By age 8, kids are spending a LOT of their leisure time in front of screens, and while we’re not in any way the sort of folks who condemn letting kids watch TV or play with iPads, there’s one big reason why this makes us sad: toys for older kids are SO FREAKING COOL! There’s nothing you can do on a computer that offers the same satisfaction as building your own robot, designing your own jewelry, or flying your own personal mini-drone.
So along with the apps and gadgets they’re craving, make sure you throw in some real toys with the rest of their birthday gifts. They’ll be glad that you did… and they’ll probably learn something, too!
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math)
The Totally Irresponsible Science Kit, $22.95
Follow these easy recipes using items you have in your home to create some very amusing sights, sounds, and smells! From Home-Made Lightning to a Giant Air Cannon, kids will love the mischievous feel of these scientific experiments, and they’ll be picking up scientific concepts in the most effective way possible: through highly memorable hands-on learning.
Geosafari Micropro Microscope, $44.99
This microscope for kids is the real deal, magnifying items up to 600x, with a built-in light, rack, and pinion to create bright, clear images. The set includes professionally prepared slides, and tools and instructions to help kids create their own custom slides.
Hexbug Vex Robotics Construction Set – Spider Robot, $79.99
Build your own creepy crawly critter! Snap together the 350 pieces to build the Spider Robot, and then explore 64 customizable programming variations to explore how your ‘bot behaves.
LittleBits Electronics Premium Kit, $149.00
Now this is a super deluxe birthday gift: kick up robot-building a notch by using these click-together modules as the brain and motor for infinite new inventions! This super-deluxe kit comes with servos, vibration motors, a fan, a pressure sensor, and more, plus a booklet of 10 projects to try (and you can find hundreds of other projects online).
ARTS & CRAFTS
Fashion Angels Watercolor Illustration Portfolio Set, $12.99
One of the many great things about reaching your tweens is being able to create and show off some really gorgeous art, and your tween will love customizing these metallic posters and hanging them up in her room.
Loopdedoo Craft-Tastic 3D String Art, $19.99
Push the pins into the included foam canvases, and then loop to your heart’s content! Kids can use the pre-printed patterns or create their own groovy 3D designs.
Klutz Make Your Own Clay Charms Kit, $21.99
Choose a friendly character out of this book, and then follow the step-by-step instructions to build your little pal with polymer clay. Then, bake it (or ask Mom to do it), and show off your finished creations on the included charm bracelet!
i-Loom Friendship Bracelet Starter Pack, $39.99
This kit harnesses the power of the iPad to enable kids to make extraordinarily intricate bracelets to wear and share! They can learn techniques and explore an online library of i-Patterns, or even improvise and share their own.
LEGO Star Wars Constractions: Finn and Kylo Ren, $34.99 each
These innovative LEGO kits let kids build posable, articulated action figures of their favorite characters from the latest Star Wars movie!
Khet 2.0 Laser Game, $39.99
For overall “wow” factor in a toy, there’s no beating laser beams! And this innovative game, which we’ve been fans of for many years now , harnesses all that “wow” into a challenging strategy game that works a bit like chess. It’s fun just to fiddle with, and becomes even more fun when you start to understand and utilize strategies. It’s just FUN, period. Pew pew!
Litehawk High Roller Drone with Cage, $89.99
Another super-deluxe birthday gift: this drone can roll on the wall and on the ceiling, and it lights up, for nighttime high-flying adventures. The cool factor needs no further explanation. (Mom and Dad will want to play with it too.)