The ultimate guide to gifting STEM toys: tons of ideas for little builders

The holiday season is back, touting all kinds of children's toys that are committed to putting "smart STEMs" in their boxes, not just the usual battery-based entertainment.

Educational toys are obviously not new. But in recent years, many manufacturers and many newcomers to the market have grafted on the popularity of smartphones and apps, building connected toys even for very young children seeking to exploit a wider movement of code learning who feeds worries about the future employability of those who lack technology skills.

It remains to be seen whether the high educational claims for some of these STEM gadgets hold up. Much of this comes down to a smart brand strategy. While there is definitely a lot of care and attention to creating this category, you will also find eye-catching price tags.

No matter which STEM toy you buy, there is a good chance it will not survive the unstable attention span of children at rest and play. (Even though the appetite for your kids to be schooled while having fun may cause the expectations of your "engineer in training" to drop.) Destroying awesome YouTube eyes or mobile games could be your main parental challenge – and if kids really have to start learning to code barely 4 or 5 years old seems debatable.

Buyers who are very hopeful about STEM toys should definitely have their eyes wide open, rather than their wallet. The "STEM bonus" can be steep, even though the abilities and educational potential of the toys themselves vary considerably.

On the cheaper side, a "development toy" may not be so different from a more traditional toy or block-type toy used in conjunction with a child's own imagination. for example.

Although at the premium level, there are some devices on the market that are essentially full-fledged computers – but with a child-friendly layer applied to STEM learning. Another investment in your child's future might be to commit to improving your learning opportunities yourself by using the computer devices you already have at home. (There are many self-employed applications offering guided coding lessons for example, and tons and tons of open source resources. )

For a little inspiration for the DIY acquisition in STEM read this wonderful memoir for childhood by John Biggs, TechCrunch's own – a skeptic about STEM toys.

It is also interesting to note that some startups in this still young category have already more focused on selling items directly to schools – in order to incorporate the gadgets of Learning in the official program, rather than risk losing their toys at home. This gives weight to the idea that standalone toys "play to learn" do not necessarily respond to hype. And we shake under the sofa after a few days of use.

We certainly do not suggest that there are shortcuts to turning children into coders into the gift ideas presented here. It is through the proper guidance – and the power of their imagination – that the vast majority of children learn. And of course, children are individuals, with their own ideas about what they want to do and become.

The increasingly commercialized rush to STEM toys, with hundreds of millions of dollars of investors paid into the category, could also be a cause for caution for parents. There is a risk that barriers to freer learning will be lifted – as companies strive to capture children's attention in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Obstacles that could end up curbing creative thinking.

At the same time, consumers (adults) are worried about the time they spend online and on screens. So pushing children to be connected at an early age may not seem like the right thing to do. Your parenting priorities may be more focused on becoming well-trained human beings – playing with other children and / or using non-digital toys that will help them to better know and understand the world that makes them. surround and encourage the use of their own children. imagination.

But for those who are determined to buy in the craze for STEM toys this holiday season, we have compiled a list of some of the major players, presented in alphabetical order, rounding out a selection of what's in! They offer a variety of prices, product types and ages for 2018 to present a glimpse of the market – and in the hope that a good gift might at least spark some brilliant ideas …

Kits of Adafruit

Product: Metro 328 Starter Pack
Price: $ 45
Description: This is the only one of its kind. is not a typical STEM toy but a starter kit from the amateur brand and electronics manufacturer Adafruit . The kit is intended to allow the user to become familiar with the Arduino electronics and microcontrollers in order to steer them on the way of manufacturing. Adafruit explains that the kit is designed for "everyone, even people with little or no experience in electronics and programming". Although parental supervision is essential unless you buy for a teenager or an older child. Access to the computer is also required to program the Arduino.

Do not forget to check out Adafruit's Young Engineers category for a wider range of gift ideas for hardware piracy, starting at $ 10 for a naked driver conductive paint pen at $ 25 for the ] Drawdio fun pack at $ 35 for this kit Konstruktor DIY Camera Camera or $ 75 for the kit Snap Circuits Green – where future manufacturers can learn about renewable energy sources by building a range of solar and kinetic energy projects. Adafruit also sells a selection of STEM-based children's books, such as Python for Kids ($ 35)
Age: Teenagers or younger children under the supervision of their parents



Product: The Cozmo
Price: $ 180
Product description: The animation loving ] last year's team, called Cozmo Code Lab, was added to its desktop mapping program, delivered via a free update, so that the truck Cartoonesque and programmable is not new in 2018 but has acquired new powers over the years.

This year, the company turned to adults by launching a new robot similar to the assistant's look, called Vector that does not really target children. This more expensive robot ($ 250) should access its code lab in the future, so it should also have a DIY programming potential.
Age: Ages 8 and up

Dash Robotics

Product: Robot of the Jurigical World Kamigami
Price: ~ 60 $
Description: Getting Started Dash Robotics collaborates with toy maker Mattel on the Kamigami range of biologically inspired robots for over a year. USB loaded robots arrive at children in a form to be built before starting a programmable biomimetic life via the use of a simple, icon-based coding interface in the associated application.

The latest addition to the range is the Jurassic World series, a series of dinosaurs belonging to the group of dinosaurs. It is currently composed of two dinosaurs of similar appearance, each with bright eyes and appropriate sound effects. By using the app, kids can take on challenges to unlock new abilities and sounds. And if you have several dinosaurs in the same house, they can react to each other to make things even more alive.
Age: Ages 8 and up


Product: Harry Potter Coding Kit
Price: $ 100
Description: British of the 19th century. Code Learning The start-up Kano has expanded its product line this year with a co-branded, self-built baton, linked to the fictional series of Harry Potter. The motion-sensitive electronic product includes a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a magnetometer and a Bluetooth wireless connection so kids can use it to interact with on-screen coding content. The company offers more than 70 challenges to kids to play with, using wand gestures to manipulate digital content. Like many STEM toys, it requires a tablet or desktop computer to work like digital magic (iOS and Android tablets are supported, as well as desktop computers including Kano's Computer Kit Touch, below).
Age: 6+

Product: Tactile Computer Kit
Price: $ 280
Description: The latest version of the Kano children's computer built by yourself and designed by Pi. This year's computer kit includes the familiar bright orange physical keyboard, but is now associated with a touch screen . Kano considers that touch is a natural aid to block code learning systems, which must be put in place by drag-and-drop, and put under the finger of children. Although its KanoOS Pi skin also supports text encoding and can run a large number of other applications and programs, this STEM device is thus a full-fledged computer.
Age: 6-13



Product: Boost Creative Toolbox
Price: $ 160
Description : Boost Lego relatively recently embodies an incursion into the provision of a simpler programming and robotics system for younger children, as opposed to its more sophisticated and costly creative platform ] Mindstorms (for ages 10 and up). The Boost Creative Toolbox is an entry point into Lego + robotics, allowing kids to create a range of different brick-based bots – all of which can be controlled and programmed through the associated application that offers a system coding based on icons.

Boost components can also be combined with other Lego kits to give life to other non-electronic kits – such as his kit Stormbringer Ninjago Dragon (sold separately at $ 40 ). Ninjago + Boost means = a dragon who can walk and turn his head as he was about to spit fire
Age: 7 to 12 years old


Product: Inventor Kit of the Hero of the Avengers
Price: 150 $
Description: ] This wearable Disney common brand kit, littleBits hackers allow kids inspired by superheroes to gather all kinds of electronic and plastic components to create their own glove from the Avengers film franchise. The gizmo has a matrix LED panel, based on Tony Stark's Repulsor Beam, which they can control via an associated application. They have 18 in-app activities to explore, assuming kids do not just use their amusements while playing their Marvel superheroes fantasies
Age: 8+

It's interesting that littleBits has a lot more to offer. Therefore, if you really do not want to buy even more Disney branded products in your home, take a look at its wide range of DIY electronics kits, which cater to different prices, like this one A kit of creepy creature ($ 40) or an an electronic music inventor kit ($ 100), and much more … No big movie franchise needed


Product: Codey Rocky
Price: $ 100
Description: STEM kit manufacturer based in Shenzhen ] Makeblock crowdfunded funded this programmable and emotional bot for the youngest children of Kickstarter. No assembly is required, although the bot itself can turn into a portable or portable device for the game, as Codey (the head) detaches from Rocky (the wheeled body).

Despite its young age, the toy is full of sophisticated technologies that use deep learning algorithms, for example. The company's visual programming system, mBlock, also supports Python text encoding and allows children to encode the movements and visual effects of robots, using the 10 programmable modules of this sensor-laden robot. Makeblock says kids can program Codey to create raster animations, games, and even artificial intelligence and IoT apps, with support for recognizing voice, images, and even faces … The bot has also designed to be compatible with Lego bricks. can also design and build physical extensions
Age: 6 years old and over

Product: Airblock
Price: $ 100
Description: Another programmable gizmo of the Makeblock range . Airblock is a modular and programmable UAV / hovercraft. It is therefore a STEM device capable of flying. Magnetic connectors are used for easy assembly of flexible foam parts. Several different assembly configurations are possible. The block coding interface of the associated application allows you to program and control your Airblock creations
Age: Ages 8 and up



Product: Evo
Price: $ 100
Description: This programmable robot has a twist as it can be controlled without a child being forced to stay stuck to a screen. The Evo detection system can detect markings and stickers in the experience pack provided and respond to them, so it's a paper code and visual cues.

