by Matthew Poulson & Sarah Fowles 

If play is the work of childhood, toys are its tools. It’s the holiday season and great toys that encourage play are everywhere.

Here is our toy philosophy: A great toy is one that’s fun to play with over and over again. It is durable and not too technical. It summons the best parts of children: imagination, social and communication skills, physical dexterity, and cognitive skills. It offers a delightful and safe way to explore the world. It helps the child make meaning.

We are Sarah and Matt, co-owners of Ruckus & Glee. We have selected a group of toys by age that we hope will spark your imagination as you shop for toys this holiday season. Some are new, some are classic, some are on-trend, some are a bit more obscure, but all meet our definition of a great toy.

We encourage you to visit your local toy retailers where you’ll get great service, suggestions, and an environment of fun. Wauwatosa has more bricks and mortar toy retailers than you might think, from the small and independent to the large mass retailers. A list of them is included at the end of this article.


Fat Brain Toys Dimpl

“Oh my, it’s the perfect car toy!” “This is mesmerizing.” “I’d like one of these for myself” are all things adults have said about the Dimpl. It’s 5 brightly colored silicone bubbles you can push from one side to another…kind of a larger version of bubble wrap, except the fun never ends.

Uncle Goose Blocks

Handcrafted in our neighboring state of Michigan, these wooden blocks come in 23 languages and are timeless, beautiful, and sustainable. If you’d like to introduce STEM at an early age, Uncle Goose has introduced several science-themed block sets featuring planets, fossils, insects, and the elements.

Dolce Activity Plush Animals

These jam-packed toys are a delight for babies and toddlers (and their parents). Different fabrics, unique visual stimulation, noise through squeaks and rattles, mirrors…all in a very cuddly and adorable plush toy.


Dolls, Action Figures, and Accessories

Sales in this category are up over 15% in 2018. Driving the increase are popular dolls and figures like LOL Surprise and Barbie. But larger more traditional dolls are also driving the trend, including the return of Cabbage Patch Kid dolls. Dolls and action figures help preschoolers develop language as they talk with and through their dolls, social skills as they practice cooperating and caring, and imagination as they engage in dramatic play with their dolls.

Thames & Kosmos’s Kids First Coding & Robotics

A robot in the shape of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Check. Pattern and creativity skills encouraged? Check. No pesky apps or screens to use? Check. A super fun introduction to coding a cute robot? Check.


Here in Wauwatosa we really love our pets. Pass on the love for our furry companions with the gift of a trendy Scruff a Luv. Out of the box, the Scruff a Luv is scruffy, but with a wash, dry and grooming, they are fluffy and beautiful! A surprise in every box – the Scruff a Luv will be a puppy, kitten, or bunny.

Grade School

Thinkfun’s Shadows in the Forest

This is a perfect cooperative game for those who aren’t afraid of the dark. This immersive game uses light and shadows to direct strategy and player movement. One player is the “Seeker” using a lantern to find the “Shadowlings” (the other players) who are working together to stay hidden behind trees.

Ravensburger’s Gravitrax Starter Set 

Using gravity, kinetic energy, and magnetics, Gravitrax is for the young engineer in your family. This take on the track-based marble run will keep young builders busy with its endless variations. The starter set includes various lengths of marble ramps, height tiles, curves, junctions, magnetic cannon, and transparent levels.

Ozobot Bit and Ozobot Evo

As seen in many STEM classrooms in Wauwatosa, these small but powerful robots teach coding through an intuitive color system for younger learners and a language called “blockly” for older kids. Use a marker to draw a line and the Ozobot will follow it! Add color patterns and watch the Ozobot change its direction, spin, speed up, or slow down.


Mindware’s Putty Scents 

A new twist on putty that introduces scents. These great stocking stuffers include such olfactory delights as Juicy Pineapple, Cotton Candy, Lavender, Sliced Kiwi, and many more!

Spooner Boards

It’s a balance board, a sled, and exercise equipment for those so inclined. Inspired by surfing and skateboarding, the Spooner board is the perfect practice trick board for your aspiring skateboarder or snowboarder.

Hasbro’s Hearing Things Game

Inspired by the online viral “Whisper Challenge”, this is the ultimate lip reading game. While wearing electronic noise cancelling headphones one player tries to guess what phrase their teammate is reading off of a card. The team that correctly guesses the most phrases wins!