Worries over toy shortages, slow shipping, and rising prices mean that now’s the best time to start your holiday shopping. But is shopping early the only way to get the best toys of the year? Never fear because as always, we’ve got your back when it comes to “how” to get the toys your kids want in time for the holiday season! 

“The biggest wildcard of the holiday season is product availability, so you might be out of luck if you wait too long to buy a hot toy from a kid’s wish list. Shopping for holiday gifts in October may seem like something only the overachievers do, but this year it will be essential to finding those coveted toys in time for the holidays,” says Laurie Schacht, Chief Toy Officer, the Toy Insider. “Gift-givers should also plan to add a few dollars to their shopping budgets this year, with manufacturers raising prices across the board to make up for some of the supply chain issues they are experiencing this year.”


  • Shop early for toys: Once the hottest toys sell out, they may not be back in stock before the holidays, especially in late November and December, so be sure to grab toys your kids want as soon as you see them!
  • Shop in-store, and shop often: Shipping delays will be a problem this year, so try heading to your favorite retailers in-person. Some stores have more stock than others, and they all typically have a lot of backstock early on and will hopefully restock shelves regularly until the toys run out. Keep checking back, and keep in mind that “in-stock” alerts are not always 100% accurate or reliable. Plus, you get to leave with your toys that very same day — no wait times!
  • Make wish lists ASAP: Ask kids to think about what they want now, rather than waiting until you’re pulling out the holiday decorations. Be sure to share those lists with friends and family so they can get a jump on their shopping, too. 
  • Budget more for toys: Toy prices are increasing in 2021. While some toys may only increase by $2-3, larger toys like dollhouses and ride-ons may increase significantly and can sometimes be as high as 10% more than normal. This is due to shipping issues, increasing costs of raw materials, and other factors affecting the toy industry. 
  • Verify your ship dates: If shopping online, double-check the estimated arrival dates, and keep checking the tracking. Don’t assume things will just show up on time, and don’t expect to rely on services like two-day shipping.
  • Think Outside the Big Box: Shop small for toys! Specialty retailers that placed orders with toy manufacturers early in the year will be well-stocked with toys, and you’ll be supporting a local business with your purchase. Plus, these local toy stores often have those hot toys you’re looking for, and they even offer convenient services, such as gift wrapping!
  • Avoid third-party resellers: Resellers on sites like eBay, Amazon, and Walmart often hike up the prices of hard-to-find toys or will sell items that are many years old. Be sure that you are buying directly from certified retailers by checking the “sold by” and “ships from” sections on these sites.
  • Buy trusted brands: Use our Holiday Gift Guide to ensure you are purchasing toys made by reputable companies, or select brand names you already know and love. Avoid knock-off, counterfeit items as they are not properly safety-tested, and may be of lower quality.

Finding the best, age-appropriate toys for every kid is just as important as shopping with a game plan. Check out our 16th annual Holiday Gift Guide, which features more than 300 toys from 136 toy companies, broken down by age category. The guide reveals the best toys topping kids’ wish lists, as seen in the Hot 20, STEM 10, and 12 Under $20 toy lists.