Buying tech toys for kids without loading them up with extra screen time can feel close to impossible.
Despite the insatiable demand for game consoles like the brand new Nintendo Switch OLED or flashy new smartphones, however, there are plenty of awesome gifts that satiate kids’ urge for gadgets without gluing their eyes to a glowing rectangle.
Whether you’re looking to gift a crash course in STEM with a creative toy or foster a future filmmaker with a beginner’s drone, our list has something for tech-intrigued kids of all ages.
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The Konstruktor F is a fun DIY project and intro to analog photography rolled into one bundle.
Film photography is hot right now, and building your own camera by hand is great way to get kids in on the fun. The Konstruktor F is a plastic 35mm SLR shipped as a DIY model kit. It perfectly hits that sweet spot between complexity and simplicity, making for an interesting puzzle for teens and younger kids with some assistance.
Like any film camera, the quality of your shots depends on how much you experiment — but don’t count this camera out because it’s a toy. There’s plenty of room to get creative and create some lovely images here. But, of course, half the fun is putting it together.
Raspberry Pi 400 is a complete, bite-sized personal computer built into a compact keyboard.
Raspberry Pi 400 is a perfect gift for tech-inclined kids looking for an intro to computer hardware and programming basics. This version features a quad-core 64-bit processor, 4GB of RAM, wireless networking, a 16GB microSD card with Raspberry Pi OS, and HDMI outputs so you can connect it to any screen.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has great resources for getting started too, with this kit and a long list of fun projects that anyone can tackle online.
The Tello Drove from Ryze Tech and DJI is an affordable, starter drone with a built-in beginner's coding project.
Even though it has been out for a few years, the Tello Drone is still the best budget starter drone on the market. This little drone is easy to fly, has a camera for basic aerial photography and video shoots, and can be programmed using a mobile app that supports Scratch (a block-based coding platform designed by MIT).
While the Tello isn’t advanced — it's only rated for 13-minute flights and can only travel 100 meters — it’s a great introduction to drones and is compatible with a range of DJI accessories for even more fun.
Sphero SPRK+ is a programmable robot ball and a perfect entry toy for creative coding.
And don’t worry: SPRK+ is waterproof and scratch-resistant. Even though it’s a complex toy, it’s built to be durable.
Intelino is bringing the classic train set into the 21st century with this app-enabled smart engine.
This isn’t your grandfather’s train set. If you want to get your kids started in tech early, the J-1 Smart Train from Intelino is a versatile toy for little coders. Using snap-on track additions and a free mobile app, kids can adjust speed, steering, and more through experimentation. It’s designed to get those coding basics instilled early through play instead of study.
The J-1 train is designed to work on the included Intelino track and most wooden tracks, and you can purchase adapters to mix and match tracks for more complex systems.
Young aspiring musicians and DJs will love this surprisingly complex beginner's synthesizer.
Say goodbye to old-school play keyboards — this synthesizer from Blipbox brings some serious music tools into the playroom. At its base, the After Dark Synthesizer has 300 professionally-produced melodies, lots of pitch-adjustable, and an easy-to-grasp system for looping and recording.
For more serious young musicians, there’s a lot of advanced options including a five-pin MIDI input for keyboard and drum machine additions, compatibility with most digital audio software, and outputs for stereo setups.
This synthesizer covers a lot of ground and is a worthwhile music tool for young producers of any skill level.
This e-scooter from Segway is fantastic entry-level ride for teens.
Electric scooters are becoming more and more popular among adults — why shouldn’t kids be able to get in on the action? With a top speed of 11.2 mph (and three power modes for control), a 6.2-mile range, and solid electric and mechanical disc brakes, the Ninebot E12 is the perfect entry-level electric scooter for beginners. At 18.7 pounds, it’s light enough to be maneuvered by kids and compact enough to stow in the garage or pack in the car without much hassle.
Give a bit of mobility and freedom to explore the outdoors instead of a screen-based gift.
This 449-piece Lego set is a creative crash course in engineering and design for kids.
This educational set from Lego brings engineering basics to an already fun, hands-on experience. On top of pretty standard Lego pieces, this 449-piece kit comes with a two-port hub, two small motors, a light matrix, and a color sensor — everything a kid needs for some pretty complex projects. This kit comes with five lessons plans with eight 45-minute STEAM lessons, backed up with math and language arts bonus materials. These lessons will have kids building working vehicles, amusement park rides, and windmills while learning real-world engineering concepts.
The best part about Legos kits like these is that, once you’re done with the lesson plans, they can be used with any other Legos. Who knows what they’ll build after they apply these concepts with a wider range of pieces.