Categories
Computing

The best free education apps for kids in 2022

Do you know what makes the back-to-school season exciting? All the new apps and ed-tech platforms kids get to use. Whether they’re still joining online classes or using ed-tech for in-person lessons, there are various free educational apps for kids that make learning fun. Most of these are completely free, but some of them also offer paid plans for more advanced features.

Ready to revamp the back-to-school curriculum? Here are the best free educational apps for kids.

Many subjects

Khan Academy and Khan Academy Kids

Khan Academy has thousands of lessons in dozens of languages. You can do deep dives into cosmology, ancient civilizations, the branches of government, cryptography, and far too many more to mention. A progress tracker lets you know how far you’ve advanced in a particular topic. The app for younger kids has cute cartoon animals, music, and lots of activities. There are books (you can either choose to have them read to you or read on your own), coloring and drawing options, and videos about math and other subjects. There are also reading, math, and logic activities. Everything is accessible from the Library menu in the top corner, while the main screen is more focused on short games for kids. Khan Academy also has some additional resources, like suggested schedules for remote learning.

Ages: Khan Academy Kids is for ages 2 to 7; Khan Academy is for older kids in high school.  

Subjects: The kids’ app is focused on math, reading, and social learning. The older students’ app has math (everything from arithmetic to calculus), science (including biology, physics, and chemistry), economics, arts and humanities (like grammar and history), and computing.

Khan Academy Kids

Android iOS

Khan Academy

Android iOS

BrainPop and BrainPop Jr.

BrainPop app.

BrainPop and BrainPop Jr. are apps that cover a wide variety of topics. Its science videos showcase the life cycle of plants, temperature, hibernation (for younger kids) or potential energy, metabolism, or Jane Goodall. Follow-up activities, like quizzes, help reinforce concepts. Everything is well-organized and easy to navigate. It costs a subscription, but you can also access several free lessons and activities.

Ages: BrainPop Jr. is for kindergarteners through third graders; BrainPop is for older elementary and middle school students.

Subjects: Math, science, social studies, art and music, health, engineering and tech, and English.

BrainPop

Android iOS

BrainPop Jr.

Android iOS

PBS Kids Games

PBS Kids Games app.

Chances are, your kid is already familiar with at least a few PBS characters from shows like Molly of Denali, Sesame Street, or Clifford the Big Red Dog. Their faves can help them find shapes, learn to count, or go on a museum hunt for historic figures in the PBS Kids Games app. There isn’t a good way to narrow down the long list of games in this app by age or subject, but if you click on a show and then tap the Grownups button, the description will provide an age range and goals the game focuses on, like social and emotional growth, literacy, or science.

Ages: 2 to 8.

Subjects: Science, reading, math, social and emotional growth, creativity, music, social studies.

Android iOS

Math

Moose Math

Moose Math App

Duck Duck Moose is an education company that is now part of Khan Academy. In this math-focused app, kids help a burly moose and his friends do various tasks around town. They’ll use counting to help make juice or find hidden animals. There’s also a shape game and a couple of games that use addition and subtraction. The five games have different levels, but your child will have to progress through them instead of skipping ahead.

Ages: Kindergarten and first graders.

Android iOS

Prodigy 

Prodigy App.

The Prodigy app is a story mixed with math. You start by customizing your wizard, then move on to battling monsters (in a cute way). The types of math problems you need to solve are based on the level you select at the start. A fourth grader might be asked about trapezoids or tell time on a clock in order to successfully cast a spell.

Ages: First through eighth graders.  

Android iOS

Science

NASA

NASA app.

Aspiring astronauts will be thrilled with the amount of space content at their fingertips, thanks to NASA’s app. They can explore news, watch videos, and learn about past and present missions. They can also get a map of all the NASA visitor centers, enjoy augmented reality (AR) 3D models of various NASA orbiters and missions, and cast all their favorite content to Apple TV, Chromecast, and Fire TV devices. Audio fans will love the NASA podcast and radio stations that take you on an immersive journey. Naturally, there are lots of amazing images as well.

Ages: Older elementary school and up.

Android iOS Amazon

NSF Science Zone

NSF Science Zone app.

The National Science Foundation created this app, which is a collection of impressive images and interesting videos on scientific topics. Kids can learn more about new discoveries, watch informative videos on the latest innovations, and conduct deep-dive searches into their favorite topics. There’s a broad range of categories to choose from, including biology, astronomy, chemistry, physics, and even nanoscience.

Ages: Older elementary school and up.

Android iOS

Plum’s Creaturizer

Plum's Creaturizer app.

This fun augmented reality app lets kids dream up all sorts of creative critters. The creatures are a mashup of body parts from several animals, so you might end up with a whale tale, kangaroo appendages, and butterfly wings. Once you’ve created the creature, you can use your phone’s camera to send it on missions, like finding food or creating a home for its babies. You can also watch a slideshow describing how your creature lives. The quizzes are helpful to put your kid in a thinking mode about what the creature needs to survive.

Ages: 4 and up.

iOS

Play and Learn Science 

Play and Learn Science app.

Yet another PBS app, the Play and Learn Science app focuses on science games. The topics include water, motion, shadows, and weather. Though the games are engaging, they also teach problem-solving in addition to scientific concepts. For example, in Thirsty Doggie, you have to use a variety of objects to direct the flow of water into a pup’s bowl. It gets progressively harder as you move up in levels. While it’s a favorite among kids, parents love it as well, considering it provides parent-child engagement tips and activities so you can strengthen your relationship with your kid while helping them learn new things.

Ages: 2 and up.

Android iOS

Coding

ScratchJr

Moose Math App

Scratch is a programming language from MIT, and this app introduces kids to it in a fun, intuitive way. Coding blocks help them make connections between a command and its outcome. They can create animations, decorate backgrounds, and add their voices and photos. Older kids might want to start with regular Scratch, which offers more advanced projects.

Ages: 5 and up.

Android iOS Amazon

Hopster Coding Safari

Hopster Coding Safari app.

This logic-building app has adorable visuals and an easy-to-grasp premise. Create a path from pieces with different twists and turns so cute woodland creatures can get from one spot to another. The path gets more complex the more levels you do. This is excellent as an introduction to computational thinking and learning the foundations of how coding works. Kids can choose between cute themes to make everything more fun.

Ages: Kindergarten through second grade.

iOS

Encode: Learn to Code

For kids who are interested in a variety of programming languages, Encode is a good place to start. It has lessons for JavaScript, Swift, Python, and Bash. They start with the basics and move on from there. They can set their own pace and learn with bite-sized lessons so nothing feels too overwhelming. It will help kids become proficient in the lingo for when they’re ready to move on to creating their own projects. To make the transition easier, Encode lets them run real code to test their skills.

Ages: Older elementary school and up.

iOS

Reading

Kindle

Child reading the Kindle app.

