Kids are spoiled for tech these days. Phones, tablets and game consoles are all things they’ve grown up with, making traditional toys seem somewhat staid. To compete, toy makers have been integrating more and more tech into their products over the past few years, like augmented reality and Bluetooth. And some of these make us adults down right jealous with how cool they are. We’ve sorted through some of our favorites to highlight the ones that will keep your children busy and maybe even get you sneaking in some time with them after the kids have gone to bed.
For the style-savvy child
Skyrocket Pixel Stars Dreamhouse
The appeal of Polly Pocket is simple: a dollhouse you can hold in the palm of your hand. In practice, however, it can be a real pain, thanks to all the small bits that are easy to misplace. The Pixel Stars Dreamhouse makes everything digital so you don’t have to worry about your kids losing pieces, and they can do things like shop for new virtual furniture, adopt a pet and even have a career. Plus, it not only fits into your child’s hand, but it can also be clipped onto a bookbag as a cute accessory when they’re not playing with it.
Barbie Astrophysicist Doll
Barbie’s had a lot of jobs over the course of her 60-plus-year history, but here at Engadget it’s always going to be the more science- and tech-related editions that catch our eye. And this National Geographic co-branded doll certainly fits the bill, outfitting Barbie in a stylish nebula-pattern dress and equipping her with a large, professional-looking (though non-functional) telescope. Kids can play-act their favorite astronomical discoveries, while knowing they can look cool doing it too.
For kids who love cute and cuddly
Tamagotchi On - Wonder Garden
You might have fond memories of feeding and cleaning up after your original Tamagotchi, but today’s kids might find that simple gameplay a bit dated. Tamagotchi On is a well-considered update to the storied virtual pet, keeping the core elements but packing in lots of mini games, places to visit and items to buy. It’s also a lot more social, thanks to infrared and Bluetooth connectivity that allows Tama pets to visit each other and maybe even mate for multiple generations of adorable virtual creatures.
Star Wars The Child Animatronic Edition
The Child, aka “Baby Yoda,” was the talk of the internet a year ago. Now, you can bring one home to your family that cries, coos and blinks just like the one on The Mandalorian. Sure, it can’t control the Force and won’t eat your pet frog, but you don’t have to double cross Werner Hertzog to get one either. Your kids will enjoy interacting with it, and it’ll also be perfect for the next time they decide to cosplay as “Mando” (instead of dressing up their younger sibling or dog).
The original Pomsies were cute and cuddly, but the Lumies take things up a notch by adding in color and lighting that adapt to the world around them. Each Lumie has a color sensor that can “read” different shades, with the fuzzy creature changing to that color. It also comes with built-in games that ask kids to locate certain colors out in the world so it can “feed on” and make music with them. Kids can experiment with different beats and colors for their own mini dance party, and then wind down by brushing its long hair and soft fur.
Laugh & Learn Babble & Wobble Hub
Babies are growing up in a world full of smart assistants, and they’re used to talking to them to get what they want. But they aren’t always successful — remember that little girl trying (unsuccessfully) to get Alexa to play ‘Baby Shark?’ The Laugh & Learn Babble & Wobble Hub is a toy designed to emulate all the smart speakers you might have around your home, but this one won’t play their favorite songs. Instead, it’s designed to respond to your child’s babbles and coos, with buttons that will also play some music and sounds to help them learn. It’s a “smart” assistant that’s more on their level.
LEGO Adventures with Mario Starter Course
After spending all day with online learning and Zoom courses, it’s probably safe to say that your kids are just as sick of screen time as the rest of us. Their little hands could use something to do too, and LEGO is always great for that. The new Mario sets basically take the core platforming gameplay of the video game series and translate it into a physical Mushroom Kingdom that your child builds themselves and guides the little Mario figurine through, along with all the appropriate sound effects so they still hear the deep satisfying crush when they knock blocks with his head.
LEGO Super Mario Nintendo System
When you need a big project for the entire family but can’t quite tear them away from video games entirely, how about this physical recreation of one of the most famous games of all time? This massive LEGO set not only has the kids building charming replicas of an original NES along with an old CRT television to play it on, but they’ll also have to build the first Super Mario Bros. game on the screen, along with working parts that turn it into a real side-scroller, down to a little Mario that jumps up and down to traverse obstacles. It’s a delight to look at, and will give your kids a real sense of accomplishment when they’re finished.
BRIO Builder Motor set
BRIO train sets are certainly a classic toy for small children, but they’re also something your kids will eventually outgrow. The Builder Motor Set aims slightly older, taking the brand’s signature chunky wood blocks and adding in colorful plastic and a few motorized parts so they can create real working vehicles. The large bits are easy to put together without any tools, making this perfect for getting your child started in STEM early, without them feeling like they’re being forced to learn.
For kids who like action
Hot Wheels Cybertruck
Your dreams of owning one of Tesla’s rugged apocalypse-ready vehicles will probably remain just fantasies, but your kids can get a little closer with one of these 1/64th scale remote control replicas. No, it probably won’t survive an encounter with a sledgehammer, but it can go up to 500 mph at scale speeds and go around loops on any standard orange Hot Wheels tracks you might have set up at home. The best part is that it will only cost you $20, a far cry from the tens of thousands the real thing will take from your wallet.
Spin Master Ninja Bots
Robots don’t have to be intimidating, despite the constant talk around things like automation and the job market, or the importance of STEM education. Robots can be exciting, silly and fun. And Spin Master’s Ninja Bots definitely tick all three of those boxes, with these adorable little guys making all sorts of funny noises as they utterly wail on each other in battle. The bots come in a set of two so they’re ready to go right out of the box. Plus, kids can outfit them with different crazy weapons and, the more the robots battle, the more they’ll level up, setting the stage for even crazier battles to come.
PowerUp 4.0 Paper Plane Kit
Paper airplanes are one of those timeless pastimes that will never really die, but from time to time it’s fun to embellish them a little, and PowerUp’s tiny engines are the ultimate embellishments. Not only will your craft fly faster and farther, but now your child can fly circles, proper air races and even dog fights. The new 4.0 version is powerful enough to handle balsa wood, cardboard and foam in addition to paper, and the on-board flight computer incorporates a gyroscope and accelerometer to allow for autopilot and even flight telemetry.