After studying this year's top toy lists from retailers like Toys R Us, Kmart, Target, Amazon, and Walmart, we identified three best Christmas gifts for kids under $20, with a fourth costing more but added to the mix to keep the gender balance. The following kids' gifts can round out the loot under your tree or be offered up to young cousins and friends.
1. Hasbro Monopoly Millionaire (starting at $14.86).
This Christmas gift for kids is a new twist on an old favorite. Just like the original Monopoly game, players buy, trade, and sell properties, but in this updated version the winner is the first to "earn" one million dollars. Users at Amazon say the game is an exciting tweak of the original, partly because it moves along at a clip rather than dragging on as players vie to bankrupt each other. Reviews of Christmas gifts for kids posted at Walmart note that the game helps youngsters stretch their strategic thinking skills. One user also says the play money is a lot sturdier than the original Monopoly money.
2. Hasbro One Direction Collectibles (starting at $6.99).
If there's a young girl in your midst, no doubt she knows about One Direction (or 1D, as all the cool kids call them). The British boy-band sensation finished third in 2010 on The X Factor and has since signed with both Syco Records (Simon Cowell's record label) and Columbia Records. The band's songs are now mainstream pop and have garnered numerous awards, including three from MTV. An up-to-the-minute Christmas gift for kids this year is a One Direction mini figure, which starts at $6.99 and sits on the Toys R Us Hot Toy List; a collectible doll of one of the group members starts at $19.99. One review of cheap Christmas gifts for kids at the retailer's website reports that the doll actually looks like the real person and another says it's a keeper.
3. Mattel WWE Brawlin' Buddies (starting at $29.99).
Boys may not be so interested in a boy- band doll but the WWE Brawlin' Buddies figure makes a good Christmas gift for kids even as it doesn't qualify as cheap. It earned a top spot on the Kmart Fab 15 Toys list and on Walmart's 2012 Top Toys list and generally starts at $29.99 but sometimes carries an $18.99 price tag. These WWE figures are soft enough for little boys to actually wrestle with and the figures speak phrases recorded by the depicted wrestlers. Reviews of cheap Christmas gifts for kids at Kmart say youngsters big and small love these buddy figures and get more than a metaphorical kick out of them.
4. Mattel Angry Birds On Thin Ice Game (starting at $13.49).
The idea behind Angry Birds, a board game Christmas gift for kids, is to save the flying creatures. Players of all ages can build, launch, and destroy with this physical take on a popular electronic app, and reviews of cheap gifts for kids at Toys R Us say it's fun and entertaining for the entire family, although learning to use the slingshot requires some patience. At Amazon, where it's listed as a top toy for Christmas, shoppers like this game as a gift for slightly older kids, saying it's a bit challenging and the rules may need some adjusting to prevent little ones from getting frustrated with the slingshot. One dad says his son happily plays with it as a toy rather than using it as a game.