Kindle is the first app that comes to mind when you think of reading. It’s free to download and use, and you also get several free books without needing to buy a subscription or pay for any purchase. The kids’ section is pretty robust, and you get free access to titles like Ara the Star Engineer, Kevin and the King of Karate, Denny and Penny, and many more. You don’t even need to buy a Kindle for this, since the app works on phones and tablets. You can sync the downloaded books to various devices and take your reading anywhere with you.

Ages: 3 and up.

Android iOS

Libby

If your kid has assigned reading at school, it helps to have books handy. Libraries are the best for this, but not everyone has access to one. If you have a library card but live far away from your local branch, you can still access your branch’s digital resources, including movies, audiobooks, and even digitized picture books. The app was made by OverDrive, so if your library uses that system for e-book and audiobook lending, you should have access to Libby. While this app doesn’t actually teach kids how to read, it will hopefully give them plenty of material to read or listen to.

Ages: 2 and up.

Android iOS Windows

Language

Droplets

Simple graphics and a focus on the basics make this a good choice for beginning language learners, especially because you can’t set your level beyond beginner or intermediate. Plus, there’s a good mix of tasks that will keep kids entertained. There are a few dozen languages to choose from, from French to Portuguese and many more. A word of warning: The free version only lets you play for five minutes before locking you out for 10 hours.

Ages: 7 to 16.

Android iOS

Duolingo

With over 30 languages, Duolingo has lots of educational games, whether you want to learn Hawaiian, Greek, or Spanish. To start, you’ll take a placement test, so the app can serve up content tailored to your knowledge level. Then you’ll practice listening, reading, vocabulary, and pronunciation. There are lots of levels to progress through and a variety of ways to practice the ins and outs of a language. Please note that the free version is ad-supported.

Ages: 13 and up.

Android iOS

Art

Superhero Comic Book Maker and Draw and Tell

Superhero Comic Book Maker.

Two apps from Duck Duck Moose have similar functionality but different themes. Draw and Tell is more general, while Superhero Comic Book Maker has monsters and caped crusaders. Both let kids scribble away with digital markers and crayons but also use stickers and color in drawings. They can save any creations they’re particularly proud of and share them with family and friends.

Ages: 3 and up.

Superhero Comic Book Maker Draw and Tell

Google Arts and Culture

Google arts and culture app.

If you’ve always wanted to explore the museums of Moscow, Vienna, and New York, the Google Arts and Culture app is a good place to start. It has collections from hundreds of museums, from Japan’s Ohara Museum of Art to The Nelson Mandela Foundation in South Africa. There are lots of other activities in the app as well, whether you want to take a foodie tour of Spain, learn to strike a pose like Misty Copeland, or get Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons from The British Library.

Ages: Older elementary and up.

Android iOS

Gym

GoNoodle

GoNoodle app.

With a deep catalog of all sorts of high-energy videos, GoNoodle can keep active kids entertained for weeks. Some videos are just a couple of minutes long, while others (like Indoor Recess) string together several clips for 15 to 20 minutes of movement. One of our personal favorites is Blazer Fresh, who is self-described as nerdy by nature and will teach your child how to sing the alphabet backward.

Ages: 5 to 12.

Android iOS

Super Stretch Yoga

Super Stretch Yoga app.

If you want your kids up and moving but in a tranquil way, Super Stretch Yoga is great for younger kids. Instead of introducing them to complicated yoga poses, the app has videos of tots doing modifications based on things found in nature, like mouse pose or eagle pose. The video snippets don’t last long, but they could help with flexibility and balance.

Ages: 2 and up.

iOS

Sworkit

Sworkit app.

This is actually an all-ages app, but there is a kids’ section with lots of types of exercise for strength, agility, flexibility, and cardio. You can customize a routine by swapping in different moves and adjusting the workout’s timer. The moves are all done by kids, with a voice-over explaining how to copy them. Sworkit has workout mixes through the app or on Apple Music and Spotify, including a kid-friendly mix.

Ages: Older elementary and up.

Android iOS

Video resources

PBS Kids Video

PBS Kids Video.

This app is full of episodes and clips from shows like Peg + Cat, Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Molly of Denali, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and more. The grown-ups tab at the bottom gives age ranges for each show, as well as goals, like science for Wild Kratts.

Ages: 2 and up.

Android iOS

CuriosityStream

Curiosity Stream.

CuriosityStream is a great resource for all kinds of documentaries. It has thousands of them for science, history, nature, and more. There’s also a special kids’ section with lots of David Attenborough, dinosaurs, and space-themed videos. The history category has movies about Chambord, the Silk Road, the Apollo Mission, and tons in between.

Ages: Older elementary and up.

Subscription required? Yes, after the 30-day free trial (through Amazon), it’s $20 a year.

Android iOS

Kanopy for Kids

Kanopy app.

This app actually has a ton of movies for everyone, with a special focus on kids’ content. It has both movies and TV shows, including many PBS shows. If you’re not sure what you want to watch, you’ll find things arranged in useful collections, like classic tales, explore science and math, and stories from around the world. Once you get into the kids’ section, it takes some clicking to get back out, which is useful if you don’t want your little ones accidentally watching Midsommer.

Ages: 2 and up.

Subscription required? Available for free through your library, and you can log in with your library card. Also open to students and professors.

Android iOS

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Security

Google AI flagged parents’ accounts for potential abuse over nude photos of their sick kids

A concerned father says that after using his Android smartphone to take photos of an infection on his toddler’s groin, Google flagged the images as child sexual abuse material (CSAM), according to a report from The New York Times. The company closed his accounts and filed a report with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and spurred a police investigation, highlighting the complications of trying to tell the difference between potential abuse and an innocent photo once it becomes part of a user’s digital library, whether on their personal device or in cloud storage.

Concerns about the consequences of blurring the lines for what should be considered private were aired last year when Apple announced its Child Safety plan. As part of the plan, Apple would locally scan images on Apple devices before they’re uploaded to iCloud and then match the images with the NCMEC’s hashed database of known CSAM. If enough matches were found, a human moderator would then review the content and lock the user’s account if it contained CSAM.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit digital rights group, slammed Apple’s plan, saying it could “open a backdoor to your private life” and that it represented “a decrease in privacy for all iCloud Photos users, not an improvement.”

Apple eventually placed the stored image scanning part on hold, but with the launch of iOS 15.2, it proceeded with including an optional feature for child accounts included in a family sharing plan. If parents opt-in, then on a child’s account, the Messages app “analyzes image attachments and determines if a photo contains nudity, while maintaining the end-to-end encryption of the messages.” If it detects nudity, it blurs the image, displays a warning for the child, and presents them with resources intended to help with safety online.

The main incident highlighted by The New York Times took place in February 2021, when some doctor’s offices were still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As noted by the Times, Mark (whose last name was not revealed) noticed swelling in his child’s genital region and, at the request of a nurse, sent images of the issue ahead of a video consultation. The doctor wound up prescribing antibiotics that cured the infection.

