At the 2020 New York Toy Fair, we found playthings that S.T.E.A.M up young brains with concepts in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. So what are the top tech toys to look for in 2020? We found 10 toys that are innovative, clever and incredibly fun.
Flycatcher Smarty Jojo! and Smarty Flutter!
Pre-schoolers get an early start on S.T.E.A.M learning with Flycatcher’s Smarty JoJo! And Flutter! toys, combining physical and digital play. Motion sensors and a speaker in both toys encourage physical activity while teaching directions, shapes, colors and opposites in Spanish or English. These talking toys also open up questions about feelings that help the kids recognize their own emotions. To help teach colors, a built-in color sensor enables these playthings to identify colors when they “land” on the correct color during game play and verbally rewards kids. With more than 150 random actions and reactions, the experience is different each time a child engages. In the learning toy category, Jojo and Flutter deliver a unique and innovative set of learning experiences for young children.
Thames & Kosmos SolarBots: 8-in-1 Solar Robots Kit
Get the children out of the house and into the sun with the Thames & Kosmos SolarBots 8-in-1 Solar Robots Kit. Eight different solar powered mini-robots can be quickly built from snap-together parts. Each robot is powered by a core motor that draws power from a solar cell and customized with propelling parts to drive, walk, roll, drum or jump. A 32-page manual has assembly instructions and experiments and offers insights into much bigger applications of solar energy. We love these adorable robots and the fact that they’ll draw kids outside so they can see how sunlight can power them all day.
For ages: 8+
Price: $24.95, on sale for $14.97 on Walmart
KidKraft Alexa 2-in-1 Kitchen and Market
Well-established playset maker KidKraft is stepping into new territory, using Amazon Alexa to enliven and personalize its Alexa 2-in-1 Kitchen and Market. On one side, the free-standing playset lets junior shoppers pick out and purchase food at the market – scanning their selections on a connected pad. Then they can circle around to prepare their meal on the kitchen side. Interactive insights, fun, and games abound with the wisecracking Alexa serving as a virtual playmate when the RFID-tagged food, pots and pans are placed on smart sensors embedded in the kitchen stove or countertop, or one of the 24 recipe or game cards are placed in the scanner. (“What’s red, green and juicy?” “Watermelon, you’re right!”) Of course, you must have an Alexa device nearby and the KidKraft skill activated for this on-line Alexa interactivity. When the skill is inactive, the playset is still interactive, making sounds when you place a pot on the stove or “run” the water. This novel playset will launch with more than 700 possible responses; software updates will likely fine-tune and expand the fun over time. This high-quality playset delivers on the best of pure physical and technology-enhanced play.
For ages: 3+
Price: $299.99, check price on Amazon
Monster Jam Megalodon STORM
The all-terrain Monster Jam Megalodon STORM by Spin Master is equally at home on land and water, thanks to a monster size suspension system and custom performance tires. The R/C truck floats and paddles through water with duck-like grace, so no problem if the Megalodon STORM races into a swimming pool, pond or deep puddle. On the other side, it easily crawls out and careens about in roaring fashion on dirt, rocks, and snow, with screeching 360-degree spins and wheelies coming naturally. It’s the most fun truly amphibious play we’ve seen in an R/C vehicle.
For ages: 4+
Price: $43.99, on sale for $39.99 on Target (through 12/5/2020)
Vtech KidiZoom Creator Cam
Vtech puts easy-to-use pro-level video creating tools in the hands of kids with its KidiZoom Creator Cam. The sophisticated camera comes with a green screen which lets kids look like they’re “on location” anywhere. More than 20 special effects animated backdrops come pre-loaded on the camera. So, your fledgling video star could be communing with dinosaurs in a Jurassic park, floating with aquarium fish, delivering the forecast before a weather map or cutting a path through a haunted house. Kids can also use their own photo as the backdrop. As a camera, the KidiZoom Creator Cam has a bright 2.4-inch LCD screen that flips up for framing selfies. It takes 5MP photos and HD videos (720p) and takes a microSD storage card (maximum size of 32GB). There is no built-in WiFi or other wireless connectivity, so kids can’t shoot and share without taking a few extra steps. A screw-on, bottom-mounted grip is included, which also opens-up as a tripod for stable, hands-free operation. Battery life is about 3 hours per charge.
