Even though my kids are grown, and there are as yet no little tech grandkids running around, as the holiday season approaches each year, the kid in me still likes to take a look at what’s hot when it comes to tech toys for kids.
PC Magazine starts their list off with a gift for your “future space explorers:” the Circuit Explorer Deluxe Base Station from Educational Insights. This kit teaches kids the basics of how electrical circuits works by having them create a base station that has lights, sounds and motion. Plus it comes with an astronaut and robots. If your kids want to do something a bit more elaborate with their space station, you can also spring for a rocket and/or rover kit. This is for kids 6-12. Never too young, I say, to learn about electrical circuitry.
Rubik’s Cube gets smart with HeyKube. It will remember your moves and “guides you to solve via LED lights and audio cues.” It also comes with pre-programmed paths that will teach kids how to solve the puzzle. Not sure how much I like this idea. Isn’t the most important – albeit infuriating – element of Rubik’s Cube going down all sorts of wrong paths?
For something less demanding, there’s the Spin Master Peek-a-Roo, an interactive plush animal that’s a combo of kangaroo and panda. The toy looks more panda than kangaroo. Until you start playing with it. Then you’ll notice the pouch and the baby PandaRoo who’s in there. This toy plays games and sings songs. Mostly it makes noise. Lots of noise. (Am I really going to do this to my kids when they have their kids? Probably.) For Harry Potter fans, Spin Master also offers the Enchanting Hedwig Interactive Owl.
If you really want to get your kids started down the STEM path when they’re really young, there’s the Thinker-Tinker Octobo Starter Pack, recommended for kids as young as 4 months. Sure, it’s a stuffed toy, but when integrated with a tablet, it lets kids play games that help develop their fine motor skills and their ABC’s.
For those hopping on a plane, or heading off on a long car trip with their little one, there’s the LeapFrog On the Go Story Pal, an entertainment bunny that tells stories, recites poems, and sings songs. The headphones are extra, but I’d say that’s an essential add on.
Pre-schoolers can learn colors, shapes, left-right, and up-down with the Flycatcher Smarty JOJO, a cute little plane. (It’s inexpensive, too: only $8.33. Some of the toys – like the Octobo – are pretty pricey.)
Slightly older kids can use the Sphero Mini Activity Kit to program their Sphero Mini ball to do stuff. The kit has accessories for 15 projects. If you fancy your child as a young genius – and what tech-leaning parent doesn’t? – there’s the Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit, which “conceptualizes basic lessons for young children.” It requires a tablet and comes with 4 apps: two educational ones (think ABC’s) and a couple that are purely for fun (think dress up). The word “starter kit” provides a hint that there are a lot more games/apps out there
There’s some overlap with the Engadget best tech toys roundup – they’ve also got the Peek-a-Roo and the Enchanting Hedwig on their list – but most of their choices are different, and seem more toy-for-toy’s-sake than educational journey oriented. Like the Miles Morales in Winter Suit Funko Pop. All it is is a cute little action figure.
The Hasbro Lightsaber Forge let’s kids build (and rebuild) their own light sabers. The R2-D2 Tamagotchi gives your kid a little “astromech droid” to take care of. You don’t have to be that attentive to a Spin Master Purse Pet. The kids just need to stow their stuff in it – it is, after all a purse – and watch it “blink, purr and even blow kisses.” The somewhat more sophisticated Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie Doll is Mattel’s tribute to the Italian space explorer. (Cristoforetti will be commanding next year’s ISS Expedition 68.) It’s good to see that Barbie has come a long way from the talking Barbie of the early 90’s that was complaining about math class being so tough.
Smart Tech Sound Action Tunnel is a techy version of the classic wooden train and track sets. It comes with realistic sounds and lights – so realistic that, for a kid interested in international train travel, you can “change the sounds to those from famous systems like London, Paris, or Berlin.”
The Got2Glow Fairy Finder has 100 different fanciful fairy creatures that “fly around” inside a jar, showing up on a screen. Which creature shows up depends on how your child is holding the jar, and the brightness of the room.
Nearer and dearer to this old timer’s heart is the Hot Wheels Mario Kart Vehicle Pack, a super combination of Hot Wheels and Mario characters. Just plain no-purpose fun. LEGO doesn’t want to leave Mario’s brother Luigi out. They have an Adventures with Luigi Starter Course. Other LEGO kits they cite are Bobba Fett’s Starship and a Star Wars Advent Calendar, a fun way to lead up to the “big day” (if you celebrate the “big day”).
The final gift suggestion from Engadget is the Vtech KidiZoom PrintCam. Admittedly, they’re not as powerful as one of Critical Link’s MityCams, but, hey, it doesn’t have to be powerful. It’s a toy. And it gives kids the old school joy and satisfaction of printing out the pictures they take.
Fun taking this stroll through Technology Toyland, even if it was just window shopping