According to the NYT, Mark received a notification from Google just two days after taking the photos, stating that his accounts had been locked due to “harmful content” that was “a severe violation of Google’s policies and might be illegal.”

Like many internet companies, including Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, Google has used hash matching with Microsoft’s PhotoDNA for scanning uploaded images to detect matches with known CSAM. In 2012, it led to the arrest of a man who was a registered sex offender and used Gmail to send images of a young girl.

In 2018, Google announced the launch of its Content Safety API AI toolkit that can “proactively identify never-before-seen CSAM imagery so it can be reviewed and, if confirmed as CSAM, removed and reported as quickly as possible.” It uses the tool for its own services and, along with a video-targeting CSAI Match hash matching solution developed by YouTube engineers, offers it for use by others as well.

Google “Fighting abuse on our own platforms and services”:

We identify and report CSAM with trained specialist teams and cutting-edge technology, including machine learning classifiers and hash-matching technology, which creates a “hash”, or unique digital fingerprint, for an image or a video so it can be compared with hashes of known CSAM. When we find CSAM, we report it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which liaises with law enforcement agencies around the world.

A Google spokesperson told the Times that Google only scans users’ personal images when a user takes “affirmative action,” which can apparently include backing their pictures up to Google Photos. When Google flags exploitative images, the Times notes that Google’s required by federal law to report the potential offender to the CyberTipLine at the NCMEC. In 2021, Google reported 621,583 cases of CSAM to the NCMEC’s CyberTipLine, while the NCMEC alerted the authorities of 4,260 potential victims, a list that the NYT says includes Mark’s son.

Mark ended up losing access to his emails, contacts, photos, and even his phone number, as he used Google Fi’s mobile service, the Times reports. Mark immediately tried appealing Google’s decision, but Google denied Mark’s request. The San Francisco Police Department, where Mark lives, opened an investigation into Mark in December 2021 and got ahold of all the information he stored with Google. The investigator on the case ultimately found that the incident “did not meet the elements of a crime and that no crime occurred,” the NYT notes.

“Child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is abhorrent and we’re committed to preventing the spread of it on our platforms,” Google spokesperson Christa Muldoon said in an emailed statement to The Verge. “We follow US law in defining what constitutes CSAM and use a combination of hash matching technology and artificial intelligence to identify it and remove it from our platforms. Additionally, our team of child safety experts reviews flagged content for accuracy and consults with pediatricians to help ensure we’re able to identify instances where users may be seeking medical advice.”

While protecting children from abuse is undeniably important, critics argue that the practice of scanning a user’s photos unreasonably encroaches on their privacy. Jon Callas, a director of technology projects at the EFF called Google’s practices “intrusive” in a statement to the NYT. “This is precisely the nightmare that we are all concerned about,” Callas told the NYT. “They’re going to scan my family album, and then I’m going to get into trouble.”

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Categories
AI

Kidas’ ProtectMe software is keeping an ear on your kids

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Here’s a question for you. How do you make sure to parent your kid’s internet time without invading their privacy? Kidas might have an answer for you, with its ProtectMe software. ProtectMe isn’t just a piece of nanny software, alerting parents to their own kid misbehaving. It also recognizes signs of incoming harassment.

The program uses artificial intelligence to monitor alarming behaviors between kids in over 120 games. ProtectMe specifically looks for context; it can tell the difference between a playful jab and an actual threat.

At the end of every week the software generates a report for the parents. This report alerts them to any concerning behaviors from — or towards — their kid.

It sounds good, in theory. But I had a few questions about the particulars. So, I got to asking a few questions to Kidas boss Ron Kerbs. Just a few questions about how exactly the software works and where it’s going in the future.

How it currently works

GamesBeat: Is ProtectMe limited to voice-chat only?

Ron Kerbs: The ProtectMe software provides both voice and text monitoring. It knows when to turn on and off based on when games or communication apps such as Discord are turned on and off.

GamesBeat: Is it user-only? That is, is the main goal of ProtectMe to observe the child’s outgoing speech, and not incoming speech?

Kerbs: ProtectMe has the ability to understand communication both in and out, meaning we know if a child was exposed to, for example, cyberbullying, as the victim, the perpetrator or a witness. For privacy and compliance reasons, we do not provide gamer tags, personal details or transcripts to parents or guardians. Only in the severest of circumstances will we offer additional context such as if there is clear potential for trafficking or the child was planning to meet a stranger in person, amongst other critical circumstances.

GamesBeat: Can the software deal with audio-splitting? If a microphone is plugged in through an audio mixer, or run through a digital audio cord, can ProtectMe detect the default Windows option isn’t in use and adjust accordingly?

Kerbs: Kidas supports audio splitting; in some instances, we analyze more than eight channels at one time. Our technology can differentiate between relevant data and background audio that we can ignore.

Context matters

GamesBeat: Can ProtectMe tell the difference between a child actively saying something to someone and reading something out loud? Between another user talking and a voiced cutscene?

Kerbs: What’s novel about our technology is that it understands context as part of the game and goes beyond language processing and keyword recognition. We all know that trash talk is part of the game experience; however, the ProtectMe difference is that because our AI software has been tested against thousands of scenarios, it is able to respond correctly every time and decipher whether an interaction represents a direct threat or good-natured trash talk.

That’s pretty incredible and something that no one else in the market is offering. We also know that, generally, what’s appropriate for say a 7-year-old to be exposed to is quite different than that of a 14-year-old, and thus with the guidance of child psychologists and cyberbullying experts, we provide different threat severity scores and recommendations based on age. If someone uses a voice changer or a recording, we would be listening to the context and words being spoken, not the depth or pitch of the spoken words.

Privacy is still important

GamesBeat: Can ProtectMe recognize repeat voices? If a child routinely teams up with someone who is regularly flagged as a vocal harasser, does Kidas alert parents of who their kid is hanging out with?

Kerbs: No, we are incredibly vigilant with respect to privacy laws and security. We encourage parents who are seeing repeated threats coming through to carry out further discussion within their family. Given that these topics can be incredibly challenging for parents to discuss, we provide personalized recommendations for how they can talk to their children about what has happened.

GamesBeat: Does ProtectMe track and/or provide updates-over-time for parents? For example: If ProtectMe flags a child 5 times in a week and reports that to parents, and the next week ProtectMe flags a child 3 times, is the parent alerted to the better behavior?

Kerbs: We do track week-over-week changes but not quite like that. Our reports start with a general color scoring system to categorize the severity of threats detected that week:

Red: Immediate Action Needed; The most concerning threats such as contact with a pedophile.
Orange: Action Needed; For concerning threats such as bullying.

Yellow: Worth Noting; Behavior you should be aware of such as age-appropriate trash talking.

Green: Nothing Concerning: No indication of concerning threats found.

Our reports contain recommendations based on the overall severity score and which threat was detected. When we see repeated exposure to the same threats, a sequence of unique recommendations based on historical threats detected is provided.

