Tech the halls

Kelly Keane, Ed.D., director of educational technology at Loyola, shares her top five tech toys for 2017

By Rita Buettner

Christmas is drawing near, and with so many toys to choose from, finding the perfect gift for the children in your life can seem like a daunting task.

Loyola magazine asked Kelly Keane, Ed.D., director, educational technology program in the School of Education, about her recommendations for gift ideas that are both fun and educational for children.

“I think you should look for gifts that require hands on exploration and play. These kinds of toys are engaging and can help build problem-solving skills, spatial awareness, critical thinking, logic, and even coding skills while the kids are hard at play,” said Keane, who shares some of her favorite tech toys, below.

For the inventor

 is an invention kit created by two Massachusetts Institute of Technology students that turns everyday objects into touchpads. This is a unique toy that allows kids explore circuits, conductivity, and coding, while designing their own inventions. Prices range from $19.95 to $850.

For the explorer

KiwiCo offers a STEAM-focused subscription service that delivers crates of materials and projects for exploration and play through science, art, and engineering, depending on the age range selected. With crates for two-year-olds through teenagers, there is a great variety available—and you can select how often the crates are sent. This is truly engaging and convenient play. Everything you need is delivered in a crate right to your front door. Individual items cost as little as $9.95, while a 12-month subscription costs about $200.

For the builder

The littleBits Kits are electronic color-coded building blocks that snap together with magnets allowing kids to invent just about anything. The Droid Inventor kit is a popular one and so is the Rule Your Room kit that allows children to create touch-activated inventions to control other things. It’s a toy that lets kids work through the engineering process from creating to building to testing to re-creating. littleBits cost around $99.

For the problem-solver

The X-Cube is a shape-shifting puzzle reminiscent of the classic Rubik’s Cube. The X-Cube has over 125 decillion possible permutations, two quintillion times more permutations than the original Rubik’s. With so many variations for solving the cube, it is sure to keep children (and grownups) busy. The X-Cube costs just over $30, and tutorials are available on the toy’s website.

For the futurist

Sphero 2.0 is an app-controlled robot ball that can be paired to your smartphone or tablet through a Bluetooth connection. The ball rolls at speeds up to 4.5 mph and includes two ramps for children to create obstacle courses. Over 30 free apps can also be downloaded which offer numerous ways to play. The Sphero 2.0 costs $129.99.

What other toys made Santa’s list this year? Share your recommendations in the comments section!

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