Gift Edit 2023

The 20 Best Toys for Under $30

published Nov 8, 2023
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Credit: FAO Schwartz

This feature is part of Cubby's Gift Edit, our editor-curated collection of gift ideas. Need more inspiration? Check out all our guides here.

Good news for families who have lots of kids to buy for during the holiday season: There are many great toys out there for less than $30, and many even under $20. If you’ve set a price limit with your siblings regarding how much you’ll spend on each other’s kids (a sensible thing if your extended family keeps growing!), you’ll be happy to see these bargains. They’re also great to consider for any “chosen family” kids, like your BFF’s little ones. Finally, many also make good birthday or just-because-you’re-great presents!

Most toys on this list are new for 2023, but we snuck in some classics as well, thinking especially about those hard-to-buy-for kids. If you’re looking for more gift ideas, there’s also some cheap fun among our 25 Very Best Gifts for Kids of All Ages, as well as our age-by-age gift guides such as our Best Gifts for 3-Year-Olds and Best Gifts for 7-Year-Olds.  

For the 3-and-Under Tots

1 / 5
Maisonette
$22.00

What do you get the baby who has everything? We love a water mat, which helps keep an infant occupied during tummy time or a newly sitting baby exploring what happens when they press on this. (The fish swim around inside!) A water mat is also a great distraction for a kid in a high chair, as it can be easily wiped down. For those short on time, Maisonette will even add a gift message so it’s all ready to go.

2 / 5
Target
$10.99

For the 1-year-old in your life, this is both great for pretend play and for brain-building, as a shape sorter is a classic STEAM toy. In addition to the safari truck, there are five animal shapes and three classic shapes (circle, square, triangle), each embossed with a food that you can help a toddler identify.

3 / 5
Pottery Barn Kids
$29.00

If you’re worried about the toddler’s parents being persnickety, it’s hard to imagine them objecting to this beautiful, educational toy that’s a little old-school but reimagined in today’s aesthetic colors. You’ll be introducing a child to numbers 1 through 12 and how they’re arranged on an analog clock face. Playing with the number blocks is great for fine-motor-skill building. Pottery Barn will ship it free and add a message; for $8.50 they’ll even wrap it.

4 / 5
Walmart
$12.30

Toddlers 18 months and up can get in on this year of all things Barbie with this adorable and affordable version of Barbie, Barbie, and their convertible. (If you haven’t seen the movie, know that all of the Barbies are named Barbie.) Toddlers love vehicles and role-playing so this is pretty much a guaranteed hit. If your child is 3 or older, check out our story on The Best First Barbie for Your Kid.

5 / 5
Walmart
$17.99

This high-quality set of classic wooden blocks, similar to those you’d find in any preschool, are normally less than $30 but with holiday-season sales, can come in less than $20. Even if the toddler you’re buying for already has some blocks, they’ll appreciate this addition!

Preschoolers Through Kindergarten

1 / 5
Amazon
$27.96

Kinetic Sand is a reliably great indoor sensory activity for kids who are drawn to its cool feel and, in the case of this new kit, its wild colors. This set has a little bowl that spins when kids push down on a button so they can watch sand spin hypnotically around, swirling colors each time more is added. There’s 2.5 pounds of sand, but because it’s sticky, cleanup is relatively easy. There are also added accessories to cut, squish, shape, and otherwise play with the sand.

2 / 5
Target
$24.99

With this fall’s new Trolls movie comes some new high-haired toys. This pack has Queen Poppy, Viva, Smidge, Satin, and Chenille with glittery hair and hair accessories. They seem retro to us, but fresh to the preschoolers!

3 / 5
Amazon
$7.99

PAW Patrol fans can not get enough of the pups and their vehicles. This fire engine is new to 2023 and features Marshall, a series-favorite character. But there are other vehicles and other characters, too — all at the $10 price — like Rubble and his bulldozer. If the kid likes the show, you probably can’t go wrong with any of them.

4 / 5
Target
$19.99

Magnetic toys can get expensive, so it’s thrilling that this set, under the venerable FAO Schwarz name, is out at Target for the holidays — at only $20 for 40 pieces. This set is available in primary colors as well as pastel shades. It’s wonderful for open-ended creative construction play and a storage bag is included.

5 / 5
Target
$27.99

This collection of seven action figures can spark plenty of play scenarios in a young Marvel-universe fan — especially if the preschooler watches Spidey and His Amazing Friends on Disney Jr. It includes Hulk, Black Panther, Ghost-Spider, and of course, Spidey himself.

Elementary-School Kids

1 / 5
Amazon
$12.99

Sometimes simple is best, and it’s amazing how much fun a kid can still get out of a tin of marbles. They can be sorted, rolled down any homemade ramp or store-bought marble run, used to knock into each other a la old-fashioned marble games, and so much more. But perhaps the best part of this is that when that 100th day of school comes up in mid-winter, the 100 marbles become the perfect visual representation.

2 / 5
Walmart
$17.97

I did two of these surprise reveals with my elementary-age nieces, and while the reveal isn’t as sophisticated as the more expensive Magic Mixies sets, the kids each played with one of these 6.5-inch dolls for a good stretch of time. The doll’s long hair holds particular appeal! I’d just recommend having the kid slow down and follow the “magic” steps to make the whole thing more fun.

3 / 5
LEGO
$12.99

A Nutcracker is a thoughtful gift for any kid who is dancing in one of the country’s bazillion performances of the holiday classic, and this one is a LEGO version that a child can build by themselves. The arms move, and the mouth opens and closes! It’s only a little over 6 inches tall so it’s easy to store and display.

4 / 5
Amazon
$14.99

Every time I see a kid put one of these new Fingerlings on their finger, their face lights up. The creatures — now with soft, fuzzy bodies, more hair, and different personalities for each color — are also on our list of the Hottest Holiday Toys for 2023. Their lifelike interactions are enchanting, and this toy is affordable and easy to travel with, too.

5 / 5
Pottery Barn Kids
$24.00

Not sure what to buy an elementary-school kid? A big set of stickers is a reliable hit. These new Ooly ones are high-quality and the space-and-ocean theme is gender-neutral and timeless. Kids can decorate folders, lunch boxes, their food-storage containers — whatever they want. Pottery Barn Kids will ship these free with a gift message and for an additional $8.50 they’ll gift wrap it, too.

Middle Schoolers and Older

1 / 5
Amazon
$12.99

Squishmallows remain a coveted gift for every age and type of kid — they’re even collectible and popular with adults. Many of them are under $30, including this winking red panda. Get one for that hard-to-buy older kid, or for any White Elephant gift exchange. There are even more affordable versions at Five Below, which make for great stocking stuffers.

2 / 5
Amazon
$7.97

This is a slam-dunk of a card game, reliably delivering laughs. It requires paying attention, racing to slap your hand on some cards, and working to get rid of all the cards you have. And it’s an under-$10 gift!

3 / 5
Target
$10.00

One of the year’s biggest trends has been kids making friendship bracelets, and this nifty $10 set can make quite a few. Even if a child already has some jewelry-making materials, this will add more than 500 pieces to their kit.

4 / 5
Amazon
$15.00

Older kids just love the quirkiness of the characters in the Jellycat Amuseable line. My teen son has the kale and the blue cheese, but right now we’re loving this soft-boiled egg, which is new for 2023 and fun for kids who love ramen or just want a desk decoration that is going to make their friends laugh.

5 / 5
Target
$22.99

Be the person who gives them an educational gift with this cool Earth science kit that features rocks to study, crystals to grow, the classic exploding-volcano experiment, and the directions you need to create a water vortex or “tornado in a tube.” Geeky fun for the win!