1. With the excitement of Christmas and the holidays past, it is fun to reflect on what toys, games and books were the biggest hits with the kids with lasting play value. This year I had to search a bit more for appropriate fun, learning toys for kids 12 and up as my grandkids are getting older. There is definitely less written about excellent STEM and learning kits for tweens in my opinion so it took some investigating. Here were favorites according to the kids and parents:


  1. Little Bits Droid Inventor Kit was just as much fun as expected. My 9 year-old put it together and navigated the app independently which is a plus for any parent as well as their child! He followed the building instructions and operated the droid from the app.
  2. Make Mini Piñatas by Klutz was a hit with the option to make 3 kid-sized piñatas, from a hamburger to a slice of watermelon, unicorn, emoji, robot, cactus and more. All the materials are provided except scissors and masking tape and we needed some extra glue. The cardboard forms were easy to fold into shapes and sometimes needed an extra pair of hands to tape them together. Instructions were clear visually and verbally so kids could count, measure and cut the strips of paper and “fringe” them for the piñata. Our 7 year-old chose to make the hamburger and it was so popular that it was hung on the tree and declared an annual ornament! He liked it so much he chose not to fill the trap door with candy and smash it to bits as one would traditionally do with a piñata.
  3. LeapFrog Scoop and Learn Ice Cream Cart was a hit yet again with a 3 year-old who was making ice cream cones for her grandpa. Check out my review of this PAL Award winner that keeps kids entertained and busy learning!
  4. KLUTZ  Stitch & Style Pouches are a perfect introduction to learning to use a thread and needle. My 9 year-old granddaughter learned to separate and thread floss,  remember the right and wrong side of the fabric,  and make a running and back stitch. She loves animals so these little animal pouches (you can make 7) were perfect for stashing her valuables.The kit includes zippers too to close up the pouch or make a mouth. With plenty of colored felt, heart and other shaped buttons and shapes to trace, kids can get creative making a llama, watermelon, ice cream cone or puppy to name a few. The hardest part was threading the needle so I cheated and left her with some metal and wire needle threaders we got at Walmart, so she could be self-sufficient.
  5. Soggy Doggy by Spin Master always catches kids by surprise when the shaggy dog randomly flicks water all over players when he decides to shake after his many showers!  A simple first game for preschoolers, this incorporates some pretend play with a rubbery, endearing doggy who doesn’t like to get wet.