12 Awesome Gifts for Kids That Will Also Make Their Parents Happy

Dale Stoff, left, listens to brain coach Christopher Sullivan explain the game ColorKu.
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:

1. BB-8

The BB-8 on display at Marbles: The Brain Store in San Francisco.
The BB-8 on display at Marbles: The Brain Store in San Francisco.

These are the droids toymaker Sphero says you’re looking for, but they may be hard to find. Some stores are limiting quantities of the Star Wars toy. Listed at $149.95, but available from some retailers for less, the app-enabled toy has a mind of its own, responds to voice commands and lets players explore the Star Wars galaxy together. You can also record and view virtual holographic videos. (Ages 8+). Sphero also makes the popular SPRK, a $129 robot you can teach to roll, flip, spin and change color. Age 6+.

2. 3Doodler

3doodler photo
Photo (cc) by brousch

Draw 3-D sculptures instead of sketches with a doodle pen that extrudes heated plastic instead of ink. A set, listed at $179, includes 100 plastic strands, nozzles and a stand. Age 14+.

3. i-Loom

i-Loom
Make a friendship bracelet with an i-Loom.

Using an iPad app, make and share friendship bracelets by selecting i-patterns or creating your own. Starter sets, listed at $39.99, come with six spools of colored string, spool tags and five clasps to help you complete your creations. Ages 8+.

4. Forbidden Desert: Thirst for Survival

In Forbidden Desert, players must cooperate with each other to survive.
In Forbidden Desert, players must cooperate with each other to survive.

Make family game night a lesson in cooperation. Two to five players, whose plane has crashed in the desert, must work together against a shifting game board to find an ancient buried flying machine to escape the searing sun and find their way back to civilization. Unless everyone is able to survive, everyone perishes together in the game, listed at $24.99. Age 10+.

5. Magformers

Magformers are building sets with geometric-shaped pieces with magnets.
Magformers are building sets with geometric-shaped pieces with magnets.

Priced at $49.99 to $180 depending on the size of the set and its features, these building sets have geometric-shaped pieces with magnets that rotate to their positions for instant connections. Kids can start with structures that are two dimensional and then easily transform them into 3-D objects, such as balls and houses. Age 6+.

6. littleBits

littleBits modular circuit boards blink, twist, buzz and light up.

Snap together the modular circuit boards that blink, twist, buzz and light up to make neon signs, swimming sharks and other creations you can dream up. A base kit lists for $99; deluxe $210. Age 3+.

7. Klask

In Klask, a magnetic handle under the board controls your playing piece atop.
In Klask, a magnetic handle under the board controls your playing piece atop.

Combine your Foosball and Air Hockey skills to play a $60 game of coordination and reflex. You use a magnetic handle under the board to control your playing piece on top as you try to hit a ball into your opponent’s goal, but small white magnets may cling to your player and cost you points. Age 8+.

8. Ogodisc

Fling Ogodiscs backand forth or bounce snowballs or soft balls off them.
Fling Ogodiscs back and forth or bounce snowballs or soft balls off them.

Bounce balls off the round trampolinelike, floatable and flexible discs or fling them back and forth like Frisbees. A set with two 15-inch discs and a soft Ogoball lists for $35. Minisets with 12-inch discs sell for around $30. Age 4+.

9. Spirograph

The Spirograph is back. The Spirograph is back. Make elegant, distinctive spiraling designs with gears, wheels and pens in this update from the 1965 original Spirograph. The 45-piece deluxe sets include a carrying case and list at $24.99. Age 8+.

10. Q-Ba-Maze

Build amazing mazes for marbles with Q-Ba-Maze.
Build amazing marble mazes.

Construct a 3-D maze and let your marbles run wild through cubes, tubes, spinners and other contraptions. Infinite design possibilities encourage logic, problem solving, creativity and imagination. Small sets list for around $15, but the ultimate with more than 170 pieces is $124.99. Age 6+

11. Suspend

Improve eye-hand coordination with Suspend.
Improve eye-hand coordination with Suspend.

Success hangs in the balance in this $20 game from Melissa & Doug. Develop hand-eye coordination while adding rubber-tipped wire pieces to a structure without making it fall. For one to four players. Age 8+

12. Lucky’s High Roller

Lucky the goldfish goes to a carnival you create.
Lucky the goldfish goes to a carnival you create.

Learn spatial skills and the engineering principle of momentum as you build and craft carnival games for Lucky, toymaker GoldieBlox’s sweet goldfish. The 40-piece set lists for $10.99. Age 6+.

What toys and games do you recommend as children’s Christmas gifts this year? Share your discoveries with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
11 Home Upgrades With the Best Payback in 2020
11 Home Upgrades With the Best Payback in 2020

The home remodeling projects that deliver the best bang for the buck tend to have one thing in common.

3 Costly Social Security Mistakes That Women Make
3 Costly Social Security Mistakes That Women Make

Women face unique challenges when planning for retirement and making these mistakes can result in a skimpier retirement.

21 Purchases You Should Never Skimp On
21 Purchases You Should Never Skimp On

With some items, it makes sense to pay a little more rather than hopping on the lowest price.

5 Cheap and Easy Ways to Make Your Car Smell Delightful
5 Cheap and Easy Ways to Make Your Car Smell Delightful

These tips will leave your ride smelling delightful for next to nothing. Some options are also chemical-free.

8 Ways to Slash Your Internet Bill
8 Ways to Slash Your Internet Bill

No matter what price you are paying for internet service, taking these simple steps can lower it.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

Prices Are Soaring on These 7 Items
Prices Are Soaring on These 7 Items

Some surprise price jumps are making life more difficult for consumers.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

This iconic dinnerware is prized for everyday use as well as reselling for profit.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

7 Home Improvements That Cost a Lot More in 2021
7 Home Improvements That Cost a Lot More in 2021

These projects will take a bigger bite out of your budget than in the recent past.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs
Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs

Don’t let these health care expenses catch you off guard in retirement.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken
Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken

Something foul may lurk in those delicious, ready-to-eat birds.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make
7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make

Sometimes a big-ticket purchase is nothing more than a big waste of money.

Never Buy These 10 Things on Amazon
Never Buy These 10 Things on Amazon

Just because you can purchase something on Amazon doesn’t mean that you should.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.