from 100 percent recycled materials. A Great Gift For: Playmobil fans, and kids with big imaginations who love animals and are curious about the world.

Sing out, Lay Lay!

That Girl Lay Lay Singing Doll from Just Play
Ages 3 and up.
Where to Buy
This really gorgeous doll is based on the hit Nick show of the same name. Lay Lay is a phone avatar who comes to life as a human. It’s a super creative show with lots of music and fashion, and we just love the concept. It’s a real springboard for imagination. The 11-inch tall doll comes wearing a tiara, sparkly silver shirt, black skirt, socks, shoes, and carries a purple microphone. Press Lay Lay’s necklace charm to hear her sing the show’s theme song. Her hair comes in two curly poofs but can be restyled in fancy updos or left in long curls. Her outfits – including her mix-and-match kicks – are interchangeable with doll clothing from the That Girl Lay Lay Fresh Fashions Wardrobe (sold separately). A Great Gift For: Fans of the show and terrific, colorful dolls.

Hottest family game of the year!

Wordle The Party Game from New York Times Games and Hasbro
Ages 14 and up.
Where to Buy
The solo digital game sensation is now an in-person party game. The play is the same: You have six chances to guess the secret word. In this case however, you play in rounds against other people. On each round the Host picks a 5-letter word. Players guess words, writing them in the five spaces on their wipe-off boards. After each round of guessing, the Host indicates which letters are in the word but not in the right place, or in the right place, using yellow or green transparent squares. The player who guesses the word in the fewest tries wins and gets fewer points. Play as many rounds as you like, but at the end, the player with the lowest score is the winner. It’s a pretty ingenious way to play this hit game, IRL, as they say. A Great Gift For: Board game fans, word game fans, and, of course, Wordle fans.

Exploding with fun!

ZipLinx Hi Fly Set and Triple Tower Blast from Blip Toys
Ages 6 and up.
Hi Fly Set $19.99
Triple Tower Blast $44.99
Where to Buy
OMG, where has this toy been? Well, no matter. We’re so glad it’s here now. Imagine cascading dominoes meets designed chaos, and all in a colorful, explosive experience where the pieces fly up to three feet in the air. Pandemonium! And it’s so much fun. The basics of the system are X-shaped pieces that can be closed up (They’re powered by rubber bands.) and linked together. Lay them out in whatever configuration you like. Then, when you’re ready, hit the plunger, and your whole design flies into the air. It’s hilarious. What’s cool about this, too, is that your pieces won’t pop early, so you have plenty of time to be creative before you put in the Launcher Key. Lock. Load. Launch. We think this is one of the best adaptations of classic fun we’ve seen in a long time, and it’s so easy to do.
The two different sets let kids build all kinds of imaginative creations. The difference is the number of pieces, and the triple tower enhancement. A Great Gift For: Kids who love creative play and big dramatic reactions, construction fans, and everyone at

Capture the power of Marvel’s latest hit.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Fresh Fierce Collection from World of EPI
Ages 6 and up.
Where to Buy
Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is one of the most anticipated movies of the holiday season. Dr. Lisa Williams, who was one of the pioneers in creating authentic ethnic diversity in contemporary dolls partnered with Marvel to create three dramatic and beautiful collectible dolls based on the movie. The three powerful female warriors in the line feature the lead characters Shuri, Okoye and Nakia in 11.5″ dolls with skin tones blended to match the on-screen representations, costume reproductions, and playable battle accessories. Designed primarily as collectibles, these dolls can also be played with, but they make a dramatic statement that fans of the movie will relate to and want to display proudly. A Great Gift For: Fans of the movie, Marvel fans, and doll collectors.


A joyful world to build!

LEGO Friends Main Street Building from The LEGO Group
Ages 8 and up.
Where to Buy
Okay, this is the WOW present of the year…at least if you’ve got a LEGO Friends fan on your list. This absolutely stunning Main Street set has 1,682 brilliantly colored pieces. It comes with 8 characters, 4 animal figures..and a moving truck. When assembled, there are three buildings on the block including apartments, hair salon, food market, and bookstore/café. This is make-believe urban living at it’s very best. Kids who love building and playing and who love creating realistic life narratives with all the characters will find this endlessly inspiring. Plus, the buildings can be completely customized so kids can really have a design for living. A Great Gift For: LEGO fans, imaginative kids, and kids who love creating their own imaginary adventures.

Get ready for cool gameplay!

