Now that it’s officially fall, the chilly days of autumn are creeping in, outdoor playtime is waning, and the push for the hottest holiday toys is starting to really heat up. Yep, nearly a full month before Halloween even. Sigh. Before the “I’ve been such a good kid this year,” even starts to go down, here’s the scoop on what to look for.
This year, the big buzz with tech toys is STEM — toys that disguise a smart spectrum of science, technology, engineering and mathematics as something’s that’s just really, really, really fun to play with. But STEM toys are not created equally, with some offering a whole lot more smart play than others. Here are a few of my favorites so far.
Legendary audio company BOSE is encouraging students of all ages to go hands-on and actually construct their very own personal Bluetooth speaker.
BOSEbuild ($149) is an all-in one kit that will keep your kids’ hands and brains busy as they explore how a speaker makes sound. They’ll be learning about frequencies, electromagnets, and electricity as they customize and create the device. Then, when they build is done, the high-performance speaker syncs with their smartphone or tablet and will keep their music playing for a long, long time. 8+
I love this one because my brother used to take every single thing that made a noise — from our transistor radio, 8-track tape deck, and record player — apart down to the very last screw and wire, then try to put it back together again and make it sound better. It never worked. This toy would have been magical for him. (And the rest of our family.)
The WowWee Lumi Gaming Drone solves a different problem (that I have as an adult) and it’s a pain point for many modern kids too. Toy drones are awesome, but man they crash a lot.
The Lumi ($79) is a full-featured quadcopter designed to take off with a touch of a connected app, then automatically avoid obstacles — like running into walls, or people — all by itself. Pair it with the included beacon in the “Follow-Me” mode and Lumi follows its pilot’s every move.
When your kids want to really explore their creativity — and this is where the STEM part sneaks in — they can customize Lumi’s movements with the app. With the principles of basic coding, they can create a color-changing pattern with the Lumi’s lights, and program their very own drone air show using a simple drag-and-drop system within the app. With this toy, the sky’s the limit. Really. 8+
Disney Art Academy
I know there’s no “A” in STEM, but a whole lot of people are talking about “STEAM” these days too, with the arts being right up with ways we want to engage more with kids. Everyone knows that kids love Nintendo and Disney, so a combination of the two is pretty much a guaranteed hit.