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The best birthday gifts of 2017: happy eighth birthday!

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)

Science x Smartscope – Smartphone Microscope, $44.99
Use your smart phone or tablet to explore the amazing world of microscopics with Smartscope! Magnify your own finds, including water, sand, feathers, leaves, insects, and more, or study the objects on the included poster and follow along in the manual for fun facts about each. With a removable light source and sliding object tray with two levels of magnification, you’ll be able to scope out all kinds of objects in minute detail.

Snap Circuits 3D Illumination, $59.99
Build a wall projector, a three wall house, a light show, a light tunnel, a burglar alarm, and more!  With Snap Circuits, it’s easy to connect the circuits, resistors, and capacitors to make the electronics perform different tasks.

Thinkfun – Gravity Maze Falling Marble Game, $29.99
The ThinkFun Gravity Maze game challenges little smarties to engineer sixty mini marble mazes, testing their visual perception, reasoning skills, and logic to guide a marble from the top of the tallest tower to a red target column. Each challenge card tells players how to lay out a few of the towers, and then leaves kids to figure out the rest. Gravity Maze is a single-player puzzle challenge that few kids could resist – after all, you get to try out a new marble maze every time!  

LittleBits Electronics Base Kit, $99.99
Getting started with electronics has never been easier. The Base Kit is perfect for kids and younger makers to begin inventing with electronics in seconds. Bits snap together with magnets, so it’s impossible to make a mistake. Your kids [and you!] can learn the basics of electronics, explore STEAM/STEM principles, form the foundations of critical thinking, or just have fun with blinking, buzzing creations. No soldering, wiring or programming required.

ARTS & CRAFTS

Paint your own Flowerpots, $24.99
Just paint and bake! This is one-of-a-kind art that’s both fun and functional. Paint three high-quality porcelain flower pots and tray in any style—you’re the artist. Full color instructions show you how to create the artistic effect you want including color mixing, brushing, sponging and more!

Grow n’ Glow Terrarium, 14.99
Kids will love creating their own tiny garden, and they’ll also love the sense of achievement they get when their little plants grow and thrive! Decorating the mini-landscape is also great fun, and the decorations encourage kids to imagine what sorts of magical inhabitants might be living in their tiny habitat. The plants can also be moved into a larger pot or outside to keep them growing!

Klutz – Sew Mini Treats, $21.99
Make your own felt food with fabulous faces! This package contains one book with over eighteen designs, three paper pattern pages, twelve sheets of acrylic felt, 32 yards of cotton floss in eight colors, thirty pre-cut acrylic felt eyes and cheeks, two embroidery needles and 1oz of polyfill stuffing. Softcover, 48 pages.

The Original Spirograph Design Set in Tin, $19.99
This authentic reboot of the classic drawing toy for kids works exactly the same as the original, with one new innovation: Spiro-Putty! Instead of using pins, Spiro-Putty holds everything in place so there are no holes in the paper. An included 12-page design guide tells kids how to get started creating Spirograph art, and from there, it’s easy to make intricate and lovely concentric designs – and it’s a great way to keep kids occupied for hours.

COOL GADGETS

Star Wars Death Star Perplexus, $42.99
Star Wars Death Star Perplexus brings a-maze-ing lights and sounds to the award-winning range of Perplexus 3-D games! In this Star Wars Edition, you can use Rebel Alliance Squadron tactics to navigate the X-wing Starfighter through the Death Star’s treacherous tunnels and precarious pathways. Its unique shape maximizes visibility as you twist, turn and maneuver through the challenging maze mission. Master the maze and destroy the Death Star!

Play Monster – Chrono Bomb! Game, $34.99
Chrono Bomb encourages creative, strategic thinking and is a great game to get kids moving and having fun.

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