Like most parents, I have a love-hate relationship with technology. On one hand, it allows us to organize work, home and family while keeping several balls up in the air; it helps us gather information more quickly and provides us with hours and hours of entertainment. On the flip side, technology can consume us, send us down that online rabbit hole and lead us away from living in the moment. Unfortunately, it’s having the same affect on our children. Here are some of my favorite toys that embrace the basics of play. They encourage imaginative role-play, foster creativity and develop critical thinking skills while engaging kids and keeping them present -- sans screens.
Ages 6 and up This building kit is a perfect introduction to the world of Lux Blox. The one-of-a-kind patented pieces allow you to build anything your imagination can dream up. The durable building block pieces connect on all 4 sides allowing for more flexible builds, creating toys where any part can move. The kit comes with 120 pieces to construct a racecar and airplane. Instructions are very well laid out and the pieces are durable and easy to connect.
Ages 1 ½ to 4 years This colorful train set gives toddlers a first look at gears and how they work. Kids can mix and match the 15 included gears while strengthening their fine motor skills. Comes with four Smart Gear™ animals, which add to the excitement with fun songs, playful phrases and animal sounds. Press the buttons to listen to different musical instruments or answer kid-friendly quiz questions. Then, pull the string or push the train to watch the gears spin!
Ages 5 and up Fingerlings were named one of the hottest toys of 2017 and now they’ve introduced Gemma Unicorn! This sweet girl comes to life with endless ways to play and realistic sounds to let you know how she is feeling. Kids can swing her, pet her, kiss her and even rock her to sleep! Everyone loves the magic of unicorns and kids will love Gemma’s interactive play and fun chatter.
Ages 18 to 36 months This adorable 4-piece wooden peg puzzle is the perfect first puzzle for toddlers. The shapes fit easily into the wooden board and the fabrics add a tactile component to the play experience. Unplugged play at its finest! Promotes problem solving, shape and color recognition, and tactile senses.
Ages 9 to 14 This awesome coaster goes from horizontal to vertical in an instant! The set includes 399 K’NEX parts and pieces, including glow-in-the-dark track and an air-propelled spider-themed coaster car! The final result is a large coaster with a small footprint due to its sophisticated design. The glow-in-the-dark tracks make nighttime play so much fun.
Ages 3 and up It's so much fun to free-form build a curvy racetrack then see the racecar go! The pieces are easy to snap together and the bendy tracks are great for changing the course on the fly. The racecar is powered by a remote so kids can control the speed around the turns. Max Flex Blaze includes one remote control Tracer Racer, ramps for two bridges, and over 10 feet (250 pieces) of flexible, orange and blue glow in the dark tracks. Best part? Take a spin in the dark and see the car and track glow! If you're looking for more options, here is a remote control dinosaur!
Ages 4 and up Little Medical School's toy medical kits offer a wondrous array of fun and exciting props and activities combine imaginative play with education seamlessly. The company doesn't underestimate children's ability to learn about real medical procedures, anatomy and patient care and each kit lays everything out in a fun and innovative way. My Little Pediatrician Kit is a fantastic gift for a new big brother or sister! Children can examine, measure and change the diaper of the included plush baby while watching mom or dad do the same.
Ages 3 and up The PJ Masks Turbo Blast Racers are the ultimate PJ Masks racing vehicles, featuring sleek designs and deluxe accents! Each Turbo Blast Racer includes one 3" figure dressed in an exclusive Turbo Blast outfit equipped with matching racing helmet, allowing kids to act out their favorite episode and see their favorite character come to life. Collect all available Turbo Blast Racers including: Cat-Car, Owl Glider and Gekko-Mobile, each sold separately.
Ages 6 and up A favorite at home, in classrooms, museums and libraries; Q-BA-MAZE is a unique system of colorful cubes that interlock to form a marble run. The configurations are unlimited, allowing for unpredictable action when the steel marbles travel through different routes. Q-BA-MAZE inspires creative play as kids experiment with motion, stability, physics and art – engaging both right-brain and left-brain! Comes with 82 cubes, 18 7.5-inch straightaway rails, four coaster tubes, four marble catchers and 30 marbles. An excellent family project that doesn't require a smart phone!
Ages 2 to 5 years This sweet ice cream cart is not only “off the charts” adorable, but teaches toddlers and preschoolers about colors, numbers, shapes and stacking. Kids can create a variety of imaginative and tasty-looking ice cream combinations using four flavors of ice cream, three toppings and three syrup flavors. The magic scooper recognizes the colors and flavors and the playful phrases and songs make this cute little cart fully interactive. About the Author: Julie Kertes is the product expert for Kids in the House and oversees the Hot Diggity Awards, a national seal-of-approval program that recognizes the best products for families. To see the latest products she’s playing with, testing and/or assembling, follow her on Twitter at @HotDiggityMedia.