There is also a block-based digital coding interface for controlling Evo, called OzoBlockly (based on the Google Blockly system). This includes a five-level coding system that supports different ages, ranging from pre-readers (using only icon-based blocks) to a "master mode" which, according to Ozobot, includes a extensive control and advanced programming features
Age: 9 years old and up


Product: Modular laptop computer
Price: $ 320 (with a B + model of Raspberry Pi 3), $ 285 without ]
Description: This superb 14 – inch modular laptop, powered by Raspberry Pi, is specially designed for teaching coding and electronics. Slide the keyboard of the laptop forward to reveal an integrated rail for hardware piracy. Guided projects designed for kids include building a music creator and a smart robot. The laptop uses the operating system focused on learning the pi-top code – which supports block coding programs such as Scratch and products compatible with children like Minecraft Pi edition, as well as his homebrew CEEDUniverse : A civilization-style game that uses visual programming puzzles to teach the basic concepts of coding. The pi-top also comes with a complete software suite of more standard computer applications (including Google and Microsoft applications). So, this is not a simple toy. Not a new model for this year – but still a convincing STEM machine
Age: 8 years old and over

Robo Wunderkind

Product: Starter Kit
Price: 200 $
Description: Blocks of Programmable robotics for even very young inventors. The blocks nest and are color coded according to their function to minimize the instructions for the target age group. Children can program their creations to do things like driving, playing music, detecting obstacles, and so on. via a drag-and-drop coding interface in the Robo Code companion application. Another application, Robo Live, allows them to control what they have built in real time. Physical blocks can also support Lego-based extensions for more imaginative designs
Age: 5 years and over

Root Robotics

Product: Racine
Price: 200 $
Description: A robot that can detect and draw, thanks to a variety of embedded sensors, battery-powered kinetic energy and its central feature: an integrated pen holder. Root uses spirographs for teaching STEM, allowing kids to code what the bot draws. They can also create musical compositions with a scanning and playback mode that turns Root into a music creator. The associated application offers three levels of coding interface to support different learning abilities and different ages. At the top, it supports programming in Swift (with Python and JavaScript as coming soon). Optional subscription service provides access to additional educational materials and projects to increase the educational value of Root
Age: 4 years old and over



Product: Lock
Price: 150 $
Description: The robot ball activated by the latest gizmo STEM application from the manufacturer. It is still a transparent sphere, but an 8 × 8 LED matrix is ​​now housed inside to develop the programmable elements. This colorful matrix can be programmed to display words, display real-time data, and provide game design possibilities. Bolt also includes an ambient light sensor and speed and direction sensors, giving it extra power over previous models. The companion Sphero Edu app supports drawing, block-based JavaScript and Scratch-style text programming options to accommodate different ages.
Age: Ages 8 and up

Technology will save us

Product: Range of Coding, Electronic and Craft Kits
Price: From ~ $ 30 to $ 150
] Description: A delightful range of electronic toys and coding kits, reaching different prices depending on age and price, and often using traditional DIY materials (that kids love of course) ). Examples include a solar-powered moisture sensor kit ($ 40) to alert when a potted plant needs water; electronic paste ($ 35); an additional kit micro: bot ($ 35) using the device BBC micro: bit (sold separately); and the creative coding kit ($ 70), which combines block-based coding with a portable tool that allows children to see their code in action (and respond to their actions)
Age: 4 years and over, 8+, 11+ according to the kit

UBTech Robotics

Product: JIMU Robot BuilderBots Series: Overdrive Kit
Price: $ 120
Detailed Description: Codable robot trucks even easier to assemble, that children can build and control. These can be programmed via docking and recording, or using Ubtech's Blockly Block Coding program. The company based in Shenzhen, active in the game STEM for several years, offers a range other kits in the same series of kits Jimu – like this one at similar price UnicornBot and his classics MeeBot Kit extendable through the most recent Complementary kit for animals
Age: 8+

Wonder Workshop

Product: Kit for creating points
Price: 80 $
Description: Based on the city from San Francisco Wonder Workshop features a child-friendly mix of controllable robotics and hand-crafted DIY projects in this entry-level kit of creativity. The youngest can play and customize the chatty connected device. But the start-up sells a trio of talkative robots all aimed at encouraging children to embark on coding. In the following line, there is Dash ($ 150), also for ages 6 and up. Then Cue ($ 200) for 11 years and over. The startup also offers a growing line of accessories to expand the (programmable) functionality of robots – like this Sketch Kit ($ 40) that adds some arty tricks to Dash or Cue.

With Dot, young children are having fun using a suite of creative applications to control and customize their robot and to leverage its capabilities, applications supporting a range of projects and applications. puzzles designed to both entertain and introduce basic coding concepts.
Age: 6 years old and over


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