No childhood is complete without the love between a kid and their first animal companion, but unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of toddlers out there who have what it takes to care for a real cat or dog.
The resurgence in popularity of interactive pet toys is a sign that parents want to make sure that their children have access to the loving relationships and fun friendships that can come with owning a pet, without all the cost, hassle, and risk of getting a real pet for your kid. That kind of thing can wait until they are in middle school at least!
The best toy pets for kids and toddlers alike are the ones that are going to immediately capture both their hearts and minds with cool tricks and thoughtful gestures. Now, we are presenting you with our condensed list of the Top 17, followed by a thoughtful analysis of what it takes to be considered one of the best toy pets for kids.
Plenty of kids can’t wait to practice being a parent, and sometimes they just aren’t interested in those creepy realistic baby dolls that have been popular for so long. Cozy Dozy Cubbles, on the other hand, is a sweet little baby animal that manages to emulate the same developmental benefits of toy dolls while still being an adorable teddy bear companion. Tickle him and hear a good laugh, or wrap him in the included blanket and watch as he slowly falls asleep in your arms. Because batteries are included, Cubby the Bear comes ready for cuddling action right out of the box.
The thought of getting your very own Dalmatian puppy is incredibly exciting to just about any kid, and now, it is possible without all the mess and hassle of getting a real pet. Harry is one of the coolest Dalmatian pups around, capable of performing all sorts of tricks from funny dances to chase games that will have both him and your kid running laps around the lawn or living room. Harry has a secret wheel under his belly that allows him to move pretty fast on smooth surfaces, just like a real hyper puppy. If you think Harry might be getting lonely, then a pink-colored Helen is also available.
Her name is Flurry, and she is one of the most huggable pets that we have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Now, Flurry is ready to become best friends with the little one in your life and provide hours, days, and perhaps years of loving attention and realistic interactions. While she is particularly interested in her feeding bottle, she will also be delighted to hear you playing with her favorite fish-shaped rattle. All in all she is trained to perform over 45 sound and motion combinations, making her one of the best interactive toy pets of the season.
Whether you are looking for a unique Easter Basket gift or simply an awesome toy to bring a big smile to your kid’s face, the HatchiBabies series of plush toys is a great place to start. These cute little soft animals come inside of a brightly speckled egg. Kids will watch in amazement as the tiny creatures emerge from their shell to make new friends! Every HatchiBaby comes pre-loaded with all sorts of interactive surprises, like moving beaks, changing eyes, and rocking bodies. But the more that your kid plays with the HatchiBaby, the more responses it will learn, making this a toy that keeps on giving.
Here is a little dog that will be jumping from joy anytime your kid gets home from school. With a wide range of realistic and lovable touch-activated responses, Jake is 100% ready to give all the love that his human companion needs day after day. Stoke his back and he will obediently sit, wave at his and he will stand up on his hind legs to get your attention. A super-soft fur coat makes Jake one of the best cuddle buddies around, one that your kid is not going to want to ever leave at home. Fortunately he is even smaller than a real Yorkie!
Let’s face it, not every kid is going to be interested in the cute and cuddly, and the large majority of the toys on our list are just that. Cute and cuddly. That is not the case with the terrifyingly awesome LED dinosaur toy from Windy City Novelties. Watch in amazement and awe as he stamps a path through your living room. Hit the lights and watch as his dorsal plate lights up in a brilliant neon display. The eerie red light that appears in his jowls is particularly ominous, but something that any good dinosaur lover is going to freak out over.
The Peppy Pets series of pet toys is one of the most affordable and easy-to-enjoy pet companions anywhere, and the ability to select from a number of different animals is unique in the industry. Whether your kid is interested in a mutt, bulldog, dinosaur, or a freaking unicorn, they can have the same low-dollar access to friendship and fun that the Peppy Pets line has come to represent. Every Peppy Pup is perfectly trained to follow, walk, and interact with your kid, all without any batteries. As a totally kid-powered companion, you won’t ever have to worry about running out of power.
The real fun behind the Little Live Scruff-A-Luvs series of plush pets is that you never know which one you are going to be taking home with you. Your kid is going to have to open the pet box to find out whether they are getting a new bunny, kitten, or doggie as their new best friend. The one thing parents can choose is color, as the shelter that these toys comes from offers a free pet-coloring service before loading the animals up for transport. Included in every kit is a brush, hair clip, collar, and ID tag so your kid has everything needed to start practicing proper pet care from day 1.
One of the only winged companions on our list also happens to be one of the friendliest. This beautiful rainbow-feathered bird can actually learn your kid’s name and then repeat it back to them whenever they are looking for a bit of attention. She comes loaded with 30 different realistic bird sounds, as well as a collection of beautiful bird songs that only become more amazing the more that you pet her. As if by magic, her wings will light up with energy whenever she is singing or tweeting. An included glittery cage means that she can go just about anywhere your kid wants to go.