From there, we also provide time spent playing analytics. These show what games were played the most, how many hours were played each day and in total for the week, how this compares to last week and how the total time spent playing compares to all ProtectMe gamers. We are screen-time advocates and want to keep gaming safe and fun; however, parents have told us they never know how much their kids are actually playing and how this compares to other gamers. So now, they have even more insight than without the software.

What the future looks like

GamesBeat: Will ProtectMe be able to someday monitor game-specific harassment? (eg: a user who spams pre-setchat functions in Rocket League, like ”what a save!”; over and over, to mock a player)

Kerbs: This is not a current offering, however, we have plans to expand what our analysis looks at including game-specific harassment. For example, as part of our partnership with Overwolf, we use Overwolf’s APIs to get access to game-specific events to detect those situations.

GamesBeat: Is more in-depth tracking in the future for ProtectMe? (eg, tea-bagging, counter-strike sprays, etc.)

Kerbs: Although our current focus is on audio and text chats, detecting other toxic events that don’t involve peer-to-peer communication such as teabagging and smurfing are definitely on our roadmap.

We have also partnered with some of the largest game studios and gaming equipment manufacturers to bring them custom solutions that fit their unique technology, storylines and challenges.

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Categories
Game

The best tech toys for kids

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

It may have been another long year, but the holidays are finally approaching — and, with supply chain issues plaguing retail, it’s best to get your shopping done sooner rather than later. This year we’re all a little burnt out on screens, so the best gifts for kids are things they can hold. But, since this is Engadget, we’re always looking for that tech angle. This year’s crop of tech toys for kids is mostly grounded in the real world, with a few electronic twists to surprise and delight.

Miles Morales in Winter Suit Funko Pop

Funko Miles Morales in Winter Suit for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Funko

It’s always good to grab a few stocking stuffers, and Funko makes figures from what feels like every pop culture property on earth. Around here we’re partial to the video game ones, of course, and what’s more festive than this adorable Spider-Man all dressed up for the cold weather? It’ll look great while also adding a bit of geeky holiday cheer to someone’s bookshelf or desk.

Buy Miles Morales Funko Pop at Amazon – $11

Hasbro Lightsaber Forge

Kidds with the Hasbro Lightsaber Forge for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Hasbro

For kids who aren’t old enough to build their own lightsaber at Disney’s Galaxy Edge, this kit from Hasbro might be the next best thing. Not only is it way more affordable, but it’s also quite durable, allowing kids and adults alike to reenact their favorite Jedi versus Sith battles with gusto. Best of all, a child can rebuild their lightsaber again and again using different parts, so they can have a customized weapon that fits their mood each day.

Buy Lightsaber Forge at Walmart – $15

R2-D2 Tamagotchi

Star Wars™ R2-D2™ Tamagotchi for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Maybe taking care of a small creature was just too stressful for your kid, and you’ve had to console them many a time when the little ghost floating above a tombstone appears. Well, now Tamagotchi has a special astromech droid they can take care of instead, one they have to clean and play a variety of mini-games with. If they don’t take care of little R2, the Jawas will take him away which might still be a bummer but hey, maybe they’ll sell him off to a local moisture farmer with a thirst for adventure.

Buy R2D2 Tamagotchi at Amazon – $20

Spin Master Purse Pets

Purse Pets for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Spin Master

Kids are cute, but also weird and quirky, so why not get the child in your life something that reflects the more wild side of their personality? Purse Pets are basically living bags that can hold stuff but also blink, purr and even blow kisses at a child when it’s happy. It’s a real eye-catching accessory, one that will have them feeling like they’re on the runway — especially when you activate the Purse Pet’s runway music.

Buy Purse Pets at Amazon – $25

Mattel Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie Doll

The Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie Doll for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Barbie first went to space way back in 1965 and, while she’s had plenty of spacesuits over the decades, none have been as realistic as this one. That’s because this one is based on real-life space explorer Samantha Cristoforetti, an Italian astronaut who was once the record holder for the longest space flight by a woman. Your kids can reenact her various scientific experiments in space with the doll, then cheer on the real-life Cristoforetti next year as she commands ISS Expedition 68.

Buy Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie Doll at Amazon – $30

Smart Tech Sound Action Tunnel

Brio's Smart Tech Sound Action Tunnel Station for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Brio

It feels like an unwritten rule that every child has to have one of those wooden train and track sets. Why not spice things up a bit by adding in this tech-enabled station that signals the included train to stop and flash its lights, just like the real thing. If your kid is a railfan you can even use the free Smart Tech Sound app to change the sounds to those from famous systems like London, Paris or Berlin.

Buy Smart Tech Sound Action Tunnel at Amazon – $45

Enchanting Hedwig

The Enchanting Hedwig (owl from Harry Potter) for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

We were all super jealous of Harry Potter when Hagrid presented him with a lovely snowy owl who would become his mail carrier and friend. However, in real life owls can be pretty messy and aren’t as affectionate. So why not get your loved ones this interactive, life-sized replica instead? She loves to be petted and while she can’t fly, she can safeguard letters for you, only releasing them to people who have the secret code.

Buy Enchanting Hedwig at Amazon – $40

Got2Glow Fairy Finder

Got2Glow Fairy Finder for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

The Got2Glow Fairy Finder may look like a slightly fancier mason jar, but it has a special electronic twist. When you open the lid, a fairy will “fly” inside and show up on the front screen. What kind of fairy? It depends on how a child holds the jar and how bright the room is. There are 100 different magical creatures to collect and trade with their friends, so it should keep your kids active and busy for a while.

Buy Got2Glow Fairy Finder at Amazon – $50

Hot Wheels Mario Kart Vehicle Pack

Hot Wheels Mario Kart Glider Vehicle Pack for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Mattel

Your child may not be old enough to drive a real car, but chances are they’ve taken a few spins around Rainbow Road in Nintendo’s Mario Kart video games. And even if they haven’t, they’ll still enjoy playing with the whimsical vehicles from the series, recreated in 1/64-scale so they can fit in the palm of a kid’s hand. All the favorites are here, from Mario to Yoshi and even the often-forgotten Waluigi. Some of the karts even include gliders so kids can simulate some of the more treacherous jumps like Peach’s Castle.

Buy Mario Kart Vehicle Pack at Amazon – $55

LEGO Adventures with Luigi Starter Course

LEGO Adventures with Luigi Starter Course for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

We’ve been a big fan of the Mario LEGO sets since their launch, but now it’s time for his brother to have a little time in the sun. It’s just like having a Super Mario game you can physically build and hold in your hand, complete with platforms, a see-saw and blocks. Luigi will even react to the course thanks to a small LCD screen embedded in his chest, and he’s fully compatible with the other sets so you can build a whole world for him to explore.

Buy Adventures with Luigi starter set at Amazon – $60

LEGO Boba Fett’s Starship

LEGO Boba Fett Starship for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

LEGO

You can still call it the Slave I if you want, but the most important thing about this Firespray-31-class spacecraft is who it belongs to: the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy, Boba Fett. He even has his own show coming out at the end of December. We know that’s a long time to wait, but your family can at least spend part of that time putting together this 593-piece kit that even includes a tiny minifig Boba and Din Djarin from the Mandalorian.

