By Mark G. McLaughlin

Every kid wants and deserves a new toy for the holidays. Walking into a big box toy store, browsing through toy sites online or even going into a neighborhood toy shop, however, can be daunting. Finding not only the toy most appropriate for the child in question but one that will also be played with for a long time to come—and which will hopefully inspire and educate the child—is not easy. Here are just five of 2017’s Top Toys, which will provide a starting point for holiday toy shoppers.

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Lego’s Women of NASA

Already the best-selling toy of the season, and one of Lego’s most widely acclaimed sets ever, is the Women of NASA playset. The 231-piece set includes parts to build the Space Shuttle Challenger and four figurines – representing astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, astronomer Nancy Grace Roman and computer scientist Margaret Hamilton. The four each have plaques with their names on them, and while Ride and Jemison have theirs on the space shuttle stand, the other two women have their own stand-alone displays. For Ms. Roman, Lego has provided a stand with a pile of books and a wall with a chart that is meant to represent her working at MIT on software for NASA, and for Ms. Hamilton’s stand there is a model of the Hubble Space Telescope. It retails for $24.99, and while it is a toy, it is also meant to pay homage to those four women, and to inspire the next generation of girls because, after all, Legos are not just for boys – or even just for kids.

I Got This!

Fat Brain Toys doesn’t just make toys that are educational – they also make toys that are fun! I Got This! is one of their most innovative creations ever – and that says a lot for a toy company that routinely earns praise from educators, parents and kids. I Got This! is a game that requires not just a lot of smarts, but also a lot of activity. This is not a board game you sit and play. In fact, there is very little sitting involved as players have to solve puzzles and meet challenges using a lot of physical as well as mental skills, such as meeting balancing challenges, proving their ability at hand-eye coordination and playing games that require them to flick, toss, balance, and measure things. Designed for 6 to 12 year olds, it is also a challenge for older siblings – and for parents, all of whom will want to play. I Got This! retails for $24.95.

Epoch Air Hover Ball

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Epoch Air’s Hover Ball actually floats on a cushion of air, using the same basic technology as a commercial hovercraft – but in miniature. Its suspension technology uses a rotary motor and fan to keep it in the air, and its LED lights are not only pretty, but also practical, as it makes it ideal for play in a dark room or outside at night. This toy does everything a soccer ball, football or even frisbee can do, and is even safer, as it has foam bumpers. It is available from Amazon, Ebay and many other web sites and retailers for as little as $12.99.

Little Tikes Light ‘n Go 3-in-1 Sports Zone

Although a tad pricey at the recommended retail price of $54.99, this combo set gives little ones a chance to dribble and toss a basketball through a hoop, kick a soccer ball through a goal and bowl a strike – and do it all safely and indoors. Designed primarily for the 12 to 36 month-old crowd, the playset quite literally grows with the child, as the basketball hoop is adjustable to accommodate older kids. It has a backboard with lights and offers 75 different noises and phrases that are meant to entertain, reward and encourage children as they play any of the three sports – or make up their own sport by combining them.

FurReal Roarin’ Tyler the Playful Tiger

The FurReal line of animatronic pets by Hasbro has a variety of dogs and cats and other domestic animals, but it also has several animals that are not usually found in the home – like tigers and bears to name but a few. One of the most popular is Roarin’ Tyler the Playful Tiger. Posable and huggable, this plush cuddle toy also moves and makes purring and roaring noises the more it is hugged, cuddled, brushed and played with. The eyes, ears, head, mouth and tail all move, and it reacts to both kid contact and to the little toy chick that comes with it. Although it costs $129.99, that is still a lot more affordable (and a lot safer) than having a real tiger cub in the house.

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