It would not be inappropriate to say that this Orange Tabby Cat toy from Joy For All is maybe the most realistic pet on our list. From the moment you lay eyes on her you could very well think that you are seeing a real kitty. The synthetic fur is super soft and also brushable, and an innovative VibraPurr system makes one of the most authentic vibrating purrs ever. This model is also available in three other colors which should be available via most online retailers, but this orange beauty is the best in our book. A tad more expensive than the rest of the items here, but at least it doesn’t need to be fed!
Every kid knows that robots are totally going to be a thing, so it is no surprise that Robot Dogs have arrived to become the coolest new best-friends of kids across the globe. This mechanically-enhanced dog has a lot of features that ‘real’ dogs don’t, including a mounted rocket that allows him to blast around the house on nifty wheels. Not only will he make a great companion, but he comes programmed with a near-unbeatable patrol mode that will have him barking up a digital storm if anyone goes into his human’s room unannounced. As a remote controlled friend, he offers even more entertainment than most plush toy pets.
Not only is Ricky the Pup absolutely adorable, but he also happens to come with one of the smartest puppy brains that we have ever seen in a robotic kids toy. With over 100 sound and motion combinations, Ricky is a highly talented best-friend plush toy that is sure to entertain. What Ricky really likes is treats, and if you give him one he is going to gobble them right up! But don’t worry, just like a real puppy, they’re just going to come out the other end. Pet this little guy’s cheeks and then lean in for realistic doggie licks. He is simply one of the most loving companions there is.
This wrinkly little cuddle muffin is ready to give and receive a whole lot of love as they quickly become your child’s new best friend. Rollie is one of the newest additions to the Little Live Pets series of realistic pet companions, and in every way he lives up to the reputation of his predecessors. He kisses and licks when he is near a human, and he will be sure to wag his tail to let you know that he is happy to see you. He’ll close his eyes when he is ready for naptime, and he had over 25 different sounds and actions that seem expertly designed to steal your heart.
It seems that aquatic pets are never getting enough love on lists like these, which is why we wanted to make sure to include our very favorite robotic turtle duo who are sure to make a real splash in your kid’s life. These adorable little creatures come with their own turtle tank, so it’s possible to transport them safely to school or grandma’s house without ever having to take them out of the water. Articulated fins allow these ladies to swim realistically when they’re in the water and crawl when they’re on land. One of the only waterproof pet companions around.
If your kid is one of the many out there that will not stop asking why they can’t have a real unicorn in the house, then get ready to applaud. Sparkles is an all-singing, all-dancing toy unicorn that is so full of vibrant life that your kid is going to forget all about ever wanting a real life one. With a lightup and color changing horn, Sparkles is ready to charge into new friendships. A soft pat on the back will have her making cute unicorn sounds. She has her own music pre-loaded and is ready to dance in joy the moment she meets her new kid companion.
We’ve got to hand it to Yellies!, the toy company behind this adorable little voice-activated spider pet, for actually making a spider look cute enough to make friends with. This little guy is ready to go the moment he hears your voice, or make other sounds like clapping or singing. The more volume he hears, the faster he will scurry around on the floor or table in front of you. Every Yellies! Pet has its own unique personality, so your kid is going to have to spend some time with it in order to know what it really likes and responds to.
Not every plush pet is going to come with a name, so it will be up to your child to decide the best thing to call their new walking & barking companion. This little guy has a super-soft black coat and seems to be of the miniature terrier variety of dog. He certainly yips and yaps like a terrier, but it will only make you love this animated little guy more and more. His attached leash acts as the control remote, which allows for a realistic and fun dog-walking experience. He is available in three different colors, each with their own super-cute bowtie.
The Developmental Science Behind Simulated Toy Pets
Since the early 2000s, researchers have been studying the relationship between electronic toy pets and the effect they had on the children they were with. For the first time, kids were growing up with toys that were not just dolls or stuffed animals, but actual interactive simulated beings that could be loved and nurtured. As the bonds between children and simulated pet toys was explored, it became clear to these researchers that although these toys were not real, the emotional connections that were formed very much were.
Toy pets are a great way for kids to experience the emotional highs and lows of owning a pet, without the hassle, energy, cost, and risk of having a real pet running around the house. After all, there are dozens of plenty good reasons why it might not make sense to get a dog or cat for your kid, but with pet toys as realistic as these, it becomes hard to justify not getting an interactive companion for your little one.
Toy Pet Buying Guide: Tips & Considerations
From Tamagotchis to Furbys, interactive toy pets are not exactly a new phenomenon. However, an entirely new collection of realistically designed and innovatively programed toy pets has hit the market with force. As the price of electronics continues to drops, it seems that toy pets have only become smarter and smarter, though the average price doesn’t seem to go up at all.
