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Hot Trends in Tech Toys from Toy Fair 2014
Nothing's worse than spending big bucks on the latest tech toy, only to have your kids entertain themselves with a cardboard box. For kids, what makes playtime exciting is the ability to create, customize, and imagine -- aspects that are often lacking in the stuff you find on the shelves. But that's changing.
New trends in tech toys emerging from the 111th American International Toy Fair promise to occupy kids' hands as well as their minds. Here are four especially exciting trends and the toys that exemplify them. (Many of the toys will be available later this year.)
Robots rule. Robots are kid magnets because they're cool, but many can get kids thinking, too.
Check out these robot invaders:
- The Moss Robot Construction System lets kids build their own robots by simply snapping together magnetic components and experimenting.
- Ozobot, a miniature robot, combines elements of physical and digital gaming.
- Sphero, a robot that looks like a ball, plays rolling games and comes with an app that teaches kids how to program instructions that Sphero will follow.
Enhanced play. Previous toy/tech combos seemed to represent neither category well. But new entries enhance the activities kids already love to do with technology that sparks their imaginations.
Enhanced-play toys include:
- PowerUp Toys, which let you control paper airplanes with your smartphone by adding a tiny remote-control engine to your lean, mean, flying machine.
- Hasbro's Simon Swipe, which uses touchscreen technology so players can swipe as well as tap to repeat patterns.
- The Nerf TekStrike Storm Shield, which uses tracking technology to tally the hits of its special Smart Darts, either on an LCD display or via an app on your smartphone.
- Crayola's My Virtual Fashion Show, which lets kids design clothes, photograph them, and use an app to create their own fashion shows.
STEM for girls. An imbalance of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is a call to action for some toy companies. Of course boys can play with these toys, too, but companies are actively marketing more STEM toys to girls.
Hopping on this trend are:
- The Goldie Blox line of construction toys, which features strong story lines that appeal to girls' verbal skills.
- Roominate, which lets girls design, build, and wire (yes, with electricity) their structures.
- Build & Imagine playsets, which invite girls to combine painted "StoryWalls" into worlds where their imaginations can soar.
- Little Bits' gender-neutral electronics kits, which offer projects that appeal to a much wider audience than the ones for those old Erector sets.
Wearable tech. The new wave of wearable tech is getting smarter and more useful. From watches to shoe lights that you program with a remote control, kids can entertain themselves -- and others -- wherever they are.
Would your kids wear these?
- Kidizoom Smart Watch from VTech teaches kids how to tell time and lets them play games and take photos and videos.
- DrumPants is a wearable, on-the-go percussion instrument that lets you literally march to the beat of your own drum.
- Light Kicks, an add-on LED light system for shoes, lets older kids light up the dance floor (or stay visible at night).