Budget drone? App-friendly Fender? Mario riding around your living room? This artful edit of tech toys will keep kids, teens and just about everyone else occupied this winter. We’ve featured a mix of toys and gaming gift ideas for under tens and young adults with 90 per cent fun and maybe a smidge of education thrown in for good measure. Scroll on for WIRED’s Christmas gift guide to 2020’s best tech toys.
Black Friday, Black Friday Week, whatever you’re calling it, it is over. Head to our edit of the best Cyber Monday deals for new discounts and worthwhile deals left over from last week.
Raspberry Pi 400
Give Christmas 2020 a flavour of 1982 with this computer built into a keyboard. The Raspberry Pi 400 is the latest, and perhaps most dynamic, version of the UK’s very own educational computer. You can use it to teach your kids about coding. You can turn it into a retro gaming jukebox. Or you can load up one of the many pre-baked Linux distributions and use it as a portable desktop, ready to plug into the nearest display to hand. Who needs a £1,000 MacBook Air? Available solo or as a kit that includes a bunch of accessories and a beginner’s guide. We recommend the latter as a present.
Price: £93.30 | The Pi Hut
Nerf Ultra One Motorised Blaster
If you’ve got to eight years as a parent without succumbing to requests from your child for a Nerf gun, then we salute you. The latest addition to the Nerf family, the Ultra One Motorised Blaster is aimed at ages eight and above and features darts that can travel an incredible footage, blasting Nerf darts up to 36 metres away. Ideal for use in a long garden, it has the capacity to house 25 darts in its drum for swift and nimble aim, and while it includes on-board dart storage for quick reloading, don’t be surprised if – much like random Lego pieces – Nerf darts pop up in every nook and cranny of your home. For kids who can’t get eNerf (sorry), you may also like to check out the Nerf Marvel Spider-Man Power Moves (£20) which is aimed at ages five and up and attaches to the hand for fun role play.
DJI Mini 2
The kids want a drone for Christmas, be they 14 years old or 40. But you don’t want to spend £1,000-plus on a top-end drone that sounds like a flying lawnmower. That’ll be the DJI Mini 2, then. Folded up it’s small enough to fit in some coat pockets, and weighs just 249g. Still, the stuff inside is far from low-end. DJI’s Mini 2 has a 4K camera mounted on a 3-axis stabilising gimbal capable of producing smooth, cinematic footage. Let rip and it can reach speeds of 35mph. The battery is fit for around 30 minutes of flight time. Long enough to satisfy, not so long the rest of the family are bored and/or frozen rigid by the end. Hunt down the Fly More bundle for all-day droning on. It includes two additional batteries and a bunch of useful accessories.
It was only a matter of time before classic 80s games were given a high-tech update. Enter the new Rubik’s Connected. This speed Cube comes with sensors and connects through Bluetooth to a dedicated app, which teaches you how to solve the cube in under an hour, play and improve your game. You can also use it to compete with other players online and join a community of worldwide Rubik’s Cube fans. Whatever’s next? A USB-connected Fisher Price Record player – a mighty-fine idea if we don’t say so ourselves – or how about an Etch-A-Sketch with a 10.2-inch retina screen? Let’s hope Santa’s workshop elves are taking notes for next year.
Ricky Zoom Turbo Trick Ricky RC Motorbike
Kids don’t have to be a fan of the Ricky Zoom television series to enjoy the fun this radio-controlled motorbike provides. With rear wheelies and 360-degree stunt spins, the Ricky Zoom Turbo Trick Ricky Radio Controlled Motorbike is a top buy this Christmas for kids aged three and up. With 150 minutes of drive time, the set takes 3 x AA and 2 x AAA batteries and is ergonomically designed for little fingers with two large buttons on the remote. Kids can press the Forward arrow to drive Ricky across the floor, and press Turn to perform a sensational wheely. When the Turn button is held down Ricky will perform a stunt spin, while pressing down the forward button will lower Ricky so he can race on both hard flooring and carpets.
Pokemon My Partner Eevee
If you really don’t fancy buying that dog/rabbit/bearded dragon the kids keep nagging you for this Christmas, then a ‘live pet’ may just be the distraction needed. My Partner Eevee is a great choice for Pokemon fans – but equally fun for those who’ve never had the pleasure of being a trainer. While the interactive toy can’t bark/hop/sit staring into space like a real-life pet can, it can be petted to your heart’s content. It comes with a built-in microphone and touch-sensor technology and has more than 50 reactions to touch, voice and music. It comes ‘alive’ as its ears, head, arms and tail moves, making up to 20 iconic sound effects in total.
Robo Wunderkind is aimed at teaching kids aged 5-14 how to code in a fun and playful way. Designed to nurture cognitive skills and encourage creativity, Robo Wunderkind features a series of Lego- compatible building blocks, including sounds, light and sensors. The blocks can be used in any configuration you like to build things such as a car, nightlight, a droid and more. Using the compatible app, kids can then learn how to control their robot – whether it’s by turning on a light, making it drive and more. There are three kits to choose from including the Explorer Lite, which features six building modules for £199, the Explorer Prime, which has eight modules for £249, and the Explorer Pro, which gives you 15 modules for £399.
MICRO Sparrow XL Hybrid electric scooter
A welcome antidote to the hordes of identikit scooters buzzing around our cities, this is an electric scooter meant for fun, and specifically for kids. The Sparrow XL is fully spec’d and designed for ages 12+ (or anyone up to 100kg), although you try getting it off a seven-year-old. It has a five-mile range and a top speed of 11mph, triggered using the thumb throttle, which is a lot faster than it sounds in the hands of a child. At 5.5kg it is heavy if you’re the parent having to carry it, but realistically you shouldn’t have to as it can be used in manual (push) or electric modes. But a word for all you responsible adults weighing under 100kg, legally you’re still not allowed to ride on pavements in electric mode, so perhaps it’s worth learning how to pretend to push.
Nuraphone + Nuraphone gaming microphone
The idea gift for the gamer in your life who doesn’t really like to admit they’re all that into it, but still manages to play for hours on end. Nuraphone makes immersive headphones that create a personalised sound profile for the wearer by giving them a hearing test. This measures the almost inaudible noise given off by the inner ear when the cochlea is stimulated by a sound. Once this data is run through Nuraphone’s algorithm the user gets superb sound quality unique to their hearing. And with the addition of the Gaming Microphone (£50 if sold separately), compatible with Xbox, PC/Mac, PlayStation, Switch, mobile via 3.5mm connection, things get even more immersive, plus they will be heard loud and clear when boasting about their achievements.
Black Mountain KAPĒL kids bike
Considering this is a Christmas gift guide, WIRED would be remiss not to recommend a kids bike – and this one is our clear winner. More innovative than rival Islabikes, Black Mountain’s 18in-wheeled KAPĒL makes for an ideal first geared bike. Why? well, apart from the build quality – which is top drawer – Black Mountain has created a frame that solves the tricky problem with bikes when children grow. The EPOK system dispenses with the diamond frame, allowing its frame to expand. For younger less confident riders, the KAPĒL (as well as the other Black Mountain bikes) can transform from balance bike into a pedal model by adding the balance bike kit, which comes with a 3D-printed gear cable-tidy. Yes, this costs more than a cheap kids bicycle, but Black Mountain bikes typically last 12 to 24 months longer than a fixed-frame bike. The final clinchers? Thanks to the aluminium construction, it’s super lightweight for when the kids refuse to ride any further; the KAPĒL can be upgraded to 20in wheels with disc brakes; and you can even add in a 20in suspension fork when your offspring is ready to tear up the trails.
Price: £449 | Black Mountain
Laser Battle Hunters
Speeds of up to 4.3km/hr may not amount to anything on the M25, but in your living room they can create some serious drama. Not your average remote control toy, Laser Battle Hunters are fully functional radio control vehicles that can forward, reverse and spin at a speedy rate and create some thrilling action. They feature a multi-directional four-wheel driving system, which allows you to drift and manoeuvre from side to side. You can choose from two modes to play – first up is the multi-player R/C combat mode where you can use the built-in infrared cannon to knock out your opponent. If you want to involve more players you can add up to eight at the same time but you’ll have to pay for the extra cars. There’s also an option that turns one Laser Battle Hunter into a moving target that you have to try and blast while it fires at you for a minute. Glorious.
Fender Fullerton Ukulele
Combining the beautiful form of the ukulele with the classic Fender electric shapes, the Fullerton Ukulele makes for a memorable gift. Designed for any ukulele player wanting to inject the spirit of rock and roll into their performance, it can be played plugged or unplugged and teamed with the Fender Play App for inspiration. The Fullerton Ukulele comes in three iconic shapes including Stratocaster, Telecaster or Jazzmaster – with a pickguard, signature finish colour options and 4-in-line headstock that are quintessentially Fender. Pictured here is the Fullerton Strat Uke in a golden Sunburst finish with a Walnut fingerboard.
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit
For anyone who already owns a Nintendo Switch (£279) or Switch Lite, the Mario Kart Live Home Circuit set brings more adventure to your four walls with a computer game the whole household can enjoy. And while holiday travel is restricted this year, bringing blue oceans and sandy deserts to your living room may be just the tonic. The game lets you drive a kart in the real world using familiar Mario Kart controls plus you can view footage from the kart’s camera, which is directed to your Nintendo Switch or TV screen. Once you buy the home circuit set you can then team it with the Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit software, which is available as a free download from the Nintendo eShop.
