The 25 Best Toys Under $20 of 2022

With the new Spirograph Animator, your kid’s drawings will dance on the page.

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There’s absolutely no need to break the bank during the holidays to bring a smile to your kid’s face and make precious memories. After researching the top trending toys of 2022, considering best-selling classics, and speaking to two child development experts, we’ve found the best toys under $20 for kids of all ages.

Reviewed & Approved

We’ve found creative and fun holiday gifts for kids of all ages, including the top-rated Learning Resources Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog, a NERF Minecraft Stormlander Dart-Blasting Hammer, an innovative Spirograph Animator, and a beaded phone strap for your too-cool tween.

“Playing is the centerpiece of a child's world. Every child plays in their own ways, and the toys or objects are there to support what they already naturally do,” explains Tovah Klein, PhD, psychology professor and author of "How Toddlers Thrive." With this in mind, we’ve curated a selection of affordable toys for toddlers, school-age kids, big kids, and tweens that will spark their imaginations and get their creative juices flowing.

These are the best toys under $20 of 2022.

Fat Brain Tugl Cube

Fat Brain Tugl Cube

Fat Brain Toys

Got a busy kid who needs simple activities to keep them relaxed? This sturdy rounded cube might do the trick. On each side of the cube is a soft silicone bubble with a tab to grab and pull. Fingers can't help but push them, pull them, and pop them again and again. All the while, fine motor skills are honed, and busy minds are soothed.

Price at time of publication: $16

NERF Minecraft Stormlander Dart-Blasting Hammer

NERF Minecraft Stormlander Dart-Blasting Hammer

Amazon

This lightweight dart-firing hammer is inspired by the mighty hammer in Minecraft: Dungeons. Like other NERF products, this creative toy encourages active play by shooting foam darts that are safe and great for indoor and outdoor fun. To use, your child simply needs to load three darts onto the top of the hammer and press the button on the handle to release them. Although the manufacturer suggested retail price is listed as $21.99, this toy is often on sale and can be purchased at a much lower price tag. 

Price at time of publication: $22

Spirograph Animator

Spirograph Animator

Walmart

Encourage creativity with this innovative twist on the classic spiral art kit. The traditional Spirograph uses spinning wheels to make beautiful designs, but this new set brings your kid’s creations to life thanks to an animator base with flashing LED lights that make the drawings dance on the page. The kit includes six wheels, 100 sheets of paper, the animator base, and an instruction booklet. The Spirograph animator requires three AAA batteries (not included). 

Price at time of publication: $20

Hot Wheels 10 Pack

Hot Wheels 10 Pack

Amazon

Few toys have withstood the test of time quite like Hot Wheels cars. The die-cast classics have inspired generations of would-be racers as they vroom and zoom through hallways, kitchens, and backyards. And because they’re virtually indestructible, grandparents, parents, and kids can all play together and pass their Hot Wheels on to future generations. If you have a little car aficionado in your family, this set of 10 cars is the perfect introduction to the world of Hot Wheels. The specific styles in each box will vary, but they generally include a combination of hot rods, modern racers, police vehicles, trucks, and vans. 

Price at time of publication: $14

Learning Resources Spike The Fine Motor Hedgehog

Learning Resources Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog

Amazon

Your little one will learn colors, sorting, and counting with this adorable hedgehog toy from Learning Resources. Developing fine motor skills is key in the toddler stage, and your kiddo will get plenty of practice pressing the chunky peg-shaped pieces into the back of the cute critter. The best part for parents? The quills store in the toy; just pop the back off and tuck them in when play is over.

Price at time of publication: $16

Kiwi & Co. Planet Bath Bombs

Kiwi & Co. Planet Bath Bombs

Kiwi & Co.

Our pick for best STEM subscription box for kids, Kiwi & Co. kits, contain unique STEM-based projects that are mailed directly to kids. The Planet Bath Bombs kit helps your little one explore the wonderful world of chemistry and learn about the layers that make up the different planets—all while making their own bath bombs. You can also explore the different kits that Kiwi & Co. has to offer and maybe even sign up for a subscription. Although many boxes go above the $20 mark, you can use online coupons to make them more budget-friendly. 

Price at time of publication: $19.95

Kinetic Sand Treasure Hunt Surprise

Kinetic Sand Treasure Hunt Surprise

Amazon

Kinetic sand is a tactile toy that is soft and crumbly but holds its shape when squeezed or pressed. After finding the key (tucked in the shark's head), kids will love opening the chest and sifting through to find the treasure hidden in the golden sand. Not only is this toy fun, but it also encourages problem-solving.

Price at time of publication: $20

Star Wars Micro Galaxy Squadron Starfighter Class

Star Wars Micro Galaxy Squadron Starfighter Class

Amazon

This realistic-looking Starfighter toy with a tiny (but still ominous) Darth Vader is perfect for the kid who’s transitioning from active play to imaginative activities or collecting figurines. Detail-oriented kiddos and those who like moving parts will appreciate the removable wings and the cockpit door that opens and closes. This toy is recommended for Star Wars fans ages 8 and up. 

Price at time of publication: $17

Creativity for Kids Hide and Seek Paint Pour Rock Painting Kit

Creativity for Kids Paint Pour Rock Painting Kit

Amazon

Pour painting is the latest craze in the kiddie art world. You simply mix or layer your acrylic paint in a cup or container and pour it onto your canvas (or rocks) to create unique, mesmerizing patterns. This Creativity for Kids kit includes four colors of acrylic paint, 10 river rocks, and stickers with metallic transfers to decorate your creations. Parents will love that this kit also comes with an apron, gloves, and a tablecloth for no-hassle cleanup. 

Price at time of publication: $16

hand2mind Express My Feelings Journal

hand2mind Express My Feelings Journal

Amazon

Empathy and emotional intelligence are often overlooked but very valuable life skills and the first step in developing them is learning to identify our own feelings and emotions. If your kid is struggling to express their feelings or would like a place to share them privately, this journal is the perfect solution. 

The 68-page journal covers 20 different feelings and teaches children to identify and express them. It includes writing prompts, fun games, and reflection activities that help them navigate both positive and negative feelings, from excitement and confidence to anxiety and loneliness. This journal is recommended for children ages 5 through 12, although younger kids can also use it if an adult helps them read the messages and prompts.

Price at time of publication: $13

Funko Pop! Star Wars: Mandalorian Luke Skywalker With Grogu

Funko Pop! Star Wars: Mandalorian Luke Skywalker With Grogu

Amazon

This Funko Pop! features the cutest character in the Star Wars universe, Grogu—aka Baby Yoda—in the hands of Luke Skywalker. For Pop! aficionados, which is pretty much every kid, this will be a great, inexpensive addition to their collection.

Price at time of publication: $12

Creativity for Kids Mini Garden: Mermaid Terrarium

Creativity for Kids Mini Garden: Mermaid Terrarium

Amazon

Your kid can decorate, plant, and grow their own mini terrarium in a mermaid-, dinosaur-, or unicorn-style egg-shaped environment. This kit comes with quick-growing seeds and fun themed decorations to bring their garden to life. This kit not only encourages patience but pride in accomplishment when they see their work come to fruition.

Price at time of publication: $11

Learning Friends 100 Words Book

Learning Friends 100 Words Book

Amazon

The word categories in this interactive book include animals, food, colors, opposites, nature, and more, and they can be played in English and Spanish. A simple press of each page will give your toddler information about the words and colors they’re seeing with sound effects and fun facts. Made with durable plastic, this vocabulary book is strong enough to stand up to even the roughest toddler treatment.

Price at time of publication: $20

Stomp Rocket Jr. Glow

4
Stomp Rocket The Original Jr. Glow Rocket Launcher

Courtesy of Amazon

Perfect for active play—either indoors or out—these award-winning rockets will get your kids building and moving. The kit includes four glow-in-the-dark toy foam rockets that are easy to set up and a jump pad that lets your kid shoot a rocket into the air. No batteries are needed, as this toy is 100% kid-powered.

Price at time of publication: $15

Sassy Stacks of Circles Stacking Ring STEM Learning Toy

Sassy Stacks of Circles Stacking Ring STEM Learn

Courtesy of Amazon

Versions of this bright, fun circle stacking toy have been a kid favorite for decades; in fact, you may have played with one as a toddler. There’s a reason why toys that develop skills like hand-eye coordination are popular with kids and parents—they’re fun and educational. The rings of various sizes and textures help your little one learn about colors, shapes, and fine motor skills. 