Buy Boba Fett Starship at Amazon – $50

Peek-a-Roo

A child with the Peek-a-Roo doll for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Spin Master

There are toys that laugh, eat, burp and even poop, but there aren’t a lot that give birth. That’s probably because it’s pretty weird, but Spin Master’s Peek-a-Roo also makes it pretty adorable. This plush panda will react to being petted and spoken to by a child and, if the toy is treated well, it produces a tiny baby from the pouch in its stomach. The baby toy will continue to live there once born, popping up whenever its mama is happy.

Buy Peek-a-Roo at Amazon – $60

LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

LEGO

Advent calendars are a great way to get your kid excited for the holidays, but sometimes the little gifts inside aren’t so great. Why not go full-on nerdy with this Star Wars calendar, which has a smattering of tiny sets your kid has to build alongside minifigs of characters like Rey, Luke Skywalker and a holiday-themed Poe Dameron? The kits will hopefully keep them busy so they’re not asking you how many days are left until the big gift-giving occasion.

Buy LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar at Amazon – $59

VTech KidiZoom PrintCam

VTech KidiZoom PrintCam for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Kids love cameras but, with everything digital these days, there’s a little less tactility, which kids also love. Printcams tend to be too expensive for many adults, never mind children, which makes them a no-go — until now. The VTech KidiZoom prints photos for as little as a penny, so it’s not a big financial deal when your child takes 100 photos of their feet. Just make sure you keep them stocked up with fresh paper.

Buy VTech KidiZoom PrintCam at Amazon – $75

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Game

The Best Nintendo Switch Games for Kids

Unlike the other major consoles on the market, Nintendo has worked hard to establish the Switch as a console for all ages. This allows players of all backgrounds to be able to pick up the system and play the games they enjoy most, including kids.

With so many games on the market, it can be difficult to tell which games are best for kids and which to stay away from. Luckily, we have compiled a few of the most popular kids games for the Switch all in one place!

Further reading

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Racing games are some of the best ways to introduce gaming to kids. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the easiest, most enjoyable racing game on the Nintendo Switch system. Although it’s a port from the Wii U, the Switch version of Mario Kart 8 introduces a lot of the paid-for DLC from the Wii U and gives it to players as regular content. This will give your youngster a chance to play as any of the Mario characters, as well as a few players from Splatoon and Legend of Zelda.

There is no dialogue or story to follow, so you won’t have to worry about your kids not being able to follow the storyline. Additionally, the controls are easy to navigate. Although some of the faster levels can be tricky, kids who start at the easiest levels and speeds then work their way up are sure to feel that sweet success of winning.

Mario Party Superstars

Mario and friends compete in a mushroom minigame in Mario Party Superstars.

The second of the two Mario Party games to be released on the Switch, Mario Party Superstars is far and away the best choice for kids and adults alike. The game goes back to basics, ditching any of the weird gimmicks some of the later entries tried to experiment with and is once again a classic board game experience. This time the game is built off of the best of the best classic games in the series, meaning everyone can enjoy the best of the N64 titles with a fresh coat of paint and modern functionality.

There are 100 mini-games in this title, all drawn from the best the series has given in the past. Kids won’t know the difference, but older audiences playing with them will enjoy seeing these favorite games back in a new game. The board game style means Mario Party Superstars is perfect for multiplayer fun. And because the mini-games are so simple and quick, there’s essentially no age requirement to roll the dice and have a party!

Untitled Goose Game

A goose holding a knife hidingg under a table.
House House

Untitled Goose Game was a much-anticipated indie release for Nintendo. House House did a fantastic job of reimagining a much-despised neighborhood bully: The goose. This little town was enjoying a nice day until you, a horrible goose, show up. It’s up to you to make sure that no one enjoys a lovely day. As a goose, you create mischief by taking things villagers want, destroying gardens, and stealing clothes purely for the satisfaction of making everyone around you uncomfortable. It’s a hilarious and easy-to-play game, making it perfect for all ages.

This game has very little to no reading. Because you play as a goose, which can’t understand English anyway, there is little need for words throughout the game. The only time words appear is during the tutorial. After that, players are left to their own devices to explore the world and things they can tear up. While it is a puzzle game — and some are a little tricky — running around and causing chaos is a blast too.

Minecraft

Minecraft characters and animals on a mountain.

Minecraft is one of the most popular kids’ games because it is solely focused on adventures. You’re encouraged to explore randomly-generated worlds, build phenomenal homes, and delve deep into the world of creation. You’re also able to craft weapons and armor to fend off dangerous mobs while out exploring. The game uses blocky forms and 18-bit graphics to emphasize the importance of imagination and building.

Minecraft is a great kids game because it enhances creativity, problem-solving, self-direction, collaboration, and other life skills. It also complements school skills, such as reading, writing, math, and history. The game lets you import fully reconstructed versions of famous buildings and landmarks in addition to letting you create your own. These tools can be used to help children explore buildings and tour places they may not have a chance to get to.

Yoshi’s Crafted World

Yoshi leading a pack of wool dogs.
Amazon

There is no cuter dino in the video game world than Yoshi. Nintendo shows us how cute he can really be with Yoshi’s Crafted World, giving us a whole new egg-filled adventure. The Yoshis are living peacefully on Yoshi’s Island, and at the topmost peak sits a gem-set artifact known as the Sundream Stone. The stone has the power to “make anyone’s wildest dreams come true.” Unfortunately, Kamek and Baby Bowser have their eyes set on the stone. While attempting to steal it, the gems are flung across the world. This leaves the sweet Yoshis to work together, find all of the missing gems, and put the Sundream Stone back together to save Yoshi’s Island.

Yoshi gives us a new perspective on everyday objects, such as boxes and paper cups, in this side-scrolling adventure. You are able to flip each level, allowing players to see behind each paper item that was previously passed. You’ll also have the chance to play in co-op mode, adding more Yoshi goodness to your party. The adorable game is perfect for younger players.

Super Mario Odyssey

Cappy frightening Mario.

One of the best games to release for the Nintendo Switch, Super Mario Odyssey brings us amazing graphics with a new Super Mario game. Princess Peach has been kidnapped (again), and it’s up to Mario to save the princess! This time, Mario is given a new sidekick, Cappy. Cappy can be used to control various characters throughout the world. This gives you access to areas and skills that Mario normally doesn’t have. The game is colorful, fun, and easy to play for gamers of all ages.

Adults who are familiar with Super Mario 64 will feel the nostalgia of the game. The game lends itself to the N64 classic, even giving players the option to dress Mario in an old-school look if they so choose. Super Mario Odyssey is great for new players who want to play games that encourage exploring. The worlds are varied, and each presents its own style of problems to solve.

Pokémon: Let’s Go

An Evee fighting a Lickitoungue.

Pokémon is one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises. With Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee and Pikachu, young players can be introduced into the Poké-world that most adults grew up in. This game reimagines and reintroduces Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow with updated graphics, new ways of battling, and a fully realized world. You even have the option to purchase a Pokéball controller, further immersing you into the world of Pokémon.

This game is better suited for older children because the battle system requires a little bit of complex strategy. Players will need to figure out which Pokémon type is best to defeat enemies. Additionally, some reading is required in order to get the full effect of the game. However, that doesn’t mean younger children couldn’t figure it out. Plus, with such adorable creatures, it’s definitely a game that attracts players of all ages.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

Captain Toad standing on a stone pillar in water.

Puzzle games are some of the best for children, and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is no exception. Captain Toad is on the hunt for the stolen Power Star. The villain crow Wingo has stolen the Power Star, along with Toadette, from right under Captain Toad’s nose. Now it’s up to Captain Toad to find all of the missing stars. You’ll need to track down Wingo’s lair, rescue the adorable Toadette, and retrieve the Power Star. Who needs a red-capped hero when you can take on the adventure on your own?

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is full of interesting and engaging puzzles. Unlike other games, in order to help Captain Toad reach each star, you’ll need to rotate the entire level. This gives you different perspectives on where stars and coins are hiding, secret passageways, and hidden items throughout the level. Additionally, you can invite friends to help solve the problems. Up to two players can solve puzzles together. This game is perfect for players who want to improve their problem-solving skills but still enjoy an adorable Mario game.

Splatoon 2

A squid kid in a city square.

When the world feels gray, there’s no better way to shake it up than to throw colors everywhere. Taking place two years after the original Splatoon, pop idol Marie worries that her defeat over Callie has affected Callie negatively. Marie sets out on her adventure, leaving her parents in Inkopolis to return home and see how Callie is. Upon returning home, she discovers that the Great Zapfish that powers the city has disappeared, and so has Callie. Marie takes up the mantle once again as Agent 2 of the New Squidbeak Splatoon to investigate what has happened. She recruits you, an Inkling from Inkopolis named Agent 4, to investigate what’s happening.

This colorful and fun game is a delight for players over the age of 9. The game is so full of music and joy that it’s almost hard to believe that a tough time is ahead. There is a multiplayer mode, a single-player story mode, and DLC to keep kids entertained for quite some time.

Kirby Star Allies

Kirby and friends in space.

Another Nintendo staple is Kirby, the adorable pink ball who absorbs the powers of enemies he inhales. And Kirby Star Allies is the perfect addition to the Kirby franchise. Far away from Kirby’s home planet, Planet Popstar, a dark crystal heart explodes. This sends numerous fragments called Jamba Hearts hurtling through space, affecting different planets it encounters. Unfortunately for Planet Popstar, a few of its inhabitants decided to investigate these Jamba Hearts. This led to them being possessed by the dark heart crystals. Fortunately for Kirby, when he investigates the hearts, he gains the ability to befriend enemies. Now it’s up to Kirby to rescue his friends, Planet Popstar, and defeat the Jambastation bad guys to save the day!

In order to defeat the Jambastation baddies, you’ll need to recruit different friends to join your battle. By encouraging enemies (and old friends) to fight by your side, you’ll be able to gain more abilities than ever before. Up to four players can join the battle, encouraging teamwork and cooperation between different people. This game is easy enough for young children to learn the controls, so all ages are invited to try it out!

Lego City Undercover

A Lego cop showing his badge while swinging.
Nintendo

Nintendo holds a vast number of Lego games, but one that stands out is Lego City Undercover. You play as Chase McCain, a police officer who has to go undercover to hunt down the recently escaped Rex Fury. Help end the citywide crime wave from the notorious Fury before it’s too late!

This open-world metropolis game allows up to two players to play together. In co-op mode, friends are encouraged to explore the giant world that includes more than 20 unique districts. You’ll be able to investigate crimes, bust car thieves, discover movie references, collect hundreds of collectibles, and drive vehicles all over the city. It’s a fun game for players of all ages to explore.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Mario, inkling, DK, and Link fighting.

Introducing kids to fighting games can be a risk, but with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, there is little need for concern over whether or not this fighting game is too much. This game borrows characters from all over Nintendo’s video game spectrum, letting everyone enjoy playing as their favorite character no matter the series. This fighting game has multiple different ways to play. With team battles, story modes, and challenges throughout the game, this series will let players of all ages enjoy kicking each other across the screen.

For adults worried about video game violence, this isn’t the game to worry about. There’s no gore, no blood, and it’s so cartoony that children are able to separate the game action from reality. The buttons and combos are easy to navigate as well, making this a great game for kids.

Snipperclips: Cut It Out, Together!

Two shapes working together to dunk a basketball.

Snipperclips is an adorable game that relies on teamwork. This action-puzzle game encourages players to work together to overcome tricky obstacles. Both silly and fun, this game is a delight for the entire family. The only limit to the puzzle-solving in this game is the players’ imagination.

The game offers different modes to play, allowing up to four players to play together. This game is perfect for kids because it helps encourage their problem-solving and team-building skills. It also has some of the cutest art in a video game.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

A campsite on the beach with villagers all around.

Taking life slowly is what Animal Crossing: New Horizons is all about. You’ll be invited to an island getaway, where everything is beautiful and life goes by slowly. Unfortunately, what Tom Nook doesn’t tell you is that the island is completely uninhabited. It’s up to you to build this island the way you want. From changing the flows of rivers to finding the perfect placement for your museum, you’re in total control of how you present your island to everyone. It’s a wonderfully relaxing game that encourages players to play at their own pace.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been out for a short time but has already become a hit. This game is perfect for kids over the age of 3. Although younger children may not understand all the concepts or dialogues in the game, they’ll come to appreciate the adorable animal neighbors and the fun, daily tasks the game has to offer. It’s perfect for kids who also have a bit of anxiety, as the pacing of the game is relaxed and intentionally slow for everyone to enjoy.

Read our full Animal Crossing: New Horizons review

Luigi’s Mansion 3

Luigi slamming a ghost on the floor.

Luigi is just trying to have a vacation. In an attempt to relax, he heads out to a hotel that invited him to come relax. Unfortunately, the invitation wasn’t as well-meaning as it seems. A foe has tricked Luigi and his friends, leaving him to explore a haunted hotel. Every level has a different theme, allowing you to explore different ways to use Luigi’s new Poltergust G-00. Different ghosts need to be approached with different Poltergust attachments, so players will need to watch and navigate how each ghost approached Luigi.

For kids who are showing a little interest in horror, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a great way to go! Although the game itself isn’t scary, there are some aspects to it that can be startling. Luigi’s Mansion 3 also offers different play modes. Up to eight players can work together to gather different artifacts, defeat levels, and catch those pesky ghosts and Boos.

Arms

A man with spring arms punching.

Nothing is more comical than watching a ridiculous fight. Unless, of course, it’s a fight in Arms. The game’s fighting superstars from around the world all have extendable arms, which takes fighting to a whole new level of weird. Each arm can be equipped with a different super-powered weapon, which leads to a whole slew of unprecedented combinations in fights. Each character has a different ability, such as healing or teleportation. These abilities will help players navigate difficult stages, deadly traps, and so much more.

Arms is a fighting game, but each super-powered fighter has spring-like arms. This makes their reach incredible, but also the fights hilarious to watch. Their arms and movements are over-the-top and will bring laughs to the whole family.

Pokémon Sword & Shield

A Pokemon trainer standing on the beach.

The world of Pokémon is ever-growing and ever-changing, and with the newest installment of Pokémon Sword and Shield, the graphics are finally catching up as well. The game takes place in the new region of Galar. The narrow expanse of land is inspired by Great Britain, lending with notable landmarks in the game corresponding to real-world places such as the Houses of Parliament and Cerne Abbas Giant. This new region also introduces never-before-seen Pokémon. Trainers embark on a completely new journey through the Galar region, fighting and catching new Pokémon, meeting new gym leaders, and enjoying the updated graphics in the game.

Although this game is great for all ages, it is geared toward kids older than 10. The in-game battle system has changed a little, allowing some Pokémon to unleash an ability that is completely new: the Dynamax. This will change how you approach gym battles, meaning players who are better versed in video games will stand a better chance of winning.

Nintendo Labo

A man holding the Nintendo Labo Kit to his face.

While most console games still remain stationary, the Nintendo Switch has taken a bit of a swerve with the Nintendo Labo sets. As of now, there are five Nintendo Labo kits available, and each set will have you interacting with the console in different ways. The Variety kit will give kids a chance to fish, play piano, control fake bugs, and use the Switch as a race car. The Robot kit will let you become a robot on-screen, with your moves matching the moves on the in-game robot. Kids get a chance to race, drive, and fly different vehicles in the Vehicle kit. Additionally, there are two VR kits. These kits can further immerse kids into the world of gaming.

Each kit will require assembly, and although that is half the fun, it can be tricky for younger children to follow the instructions. Each kid is different, so be sure to gauge your child’s ability to put these kits together. However, once they are put together, kids can decorate them any way they want.

Rocket League

A bunch of cars rocketing towards the ball.
Psyonix

Is it soccer? Is it a racing game? Who knows! What we do know is that Rocket League is an exciting and fun game for kids over the age of 9. In a similar fashion to soccer, you’ll need to score points against the opposing team by hitting a ball into the opponent’s goal. However, instead of playing as people, you’ll have to do this while navigating a rocket-powered car. This ups the ante in how quickly you have to move to defend your goal against the opposing team.

Rocket League allows for up to eight players to participate in the soccer-esque game. Although a single-player mode is available, having kids play together (with people they know) helps to enhance team building and cooperation. In order to score those sweet points and get that victory, kids will need to work together in their own rocket-fueled car to win.

Overcooked! 2

Four chefs cooking as a rat runs by.
Team17 Digital Ltd

To successfully start your business and get customers food, you’ll need a team of well-coordinated chefs to work together and get the kitchen moving. Overcooked! 2 is a world of chefs that feels oddly close to reality. You’ll get orders, have dishes, cook, and provide great customer service in order to advance to the next level. But each kitchen is dangerous and different, posing new traps and obstacles for you to get past. Can you serve enough customers in a short period of time to keep your kitchen going?

Overcooked! 2 is an adorable game that encourages teamwork and positivity. It’s hard to keep a kitchen going if someone is being a downer, so keeping everyone upbeat is key to getting your kitchen to function properly. Up to four chefs are allowed in the kitchen, which helps to make kitchen magic work. Kids who love interacting with others and have an interest in cooking will love this puzzle game.

Ring Fit Adventure

A woman shooting a monster with the Ring Fit.
Nintendo

Want to see your kids get more exercise, but don’t really live in an area where going outside is an easy option? Look no further than Ring Fit Adventure! Players will be able to traverse grassy plains by jogging in place, attack enemies with overhead shoulder presses, and refill their health meter by striking some yoga poses. The game encourages activity and even uses the Joy-Cons to ensure that every player is moving the way they should be.

This game is perfect for kids who have a lot of energy but no real way to dispense it. In order to keep your character going through the levels, the Ring-Con and Leg Strap accessories track whether or not players are moving in the way the game expects. This ensures that kids are constantly moving and getting the workout they need without even leaving the house.

Stardew Valley

Walking down the pier at night.

In Stardew Valley, you’ve inherited your grandfather’s old farm. With hand-me-down tools, a few coins, and a plot of land in Stardew Valley, you’ll need to start a new life. Raise animals, tend crops, work overgrown fields into lively farms, and so much more in this fun, customizable game. Players will be able to meet different townsfolk and build a completely new farm life from the ground up.

For kids who love building games, Stardew Valley is the perfect addition to their video game library. Learning how to approach the different townsfolk is the key to farming success. This game gives you a chance to live on a farm without actually having to be on one.

Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Link looking heroic in a field.

Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was the introduction of video games to a lot of adult gamers. Young Link wakes up on a mysterious island away from Hyrule. Animals talk, monsters roam, and a giant egg stands vicariously above the island residents. In order to get an idea of where he is and to rouse the legendary Wind Fish, Link will need to explore Koholint Island and all of its trap-riddled dungeons.

For parents who want kids to understand where their video game history came from, starting with Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is perfect. Not only is the remastered game adorable and beautiful, but each dungeon introduces new problems that require solving. Kids will need to put their critical thinking cap on in order to get past some of the tough dungeons in this game, making it perfect for kids who need to be pushed into thinking about things differently.

Super Mario Maker 2

Building a stage in Mario Maker 2.

One of the most creative games on the market is Super Mario Maker 2. You can design your own level of Mario, changing the backgrounds and obstacles as you see fit. You’ll be able to let your imagination run wild with a wide array of tools, course parts, and features. You can team up with friends to play difficult-to-navigate courses or tackle the game’s story mode, which has more than 100 courses that are new to the game. You can also share your courses, play the courses created by other players, and so much more with the online option.

Super Mario Maker 2 is an ideal game for players who love the Mario games and who want to create their own levels. Additionally, any child aspiring to be a video game designer may find this to be the perfect place to try out their skills. You’ll be given more control over how you plan out and play levels than ever before.

Spyro Reignited Trilogy

Spyro running away from a cannon.

It’s a breath of fresh air to see the Spyro games updated and reimagined onto the systems of today. Spyro Reignited Trilogy gives kids a chance to try out all three original Spyro games in one convenient place. This collection holds the top three Spyro games of the series, Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!, and Spyro: Year of the Dragon. Kids will have a chance to play as the beloved purple dragon to save the Dragon Kingdom.

