While the basic action figures and spring-operated cars might have been the choicest toys from your childhood, the kids of today have toys that truly reflect how tech-savvy the world is right now. And that tech savviness is present in today’s kids too, who can handle the latest smartphone or the latest console within minutes of laying their hands upon them for the very first time. So why should their toys fall behind? Here are some of the coolest tech toys for the kids around you (or you) that combine fun and learning with technology in ways never seen before.
Who doesn’t want a Star Wars astromech, especially one that’s as cool as BB8? It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that Sphero has pretty much brought this little pop-culture icon to life and guess what, you can get one right now! This one can be controlled from your smartphone or your tablet with a dedicated app. You can even set it to recognise voice commands and even react better when you use them. There is an explore mode as well that lets BB8 explore the area autonomously. Oh, and did tell you that you could send a holographic message and view it too? Time to get one!
This one will remind you of the little science experiments that you did (or still do) in school. It’s a must have for any kid around you (or in you) who is interested in the Mars rover or other space rovers and wants to see how one works. They need to use a recycled soda can to create the body and once they are done building the entire rover on their own, they get to see first-hand how solar rays are converted into energy!
For some of us, one of the first ‘programming’ experience on a computer was with the Logo language, where you had to move a turtle like figure with movement and direction commands to draw certain figures. This board game takes a page out of the same language to sneakily teach programming to kids age 4 and up. The creator, Dan Shapiro, had no clue that this would go on to become the most crowdfunded board game on Kickstarter and now, this one’s a must have especially because it has no screens!
Snap Circuits Jr
Think of this one as a LEGO for electronic circuits. Snap Circuits comes with snap wires, slide switches, an alarm circuit, a speaker and more. There are multiple kits available and each kit comes with a plastic grid to which the parts mentioned above can be snapped to.
This might seem like an April Fool’s joke to begin with. This kit, that comprises a circuit board, alligator clips, and wires, can turn anything into a touchpad. Connect it to a banana - you’ve got a banana touchpad. Your favorite toy? You bet. Only requirement - it has to conduct electricity. And if a young player is curious - by all means, explain how a circuit works.
Littlebits, like Snap Circuits, offers multiple kits that are directed to achieving different types of tasks. For example, the Arduino kit lets you snap modules easily to the 3 inputs and 3 outputs on an Arduino board as well as I/O for advanced interactions to build 3 projects - a DIY Etch-a-sketch, a DIY Mouse, and Analog Pong. While this kit might seem a bit advanced, there are tons of others available for all age levels.
Kano Computer kit
Built with a Raspberry Pi, the Kano Computer kit is a kit that encourages young ones to build their own computer before they can start using it. With a very successful Kickstarter campaign and worldwide coverage from media, Kano is already a success story. Every Kano Kit comes with the Kano OS which, again, is focussed on helping children learn concepts of developing and programming. Trust us, building the computer is half the fun as the OS takes you on a journey across platforms like Minecraft, teaches you how to make classics like Pong and Snake and more.
Wonder Workshop Dash and Dot
If coding is the language of the future, what better way to learn it from than from robots? Dash and Dot are smart robots that are designed to help your kids learn how to code. Dash won Good Housekeeping's Toy of the Year award and was Melinda & Bill Gates' favorite STEM gift for kids. They come with user programmable LEDs and buttons, IR transmitter and receivers, real-time bluetooth, 3 microphones and a speaker, potentiometers and dual motors, 3 proximity sensors, 3 processors and it also comes with sensor fusion. Oh, and you can use LEGO with these robots if you have some special connectors. Needless to say, this one is on the expensive side on the list.
“Each Supercar is a self-aware robot, driven by powerful artificial intelligence (A.I.) and equipped with deadly strategy” - isn’t that one line from the product description from Anki Overdrive enough to get you hooked? Hailed as the future of living room racing cars, the Overdrive is an automated race car game that takes a typical car race video game and brings it into the real world. You get to chose from cars with specific abilities, and play against real players nearby (connect using the overdrive app) or AI commanders. Everything from upgrades to weapons are available and this one promises to be a ton of fun.