Kickstarter is driving a board game renaissance not seen since King Kandy spread educational reform across Candy Land (and gumdrops. Sweet, sweet gumdrops). However, the crowdfunding platform is also responsible for some of the cooler traditional and digital kids toys to appear on your child’s wish list in recent years. With so many Kickstarters games never getting past the “funny thing your friend shared on Facebook but nobody pledged to” phase, it’s only right to highlight these examples of what can happen when an idea meets thousands of willing backers who want to be the first on their block to have the cool new thing … whenever it finally ships.
Before they launched rockets during the Super Bowl or drove a “Girl-Powered Spinning Machine” in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (holy crap, these girls are killing it), GoldieBlox needed Kickstarter cash. They killed it there, too, blowing past their $150,000 goal in just 4 days. Less than 3 years later, GoldieBlox is “disrupting the pink aisle” in Toys ‘R’ Us stores nationwide, slinging engineering toys to female future-builders of all ages.
Makey Makey went from Kickstarter game to head-turner at the 2014 American International Toy Fair by allowing users to “Alligator clip the Internet to your world and start inventing the future.” Clipping this circuit board to anything turns it into a touchpad, which interfaces with a computer, which lets your kid play “Bohemian Rhapsody” on a piano made of bananas … or the dog. There’s also a USB stick version, and the possibilities are truly limitless.
Yoxo is exactly what its name says: Y-, O-, and X-shaped cardboard links. That alone doesn’t sound much like a $10,532 idea, but give a pile of those links to kids and suddenly you have a modular Kickstarter game that’s more eco-friendly than Legos and way less painful to step on. (Although they can link to the bricks, too, because team YOXO wasn’t born yesterday.)
This ingenious little Kickstarter game lets you send voice messages to your kids that are received and played (in your voice or a cartoony one) by an adorable anthropomorphized mailbox. They can then send a response you’ll receive through the free Toymail app. It’s like talking on the phone, only slightly delayed and so cute that it might make everyone using it puke.
LightUp is a Kickstarter circuitry kit that combines analog with digital to teach kids programming. Kids snap together magnetic components like batteries, LED lights, and buttons to build any kind of gizmo, then photograph it with the LightUp app, which shows via overlay the flow of electricity or things they need to fix. Kids can then program their hardware from any browser, so they’ll be well equipped to become a programmer or an electrician. How practical.
Bunch O Balloons
Tired of abusing their fingertips while their kids were left high and dry mid-water fight, exasperated parents nationwide took less than 12 hours to fully back Bunch O Balloons, a single mechanism that simultaneously fills 37 self-sealing water balloons. Now you can restock your kid’s cache at a rate of 60 balloons per minute then smile with pride as your kid goes all “Say Hello to my little friend!” on their little friends.
These guys raised a whopping $1.4 million on Kickstarter to produce Dash and Dot, a pair of programmable robots that can build, make music, or just drive around looking cool. Coding Dash and Dot are robots that help kids understand that computers are actually machines that people build to do what they want, not just sentient hunks of metal that wreak havoc out of the box. Not yet, anyway.
Simply put, these vintage-inspired, extremely durable, fast-rolling wooden cars for kids are like the Pinewood Derby racer you wish your dad would have built you. Unless of course he built you a life-sized one. Then these are just super cool wooden cars your kid will love to play with — and will survive any damage they try to inflict.
It’d be wrong to not mention any board games, so here’s one: the most-backed Kickstarter board game ever. While it’s really easy to get kids to stare at a screen, it’s not as simple to have them sit around a game board and look their family in the face. With Robot Turtles, your kids will learn the fundamentals of coding while you play a game you actually understand.
How is this Kickstarter game that teaches kids coding different from the others? Cubetto by Primo doesn’t require coding literacy or any screens. It’s an adorable robotic wooden cube that kids program by correctly placing a set of colored blocks into cutouts in an interface board. And because your kid is a genius, Cubetto can be disassembled and hacked. See? Kids these days do work with their hands.
The future of computing (and present, frankly) is way more complicated than your Pong days, and nobody knows how the devices they’re obsessed with actually work. Enter Kano, a simple Kickstarter game that teaches kids age 6-14 to build a computer from scratch and then program it. Kids “level up” through the story-like instructions as they learn to add functionality like internet browsing, and tweak games like Minecraft — and yes, Pong.
Hey look! Toys that teach coding! The Bitsbox difference? Kids age 6-12 build real apps for real devices through a subscription service that sends them a new box of projects every month, which solves the problem of their interest in coding waning over time. Kind of like that Fitbit that was gonna help you lose 10 pounds. How many steps did you take today?
I Am Elemental
These Kickstarter action figures are subversive in several ways: they’re all female with realistic body proportions, and they don’t have superpowers — they are superpowers. Each one is named after one of the human “elements of power” — things like courage, honesty, and enthusiasm — and are so fun to play with that your kid won’t realize they’re getting a lesson in self-confidence because they’ll be too busy kicking Boba Fett’s ass while riding a Transformer.
Ubooly is a cute plush toy that turns into an interactive teacher and adventure partner when you stick your phone or tablet inside. It can match wits with your kid with more than 298,000 words of original content, plus more added every month. It’s basically a modern Teddy Ruxpin that can keep your device safe from as much as a 3-story fall.