Price at time of publication: $13

Calico Critters Hopscotch Rabbit Family

Calico Critters Hopscotch Rabbit Family

Calico Critters

Calico Critters are beloved by little kids starting to experiment with imaginative play. This set of four includes mother Heidi, father Harlin, sister Bell, and brother Skip, and all have detailed removable clothing. This is a great first piece of a collection or just a cute doll set to make up stories with. Although the manufacturer suggested retail price for the Calico Critters Family is $25, this toy is often on sale below the $20 mark. 

Price at time of publication: $25

Educational Insights Playfoam Naturals 4-Pack

Educational Insights Playfoam Naturals 4-Pack

Amazon

This squishable, shapeable toy is made from a nontoxic compound that kids will love to squeeze in their little hands. Kiddos can mold and shape this squishable compound for sensory and tactile play.

Price at time of publication: $17

Melissa & Doug Large Farm Jumbo Knob Puzzle

Melissa & Doug Large Farm Jumbo Knob Puzzle

Amazon 

Another classic toy that many of us grew up with, toddlers will love removing and replacing the pieces in this cute barn puzzle as they learn fine motor skills and, of course, farm animals and their names. This updated version from Melissa & Doug has big knobs for little hands to grab and happy animal pieces that they can match up to charming illustrations.

Price at time of publication: $20

Cats vs Pickles Kittens vs. Gherkins Mystery Bag

Kittens vs. Gherkins Mystery Bag

Amazon

These mini-size versions of fan-favorite Cats vs. Pickles bean characters are 3 inches tall, making this gift a great stocking stuffer. You can pick them up in mystery bag two-packs, with a special crinkle baby blanket, or six-packs

Price at time of publication: $11

Hedstrom Red Striped Hopper Ball

Hedstrom Red Striped Hopper Ball

Amazon

Another updated classic, this bouncy ball is bright and cheery and available in eight colors and patterns sure to fit any kid's taste. The 15-inch diameter toy promotes coordination, balance, and exercise. Kids can bounce indoors or outdoors, making it a great all-season choice. 

Price at time of publication: $13

Ooly Chunkies Paint Sticks, Set of 12

Ooly Chunkies Paint Sticks, Set of 12

Amazon

Kids and parents will adore this super-creative, low-mess painting set. It comes with 12 different colored paint sticks with thick barreled casings that are easy to hold, making them ideal for small hands. The paint sticks can be mixed together to create new colors, and they are fast-drying to minimize the mess. 

Price at time of publication: $14

Kid Made Modern On-The-Go Friendship Bracelet Kit

On-the-Go Friendship Bracelet Kit

Barnes & Noble

Friendship bracelets are a fun way to get kids to build social bonds while practicing their concentration and fine motor skills. This convenient set includes a carrying case, eight embroidery threads in vibrant colors, two BFF charms, and more than 150 beads, plus instructions to make different bracelets.

Price at time of publication: $10

The Screaming Goat

The Screaming Goat

Amazon

Does your child love the screaming goat videos, or just love anything silly and viral? Then they’re going to love owning this mini screaming goat. Their new goat companion sits on a tree stump and screams when gently pressed. The toy comes with a book full of goat facts, which makes this gift a tiny bit educational, but it’s mostly just for fun.

Price at time of publication: $10

RadBizz Push Pop Bubble Fidget Sensory Toy

Push Pop Bubble Fidget Sensory Toy

Amazon

Push pop fidget toys aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Whether your child is fidgety or not, this simple toy—which comes in a variety of shapes, colors, and patterns—can help relieve anxiety, soothe nerves, divert stress, or just keep hands busy. 

Price at time of publication: $6

Urban Outfitters Beaded Phone Strap

Urban Outfitters Beaded Phone Strap

Urban Outfitters

Most kids these days get their first real phone around ages 10-12, and a natural extension of that is cute accessories. Give their phone a little personality and a way to hold it that won’t damage their grip with this beaded phone strap, designed to loop around the phone’s case with an assortment of faux pearls dotted with a rainbow of accent colors.

Price at time of publication: $14

How We Selected the Best Toys Under $20

To select the best toys under $20, we spoke with two child development experts: Tovah Klein, PhD, psychology professor and author of "How Toddlers Thrive," and Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of "Growing Friendships: A Kids' Guide to Making and Keeping Friends." Based on their recommendations, we looked for toys and gifts that are affordable and appealing to kids of different ages. We also analyzed trends and looked at this year’s most popular picks and trending toys.

