Buyer's Guide 2021: Smart Toys Children Will Love

Find the best kids' gear for the tech-savvy young people in your life.

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Kids these days: They may not know how to tie their shoes, but they sure know how to operate an iPhone. That doesn't have to be a bad thing! Here, we've put together a list of recommendations for kids' gear that will educate and entertain at the same time.

Universe2Go Personal Planetarium – Ages 12+ ($49.90)

I love stargazing apps, and this Personal Planetarium improves the experience by blocking out the external world, leaving users to enjoy the night sky with an AR overlay of constellations and facts. I prefer using the Star Chart app instead of the recommended Universe2Go option; it’s more artistically rendered. You can also use this device to watch TV shows and movies on road trips, airplanes, and more. Get the kids one each to prevent backseat squabbles!

Sharper Image Smart Pixel Art Creator – Ages 7+ ($99.99)

Remember Perler beads? The Sharper Image rebooted that fine motor skills-building pastime for the 21st century! Kids can use the tray and beads the old-fashioned way or download the smART pixelator app on an iPhone or iPad, which connects to the toy via Bluetooth. It offers step-by-step instructions for creating both 2D projects and 3D items like bracelets and model ships! The board is backlit to show where each bead should go, and best of all, you can take or download your own photos, then pixelate and make custom Perler bead images!

Shifu Orboot Earth Interactive AR Globe ($54.99)

In place of text or national borders, this 10-inch augmented reality globe features cartoon icons of landmarks, animals, and food. Download the associated app, hover your iPhone or iPad over an icon, and you’re off on a trip around the world. Your child can play games, solve mysteries, and take quizzes in one of nine language options! Kids will learn from hundreds of lessons about world cultures, inventions, cuisines, geography, and more. An included passport book and stamp lets kids take notes and give themselves a star for each country visited.

King Arthur Retold Augmented Reality Book – Ages 8+ ($14)

This AR book from Uncommon Goods retells the age-old story of King Arthur and his knights with an interstellar twist. Lavishly illustrated and cleverly told, this picture book is readable and worth the price even without the interactive component. Kids and grownups alike will enjoy hidden animations and memory games revealed by downloading the Pen Dragon AR app and hovering an iPad or iPhone over six unique puzzle pages.

Shifu Tacto Laser – Ages 5+ ($49.99)

This iPad accessory set works with an app to teach the science of light via four games with more than 200 levels. Players explore, solve mysteries, and improve their logic and critical-reasoning skills while using a prism, laser, mirror, and flashlight. Along the way, kids learn that mirrors can reflect and direct light, light can split into seven component colors, and much more! My daughter’s favorite game, Space Quest, challenges her to destroy asteroids by correctly angling and firing her laser to bounce off her carefully positioned mirror.

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Author Details

Leanne Hays's picture

Author Details

Leanne Hays

Leanne Hays is an SEO Content Strategist and Feature Writer at iPhone Life, and has written hundreds of in-depth how-to and troubleshooting articles. She's a former Associate Editor for iPhone Life magazine, and has written for the Iowa Source, as well as web content for education marketing. Leanne has an associate's degree in education, with a focus on curriculum development, as well as a bachelor's degree in science. She has over nine years of experience with SEO, social media management, and web development and writing. Despite years of web work, Leanne is by no means an early adapter; she's only owned a smartphone for five years, which makes her highly sympathetic to the learning curve of new iPhone owners. She enjoys making reader's lives easier and putting her education experience to work by walking them through the most practical ways to use Apple devices, step-by-step.

In off-work hours, Leanne is a mother of two, homesteader, audiobook fanatic, musician, and learning enthusiast.  

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