We’re here to help you make sense of it all. From programmable robots to Disney princesses that teach kids to code, we rounded up a selection of the latest tech toys sure to please kids of all ages. Be warned: most of these require batteries, lots of them, so buy them now and your kids won’t be disappointed when they open the gift and immediately want to play.
Dance Code Belle, $60 (normally $100), Amazon
Kids learn the fundamentals of coding as they choreograph Belle, in her gorgeous gold gown, to perform different dance routines. Dance Code Belle can move, talk and dance on her own, or kids can take a spin at basic “block coding” to put together a dance routine just for Belle using the companion app.
Leap Pad Ultimate, $80 (normally $100), Amazon
Ages 3 – 9
This tablet, designed just for kids, comes pre-loaded with apps, educational games, and a kid-friendly web browser that are parent-approved and fun to use. Games adapt to a child’s skill level as they get older, so they won’t outgrow them too soon. We especially like the built-in bumper and shatter-safe 7-inch touch screen on the Leap Pad Ultimate because we all know there will be lots of accidental drops.
Update: the green one isn't in stock until the 25th, but the pink one is available now!
SoundMoovz, $45, Amazon
Get the kids off the couch and moving with SoundMoovz, motion-activated bands that strap to their ankles or wrists. Once connected to the mobile app, each move of your arm or leg triggers a sound effect; choose from robotic, instrumental and more, making your body a human music machine. Kids can play together and send the music to a Bluetooth-enabled speaker for dance out loud fun.
LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox, $160, Amazon
Lego Boost lets aspiring engineers and programmers build and code their own robot. The coding is done through a drag and drop-style app, so they’ll need a tablet (iOS or Android) for this. The kit comes with five robotic projects, but the possibilities are endless since it’s all compatible with the Lego bricks you already have in the playroom.
littleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit, $99, Amazon
The littleBits Star Wars Droid inventor Kit comes with everything a budding engineer needs to build and customize an R2 Droid. Using the electronic blocks and following the Droid Inventor app, kids learn circuitry and design as they program R2 to respond to the wave of a hand. The force is strong with this kit.
FurReal Makers Proto Max, $120, Amazon
Kids who prefer pets to droids can create and code their own puppy with furReal Makers Proto Max. Once they build the perfect pooch, they can customize eye color, movements, and more. It’s such a dog-gone good time, kids won’t even realize they’re learning to code.
Sky Viper V2450 GPS, $112 (normally $160), Amazon
Beginner drone pilots will find the Sky Viper V2450 GPS drone easy to fly since it maintains its position while hovering, and doesn’t drift away in the wind. Built-in GPS makes it smart enough to return home at the touch of a button, shooting HD video as it soars the sky.
IDO3D 3D Print Shop, $50, Amazon
Using pre-made molds, reusable cloning compound and special ink, kids create 3D objects like jewelry, toy cars and mini figures. It’s not really 3D printing but don’t tell the kids that. Instead, this uses an LED light to cure the creations, much quicker and safer for kids than the real thing.
Teddy Ruxpin, $83 (normally $145), Amazon
Loveable, cuddly Teddy Ruxpin is back with some high-tech smarts. He still sings songs and tell stories but thanks to built-in Bluetooth, he connects to an app so kids can read along on a tablet. He’s also embedded with sensors, has color LCD eyes and a mouth that moves as he speaks.
3 Doodler Start Essential 3D Printing Pen Set, $50, Amazon
Turn everyday doodles into 3D-printed objects like a walking robot or creepy crawling insect with the 3 Doodler Start Robotics Pen Set. The set comes with everything you need, including motor and battery pack, plus a themed activity guide packed with projects. We like that it’s designed just for kids 8+; it uses low heat, BPA-free plastic.
Update: This pen is out of stock until December 27, sadly! However, we found this other 3D pen by Lullen for $48 that has 5-star reviews.
Nintendo Super NES Classic Edition, $80, Target
Play classic video games with your kids on the Nintendo Super NES Classic Edition, a retro model of the original gaming console. It comes with 21 vintage games, including Super Mario Kart and Donkey Kong, as well as the never-before-released Star Fox 2. It plugs right into your TV’s HDMI port and has two wired, retro game controllers, for multiplayer gaming. Great family fun!
Anki Overdrive: Fast & Furious Edition, $120 (normally $170), Amazon
Fasten your seat belts, this is slot car racing for the digital age. With magnetic track that’s easy to set up, and cars controlled via a mobile device, kids race Hobbs' MXT truck against the Ice Charger from the Fast & Furious movie. Each player needs a compatible mobile device (iOS or Android) loaded with the app to play.
Cubetto, $226, Amazon
Lots of toys aim to teach kids to code but Cubetto approaches this from a screen-free perspective. It teaches basic coding concepts to kids as young as three with colorful wooden blocks, a board that acts as a control panel, and a wooden robot that responds as the blocks are moved. No screen necessary, this is all hands-on play, perfect for a 3-year-old.
Star Wars Hero Droid BB-8, $150 (normally $229), Amazon
This close to life-size (16-inches tall) BB-8 droid is the perfect companion for Star Wars fans of all ages. Hero Droid BB-8 can follow alongside kids as they walk, just like in the movie, or respond to voice commands by turning its head towards you. It looks like the real thing, with lights and sound effects, its head even wobbles from side to side as it rolls. Best feature: asking it to Stand Guard for Stormtroopers.
Wonder Workshop Cue Robot, $46 (normally $200), Amazon
Mebo 2, $100 (normally $150), Amazon
We’ve seen a few programmable, remote-controlled robots but Mebo 2 impresses us with its ability to bring you a snack and spy on your siblings. Mebo rolls around on tank tread wheels and has a claw-like arm that can pick up and carry an object. Thanks to a built-in camera, it can stream HD video to a smartphone, ideal for spying on unsuspecting, annoying siblings.
For more last-minute gifts, check out our round up of all the best places to buy gifts that will still get there on time and our round up of the best last-minute beauty gifts.