When your kid wants to watch My Little Pony for the zillionth time, take a breath and substitute one of these brain-boosters instead.
1. Maker Lab | $20
Becoming an engineer means looking at the world with resourceful eyes–particularly when spying a shelf full of office supplies. With help from the Smithsonian Institution, author Jack Challoner has assembled 28 awesome STEM-inspired activities that involve only household items. When life gives you lemons, make a battery.
2. Osmo Coding Kit | $75
This iPad accessory turns coding from an abstract intellectual exercise into a playful, intuitive one. Kids manipulate colorful command tiles to build a program that controls a friendly onscreen monster, helping him on his strawberry-gobbling quest … or just making him run around in circles.
3. Anki Cozmo | $180
A mind-blowing amount of engineering–from AI to computer vision to sound design–is packed into Anki’s adorable palm-size package. Cozmo recognizes your youngling’s face and develops a complementary personality. Play learning games with him–he’ll remember your favorites. Can a puppy do that?
4. TeacherGeek Advanced Hydraulic Arm | $33
Kids apply basic fluid hydraulic principles to turn this remote-controlled arm into a back-scratcher or cat feeder. The kit encourages improvisation and includes extra components for variations that color outside the lines. Need more parts? Raid the recycling bin.
5. Sphero SPRK+ | $130
Youngsters can peer through the transparent body of Sphero’s latest ball-bot to study its electro-mechanical innards. The revamped Lightning Lab app lets kids use the company’s OVAL programming language to manipulate the LEDs and motor, making the orb follow a route of their choosing.