For ages: 5+
Price: $59.99 on VtechKids
SmartLabs Outdoor Science Lab
If you’re looking to explore the wonders of nature in your backyard, the SmartLabs Outdoor Science Lab is the best teched-out kit we’ve seen. Large, clear plastic, cup-style forceps safely pick up and move specimens to a see-through, aerated holding pen. A UV light is helpful for night-time wildlife stalking. A micro-magnifying lens is built into the holding tank’s lid to aid in studying creatures and plant life. There’s also a clip-on lens for smartphones for capturing items of interest for later study. Little ones will really get to know (and not fear) bugs, plants and dirt through the detailed insect and plant identification guides and 25 scientific activities that teaches real science as they motivate play.
For ages: 8+
Price: $39.99, check price on Amazon
Mia & Maya Mealtime Magic
Wow, how the Mia and Maya Mealtime Magic baby dolls comes alive, with a wide variety of animated facial expressions that look incredibly lifelike. The sophisticated animatronics make eye movements, chewing, and blowing “raspberries” look natural, complete with a tongue that sticks out. She’ll also let you know how she liked her lunch (or didn’t.) Color-reading technology built into Mia’s feeding “spoon” makes her react differently depending on how she’s fed from the tubs of pretend food on her tray - with 50 sequencing combinations/reactions. Mia and Maya are available in two skin tones.
For ages: 4+
Price: $59.95, check price on Amazon
Snap Circuits MyHome
In a departure from the typical flat board circuit kits, the new Snap Circuits MyHome kit helps kids explore how electricity moves through buildings and powers up stuff with three-dimensional clarity. First, construct a cute, colorful house from seven colorful base grid panels. Then populate the floors, walls, and ceiling of the structure with plug-in products – like a modular lamp and a variable speed fan. We were pleased to note there is a connected power meter that shows how using these items wisely (like running the fan on slow speed) reduces energy consumption and helps the environment.
PlayShifu Shifu Tacto
For years we’ve seen the combination of physical pieces directing tablet (or smartphone) game play. But, PlayShifu’s Tacto games bring the genre to a new level. Cradling two ends of your iOS or Android-based smart tablet, PlayShifu’s Tacto gamepad transforms that smart screen into an interactive board game. Tacto games then work with tactile figurines (included) that are placed and moved about on the screen (board) to spark the real-time feedback. Engaging animations follow and respond to each player's action. What impressed us about these multi-player gaming kits is their fostering of analytic thinking and strategic problem solving. Tacto Snakes and Ladders is close in layout to the classic Chutes and Ladders game, but adds wiggly, augmented reality excitement. With Tacto Laser, interplanetary travelers can deploy a carefully placed and pointed laser and reflective mirrors to take down a meteorite, just one of 50+ challenges on board to save the planet from doom. In Tacto Elements, players learn about the elements of the periodic table, create compounds and see how temperature chances cause dramatic chemical reactions. In Tacto Quest, fantasy-play fans explore the jungles of mythical Shifu Shazu and use special figurine dwarves to fight off evil and find their way home.
For ages: 4-12
Price: $59.99 per gaming set, check price on Amazon
Vango’s The #UpsideDown Challenge Game!
Birthday party throwers can put “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” out to pasture. Better than blindfolding participants, Vango’s The #UpsideDown Challenge Game! is a new sensory challenge game which asks players to put on special glasses fitted with prismatic lenses that literally turn their world upside down and backwards. So left is right, up is down, and gravity goes whacky as water pours in the wrong direction. On the spot, players have to re-teach their brain and hands how to see and respond. Simple tasks like connecting the dots on a page, decorating a cupcake, giving “High Fives” or pouring water from one cup to another become a major challenge and subject of much hilarity for all.
For ages: 8+
Price: $19.99, check price on Amazon
[Image credit: The Toy Association, Suzanne Kantra/Techlicious, Jonathan Takiff/Techlicious]