It’s been a challenging year but the holiday season is fast approaching as a bright spot for families everywhere. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the holiday shopping season will be a bit different as social distancing guidelines vary greatly across the country and stores may be limiting the amount of in-store shoppers. This holiday season will put less emphasis on single-day events such as Black Friday as retailers begin holiday promotions earlier and consumers stay mindful of spending amid economic uncertainty.

With all of this in mind, our sister publication, the Toy Insideris unwrapping its 15th annual holiday gift guide. Created by the toy industry’s most influential organization and a trusted go-to resource for parents and gift-givers, the Toy Insider’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide will appear in print with the November issue of Parents magazine, hitting newsstands beginning Oct. 5. The epic Guide features nearly 160 toys in its print edition and more than 300 toys online from more than 110 toy companies. 

“This holiday shopping season will be unlike any other. It will be in your best interest to plan ahead and grab these hot toys before you start carving out your pumpkins,” says Laurie Schacht, chief toy officer, the Toy Insider. “Playtime offers a powerful way of coping with the world we live in, and the wide assortment of toys we reviewed for this year’s holiday gift guide showcase the innovative, creative and affordable ways toymakers are serving the needs of families during challenging times.”

The Holiday Gift Guide is toplined by three major showcase lists: the legendary Hot 20 (the most wished-for items of the year); the STEM 10 (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math toys that make learning fun); and the 12 Under $12 (affordable toys packed with play value and unboxing experiences).

All toys are hand-picked by the Toy Insider team and represent an extensive variety of open-ended toys to keep kids busy; screen-free playthings filled with educational value; toys that promote diversity, sustainability, and accessibility; and affordable toys that fit any budget, among many more categories that are sure to be a hit with kids of all ages and many interests.

The Toy Insider’s Hot 20

0-2 years 

  • Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Grow-the-Fun Garden to Kitchen (Mattel)
  • Speak & Learn Puppy (LeapFrog)

3-4 years 

  • Blippi Recycling Truck (Jazwares)
  • Blues Clues & You! Dance-Along Blue Plush (Just Play)
  • Barbie Color Reveal Slumber Party Fun (Mattel)
  • HEXBUG Nanotopia (HEXBUG)
  • Pinkfong Baby Shark Dancing DJ (WowWee)
  • PJ Masks Transforming 2 in 1 Mobile HQ (Just Play) 
  • Ryan’s World Shadow Warrior Ninja Mystery Box (Bonkers Toys)
  • Star Wars The Child Animatronic Edition (Hasbro)

5-7 years 

  • KidiZoom Creator Cam (VTech)
  • LEGO Super Mario Adventure Starter Course (The LEGO Group)
  • Present Pets (Spin Master)
  • Rainbow High Fashion Dolls (MGA Entertainment) 
  • Squeakee the Balloon Dog (Moose Toys)
  • Zoe (Healthy Roots Dolls)

8+ years

  • Beyblade Burst Rise Hypersphere Vortex Climb Battle Set (Hasbro)
  • Chocolate Pen (Skyrocket)
  • Pokémon Trading Card Game Battle Academy (The Pokémon Co.)
  • Snap Ships Gladius AC-75 Drop Ship (PlayMonster)

The Toy Insider’s STEM 10

  • 3D Build & Play (3Doodler)
  • Apollo — A Game Inspired by the NASA Moon Missions (Buffalo Games)
  • Blockaroo (Blue Marble)
  • Botley 2.0 The Coding Robot (Learning Resources)
  • Circuit Explorer (Educational Insights)
  • Crayola STEAM Paper Flower Science Kit (Crayola)
  • DIY Music Maker Science Lab (hand2mind)
  • JIMU Robot Mythical Series: Firebot Kit (UBTECH Robotics)
  • Mega Cyborg Hand (Thames & Kosmos)
  • National Geographic Science Magic (Blue Marble)

The Toy Insider’s 12 Under $12

  • 5 Surprise Mini Brands Series 2 (ZURU)
  • Blume Petal Pets (Skyrocket) 
  • Butter Cloudz Castle Bucket (WeCool Toys) 
  • Cats vs. Pickles (Cepia)
  • Curligirls (Basic Fun!)
  • Glitter Burst (YULU)
  • Junkbots (HEXBUG)
  • Kitten Catfe Purrista Girls (JAKKS Pacific)
  • L.O.L. Surprise! Present Surprise (MGA Entertainment)
  • Oh! My Gif – 1-Bit Pack (Moose Toys)
  • Ravel Tales (Sunny Days Entertainment)
  • Something Wild Card Games (Funko Games)

Parents and gift-givers can easily search for toys and games by kids’ ages (broken out into 0-2, 3-4, 5-7, and 8+ age groups). They can also view the guide online with their kids to create a wish list of favorite toys, making holiday shopping easy for friends and family.

Consumers can look forward to additional reviews and features of new toys throughout the holiday season at

About the author

James Zahn

James Zahn

James Zahn, AKA The Rock Father, is Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, a Senior Editor at The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider, and Editor of The Toy Report, The Toy Book‘s weekly industry newsletter. As a pop culture and toy industry expert, Zahn has appeared as a panelist and guest at events including Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) Wizard World Chicago, and the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Zahn has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment, retail, and publishing industries, and is frequently called upon to offer expert commentary for publications such as Forbes, Marketwatch, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, and more. James has appeared on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, was interviewed by Larry King and Anderson Cooper, and has been seen on Yahoo! Finance, CNN, CNBC, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, CBS, WGN, The CW, and more. Zahn joined the Adventure Media & Events family in 2016, initially serving as a member of the Parent Advisory Board after penning articles for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family, PBS KIDS, Sprout Parents (now Universal Kids), PopSugar, and Chicago Parent. He eventually joined the company full time as a Senior Editor and moved up the ranks to Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief.