Playtime for your tyke is always about fun, but it can be a great opportunity for learning, too.
And thanks to some high-tech, app-enabled educational toys, junior can have the best of both worlds. From electronic blocks that have lights, sounds, and motors to Play-Doh that comes to life, these are today’s toys 2.0. You may even be able to avoid the famous “summer slide” with these.
This little guy is as cute as he is smart. Programmed with hundreds of classic stories, songs and lessons, Codi is built with artificial intelligence, which means he grows with your child and learns from her usage patterns to deliver satisfying subject matter. The accompanying app lets parents help curate content so you can give a lesson, leave a voice message and find out what your child is interested in. He responds to simple voice commands, like “tell me a joke,” and gives your child daily facts to keep him learning. Thanks to his lovable personality and huggable silicone build, Codi is a guaranteed bff. Recommended for children ages 12 months and older.
Codi is available for $100.
At first glance, Sphero Bolt looks like a see-through ball with a built-in matrix—which it is, but that’s just the beginning. Engineered by a robotics company, this orb is programmable and works with the SpheroEDU app, which teaches users coding. Kids can create their own games, partake in educational activities or simply “drive” the device using the app-enabled controls while monitoring its speed and direction. Infrared communication within means your robot can chat with other BOLTs. It may be small, but this ball packs some big-time intelligence. Best for ages 8 and up.
Sphero Bolt is available for $150.
Play-Doh Touch Shape to Life Studio
It’s one thing to roll and mold and watch a lump of clay take shape. But Play-Doh Touch Shape to Life Studio takes those creations to another dimension by bringing them to life. Download the Play-Doh Touch app and scan your child’s handiwork with your smartphone, and suddenly, that snake or snowman will move and talk on your screen. You can even scan non-Play-Doh objects to be part of your new character’s background. The more clay creations you scan, they more they’ll interact with each other. And once your child is finished, even if he decides to roll away his new friends, you can still save them on the app to come out and play another day. Best for ages 3 and up.
The Play-Doh Touch Shape to Life Studio is available for $25.
Mattel View Master
Seeing is believing when you look through the magical Mattel View Master. This is not the simple slideshow of your youth. The next generation device is a for-kids virtual reality system that pairs with your smartphone through iOS or Android. There’s a multitude of apps to download that will launch your child into adventures where she can solve puzzles, watch history come alive or observe animals in their habitats. The scenarios and opportunities to learn by experience in a virtual world are endless. The View Master comes with a starter pack that includes a few reels and accompanying apps, but you can buy more reel packs as you wish.
The Mattel View Master is available for $30.
Makeblock Neuron Explorer Kit
Kids can become little inventors with the Makeblock Neuron Explorer Kit—along with a bit of creativity. These programmable electronic blocks also have sensors, lights, sounds and motors to make almost anything animate. The accompanying app teaches kids coding so they can build and program creations straight from their imagination. The kit also helps them develop basic logical thinking skills. Download the Swift Playgrounds app on iPad and subscribe to Neuron for more than 30 lessons and activities. Best for kids ages 6 and up.
The Makeblock Neuron Explorer Kit is available for $200.
Kids will get revved up about the Anki Overdrive as they race cars driven by artificial intelligence. They build the track (there are eight different shapes) and the cars will figure out how to drive it. The vehicles are controlled by your smart device and are compatible with iOS or Android. They can race friends or A.I.-driven foes. There are more than 25 different personalities that figure out your next moves. In this fast-paced game, kids learn strategy and critical thinking skills. Best for ages 8 and up.
Anki Overdrive is available for $150.
The ONE Smart Piano Light Keyboard
With The One Smart Piano Light Keyboard, your child can become a music maestro in no time. Connect the keyboard to your phone or tablet, download The ONE Smart Piano app and start playing. The keys light up to show you where to place your hands while an instructor appears on the screen to give you pointers. There are over 4,000 pieces of music to choose from, as well as videos and games. While there are built-in speakers, your child can also practice in silent mode by plugging in headphones. Adults will have fun, too.
The ION Audio Piano Apprentice is available for $300.