With the world becoming increasingly digitised day by day, we have a struggle to keep ourselves and our children in ‘the real world’. This is never as obvious than when it comes to occupying ourselves in our leisure time.
If you visit a restaurant, a visitor attraction or even the cinema, you’re likely to witness the ambient glow of smart phone screens and it’s not just kids that are glued to their devices.
There is a growing amount of empirical data from educational phycologists and parents alike that suggests that there’s a fairly measurable relationship between the amount of time we’re spending on our phones and our general interest in all things ‘real world’. Whether this is a bad thing is up for discussion but if engaging your children in a more real world environment is important to you then we’ve complied a list of toys and activities that are engaging and excellent for developing an inquisitive mind.
Top 9 Best Toys for Developing an Inquisitive Mind
You might view these as old fashioned but they’ve stood the test of time and like Madonna, some of them have reinvented themselves for a new, younger audience.
1. The Rubix Cube
There are few toys that have had the universal success of the Rubik’s Cube. Unchanged in 40 years, this toy is a mind-bending puzzle that will engage the entire family. The very simple task is to twist the cube’s layers until each side is one colour. Simple! There are now many variations on the original Rubix Cube but all hit the same brain buttons – logic, concentration, manual dexterity and ingenuity (we all know someone who solved the puzzle by peeling off the stickers!).
Perhaps more interesting, the Rubix Cube is a mathematical puzzle solved using algorithms and as well as being widely considered the best selling toy in history, it’s an amazing launch pad for children to begin to understand how problems can be solved using maths. Maths is suffering from a lull in interest and what better way to get kids enthused by a subject. Search Rubix Cube world record on YouTube to find Patrick Ponce solve the puzzle in just 4.936 seconds and listen to the screeming girls in the background. What boy wouldn’t want to be Rubix Royalty?!
Check Price Online: The Rubix Cube
Over 100 years old, The grandfather of educational toys has always found it’s place in modern culture and now sits firmly in the robotics arena. Robotics is one of the fastest growing sectors in engineering and one that finds great favour with kids. With TV’s Robot Wars attracting over 2 million views per show, there’s a real appetite for this combination of engineering and competition all rolled into one. At entry level, VEX Robotics is a geek-chic schools competition where teams compete against one another in an enormous international competition with a global finale that takes place in the US. Meccano is where this passion begins.
Check Price Online: Meccano
3. 4M Kidz Labs Kitchen Science
In a world where the health and safety police are out in full force it’s great that the old fashioned chemistry set hasn’t lost its appeal! However, to make it more relevant in today’s world of TV chefs, 4M has rebranded the traditional experience as ‘Kitchen Science. The likes Heston Blumenthal have brought this excitement into the kitchen through our televisions you can learn the science behind the melting chocolate bombe whilst getting involved in a family volcano!
This is a great starter kit with 6 simple experiments, ideal for young scientisits and budding molecular gastronomists like. Just make sure you fill the cupboards with the necessary ingredients before you begin.
Check Price Online: 4M Kidz Labs Kitchen Science
4. Trail Camera
Combining technology with a bit of old fashioned sleuthing, the Browning trail camera is a fantastic toy for the outdoors enthusiast. For anyone (this one’s for grown-ups too) who’s watched David Attenborough, 50 Deadliest or Spring Watch – you won’t be surprised to find out just what’s lurking at the bottom of your garden. With a night vision mode and waterproof design, this motion sensitive camera will press all the right buttons for the nature lover in your family. You may even end up with a vlogger on your hands as all footage can be saved in standard formats and uploaded to the internet.
It’s really simple – runs on AA batteries, has a robust camouflage casing – all you have to do is insert an SD memory card (sold separately) and you’re good to go!
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5. Piper Computer Kit
If you can’t get them away from their screens, kids will simply love the Piper Computer Kit. This generation will grow up in a world more digitised than it’s even possible to imagine. With driverless cars and self-stocking fridges, it’s increasingly important to understand how this world works, and not simply trust in the nerds and geeks to manage it.
This basic computer kit offers a lot more than you’d imagine. As well as build skills, the piper computer kit demands attention to detail and enables users to begin learning the language of code. another STEM oriented toy, once the main build is done and all the Minecraft challenges compete, there are lot of modifications possible – you can even programme voice response!
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But not as you know them. Phonics and sentence making dominos are gaining popularity and these domino sets are a great tool for proactive parents looking to help their kids with sentence construction, grammar and creative writing. There are several sets in the series and evidence suggests that dwell time on these products can be around 30 minutes – fantastic!
Check Price Online: Dominoes
7. Ant Farm
Ant farms have always been really popular and this new take on the old fashioned soil based structures will keep you and your children enthralled for hours! It’s a small ant farm which means you can put it just about anywhere without fear of it toppling over and you only need a small number of ants to fill it (10-20). Everything’s included appart from the ant which you can source at local pet stores or online with relative ease.
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8. VR Smart Phone Compatible Headset
These headsets have been on the market for a few years now but they’re getting better all the time and perhaps most importantly for users, compatible with a number of different smart phones. Virtual reality is exploding both in the leisure and professional sectors so making sure your children are in tune with how VR accessories work will set them in good stead for what is likely to be a VR filled future! Comfortable and really user friendly, the BlitzWolf is versatile and affordable.
Check Price Online: VR Smart Phone Compatible Headset
9. PowerUp – smart phone controlled paper airplane
Fusing old fashioned make-your-own-fun with your smart phone results in some quite spectacular results with this smart phone controlled paper airplane kit! As well as ticking all the STEM education boxes, this is a really exciting project for kids and grown-ups alike. You start with folding and constructing your airplane before attaching the Smart Module and pairing with the app which is iOS and android friendly. There’s so much to learn from this little device – from aerodynamics and origami to Bluetooth connectivity and range, this is a great activity which encourages a mind shift from science and engineering to good drone citizenship!
There are simply thousands of toys and activities on the market with development in mind but looking back, it’s interesting to see those concepts that have stood the test of time. As they say, there’s no such thing as a new idea!
Check Price Online: PowerUp
We leave you with three programmable robots that are sure to offer hours of learning and problem solving through play for the little ones.