The Little Lake County editors and their kids have been busy playing and trying out the latest toys and tried and true favorites to bring you this holiday wish list. All items are ones that we have tried, played with and are kid and parent approved.
Tweens and teens are unpredictable, but they still like to play and have fun. So when you find a toy, game or project that keeps their attention, it’s like manna from heaven. And it’s a welcome diversion from watching them SnapChat or make Musical.ly videos in their spare time.
Best Toys for Older Kids
This game kit packs a wallop–it’s a kit to build a game, a high-quality game that can be played (and redesigned), and then the version of the game that the child created can be viewed and played in a virtual reality viewer that comes with the game (this portion requires the use of an smart phone or iPod). The creative possibilities seem endless with this toy, as it ties together concepts from design, to fine motor skills to play the game, and then the technical skills used in the virtual reality setting. The box says this product is for children as young as eight; however, I think it is very suitable for older children who want to learn design, customize and then play a VR game. Or maybe even their parents.
X-CUBE by Moving Parts LLC
The X-CUBE is the first product marketed by local, Chicago-based Moving Parts, and is a twisting, logic puzzle. Similar to a Rubik’s Cube, but much larger and more complicated, the X-CUBE is an expanded version that re
quires a different set of algorithms to solve. It is definitely challenging, and ours has yet to be solved. While puzzle games are certainly for players of all ages, this particular puzzle requires an advanced skill set.
We got this set after the 2014 Toy & Game Fair. My son was nine at the time and spent three hours (yes THREE hours) working with the technician at the booth to build the strandbeast (blue guy on the left there). While it’s not new this year, I wanted to include it because two years later he is still building, playing, learning with this toy. He’s even started designing his own and not using the patterns given. There are even more kits now including a crossbow, snapshot, and catapult as well as a robotic arm that can be used with and added to these kits. It’s great for a kid who is just starting to get into robotics and engineering or if mom and dad aren’t ready to get something like Dash and Dot. So many skills are honed with this kit and the best part, at least if you are trying t limit screen time, is they don’t need a tablet or smart phone to control it once it’s built.
Snap Circuits have been around since I was a kid and they are still an awesome toy for older kids who still want to play. There are so many sizes and varieties from basic kits to ones that light up, it’s a great way to teach problem solving and STEM skills while have a quick and tangible result (no waiting three or more hours!). Perfect for those “new” big kids in the 9-12 year old range that are still a kid at heart.
We stumbled upon the Bose Build booth on our way out of the Chicago Toy & Game Show and I am so glad we did. The Bose Build Speaker Cube allows a child not only the ability to build their own cool light up speaker, but it connects to a tablet or phone (Apple) and teaches them about music, pitch, sound waves and more! It includes the components to teach kids how the sound is made with a copper coil and paper. I kind of wanted to buy it for the kids’ school so they could use it in music classes! Kids that are into music and building will love it. Recommended age is eight and older ,however if your child doesn’t have any experience with music or electronics, I would lean to age 10 and up.
Older kids will go crazy to find either of these items under the tree this year. In fact I would be stoked to find the Rip Surf under the tree for me! The Rip Surf (seen in the below video being ridden in the background by the creator) takes surfing to the sidewalks. Unlike a skateboard once you are on there is no need to stop and push off, you use your shifting weight to keep it moving. The Crazy Cart Shift is an update for older kids on the previous Crazy Cart allowing them to drift all over the driveway with ease. If your kids are getting board with their scooters or you need to bribe them to get the outside, these toys will have them out in no time – just don’t forget the helmet!
Best Games for Older Kids
Ha Ha Moustache Name that ‘Stache Game – Best ‘Staches Ever by Haywire Group
Because facial hair is funny, my teenager had me searching high and low for this game. There are several other editions, too: Ha Ha Moustache Name that ‘Stache Game – Living People Edition, Ha Ha Moustache Name that ‘Stache Game – Dead People Edition, and Ha Ha Moustache Name that ‘Stache Game – Awful People Edition. This game is recommended for players age 14 and older, mainly because players need a general knowledge of history, culture and current events to play the games, in which players attempt to identify a person by a drawing of their mustache. It’s a fun and funny game that makes biographical history fun. If mustaches aren’t your thing, try Beardos Name that Beard Game, in which players attempt to identify the beards of 50 famous people, that can be real or fictional.
POOP: The Game by Breaking Games
Ok, everybody needs to POOP this holiday season. Trust me, this game only sounds gross; it’s really very fun to play, and is similar to UNO, with a unique theme. All puns aside, this game is rated for kids as young as five, but we parents can really only tolerate so much potty talk, let alone invite it to the family table. For that reason, I (Jennifer J.) recommend it for kids a bit older who can handle the bathroom humor a little better. There are a few editions of this game as well: POOP: Party Pooper Edition, and POOP: Public Restroom Edition (plays using multiple potties).
Circular Reasoning by Breaking Games
Older kids need challenging, strategy games (and parents that can play these games with them). Circular Reasoning is definitely for the cerebral older children in your life. It is similar to chess, but it is not played on a chess board. This game fosters logic, strategy and mathematical reasoning, and relies purely on brainpower. It will take a few rounds of play to get the feel for this game, but it is challenging and fun once you get the hang of it. The game is officially recommended for players age 12 and older; however, if you have a young chess player you can safely introduce this game at a younger age.
Wise Words by The Game Crafter
Overall, this game is suitable for all ages, but in order to be successful, players need to be familiar with famous quotes, which is why it is best suited to players 12 years of age and older. The game can be played by 2-10 players, and each player takes turns reading a part of a famous quote, and the rest of the players need to finish it. If no one guesses the quote, it is read aloud and placed at the bottom of the deck to be read again in the future. Kids can learn a lot of great historical quotes as they play this game. This game was developed through The Game Crafter, a group that helps independent game designers take their vision for a game to reality through an online, web-based system.
The teen boys hung out for quite awhile to learn about this game at this year’s Chicago Toy & Game Fair. It is an expansion pack for the Villagers & Villains Game, which is a city building game that include elements of heroes, legends, wizardry and dragons. It can be played by two to six player and there is also team play options. In this game, you build a city, acquire buildings, team up with heroes and fight challenges. The under twelve crowd can most likely handle this game, and there are options for basic and advanced play.
What are your family’s favorite toys and games for older kids? Leave us a comment and tell us about it.
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