Dream Big! Toys that Spark Career Ideas
Featured on NBC's TODAY Show
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Posted: 2013-11-18 08:39:53 By: by Stephanie and Joanne Oppenheim

 

Most kids have a string of jobs they want when they grow up. The typical 7 year old will say "I'm going to be a doctor/firefighter after I'm done being a HUGE star" or "I'm going to be a famous pitcher that studies dinosaurs."

Introducing kids to different skills is important for giving them the idea/spark of a future career path. Here are some of our favorite new toys that do just that!

For budding film makers:

 

 


2013 Award
Spy Gear Panosphere 360 Spy Cam
(Spin Master $59.99 Score: )

While we're not big on spy toys per se or suggesting that your child train to become a spy, the technology of capturing 360 degree videos with audio is thrilling. Until recently, such equipment was extremely expensive and complicated. Once you've captured the video, you can choose different angles to view. On the full site, spygear.net, kids can then edit their original videos. One of the most innovative toys we've seen this year!

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

For developing focus on any task:

 

 

 
2013 Awards
Leap Frog LeapReader
(Leapfrog $49.99 Score: )

This updated product makes new uses of the earlier Tag technology to support kids' reading, but goes a step further with real writing, and listening skills. Like the original Tag reader, it can help them sound out letters, words, or read sentences. But now it can also be used like a pencil for learning to shape letters and numbers on special paper. The basic LeapReader comes with a Read, Write, and Listen Activity book and also comes with three apps and a USB rechargeable battery and holds audio for up to 40 books or 175 songs. There are more than 150 books, workbooks and special paper available separately. 4-8

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Phone: Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

For social media gurus:

For computer programmers:

 

 


2013 Award
LEGO City Cargo Terminal
(Lego Systems, Inc. $99 Score: )

The first step to becoming a computer programmer begins with learning about sequence. For  builders this is a great place to start as a stepping stone to more advanced robotic sets offered by LEGO (see Mindstorms EV3).  Our testers found this giant size jet and control tower "totally awesome!" The handsome cargo plane has wheels that pivot allowing it to turn with ease on the ground. It has a big cargo door where the conveyer belt hooks up and the back end hinges open for alternate access. Testers loved the working conveyer belt they could turn to put cargo in or out of the plane. They also liked the working fork lift that is loaded with gold bars! Like all Lego sets, this is designed with an eye for details and clever accessories: there is a fuel truck, a complete cast of five mini-characters; a pilot, controllor and three workers. The control tower features a rotating radar dish, antenna and space for a mini-figure. 658 pieces. For the younger child this will be a parent-child project in the building stage. Once it is put together however, the set becomes a mini-setting for pretend play. 6-12

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2013 Award
Mindstorms EV3
(Lego Systems, Inc. $349.99 Score: )

LEGO is rolling out a completely revamped version of the robotics kit for a new generation of kids. Knowing how essential smart phones have become, the new design enables them to operate their robots via their phones. The set comes with 17 suggested builds with three different levels of programming. Comes with a hefty price tag - but if you think of this as an after-school program in robotics, it seems more approachable.  We are waiting for our testers feedback. This toy made our Platinum Award list in 2007.

We sent it to a family with 4 builders (14, 12, 10 and 9 years old). The 9 year old let his brothers fill us in. They did a great job reviewing this product. Here's what they reported:  

Mindstorms is a really fun robotics set. It is really awesome because you can program it to do anything you want. The programing itself is very easy. You just click and drag, and it is very intuitive. There are more advanced setting if you want to be more detailed. The directions to build were easy to follow even though they were online. The robot that we built could track its remote and then when it got close enough, would shoot it with a ball. It could usually hit it within two or three shots. The set is made of Lego technics, which are a slightly more complicated Lego. But it makes building moving parts very easy. It comes with a touch sensor, a color sensor, and an ultra sonic sensor, so it can see where it is going. The sensors are really fun to work with, and you can make things you can't usually make. Over all it is a great robotics kit. One of the best I've ever worked with.
-14 year old

Mindstorms is easy to use and is appropriate for ages 10 and up. It comes with directions to make certain robots, but you can also make things you want. The directions are easy to follow, and the parts seem really durable.
-12 year old


...each robot has a specific mission. For the humanoid, you could set it up to find and shoot the remote control. And that was really cool. Also you could switch it to a mode where you can control it with the remote control. Each side of the remote would control a side of the robot. Or you could switch it to channel two and when you press forward, he would shoot low, and you press backwards it would shoot high. The remote control has 4 buttons and 4 channels. Which makes it pretty easy to use.
-10 year old

Here's what their mom wanted other parents to know:

The technic legos are more difficult to work with than regular lego blocks. The kids really had to pay attention to which piece they were supposed to take (a 6cm rod vs an 8cm rod to connect things made a big difference). I found the directions on the website a little trickier to follow than the ones in a physical book. But the kids didn't have as much trouble as I did. Also, some of the directions were harder to actually do like when you had to flip some pieces around that you had built to connect it to the wires. They were able to get them, but the 9 year old had to ask for help occasionally from the older boys.
They built the trickiest humanoid robot first...but were excited about all the different choices. I think they will make most of them over time. After they took the pictures, they were going to take it apart and try something else. Overall, very well done. But definitely for the older set of kids.

A picture from our testers:

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Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

For future weather forecasters:

 

 


2013 Award
Magic School Bus Weather Lab
(The Young Scientists Club $40 Score: )

A bus-shaped science kit features the clever Ms Frizzle's weather experiments that our testers were eager to try. They made a tornado in a bottle, constructed a barometer, used a sun-dial and more. They learned about tracking and keeping a log of the weather with a thermometer, rain gauge, wind vane and compass. There are 28 experiment cards, weather station base, wind vane, plastic cup with rounded top, measuring cup, sponge, thermometer, pinwheel, 3 pieces of clay, peat pellet, paper plate, string, dish, 2 cardboard circles, bar magnet, 3 plastic tubes, straw pencil, index card, petri dish, weather chart, data notebook, snake model, anemometer, bottle connector, and 2 sticker sheets for budding meteorologists.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

For future engineers:

 

 


2013 Award
Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machines
(Goldie Blox  $29.99 Score: )

Designed by a recent engineering graduate of Stanford, this young science kit is designed to entice girls to play around with easy to build machines with playful appeal. The kit comes with a book that guides the young builder, a pegboard base, 10 axles, blocks, ribbon, a crank, washers, five animal characters and 14 clever ideas for making constructions. It combines fantasy play with basic science all done up in colors girls seem to prefer. Given our need for future engineers and scientists, we think this is an entertaining and engaging toy that will hold their interest.  6 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

For future architects and designers:

 

 


2013 Award
Magformers Light Show
(Magformers $119.99 Score: )

Light up power adds a new dimension to this 55-piece set of magnetic shapes. With large and small triangles, squares, clear pyramids, and a chargeable light, kids can turn their constructions into showy towers that change colors. All magnets are safely inside the plastic forms. This kit comes with an idea booklet for building models and all sorts of light shows. Like all Magformers, it can be used in open-ended construction, as well. Hands-on experiments help kids discover not only some math concepts, they have to deal directly with the magnetic poles inside the plastic forms, turning them so that they attract. This combines stealth learning: math, science, visual and manual dexterity, creative problem solving, construction play, imagination, and good fun. 6 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013.

 

 

 


2013 Award
Magformers RC Cruisers Custom Set
(Magformers $129.99 Score: )

Fans of Magformers will love using the magnetic shapes to build amazing R/C vehicles. Follow the plans or create your own wheeled vehicles with the colorful squares, triangles and arched shapes in this terrific 52-piece set. All magnets are safely inside the plastic forms. Along with a remote controller there are two drivers (make and female) three large wheeled bases, and two smaller wheels for building all sorts of futuristic looking vehicles. Our tester loved the large triangles and various arched pieces. Hands-on experiments help kids discover not only some math concepts, they have to deal directly with the magnetic poles inside the plastic forms, turning them so that they attract. This combines stealth learning: math, science, visual and manual dexterity, creative problem solving, construction play, imagination, and good fun. 6 & up

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013.

 

For future diplomats and other problem solvers:

 

 


2013 Award
Hasbro Bejeweled
(Hasbro $19.99 Score: )

Originally an online game, Bejeweled has now been adapted for real time play, complete with playing board and shimmering playing pieces. Basically this is the same game as the digital form, the object is to collect three of a kind in a row. But the big glitzy playing pieces are good looking and pleasing to slide across the playing board. Game play requires some strategy and logic.  We loved this game--but we do think the packaging needs some work. Once you create the board (and the pop up box fo the pieces) it does not go back into the original box easily. Our suggestion is to get a bigger box to store it in. 8 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 
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