Kids today grow up playing in a digital sandbox — the problem is, the sandbox doesn’t have any shovels or buckets. Sure, there are plenty of distracting cartoon characters and bright colors, but most digital toys and games, at best, teach your kid how to think about stuff without actually doing much stuff. These tablet and iPad accessories and toys for kids enhance screen time by combining it with real-world drawing and building, so you can keep them occupied without worrying about them disappearing down a digital rabbit hole.
Each of Tiggly’s 3 sets — Shapes, Words, and Math — come with 4-5 toys and 3 apps. Kids tap the toys on the screen and funny cartoon animals, shapes, numbers, and letters teach them coordination, early math and literacy skills, and simply the ability to think and use their hands. There’s even a bilingual mode to teach your kid another language, so they can complain in Spanish about how you won’t buy them a PlayStation.
LeapFrog LeapPad Platinum And Imagicard
The kings of kids’ tablets just dropped a new Platinum edition of their LeapPad and with it Imagicard, a game where kids use the tablet’s camera to photograph one of more than 30 cards and bring PAW Patrol, Ninja Turtles, and LeapFrog Letter Factory characters to life in the digital world. Perhaps most notably, it keeps your actual iPad out of their hands so you can crush all the candies.
One little piece of red plastic transforms any iPad or iPhone into a projector that enables on-screen interaction with objects like tangram shapes, letter tiles, and even markers on paper. Clever game modes require kids to build, spell, and draw. You’ll have to force your kid to go to bed so you and your friends can take turns playing drunk Masterpiece.
Ages: 6 and up
The actually-printed-on-paper book is even more endangered than physical toys in an increasingly digital world. French developer Volumique wants to revive both those things with a paper balloon that literally pops out of a book and onto your iPad screen, where you pilot it to different targets. There are also flying saucer, balloon safari, and rocket ship versions, but their app store descriptions are only in French. Hopefully your kid played Tiggly in bilingual mode.
Puzzlets has kids place tiles on a play tray to create rudimentary coding for a game called Cork The Volcano, which they then play on a tablet. This should excite you for 2 reasons. First, it’ll get your kid problem-solving like a (highly employable) programmer. Second, to quote one mom whose daughter got a chance to preview the game, “She’s like, actually using game pieces.” The future is awesome.
Ages: 4 and up
- Step 1: Place phone or tablet on piece of paper.
- Step 2: Your kid draws around phone or tablet as shown by the app
- Step 3: Animation makes your kid’s drawing come alive, looks all funny and stuff.
Some of the greatest toys in history are deceptive in their simplicity. This may or may not be one of those toys, but it is weirdly satisfying to play with.
- Ages: 3-5
GoldieBlox And The Movie Machine
If you want your kids to really appreciate the pre-digital world, have them build a zoetrope. This pre-cinema animation device is a wheel with a sequence of images that appear to move when the wheel is spun. That this kit’s “movie machine,” and the app lets them draw and print new frames to insert into it. It’s so primitive, it’s fascinating.