Best Screenless Gifts for Kids

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According to experts, children between the ages of 4 and 18 should never spend more than two hours in front of a screen per day. What about children under three? Yeah, they’re not really supposed to get screen time. Like… at all. But we get it; expert advice aside, getting kids off screens and, say, outdoors for a hike or bike ride is often easier said than done. This helps to explain why, according to the data we got from the CDCmany American children spend 7.5 hours staring at a screen every day.

To help you help your child (or your nephew, granddaughter, or whoever) spend less time staring at a screen, and more specifically, achieve that goal without conflict, we’ve put together a number of great toys that are not just pure fun, but will also engage the same parts of the brain that seek stimulation in a tech-focused youngster, but without the passivity that many screen-focused activities include.

Tried and tested, well reviewed and approved by parents, and recommended by experts, here are the best tech-centric toys which make great gifts for kids, not a screen in sight. (OK, except for the one you’re watching right now.)

The Toniebox is one of the brightest devices we’ve seen in years, and it’s one that kids will love from their earliest years through, well, forever. That’s because the content a Toniebox can play ranges from nursery rhymes and stories for toddlers to audio adaptations of Disney movies to the rich retelling of stories from the classics (think “Treasure Island”). to more recent ones (as in “The Gruffalo”) with non-fiction educational content. Audio tracks are played, paused, skipped or repeated by gentle taps on the side of the device, so even young children can use a Toniebox, and it can be used with headphones, so it’s perfect for the car, for travel or for quiet moments.

Botley the Coding Robot 2.0

From $64

Yes, that’s right, this little robot from Learning Resources can teach kids to code, and no screen is required. How? Because with Botley 2.0 (a slight upgrade from the OG Botley), kids use a series of physical boards with instructions printed on them to “program” the robot’s actions. It can also be controlled via a remote control for classic robot fun.

FLUESTO 10 inch Doodle Magic Board LCD Writing Tablet

Remember those magnetic tablets you had when you were a kid? Those who created rough gray images by drawing iron dust against that matte gray screen? That’s it, but reimagined for the next generation. These LCD tablets can be used for drawing, doodling, handwriting practice, tic-tac-toe, math work and a thousand other uses, and they can be used repeatedly when a quick press of a button erases the screen.

GeoSafari Jr Interactive Talking Globe

This beautifully colored and illustrated globe would be welcome in any child’s bedroom, playroom or study space simply for its appearance and accurate depiction of our physical and political world. But it’s packed with information, challenges, and geography games, all engaged via an included stylus, making it a real winner. And we love that a lot of the content is also voiced by Bindi Irwin.

3Doodler Start+ Essentials 3D Pen Set for Kids

A perfect gift for the budding inventor, artist or engineer – or better yet, for a child with all three interests – this easy to use 3d pen allows children to literally “draw” in three dimensions. It can create all kinds of things, from DIY jewelry to mini action figures to game pieces and anything a young mind wants to create.

Elenco Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 Electronic Exploration Kit

A Instant circuit kit is one of the best tech toys because it takes a young handyman under the proverbial hood of things. Of course we all know that when you flip a switch you complete a circuit and turn on a light, but there’s nothing like a child building their circuit and then seeing it work when a light bulb turns on .

Ravensburger GraviTrax XXL Marble Run Starter Kit

Yes, play with a GraviTrax set will help teach children the fundamentals of physics, such as the power of gravity, how actions and reactions are interrelated, how there are many times the energy, such as potential and kinetic energy, etc. And yes, it will also strengthen their executive functioning skills by solving engineering problems, planning ahead, troubleshooting and refining their designs. But budding engineers won’t even notice it, they’ll just have fun.

Sphero Specdrums (2 Ringtones) Music Ringtones App Compatible

With the two small rings and the color-coded stamp included, you get with a Sphero Specrum Kit, children can tap rhythms and melodies and create really beautiful music. Yes, this kit uses a display, but only to pair the hardware and display the type of “instrument” each pad zone will play when tapped with a Specdrums ring.

MindWare Gearjits: Treasure Box — Wooden 3D Construction Puzzle

This 3D wooden puzzle will be a satisfying challenge for older kids and teens (and adults – we know that from experience). But that’s only part of the fun: unlike a standard puzzle that can only be viewed once completed, this MindWare kit is a functional treasure box complete with combination lock and keys.

A great way to get older kids or teens away from their computer or phone and out, this drone is a perfect choice for novice pilots, so to speak. It’s easy to fly with video game-like controls, and the drone can be operated via voice commands. While we know we’re avoiding screens here, the situation is a bit different when you pair a smartphone to this spunky little flyer to see the view through its camera.

Lectric XP Step-Thru 3.0 Electric Bikes Black

From $1099

Do you want the ultimate tech “toy” perfect for teens and adults? Give them a fun and exhilarating e-bike that also promotes outdoor activities and moderate exercise. The XP 3.0 can cruise in pedal-assist mode or run in throttle-only mode, so it’s a great way to do a light workout or a great commuter bike for the high school kid, college kid or urban pro. It’s also a great gift for a mum or dad to give themselves, as the bike can be equipped with a rear seat that can accommodate a passenger.


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Christy J. Olson