One of the great things about being a tech nerd parent is the sheer quality of awesome techie toys. Whether calling them STEM or STEAM learning toys, there are an array of toys out there that are both incredibly fun to play with and have the added potential of actually teaching kids coding and engineering skills. Here’s a list of some of the best we’ve played with this year that will look great under the tree or wherever else you want to put them.
Jimo Robotics Kits by UBTech
We all love Lego, but sometimes forget they aren’t the only game in town when it comes to great building kits. The Jimo line has been releasing some of our personal favorite STEM robotics kits that range from cool traditional robots and rovers to their more recent Mythical series which offers kids the ability to create and control a robot unicorn and (in the second kit) dragon. Like most building and robotic kits now, the instructions and control mechanism are entirely app-based, but in terms of giving kids a practical and fun way to learn the basics of coding, Jimo robots are great.
Sphero Bolt and Sphero Mini Activity Kit ($149.99/$49.99)
Sphero’s adorably fast and friendly spherical bots have been around a few years now, but the new Bolt and Mini Activity Kit are two very similar products that both offer a superb learning curve that helps young kids get the hang of instructing a robot to move around and more advanced users learning to code. If you’re really advanced, you can go even deeper. Sphero has always had a heavy emphasis on the educational value of their products and either of these (or both) are great ways for kids to dive into robotics and coding.
Sphero RVR ($249.99)
If you or your kid are really into the possibilities of robotics, the Sphero RVR is, hands down, one of the coolest and most intriguing robots on the market. By itself, it has all the same coding and educational potential of any Sphero bot, but the magic of RVR is how modifiable it is. With standardized maker ports, you can attach cameras, robotic arms, sensors, and even Raspberry Pi or Arduino boards to it. The potential for creativity for those seriously into do-it-yourself robotics is nearly endless. Of course, even if you aren’t into making a new robot overlord, the RVR is just a surprisingly excellent and versatile all-terrain remote control vehicle.
Lego Hidden Side ($19.99-$129.99)
There’s no shortage of amazing Lego kits we could mention. The new, jaw-dropping Batmobile based on the 1989 movie, last year’s Voltron set, their robot Boost kits… This year’s Hidden Side collection, however, is one of the coolest uses of Augmented Reality (AR). Even if you get bored of looking at ghostly images superimposed over the kit on your phone, you still have a fun and creative pile of Legos to play with. The kits are cool all on their own as well, even without any techie gimmicks.