I hear the same question over and over again… What toys can I pick for my kids that they will actually use? Which toys have some educational value? How can I not waste my time, money and space on more toys? Fear not! Here is our top toy picks! In fact, these are what we are putting under our own tree this year. Shhhh! Don’t tell the kids!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.
Before we dive into the list, I wanted to let you know that all of these are under our tree this year. I’ve spent a lot of time researching and learning about the various products and found some winners. In some cases I have partnered with the creators of these items and they have provided me with products in exchange for my honest review and thoughts. I hope our list inspires you to find some fantastic gift ideas.
Recently I shared a list of stocking stuffer ideas for tweens. Take a peek at that list, there are many items on there that would make great presents too.
As most of you know, I also have a young film maker on my hands, so a big part of his gift pile this year is building him a film makers resource library. If you have a child that is in their tween or teen years, find out what they are passionate about and consider building them a small library on that subject.
Now… on to the toys!
TOP TOY PICKS FOR SMART KIDS
First up, I have to recommend one of our favourites… Sphero! Whenever I talk about our top toy picks, Sphero is top of the list. This year we are adding to our collection of Sphero with the new Sphero Mini. It’s about the size of a ping pong ball and has some amazing new capabilities, including being used as a game controller and a new feature called Face Drive. With Face Drive, it reads your facial expressions and uses them to control the Sphero. I see many hours of silliness in our future! Here is our current selection of Sphero. The best part is that all of the products updated recently and now we can program our BB-8 the same way we program our SPRK+. It’s giving us hours of entertainment and learning.
In the past we had a couple of these bugs. My kids loved playing with them but I never really “got” them or what they were for, other than a little electronic bug. Then I discovered Nano Space! This is the perfect combination of robotics, engineering, imaginative play and space. My youngest struggles with imaginative play but he loves space and loves robots. I think this will be the perfect gift to help inspire him and make imaginative play fun and interesting for him. NOTE: the Explorers Discovery Command (we have the Drone) is actually a construction set and doesn’t use HexBugs.
My kids have been asking for more family game nights, so this year board games have become a BIG thing. I may have gone a little crazy, but once you start looking at board games, there are so many! Board games have great learning opportunities such as strategy, math, cooperation and more. Plus they are a ton of fun and provide wonderful bonding opportunities with no technology. Not really a toy, but still a great pick every time. Here are are few of our picks.
Ravensburger Ocean Labyrinth Board GameThe Castles Of BurgundyEnchanted Forest – Children’s GameScotland Yard – Family GameSpin Master Games – Escape Room The GameCauldron QuestClassic TwisterClue Game
Anyone else enjoy the TV show Battle Bots? We watched it as a family and I thought it was a fantastic way to show the kids some creativity, ingenuity and STEM at work! The kids just liked watching the robots battle it out in the arena. Now we will have our own battles at home. I got the boys the R/C set so they can do their own battle arena show downs (and there are lots of fun educational games I plan to develop around the R/C toys), plus the Robotics Minotaur so we can engineer and build our very own Battle Bot. Since I have a young man who once dreamed of being a Robot Repairman, I figure this will be right up his alley.
Puzzles calm my kids. We sit on the floor, pull out a puzzle and crawl around chatting as we put it all together. No matter what is going on, how tough of a day we have had, if I pull out a puzzle everyone gathers around and spends time together. Puzzles are always a top toy pick in our home. Just pick the level of difficulty and theme that best appeals to your family. I like to sneak in puzzles that also have my kids learning as they study the pieces. It can be a great conversation starter.
Ravensburger -Children’s World Globe 3D Puzzle (180 pc)Buffalo Games – The Cats of Charles Wyoscki – Frederick The Literate – 750 Piece Jigsaw PuzzleMelissa & Doug Solar System Floor Puzzle (48 pcs, 2 x 3 feet)EuroGraphics Periodic Table of Elements Jigsaw Puzzle (200-Piece)
I can’t wait to bust this out! I have so many plans for using it as part of our education plans and activities. This is a tool that will really help my kids that need to move while learning. Plus, I have a child that LOVES to play ball. Throwing, catching, bouncing, this kid is always tossing balls around. Now he can engineer his very own awesome launcher! There is also the Crossfire, which launches airplanes… I can see that one coming home soon too.
We don’t have Netflix, so I admit, I had never heard of Project MC2, but once I started doing a bit of research I am tempted to get Netflix just so I can check it out! The show is an Emmy nominated original series about a team of super smart girls. And now they have a number of products for those that love science like the characters on the show. The McKeyla doll is gorgeous and has a unicorn horn (love unicorns!), and there is a STEAM project you can do with the doll that I thought looked interesting. I also snagged the perfume making kit. I love the elaborate science lab set up of this kit and can see having a lot of fun with it. There are tons of other products in the series that also look really cool.
For The Littles
My boys are past the cute play stage but that doesn’t mean we don’t have other littles in our lives that are aspiring scientists, creators, makers, engineers or robot repairmen (oh that age was sooo cute!). For them this year we snagged two awesome little STEMist gifts: a Smart Kitchen (my boys want to play with this now!) and an amazing waffle blocks train set (great for engineering, and the train actually makes steam!).
I can’t wait to rip open all the presents! Wait… I mean for the kids to open their presents. 😉