What to Look for in Toys Under $20

Age Appropriateness

If you don’t want a bored or frustrated kid, it’s important to make sure the toy you’re buying fits the child’s maturity level. “Age guidelines on the box are a starting point, but you know your child best…Sometimes kids still enjoy playing with toys that their peers might have moved on from, and that's fine. Childhood isn't a race,” says Dr. Kennedy-Moore. 

And if your child doesn’t immediately take to their new toy, give it some time. “Children's interests and abilities often change. If a toy doesn't appeal right now, maybe put it away for three to six months. Your child may grow into it,” says Dr. Kennedy-Moore. 

Their skill level is key, but so is the level of interest a kid has at a particular time, says Dr. Klein, and this, too, will change over time. “If it seems too complicated or confusing for this age, hold off until another time, as it will take an adult to lead them in it, rather than letting them play as they wish,” she says.

Entertainment Value

According to Dr. Kennedy-Moore, in order to be considered “fun” by kids, a toy must be easy to understand and set up. “The most entertaining toys have a low barrier to entry and can be played in many ways. A game that takes 20 minutes to set up is going to stay in the box,” she says.

Of course, much of what qualifies as entertaining really depends on your kiddo. “Elementary school kids often enjoy collections. Something new and different might be intriguing or just not what they're into right now,” says Dr. Kennedy-Moore.

Skill Development

Playing is an important part of a kid’s social, physical, and emotional growth. “Skill development happens every day in the everyday play of children,” says Dr. Klein. “The engagement with a toy comes because a toy is enjoyable and of interest to the child. Upon interacting with the toy, they can develop skills simultaneously with their joy and engagement.”

Looking for toys that target specific skills is a simple way to help your kids strengthen areas you want to stimulate. “There is creativity and thinking in building, as in, 'What do I want to build? How do I do that?'” says Dr. Klein. “The figuring it out of toys lays the groundwork for cognitive skills, thinking, dealing with frustration, all necessary for ongoing learning.”

Social skills can be built through play as well, explains Dr. Klein. “Imaginary play can be supported by simple dress-up clothes, capes, or other items such as a kitchen play set. Through this kind of play, children interact with other children, decide on roles, and work out conflicts. All of these are key for social development,” she adds.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the number one best-selling toy under $20?

    Many toys have had their minute of fame, only to disappear into the bottom of the toy chest, but there is one affordable toy that has remained strong through trends and economic highs and lows: Mattel’s Hot Wheels cars. According to a spokesperson for the company, Mattel sells 16.5 cars per second, and more than 8 billion cars have been produced since the toy was invented by Elliot Handler in 1968. If you want to introduce your little one to this timeless classic, the Hot Wheels 10-pack offers a great assortment of hot rods and modern racers.

  • What toys should every kid have?

    “Play is the child's world of discovery, exploration, and figuring it out,” says Dr. Klein. To accomplish this, kids need an assortment of toys to engage in different types of play and stimulate their developing brains. According to the Nemours Foundation, babies need to explore their senses and benefit from stacking toys, mirrors, mobiles, and push-pull toys, such as the Tugl Cube or the Sassy Stacking Circles toy. During the toddler years, kids begin understanding roles and the functions of objects and learn most from shape-sorting toys, balls, role-playing objects, and mechanical toys, like Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog or the Melissa & Doug Farm Animal Jumbo Wooden Puzzle

    Imagination thrives during the preschool years, and kids particularly enjoy arts and crafts, construction kits, and puzzles. Toys like the Creativity for Kids Rock Painting Kit and Kinetic Sand are guaranteed to entertain them for hours. Elementary school-aged children are beginning to explore their interests and physical abilities and usually enjoy STEM toys, musical instruments, sports toys, and games that challenge them mentally, like the Kiwi & Co STEM kit or a hopper ball.

Why Trust Verywell Family

Tanya Edwards is an experienced parenting, food, beauty, and health journalist who has been writing and editing parenting stories for over a decade. For this story, she also spoke with child development experts Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, and Tovah Klein, PhD.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mattel Films and Warner Bros. Pictures Announce J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Will Produce Hot Wheels Live-Action Motion Picture. Mattel, Inc. Published April 25, 2022.

  2. Ben-Joseph EP, ed. Smart Toys for Every Age. KidsHealth. Published June 2018.