Disney Kingdomania Expandable Game, Series 1 from Funko Games
Ages 6 and up.
$9.99 and $22.99
Where to Buy
We are really excited about this game. The great game designers at Funko Games and the design geniuses at Funko proper have created a great playing expandable game that combines strategy and characters. There are 40 playable figures in Series 1, including ultra rare “glitch” figures and new interpretations of classic characters from all your favorite Disney stories. Start with the larger starter set or purchase the blind ball sets. Each comes with cards, clear instructions and characters. It’s great for solo play or competitive play with multiple opponents. And, great for family play, games take only about 15 minutes. Disney fans and collectors will also want these cool characters. Best of all, it’s a great value, and you can expand your collection as interest and budget allow. A Great Gift For: Gamers, Disney fans, collectors.

Our pal Peppa on her own Toniebox!

Peppa Pig Toniebox Starter Set from Tonies
Ages 3 and up.
Where to Buy
Visitors to The Toy Guy know how much we love this whole line of products. It’s screen free storytelling in a huggable box. Sounds simplistic we know, and it is to an extent. When you place a Tonies figure on the box, you unlock all kinds of great content including stories, interactive reading, and much more. The line includes all kinds of favorite characters from CoComelon to Disney to Paw Patrol, and many more. The newest introduction is the adorable Peppa Pig set on a pink Toniebox. (Other Tonies figures will work with it, too.) Given how incredibly popular Peppa and family are, this is a great idea for the fans. As always, high quality production and age-appropriate content make this a great choice. NOTE: The Peppa Pig Toniebox is exclusively at Target, at least for now. A Great Gift For: Peppa Pig fans, of course, but any kid who loves listening to stories.

Exciting action on Sodor!

Fisher-Price Thomas & Friends Launch & Loop Maintenance Yard from Mattel, Inc./Fisher-Price
Ages 3 and up.
Where to Buy
Thomas and Friends are still a preschool favorite. The gentle stories and imaginative world of Sodor has a timeless appeal that’s perfect for kids. This set delivers a lot of play and a lot of value. t has more than 16 feet of track that recreate the loop de loop kids see in the show Thomas & Friends All Engines Go! We’re not sure why, but there’s something about loops that completely fascinates kids. Once their on their mission, they can use Carly the Crane to complete the track and help Thomas make his delivery. This works with all the other Fisher-Price sets, except the wooden railway. We love this for the great, immersive, narrative-based play. A Great Gift For: Thomas fans, and kids who love building and playing and lots of imaginative opportunities.

Up, up, and away!!

Pinxies Butterfly Hot air Balloon from Luki Lab
Ages 6 and up.
Where to Buy
We really love this line of toys. It’s gorgeous, open-ended, creative play that fires up kids’ imaginations. Take flight with the character Koral in this large, buildable hot air ballon that has detailed graphic panels, lots of colors, stickers, and more. The pieces work with all the Pinxies sets, and the whole line has been STEM authenticated. And, as a bit of an Easter Egg, can you figure you the story hidden in the panels? We think kids will get a kick out of looking for it. A Great Gift For: Imaginative kids who love building and have active imaginations.

Our favorite new baby doll!

Cry Babies First Emotions from IMC Toys 
Ages 18 months and up.
Where to Buy
We love the Cry Babies line of dolls. They’re beautiful, whimsical, and packed with features…all at a very reasonable price for the play they deliver. The First Emotions doll is the most lifelike yet. There are two dolls in the collection: Dramy and Jassy. The dolls make more than 65 realistic expressions and baby sounds. They have interactive accessories like a pacifier, rattle, and bottle that encourage classic nurturing play. She laughs, cries, sucks, and even cries real tears. (Well, real water.) One of the things we really like about this doll is the way in which the emotions are really recognizable, and while kids who will play with it are too young to fully comprehend these emotions, they do become familiar, and the timeless nurturing play is very realistic and responsive, which helps kids develop their understanding at the earliest age. This is one of the best classic baby dolls we’ve found. A Great Gift For: Kids who like classic, nurturing doll play and role-play as parents or caregivers.

Have a blast! (Literally)

Nerf Elite 2.0 Motoblitz CS-10 Blaster from Hasbro, Inc.
Ages 8 and up.
Where to Buy
There are lots of blaster fans out there who love the active adventure play that is the hallmark of Nerf blasters. Great design, high performance and lots of competitive and active play are what these are all about. This new blaster combines what the company calls “airblitz action”  with “motorized mayhem.” It’s the ultimate performance flexibility however you want to play. Use pump action to release a swarm of six darts at once. Then if you want to power up the play, use the motorized blasting to fire 10 darts super fast. The blaster takes the high-performance Nerf Elite darts, and you can customize the blaster, using the tactical rail, with other Nerf accessories. As always, Nerf darts deliver soft, safe fun, and be sure to use care when blasting in a competitive situation. A Great Gift For: Nerf fans. Kids who like active, competitive play…and more than a few adults. After all, the Nerf fan base number in the millions. (We’ll take one of these at The Toy Guy, as well, Santa.)






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