What kids of all ages want for holiday gifts this year, according to toy and game experts

A blue banner with small snowflakes in the background and white print that says How to Holiday, Presented by Capital One
Left: Skye holds cards from the game 'exploding kittens'. Right: Pop it toy, educational creative toy for child
Exploding Kittens and popping toys are popular this year. Mehmet Hilmi Barcin/Getty Images, Susan L. Angstadt/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
  • Experts told Insider that many popular toys this 2021 holiday season may help kids stay calm and focused.
  • For toddlers, experts recommend toys that teach. Kids of all ages are also loving comforting fidget and sensory toys.
  • This article is part of the “How to Holiday” series, which highlights the best ways to embrace and prepare for the festive season.

It can be tough to know what the kids in your life want for the holidays, especially if you aren’t privy to their private correspondence with Santa or don’t know what’s age-appropriate for them to play with.

So Insider spoke with toy and gaming experts Jennifer Lynch and Mat Piscatella about the hottest trends in playtime this year.

Lynch, a content developer and toy trend specialist at The Toy Association, told Insider that she talks to toy manufacturers and surveys thousands of parents throughout the year to find out what kids really want.

“The pandemic took a toll on everyone,” Lynch said. “So some of the hottest toys you’re going to see in the market right now focus on bringing out that magic element and offering kids some extra comfort this holiday season.”

Here are some popular toys that experts said kids of all ages, from babies to teens, and even some adults, would love to receive this year.

Toys for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers
Baby plays with toys
A baby plays with toys. Rawpixel/Getty Images
For babies and toddlers, Lynch said that parents are generally focused on giving their children toys that will help them learn and grow. 
Radio Flyer’s Classic Push & Play Walker
Radio Flyer's Classic Push & Play Walker
‘s Classic Push & Play Walker. Radio Flyer
The walker teaches babies balance and helps them develop motor skills, Lynch said. 

Recommended ages: 1 to 4 years

Fisher-Price Ultimate Learning Robot
The Fisher-Price Ultimate Learning Robot.
The Ultimate Learning Robot. Fisher-Price
The robot is “loaded with tons of different types of activities, and there are different ways that kids can interact with it,” Lynch said.

Recommended ages: 6 months to 5 years

Toys for young kids
Pokemon toys are seen sold at the Incity shopping mall on November 28, 2021 in Shanghai, China.
Pokemon toys on display in a toy store. Chen Yuyu/VCG via Getty Images
Kids between 4 and 7 years old tend to be more passionate about particular characters they love and have more to say about the types of toys they’re interested in, Lynch told Insider. 

Some brands, she said, like Pokemon, transcend age groups.

CoComelon Deluxe Interactive JJ Doll
The CoComelon JJ Doll in a box
CoComelon Deluxe Interactive JJ Doll. Moonbug
Toys inspired by the children’s shows “Bluey” and “CoComelon” are really popular this year, she said, adding that the CoComelon JJ Doll is a hot seller this season.

Recommended ages: 6 years and up

Toys for tweens
Tween girls playing with toys
Tween girls playing with toys. Roberto Westbrook/Getty Images
Older kids between 8 and 11 years old — also known as tweens — are typically interested in doll play and gaming, Lynch said.
Pixicade Plus Mobile Game Maker
Four photos show how to create, snap, and plat with Pixicade Plus
Mobile Game Maker. Pixicade Plus
One particularly popular toy this year “will scan your drawings into an app, and then you can play your drawings as video games,” she said.

Recommended ages: 6 and up

Toys for teens
Skye holds cards from the game 'exploding kittens with a gray background.
A person holds cards from the game ‘Exploding Kittens.’ Susan L. Angstadt/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
When it comes to toys, teenagers are typically into playing games, Lynch said. 

Brands like Exploding Kittens, which started out as a card game, come out with an innovative multiplayer game each year, according to Lynch.

Exploding Kittens A Game of Cat & Mouth
A Game of Cat and Mouth.
A Game of Cat & Mouth. Exploding Kittens
Lynch said this Exploding Kittens game is really popular this year, adding that it’s a fast-paced game that is similar to pinball. 

Recommended ages: 7 and up

Video games and consoles
Living room with Microsoft Xbox Series X (L) and Sony PlayStation 5 home video game consoles alongside a television and soundba
Microsoft Xbox Series X (L) and Sony PlayStation 5 (R). Phil Barker/Future Publishing via Getty Images via Getty Images
When it comes to video games, Mat Piscatella, executive director of games at The NPD Group, told Insider that console sales are strong for the Nintendo Switch, Play Station 5, and Xbox Series. 

He said that games like Among Us, Call of Duty: Warzone, Candy Crush Saga, Fortnite, Grand Theft Auto V, Minecraft, and Pokémon Go are some of the most-played games in 2021.

Toys for kids at heart
A person works on a puzzle at home.
A person works on a puzzle at home. Credit: Andres Barrionuevo / EyeEm
Lynch said that this year, more toys are geared toward adults, and more adults are buying them, from zen puzzles to building blocks.
Lego Flower Bouquet
A floral bouquet made of Legos is seen on a white background
Flower Bouquet. Lego
Lynch said that she has the popular bouquet that you construct out of Legos in her own office.

“It literally looks like a true flower bouquet once you’ve constructed it,” she added.

Recommended ages: 18 and up

Toys for kids of all ages
Pop it toy, educational creative toy for child with kids hands playing with them
A child plays with a Pop It toy. Mehmet Hilmi Barcin/Getty Images
Comforting fidget and sensory toys are trending for kids across age groups, Lynch told Insider.
Dimpl Pops Deluxe by Fat Brain Toys
Dimpl Pops Deluxe
Dimpl Pops Deluxe. Fat Brain Toys
This popular toy “is like bubble wrap that you can repeatedly pop in and out,” she said. “It’s fun and something for kids to take out a little bit of stress and anxiety on to.”

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

Fat Brain Toys also makes a simpler Dimpl toy that’s appropriate for babies.

Recommended ages: 10 months and up