Choosing a great smart toy for your child is by no means difficult. Even so, choosing the right toy from a vast sea of Smart Toys and Robotics does require some consideration. After all, smart toys are designed by manufacturers with specific (and different) age and grade levels in mind, as well as all different areas of interest for kids—everything from arts and creative pursuits to the major STEM fields. What’s more, parents might want something that targets a specific subject area of strength or weakness for their child. In today’s blog I’ll explore some of these ideas, suggest a few of my favourite smart toys, and try to help you figure out what might make an ideal choice to give to your child this holiday season. Read on!
Choosing by Age Range/School Grade Level
Possibly the most obvious way to choose an appropriate smart toy for your child is by adhering to the manufacturer’s recommended age range. This is certainly not a bad idea—after all, who better to tell you the target audience for a toy than its designer and ultimate creator?
Many smart toys are designed for kids of preschool age, and the Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-A-Pillar is no exception. This cool caterpillar is designed to help kids ages 3-8 to learn the basic principles of computer coding—a useful subject to know about in today’s high tech world!
The way that it works is that each of the caterpillar’s 9 segments has a different command code element on it, such as go forward, turn right, etc., and kids can arrange the segments in whatever order they wish to get their Code-A-Pillar to perform different (and specific) actions. It’s really fun, and it teaches kids the basics of computer coding and algorithm building as they play.
If your child doesn’t fall into the 3-8 year age window, fear not! Best Buy has smart toys for kids of all ages and grade levels, and the recommended range is typically given on the toy’s product page for your convenience. Simply take a look at a few of the current offerings to see which ones are suitable for your child.
Your Child’s Interests
When kids ask for a specific toy by name, you know you’re getting them something based on their own emerging interests. This is a great way to choose your child’s next STEM or smart toy, because there’s a far greater chance that they’ll give the toy ongoing use if it’s something that really interests them.
For instance, some kids are really into computers from a very early age. If they’re aware of its existence, such kids might ask for something like the Kano Complete Computer Kit with Screen, which allows them to become the engineer and build their very own first computer. The kit comes with everything your child will need to build a working computer, including a screen, keyboard, battery, and the computer’s brain. Once they’ve got it all put together, the Kano Computer will then help them to learn to code. Very cool!
Aptitudes and Abilities
Another consideration when trying to choose an ideal smart toy for your child is their individual aptitudes and abilities according to your own observations, as well as those of their teachers. For example, maybe your child has demonstrated a particular aptitude for math. If they are strong in this subject, you might want to get them something that specifically promotes and encourages growth in math to further strengthen their knowledge and help them to build a strong foundation going forward.
Many of today’s top smart toys have at least some focus on math. For instance, the OSMO Genius Kit is an interactive gaming bundle that includes a game called Numbers that is specifically designed to help kids ranging in age/skill level from 5-12 years old to learn the basics of numbers, counting, and simple math. The Genius Kit also has games related to spelling (Words), visual thinking and puzzle solving (Tangram), understanding science and gravity (Newton), and creative drawing (Masterpiece). Whatever your child’s area of interest, strength, weakness, or otherwise, the OSMO Genius Kit surely has something to help!
Weaknesses/Subject Areas that Need Work
Most kids are strong in some subject areas and weaker in others. When I was in school, math was not my thing! Then again, school was not my thing! If you find your child needing help in one particular area of learning, such as learning to read, you can always choose a smart toy for them that helps in that particular area.
For instance, though not a traditional smart toy, the LeapFrog TAG Reading System helps kids with reading comprehension, vocabulary, and phonics by reading along with them as they move the TAG pointer over the page. There are 40 books (sold separately) that you can get featuring classic stories that kids will love to read over and over again (the device holds 10 at a time). As they move the pointer along, they will hear the words being read audibly and begin to recognize, understand, and learn them. It’s a very clever system that’s sure to have kids reading by themselves in no time!
Similarly, if you’d like your child to develop a stronger interest in music, the Sphero Specdrums Ring is a fun way to make unique and original music through colours that just came out this year. It’s guaranteed to either delight or drive you crazy, if not both!
Toys that are Just Plain Fun!
Some toys are more fun than others, and one of the best I have found in my time as a toy reviewer here on the Best Buy blog is the Botzees Coding & AR Robotics Kit. And I should know! When I reviewed this toy just a few weeks ago, I took the time to test out all 6 of its official build modes (to see what each could do and what makes this toy so appealing). And it certainly is that!
Kids can build a walrus or seal (as shown above), a dog, a monkey, a truck with driver, an alligator (or possibly crocodile), and a standard little cutsie robot. Each of these builds takes just minutes to complete and performs its own unique function/movement (for instance, the monkey plays the drums).
There are also alternate reality games included that can be played via the Botzees AR App, or kids can simply use the app to make the different characters do their own particular thing. This set is fun, educational, and full of creativity (as kids can also build their own original designs in addition to the official builds). Of course, there are plenty of other Smart Toys that are also great fun, but I’ll let you and your child be the judge of which ones are the very best. Have fun and happy holidays!