The Space Shuttle, the actual Shuttle created by NASA, was the bar for how high-tech things could get when I was a kid. Today, the toys my kids play have computing power that dwarfs the Space Shuttle of my youth! That’s not a typo. Nowhere is this trend more evident than the annual TTPM spring showcase. TTPM stands for “Time to Play Magazine” or its newer, fresher, online meaning “Toys, Tots, Pets & More.”
The event showcases the top toys that the kids in your life will soon be begging you for. STEM-focused toys (Science Technology Engineering Math) are a win-win for parents who hope they can trick — I mean, encourage — their children to learn while playing. LittleBits, which has traditionally focused on teaching kids about electricity, circuitry, and robotics, now has a $299.95 Coding Kit. It comes with eight bits, six accessories, and an invention guide book. Kids create things they then can code to do other things, like a guitar that actually plays notes via a electronic slider. There’s even an online community where users share their ideas, meaning this toy has virtually endless playability.
Ozobots, which start at just over $50, also teach coding through apps and even markers and paper. You code commands for your Ozobot to follow, which can mean simply moving around, or doing battle with other Ozobots. Snap on a Marvel “head,” and the bots actually take on the personality traits of those characters, including a cast of familiar faces from Spiderman and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Telescopes that use some sort of digital component to help you find the stars aren’t terribly new, but the $90 Galaxy Tracker Smart Telescope does it differently: It uses your phone. You stick it up top near the lens and launch the popular Star Walk 2 app, which guides you towards celestial objects you might be able to see, and even offers up information on what you’re looking at. Once you spot something, a custom mount lets you stick your phone onto the eyepiece to snap stills or record video of what the telescope is seeing.
As far as clever names go, Goliath’s “Disc Jock-e” is clever — some might argue more clever than the actual toy. It’s a Bluetooth disc (or Frisbee to most people) that you can chuck clear across the yard as your favorite band blares out of it. How does it sound? Well, exactly as you probably imagine it would sound to hurl a Bluetooth speaker across the yard: It gets louder as you’re catching, and hard to hear after throwing. It is waterproof though, so for $25, it might be worth giving it a shot at a pool. After all, that’s one of the last places you’d probably prefer to chuck around your higher end (more expensive) Bluetooth speaker.
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