Dale Stoff, left, listens to brain coach Christopher Sullivan explain the game ColorKu.
When Dale Stoff shops for children’s Christmas gifts, she seeks toys and games that kids and their parents will embrace.
What does she look for?
“Fun and learning,” Stoff said while browsing recently at a Marbles: The Brain Store in San Francisco.
She had her eyes on ColorKu, a $39.99 Sudokulike puzzle board game using colored marbles instead of numbers. The game helps with visual perception and pattern recognition, its maker says.
Stoff echoed many parents trying to find ways to challenge their children while helping them develop through play the skills they’ll need when they grow up.
Marbles: The Brain Store, a Chicago-based, 38-store chain and online shopping site, focuses on games, puzzles, books and software that it says improve five key brain functions: memory, critical thinking, visual perception, coordination and word skills.
Many of the retailer’s offerings fit with STEM toys, which emphasize science, technology, engineering and math. STEM toys have gotten more attention recently as the growth of STEM jobs is expected to outpace all other types of jobs between now and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Inspire Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering at Purdue University recently issued its second annual Engineering Gift Guide, with 50 STEM toy and application suggestions intended to engage girls and boys in engineering thinking and design. It includes the high-tech Ozobot Bit 2.0 robot toy, along with familiar nontech items such as Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys.
Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart and ToysRus are among the major retailers making it easy to find STEM toys in their stores with labeling and on their websites, which often have links to pages featuring STEM toys.
From those sources, here are just a dozen hot toys that parents should celebrate alongside the kids: