It’s that magical time of year, when you can force your own interests on other people via the act of gifting. If you’re interested in technology and want to make sure the children in your life grow up with similar knowledge (more than just how to text or use an iPad), then holiday gifts are a good way to spark that interest. There will always be Minecraft, but beyond that, there’s a seemingly endless number of toys and games that help shape the minds of future tech-heads. We’ve compiled some of our favorites here at Quartz that will hopefully inspire a budding generation of Silicon Valley leaders.
Vikas Gupta, founder of Wonder and former Googler, realized there weren’t enough toys that taught his kids to be creative and curious, and decided to design them himself. Dash & Dot are two very cute robots that come in a variety of kits and combinations. Gupta designed the robots to be friendly and fun, like toys should be. There is also a challenge-based cartoon program that accompanies Dash & Dot to teach kids programming by encouraging them to learn how the robots were built. Each level shows more about the concepts of programming. You can read the full Quartz review here.
Dash & Dot Holiday Kit, ages 5 to ∞, $180
If you’re not willing to shell out for Lego’s name, then Kano is a good place to start. One of the Kano founders, Alex Klein, was inspired to create the build-your-own computer kit by a 6-year-old cousin who wanted to, well, build his own computer. The kits are powered by Raspberry Pi, an inexpensive micro-circuit board and other low-cost components. Computer and screen kits are currently available (as well as combination kits). A pixel kit is available for pre-order and camera and speaker kits were recently funded on Kickstarter.
Kano computer kit, for ages 6-14, $140 holiday price (normally $150)
Lego created the Mindstorms series in conjunction with the MIT Media Lab. The first version was released in 1998, and Lego released EV3 (the third and current version) in 2013. The system is an “innovative robotic construction kit” for kids that’s designed around a programmable “intelligent” brick. The brick is a traditional Lego with a tiny, portable computer inside. The kit comes with two Lego-supplied programming languages, but allows for third-party languages. The starter kit allows you to make 17 different robots, guided by the app, which you can download on a tablet or a computer.
And if you’re worried about your kid learning how to interact with others, there’s an online community where robot creations are shared and discussed.
Lego Mindstorms Starter Kit, for ages 10+, $350
The basic Flybrix kit allows you to build your own drone from Legos. I’m not sure what else you need to know about this one. The basic kit allows you to build quad-, hex-, and octo-airframe designs and comes with a Flight Control app. The kit includes all the necessary Legos, designs plans, and software to make the drone. This is the most complex robot on the list, but will definitely serve as an interesting challenge for older kids and teenagers.
Flybrix basic kit, ages 14+, $190
Most things look pretty neat really close up. One way to spark curiosity is to give kids a way to make anything microscopic by giving them a digital microscope. The AM2111 model is the most basic of the USB digital microscopes from Dino-Lite. The microscope provides 10-50 times magnification as well as 230 times magnification, with a resolution of 640 × 480 pixels.
Dino-Lite AM2111 Microscope, $100