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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Donna Freydkin

Listen, I'm a mom. And every year, I try to give my son presents that will stimulate his brain, and keep him busy for a good chunk of time. Usually, I fail miserably because the most heavily-hyped tech toys are far too advanced for little kids.

So this year, I had my son Alex and his buddies try out every single toy on this list. The ones requiring a Ph.D. in physics didn't make the cut. Nor did the ones that wound up being utterly disappointing and not living up to the hype. But the ones that did are surefire winners.

When we release our 2018 gift guides, we make sure all prices are current. But, prices change frequently (yay, deals!), so there’s a chance the prices are now different than they were the day of publication.

Best gadgets tech gifts for kids

  • 1. Lego Creator Robo Explorer, $15, Amazon

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This turns into a fully working robot. It also transforms into a dog with a light-up jet-pack or a robot bird. Three-in-one means thrice the fun.

  • 2. Boogie Board Scribble and Play Color LCD Writing Tablet, $25, Amazon

This toy makes for endless creative possibilities, and the new version comes in color — which is way more fun.

  • 3. 4M Crystal Growing Experiment, $18, Amazon

This isn't tech per se, but it's super fun to grow these crystals and watch them evolve, day by day. My son and his friends were truly fixated. Plus, we got a nice science lesson out of it.

  • 4. Hatchimals HatchiBabies Ponette Hatching Egg Interactive Pet Baby, $40, Amazon

This particular toy had a cavalcade of editors obsessed with it. We cradled it. We watched it hatch. We combed its hair. And it was an equal hit with my son's friend Miriam, who now counts it among her most treasured possessions. It's fun, it's interactive, it's sweetly, weirdly cute. It's just a hoot.

  • 5. WowWee Untamed Raptor by Fingerlings, $15, Walmart

Remember the Fingerlings craze last year? Welcome to the 2018 version. These dinos are hilarious, and little kids love them. They roar and make all manner of dino noises.

  • 6. Star Wars FurReal Ultimate Co-Pilot Chewie, $140, Amazon

This toy is great because it's so responsive ... in its very own Wookie language, of course. A great choice for diehard fans of the "Star Wars" franchise.

  • 7. Mario Party 9, $44+, Amazon

Caveat: Skip this if you're not into screen time. But if you are, this game is a winner. "Mom, this is so fun!" said Alex, playing it with his buddy Max. It's lively, vibrant and totally engaging, and can be played in solo or multi-player modes on the Nintendo Switch.

  • 8. littleBits Electronic Music Inventor Kit, $70, Walmart

Party like a rock star with this next-level toy. You build it yourself, and then customize how you want to play it. Best of all, as with Legos, the system is modular, meaning you can redo it as much as you want.

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  • 9. Boxer Interactive A.I. Robot Toy, $60, Walmart

A lot of these robot toys require app downloads to play. Not this one. It actually responds to movements and interacts with your hand motions.

  • 10. Zoomer Playful Pup, $70, Amazon

My son wants a dog. Instead, he got to snuggle with this one, which responds to touch and learns voice commands. No poop bags required.

  • 11. Baby Alive Real As Can Be, $81, Amazon

This new version of the classic doll has dozens of lifelike facial expressions and movements, plus she responds to your kid's voice and touch. She even sucks on her bottle.

  • 12. littleBits Hall Fame Night Light Starter Kit, $35, Amazon

Why buy a night light when your kiddo can build his or her own? Yes, this is one cool (and practical) toy.

  • 13. Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 03 Vehicle Kit, $60, Walmart

This kit goes with the Switch and lets you build your own car and operate it. It's DIY and hands-on.

  • 14. My First Lab Duo-Scope Microscope, $70, Amazon

Kids love looking at things close-up, and the grosser the item, the better. This microscope is sturdy, it's easy to use, and just wait until your kid can see a dead bug up close. Score!

Finding the perfect present can be a challenge, but Shop TODAY's up to the task. No matter who you're looking for, we've got gift guides for everyone on your list, including:

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