LEGO The Mandalorian Bounty Hunter Transport Starship
To fill the time between the turkey meal and the evening cheeseboard, it’s always a great idea to have a LEGO construction on the go. This 75292 set is a decent-sized challenge, inspired by The Mandalorian live-action TV series on Disney+. You can build the Razor Crest, which carries three LEGO minifigures inside including the formidable bounty hunter ‘Mando’, the Child (Baby Yoda) and a scout trouper. The ship includes a cargo hold with opening sides that double as access ramps and carbonite bounty elements inside. There’s also a dual LEGO minifigure cockpit, spring-loaded shooters and escape pod to contend with. What’s more, there are 1,023 pieces to work your way through, so may patience be with you.
Vecnos IQUI ZTQ01 360 camera
For those who love to TikTok and Snap in between live stints on Insta (sorry, we’ll stop), the Vecnos IQUI ZTQ01 camera makes a great gift. Designed with social media savvy users in mind, it features an impressive ‘quad-lens optical system’ that allows you to capture 360 degree footage of you and everything that surrounds you on its ultra slim 7.1cm wide body. It can shoot 3840×1920 video at 30fps, which can be sent to a dedicated app on your smartphone with one click. Then add effects and share the footage on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and yes, TikTok.
DJI Ryze Tello
Let’s go fly a drone, up to the highest… height. Featured in our WIRED Recommends guide to the best drones for 2020, the Ryze Tello is a great beginner drone ideal. It gives you up to 13 minutes in flight with a 100 metre range and the ability to capture up to 5MP pictures and 720p resolution video at 4Mbps. This means you have just enough time to check out a location and share footage on social media should you wish. The nifty Tello is light enough to fit in the palm of your hand and has the ability to perform eight different flips in the air, as well as bounce up and down in your hand.
Osmo Coding Starter Kit
With the goal of using tangible pieces to create a hands-on learning experience, Osmo is a bit of a shorthand for educational toys. Simply place your iPad or Amazon Fire HD tablet in a compatible Osmo base and Osmo will scan the table so the physical game pieces – be it to draw, code or spell – will come alive. New for 2020 is the Coding Starter Kit that is aimed at introducing children aged 5-10 to coding. It allows them to connect colourful blocks of code in the physical world to chart on screen and learn coding skills block by block.
Air Hogs Zero Gravity
While it may not seem like the best choice if you’ve just redecorated your walls, the Air Hogs Zero Gravity set is great fun. It features a lightweight, remote control car that can drive on floors, up walls and upside down on the ceiling. Use the laser light beam gun to point at the wall, ceiling or ground and the car will chase the direction of the light. With walls in mind, you may also want to consider the ProjeX Projecting Game Arcade (£50) too, which tests your speed and skill as you blast moving targets – ducks, UFOs, you name it – that it projects onto your wall.
Suitable for both aspiring teen DJs and old-fashioned vinyl nerds, Sony’s PS-LX310BT turntable is a sound choice. You can use it to play Little Drummer Boy with all the rich and punchy bass tones Crosby and Bowie intended. As we note in our best record players WIRED Recommends, its style is effortlessly streamlined, including a pre-set tracking weight for the arm up/down button and a 7 in/12in disc size selector. But it’s the Bluetooth pairing that makes the Sony a particularly enticing buy – it’s quick and simple to wirelessly pair it to speakers, soundbars or headphones. It also features an integrated phono stage so it can be wired to your existing system should you wish.
Senstroke Drum Kit
If we have learnt anything from the year’s most popular kids movie – the glitter-fest that is Trolls World Tour – it’s that music is inside all of us. If you know someone with a particularly good ear for keeping the beat, the Senstroke makes a great gift. Attach the connected sensors to the drumsticks to provide an easy way to play and learn the drums, without the expense or noise of a physical drum set. You can connect to the dedicated iOS, Android and Windows compatible apps via Bluetooth and play on any surface – a table, a book, even a cushion – and the built-in technology reproduces the impact of the drumsticks for a realistic feel.
Garmin Vivofit Jnr 3
With so many batteries to contend with at Christmas we’d like to say that the most enticing thing about the Vivofit Jnr 3 is that the batteries will last up to a year. That however wouldn’t do it justice as the third-get Garmin kids tracker comes with so many more enticing features. Kids can use it to monitor steps, sleep and daily activities and collect rewards. After 60 minutes of activities for instance, they can unlock fun pop quizzes, ‘collectible gems’ and play games.
While it might be slightly gimmicky for dedicated Messi wannabes, the Speed Ball does ramp up some seriously healthy and fun competition amongst friends and family. The talking football has a built-in speed sensor that measures the speed of your kick up to 100kph. Simply place the talking ball on the kick-off base – that is, a garden, hall, field or beach – wait for the countdown and then kick the ball as hard as you can. It will then tell you your speed, cheer you on and even call out rewards just like a coach. Dressing room pep talk not included.
Price: £25 | Smyths Toys
More great stories from WIRED
🇸🇪 Not every country treated the pandemic the same – did Sweden’s Covid-19 experiment work?
💬 This AI Telegram bot has been abusing thousands of women
🧥 Apple’s new phones have arrived: Should you get the iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro?
🔊 Listen to The WIRED Podcast, the week in science, technology and culture, delivered every Friday