Smart Toys, Tech Toys, STEM, STEAM & STREAM Toys… In the last few years, the options that go beyond the traditional concept of toys has increased exponentially.
All of those tags are usually used for toys that offer some degree of innovation and provide a some kind of learning benefit for our kids. Even their increase in popularity has caused some worries among parents. The main objective of these toys is to promote the interest in science, technology, engineering, math or art in our kids. The STEAM toys try to make those disciplines more accessible and inclusive and over all appealing.
However, the reality is different. Those toys some times might be following a wrong approach. They are introducing our kids to different scientific or artistic activities but in a closed and mono-directional process and besides that, they are failing in the most essential aspect of a toy: being fun.
What makes a good STEM/STEAM Toy?
Focusing only on science, technology or math reveals another foundation issue. What about the “soft skills”? Our kids won’t only need knowledge to grow in our society. Confidence, empathy or responsibility, to name a few, are important too.
Kids do science or engineering when they are compelled by their own curiosity. Those open ended actions and organic thoughts will guide them in a learn by failing process to acquire new skills or knowledge. They won’t develop their creative or critical spirit if they follow an instruction manual. It is important that the toys, however they are, have to be adapted to the kid's age range, be inclusive and above all, be FUN.
That’s why, taking into account that Black Friday and Christmas are near, we have decided to select those tech or steam toys that will promote new skills in your kids while they are having a blast playing with them:
1 Particula GoCube
The classic Rubik’s puzzle, reinvented. One of the most popular toys ever made gets smart. Although it was invented in 1974 by the sculptor and professor of interior design Erno Rubik, it gained popularity around the 90s. Now, the Israel-based startup Particula has developed a high-tech version of the classic toy and tracks every twist you make, allowing multiplayer competition, training and mini games. Their project received nearly $800.000 in Kickstarter.
2 Kano Star Wars The Force Coding Kit
Another year, another Kano coding kit. Unlock your inner Jedi (or Sith) power to build STEM skills using The Force. Join the Imperium or the Rebellion while you learn how to code using a motion sensor. From controlling a lightsaber to pushing a Tie Fighter, you’ll have to assemble some code using your hand movements in the real world. A fun and unique way to teaching how to code with so many challenges and even a sandbox level to build your own projects from scratch. May the Kano be with you.
3 Makeblock Neuron Explorer Kit
Loving Nintendo Labo but not having a Nintendo Switch in the house (and of course not thinking about buying one)? Then Makeblock Neuron Explorer Kit may be your solution. It’s open-ended approach gives kids the power to create almost anything using programmable blocks that function as sensors, lights, sounds or motors. One of the greatest aspects of this toy is how teaches digital skills, allowing kids to handle physical objects that they can touch and feel. The Makeblock Neuron is a solid introduction to electronics, coding and cardboard crafts while having fun.
Do your kids love video games? What about creating their own? Bloxels is usually introduced as the most kid-friendly video game creation platform. Only with a tablet and some “bloxels” you’ll be able to create your first level. Your imagination is the limit. Each block has its own value. For example: blue blocks are water, red are dangers, etc… Once you have finished designing your levels and characters you have fun playing your own games!
Nurturing toys are a big thing now. And the new Spin Master’s idea, the creators of Hatchimals, is a cute little owl which you must take care of and teach to fly. Yes, as it sounds. Owleez contains multiple sensors that will react to you, like a pet, but the final purpose of the toy is to ask Owleez if it’s ready to fly. If it hasn’t practiced too much or does not feel confident, it will make sad noises and won't fly. But if Owleez is ready to take the skies, it will stretch its neck to reveal the spinning blades underneath and start spinning. Tamagotchi meets drones.
But What's next?
Hopefully we have helped you with some ideas for kids this coming Christmas. However, if those options don’t convince you and you are looking for a more open-ended toy an interactive so you can to play with your kids outside, keep an eye on the Melbits tech toy , that will land on Kickstarter soon in the coming year.
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