Unwrapping fun: Toys and games light up kids’ hearts and minds - Albuquerque Journal

Unwrapping fun: Toys and games light up kids’ hearts and minds

The Jabuka Word Game is $19 at Color Wheel Toys.
(Courtesy of Color Wheel Toys)

Nothing lights up a child’s face when unwrapping a present like a toy. Sure, socks are great and a new shirt is just fine. But holiday presents for kids should also be about fun.

Here are several gift ideas broken down by age groups that are sure to keep those young hearts beating fast and those limber brains working hard.


At Color Wheel Toys, which just this fall opened a year-round store in Los Ranchos, the Spin Again Stacking Toy by Fat Brain Toys is a toddler favorite, said owner Keri Piehl.

“Stack the six sturdy, colorful discs on the center post and watch them spin their way to the bottom,” she said of the $32.50 toy. “Add more and when they are all stacked, kids can easily remove the post. The discs will spin onto the floor, ready for another go round.”

Color Wheel also carries Finger puppet books by House of Marbles for $8 each.

“These cute, chunky board books have a fabric finger puppet securely attached to the back cover, and fits through holes on each of the cardboard pages,” Piehl said. “Our selection includes many classic nursery favorites – ‘Old MacDonald Has a Farm,’ features a cow, ‘Hey Diddle Diddle,’ a cute orange cat.”


Puzzled in Old Town carries a variety of games and puzzles to tease and challenge youngsters of all ages. For the children not quite of school age, the Woodie Man by Creative Crafthouse for $20 “is a great friend and a classic children’s toy,” said co-owner Melanie Kintigh. “His arms, legs, torso and head twist all about to form a myriad of positions. He even has a happy side and a sad side to his face depending upon his mood.”

Creative Crafthouse’s 3D Tic-Tac-Toe for $25 is just the thing to start the young ones thinking creatively and competitively, Kintigh said. “The object is to be the first to get three in a row along any length or diagonal,” she said. “(It) brings, literally, an extra dimension in challenge to this traditional game.”

Glow in the Dark Magnetic Tile Set by Picasso Tiles for $54 at Color Wheel will stick to any metal surface in a variety of ways and, after exposure to light, will glow. “Kids will play with these throughout their childhood,” Piehl said. “So they’re a great gift for your local preschooler.”

Buddy and Barney’s Silly Faces Bath Stickers for $16 will turn cleanup time into playtime in a hurry. “These silly faces will have kids smiling,” Piehl said “Enjoy bath time fun making hilarious face combinations. The pieces float on water and stick to the bathroom tiles/surfaces when wet.”

At YO! Toys on Juan Tabo NE, old is new again, said owner Jerry Solis.

“A lot of toy companies are not re-inventing toys but re-releasing winners,” he said. “They know Star Wars and Transformers are already a hit. Same with Marvel and D.C. Comics. So these not only catch the eyes of children but also parents, who recall playing with those themselves.”

That being said, the Star Wars Millennium Falcon is part of Hasbro Playmates re-boot aimed at the younger set.

“They have a particular line for pre-schools kids,” Solis said. “A little bigger and bulkier. Nothing that would fit into anybody’s mouth or sharp edges. The Millennium Falcon ($25) might not seem typical for somebody 3-5 would play with but they love it. It comes with Chewbacca and Han Solo.”

Elementary school

Brands making big comebacks, particularly when it comes to elementary age, are items related to Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z, Solis said.

“The toys, posters, cartoon, apps. Anything associated with Pokémon or Dragon Ball Z,” he said. “Cards can start at $5 and go on up to hundreds of dollars. Dragon Ball doesn’t have the cards, they do have a cartoon, a large assortment of toy lines and multiple licenses being issued. You can find a large assortment of toys. Broly is a fan favorite and so is the Vegeta character. Statues, figurines and action figures start about $20 to $30.”

At Color Wheel, Lite Blox light up pixel art set by Eblox is a neat continuation of building blocks sets, Piehl said of the $25 set. “Arrange the LED blocks in different configurations to make cool light up designs,” she said. “Add your own LEGO bricks to make the design more creative.”

The Sew a Teddy Bear Kit from 4M Crafts is for the budding toymaker. “Sew and customize a felt teddy bear with a variety of embroidery patterns,” Piehl said of thet $13.75 kit. “It includes pre-cut brown felt, stuffing, embroidery floss, plastic needle, buttons and instructions.”

In keeping with the building blocks theme, at Puzzled, the Soma Cube for $25 by Creative Crafthouse is a seven-piece wonder, Kintigh said. “It will form a cube 240 ways,” she said. “In addition, there are many other shapes to make, each using all of the pieces. It’s our best seller to schools, as the kids really enjoy it. It develops spatial relationship skills in all ages. You start to be able to visualize the relationship of the piece in your hand to the available space in the puzzle in your mind.”

The Shut the Box 1-12 game helps teach arithmetic as players roll the dice and try to eliminate all the numbers, Kintigh said of the $40 item from Creative Crafthouse. “Easy, fun game for the whole family and highly educational for the younger ones.”

Middle school

Puzzled sells the Creative Crafthouse Snake for $20. “The cube unravels, staying in one piece like a snake,” Kintigh said. “The objective is to get it back into the cube. A great puzzle that stays in one piece so there are no pieces to lose.”

New Mexican Train Hub & Tokens set is a $20 game played with dominoes. “The object of the game is for a player to play all the tiles from his or her hand onto one or more chains, or trains, emanating from a central hub or ‘station’,” Kintigh said.

Eugy Animal Kits by Greaturenz Limited sells for $13.25 at Color Wheel. “These mini animal kits come with everything you need to build a cute, collectible creature,” Piehl said. “Building them is fun and easy, and there’s lots of species to choose from so you can match the species to your favorite local middle schooler.”

Juggling Sticks by Channel Craft is the perfect gift for up-and-coming performers. “Juggling sticks are easy to learn to use but complicated to master,” Piehl said of the $46 item. “Balance, flip and devise tricks by catching the tasseled baton with the sticks. Ours are USA made and come in many color combos.”

High school

The Solar Rainbow Rainbowmaker by Kikkerland sells for $31.50 at Color Wheel. “This rainbow maker fills a room with a swirl of dazzling rainbows,” Piehl said. “Stick the device on a window that receives direct sunlight and the crystal will rotate and create beautiful rainbows that move around the room.”

Teenagers who enjoy word games will find the $19 Jabuka Word Game by Jabuka Word Games intriguing. “Jabuka is fun, easy to learn and invites continuous rematches,” Piehl said. “Make and take words from the pile of bean shaped tiles but watch out for the letters you can rotate – is that an E or an M?”

Speaking of the old is new again, The Stomachion is perhaps the world’s oldest puzzle and it is very difficult to solve, Kintigh said. “It is attributed to Archimedes of Greece (287 B.C.-212 B.C.),” she said. The 14-acrylic precision cut pieces by Channel Craft for $35 “will make a square and also many other interesting shapes, with each shape requiring all the pieces,” Kintigh said. “It comes with 19 other shapes that can be made beyond the square and 536 unique ways to solve the puzzle, but it’s good finding even one.”

Home » 2022 Holiday Gift Guide » Unwrapping fun: Toys and games light up kids’ hearts and minds

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.