Finding the perfect gift for a child during the holiday season can be challenging for anyone, not just parents. For starters, there are just so many options to choose from. Compounding the gift selection problem is the increase in technology-based toys and games. Many of these toys look amazing and appear to be incredible gifts, but in the end, they turn out to be junk in pretty packaging. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or anyone giving gifts this year can be confident when choosing any of these options for the holidays this year. The list below contains gifts that live up to the hype.
This is such an incredible idea for younger girls in your family. The Secret Code book is designed to break stereotypes and be a source of encouragement to girls of all backgrounds and cultures. This book’s hero uses her superpower of coding (computer programming) to program a robot to do chores. Things go awry and she must fix the code to stop the craziness. The book combines with an augmented reality app to teach some basics of coding while showing girls that tech is not just for boys. Parents can customize their copy of Secret Code. You can choose the character’s name, hair, eyes, skin color, and even her parents (or parent) to make this a truly personalized gift. You can purchase this gift at yoursecretcode.com, starting at $33.
ThinkFun Circuit Maze Electric Logic Game
While this is not a new toy for 2020, it is a fantastic gift for children who love to experiment. ThinkFun teaches kids how a circuit works through a set of sixty challenges that get progressively harder. What sets this game apart is the way it has been designed. I’ve seen other models that teach circuits, but they can be complicated and clumsy. ThinkFun’s colored tiles system and a grid on a game board make a difficult concept easy to learn. The learning style was so well received that ThinkFun won awards such as the Best of Toy Fair from Techlicious and Creative Child Toy of the Year in 2016. At only $30, this is a gift worth exploring. Check it out at thinkfun.com/products/circuit-maze/
Spheros are globe-shaped robots that are controlled through a tablet or smartphone. Schools often incorporate Spheros into their STEM or computer programming curriculum. The original Spheros were an expensive purchase for the average consumer. The Sphero mini brings the fun and learning of the original design into your home at an affordable price. Sphero has three modes: Drive, Play, and Learn. Drive mode allows your child to use an app on their smartphone to drive the robotic ball all around the house like you would a remote-controlled car. Play mode introduces specific guided challenges that children can attempt to complete. Some examples include creating an obstacle course or using the cones provided to create a bowling alley. The learn option introduces children to code computer programming through block-based coding. Kids drag and drop prewritten blocks of computer code that act as instructions for the robots to follow. For example, Sphero can be programmed to go forward three rolls, turn left, and then go back another six rolls. The challenge comes when trying to program the Spheros to complete an obstacle course with those blocks of code instead of manually driving. Each Sphero Mini can last about an hour before needing to be recharged. $49.99. Also, check out the Sphero Mini Activity Kit $79.99 Parents can find this unique toy on sphero.com
Lego: Hidden Side
In my opinion, you can never go wrong with Legos as a gift. I would spend full afternoons in my youth building and destroying my brick creations. The Lego: Hidden Side series allows this generation of brick builders the opportunity to enjoy sets in ways that we never dreamed of. Lego.com describes the series as “Hidden Side invites kids to join a fearless team of ghost hunters, who dare see the unseen and help turn a haunted world back to normal, one ghost at a time.” What makes Hidden Side stand out is the use of augmented reality (AR) technology. After kids build the set, they can use a free app on their tablet or smartphone to bring their creation to life. The app uses the camera to reveal a “Hidden Side” to the sets adding virtual ghosts to the physical lego set. Kids are then tasked with finding and catching the ghosts to save the villagers using the app. Larger sets even include boss fights that are common in video games. I recommend watching a few videos on YouTube to understand better how this all comes together. Lego: Hidden Side has over twenty sets to choose from, starting around $15.99. My personal favorite is the “Wrecked Shrimp Boats.” It’s a great set to begin with and can be enjoyed even without the AR component.
Makey Makey Invention Kit
The developers at Joylabz designed a system that lets kids use household objects to create everything from musical instruments to voting machines. The first creation the kit has you make is a piano that uses bananas as the keys. The Makey Makey invention kit has children connect alligator clips to create circuits, build sensors, and detect input. The activities are scaled based on age, and the website includes additional ideas for children to try. You will need a computer to control the magic, but no worries. Makey Makey works on Mac, PC, and Chromebooks! The Makey Makey Invention Kit, visit makeymakey.com Pair it with the book “20 Makey Makey Projects for the Evil Genius” by Aaron Graves for even more creative ideas.
Mike Daugherty is a husband, father of three young children, author, speaker, Google Innovator, and possible Starbucks addict. He is a certified educational technology leader who has served in a variety of roles through his 18-year career in public education. Currently, Mike is the director of technology for the Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School district in Northeast Ohio. His blog, More Than A Tech, offers advice and ideas for parenting in a digital world.