The toy pets on our list represent only a miniscule fraction of what is actually available out there. Shopping for a new best-friend for your kid can be an emotionally draining experience if you let yourself go too deep into it.
In an effort to de-mystify the art of shopping for toy pets, we’re going to share some of the things we learned in the process of making our list, as well as a few things to look at when setting out on your own mission to choose the best one.
Further down, we’re going to reveal some of our Top Pick Toy Pets of 2021, so be sure to stick around.
Kitties, Puppies, and Bunnies (Oh My)
One of the first decisions you are going to have to make on this journey is what kind of pet to get for your kid. The obvious ones are puppies, kitties, and bunnies, but our list features all sorts of pets. Everything from swimming turtles to singing birds are available in toy form these days, so it is not as simple a decision as you might think.
Because a lot of kids are pretty open about what kind of pet they really want, there are a lot of parents who have this decision already made for them. But for those parents who are less sure of what kind of animal toy would be best for their kid, then it might be worth it to take your kid to an animal shelter to interact with the animals firsthand. The animals will love it, and with any luck it will become obvious whether you have a dog-person or a cat-person on your hands.
Electronic Toy Pets vs. ‘Kid-Powered’ Toy Pets
While there are all sorts of differences between the different animal toys on our list, the primary difference is that some of them are electronic, and others are what can be called ‘kid-powered’. Both can be considered to be “interactive” in the simplest sense of the term, but there are some significant differences in what kind of tricks and activities these pets can participate in.
The best interactive bet toys are motion and/or sound activated, and utilize mechanical programming to create realistic movement and reactions. For instance, Ricky the Trick Lovin’ Pup knows to chomp down on a treat if you put it in his mouth. It is this kind of programmed response that makes these pet toys so engaging for children, though sometimes all it takes is a mechanical tail that wags when the little guy hears you coming.
“Kid-Powered” is a term that is being used more and more in the toy industry, and is basically another way of saying that there are no batteries required. Any movement created is the result of a physical input on the part of the child, as opposed to electronic or mechanical components acting on any kind of programming.
Remote Controlled (RC) Pets & Pet Toys
There are only a couple of Remote Controlled Pet Toys on our list, but they are certainly worth considering as they provide interactive elements that other pet toys simply do not. The ability to drive your little robo-doggie around as if it were a race car is pure exhilaration to children, and being able to control its expressions and movements is a fun way for parents to get in on the fun by taking control of the remote and watching their kid go nuts.
Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)
Q: What’s the best way to clean the fur a pet toy? Are they machine washable?
A: The first thing that you need to consider before washing your plush pet toy is whether or not there are electronic components that might be damaged if they are exposed to water. Seeing as how the large majority of pet toys on our list use batteries and electronic sounds, it is a good bet that not a single one of them is going to fare well with a full-submersion wash.
Most plush toys can be cleaned by simply taking a towel and a bowl of warm, lightly-soaped water and gently pressing the towel up against the fur. Too much moisture and you risk damaging the electronics. But not enough and you won’t be able to get the dirt and grime out.
Another idea is to use those pet cleaning wipes that they make for cats who hate baths!
Q: Are toy pets a good way to tell if my kid is ready for a real pet?
A: While interactive pets are a great way to entertain your child and give them something that they can truly love, they should not be seen as an indicator of whether or not your child is ready to have a real pet. This is a decision that involves a lot more than just how interested your kid is in playing with a pet, including space and finances.
Toy pets are toys above all else, but can still make great companions for any child.
Q: Where does the fur come from with Toy Pets? Is it real animal fur?
A: All of the toy pets on our list utilize synthetic (fake) fur. Real fur would be far too expensive for the toy market, and the synthetic stuff is also really easy to make. While there is certainly a difference in the feel of real fur vs. synthetic, it is not something that most kids are going to notice. In fact, many synthetic fur materials are much softer than real animal fur, so it’s better either way.
Conclusion: The Best Pet Toys For Kids And Toddlers
From dinosaurs to doggies, the best pet toys for kids and toddlers are not the ones that have the most features, or the most realistic sounds, or the softest fur. They are the ones that your kid will absolutely fall in love with, if for no other reason than the charm in its eye or the wag in its tail. After all, animal toys are means to serve as companions, even if they’re not really the real thing.
For dog lovers, it doesn’t really get any better than a play session with Ricky the Trick Lovin’ Pup. The fact that he can perform so many pre-programmed tricks means that he is sure to capture the love and attention of any child for years to come.
The feline-oriented little ones will appreciate Flurry the Baby Snow Leopard. This is a plush animal companion that is just begging to be snuggled, hugged, and rocked to sleep on a regular basis.