This is a classic single-player game with a lot to offer. Since kids won’t be able to have friends help them, this game should be played by kids 10 and up. Otherwise, you face having a younger kid who gets stuck fairly frequently. Will all the collectibles, boss battles, and worlds to engage in, it’s easy for novice players to get lost in the expansive worlds.

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe

Mario and Luigi jumping over the logo.

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is the perfect addition to any aspiring video gamer’s collection. The game takes on the classic Mario side-scroller adventure, but this time players will get to choose from an array of different characters to play as. Each level is difficult, and teamwork is one of the best ways to complete every level.

What’s more, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe offers a few new characters, namely Toadette and Nabbit. While Toadette gives players a chance to play as a female character, Nabbit steals the show for younger players. Nabbit’s ability allows him to run past and through any obstacle, making him the perfect character for players 5 and up.

Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled

Crash looking goofy racing through a desert.
Nintendo

Nothing beats a great racing game, and Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled is no exception. Although this game came out originally on the PlayStation, the remastered version ups the ante on how Crash Bandicoot was meant to be seen. There are various modes for players to participate in, giving lots of room for kids to decide how they want to see Crash and his friends race. Players can either battle in a stadium or race to the finish line together.

Much like Mario Kart DeluxeCrash Team Racing is a classic racer for players of all ages. The original controls for the game were easy, and porting it to the Switch has made racing even easier. Players should be ready to duke it out in different ways to get the best of their opponents!

Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics

Two people playing board games on a Switch.
Nintendo

Video games have also taken the next step in gaming by moving toward tabletop games. Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics compiles some of the world’s most popular tabletop games into one place. Kids will have a chance to try out tabletops that they may not have had the chance to get their hands on. It also helps to save money because instead of buying 51 individual tabletop games, parents will only need to buy the one video game.

Kids who love tabletop games or want to try games from other countries will love the opportunity to try Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics. From Majong to Mancala, this game has almost every classic tabletop you can think of.

Pode

A rocky and yellow guy holding hands.
Nintendo

Pode is an indie game that children will love. The characters, a fallen star named Glo and a helpful rock called Bulder, work together to solve puzzles to reach the end of each level. The fallen star has landed on Earth near an adorably sweet rock. Together, these two work to solve ancient puzzles in an unbelievably beautiful world. The game uses inspiration from Norwegian art and culture to create a co-op puzzle game that’s unlike any other. You’ll be able to travel through mysterious and magical mountains, explore ruins of lost civilizations, and use each character’s abilities to open secret passages up the caves of Mount Fjellheim.

This game is a delight for any child to try out. Although only two players can play, the amount of thought and creativity that goes into the puzzle solving makes the journey worthwhile. It’s an amazing game to play with kids or for kids over 8 to play with one another.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Phoenix Wright doing his iconic point.
Nintendo

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is one of the greatest games Nintendo has to offer. This series definitely does not get the credit it so deserves, although it is difficult to sell other players on the concept. You play as protagonist Phoenix Wright, a greenhorn attorney with a knack for justice. Through a series of events, he gets matched up with long-term apprentice Maya Fey. With her help, you have to solve major crimes around the city. It’s up to you to investigate crime scenes, find evidence, and present to the court why your client is innocent. By pointing out contradictions in witnesses’ testimony, you’re able to save your client from undeserved jail time.

Although the premise is odd, it’s a phenomenal and quirky game that players will enjoy. The 2D graphics make this RPG a must-have. Unfortunately, because of some of the content, we would not recommend this game for kids under 12. The first three games of the series, which Nintendo offers all together, are absolutely worth the time and would be a delight for any kid to play. It encourages critical thinking, attention to detail, and staying positive even during the most difficult of times.

Celeste

Celeste falling below a bridge.

Celeste is a challenging platformer with an awesome heroine. Players help Madeline survive her incredible journey to the top of Celeste Mountain. In the process, she has to survive her inner demons and insecurities. The game is narrative-driven and has a charming cast of characters. This touching story of self-discovery will help kids think about their actions in a more introspective way. The controls for the game are accessible and simple. The hard part of the game isn’t the controls, but rather how well the controls are implemented. With every death, kids can learn a little bit about how the game works and how to properly use each function. Also, respawns happen quickly, so you won’t have to wait through a loading screen to get back in the game.

This game would work best for kids over the age of 10. Because kids will have to master when to use the controls, it can be a little frustrating for younger players to get a handle on how the game works. Additionally, some of the ideas may be too complex for younger kids to understand.

Editors’ Choice




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Game

Tencent limits how long kids can play its flagship game, ‘Honor of Kings’

China’s regulatory war against its tech giants isn’t limited to data. After opening a front in gaming back in 2018, the government is now adding to the restraints the biggest publishers face. Tencent is first on the chopping block. The publisher has been forced to further slash playing time on Honor of Kings for those aged under 18 to one hour during regular days and two hours on weekends. The rules, designed to appease the country’s all-powerful censors, come into effect today, according to state media outlet the South China Morning Post

Previously, play time in China was capped at 90 minutes per day during the week and three hours per day at weekends and holidays as part of broader rules introduced in 2019. Additional restrictions banned younger gamers from playing between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. and curbed how much they could spend on downloadable content.

Honor of Kings is a hugely popular multiplayer online battle arena game developed by Tencent subsidiary TiMi Studio Group, also known for Call of Duty: Mobile and Pokémon Unite. As of November, the mobile title boasted 100 million players. But, its success has also brought with it increased scrutiny. In June, Tencent found itself at the center of a lawsuit that accused it of including “inappropriate” content in Honor of Kings, including characters with low-cut clothes and historical inaccuracies.

The latest crackdown comes amid growing fears in China over the addictive nature of video games. On Tuesday, a state-affiliated media outlet described the products produced by the gaming industry as “spiritual opium.” The article continued: “No industry or sport should develop at the price of destroying a generation.”

Therein lies the broader issue. China is currently grappling with a generational divide that has seen younger citizens reject the competitive lifestyle pressures heaped upon them. This stance is encapsulated by the “tang ping,” or “lying flat,” philosophy embraced by a growing number of Gen Z Chinese. In a nutshell, it signifies those who choose not to work hard, not to buy property and not to marry and have children. 

Instead of addressing the societal complaints, China is choosing to deflect the blame onto the gaming industry.

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Game

Xbox Family Settings app can now manage kids’ spending

Gaming consoles like the Xbox are often considered to be a solitary machine for a solitary gamer, but that hasn’t been the case for the past years. Consoles have even become a means by which families spend time together at home or for kids to develop skills often associated with safe gaming. The latter is an important consideration for parents who want to give their kids access to consoles and the games available for them. The Xbox Family Settings app tries to make that task less of a chore, and its newest features promise to save parents money or prevent them from accidentally losing some.

IAPs and accidental game purchases aren’t just the banes of mobile gaming. Those can happen on any gaming platform, too, and on any age group. Xbox has provided parents and guardians with ways to monitor and manage a child’s use of the console, but parents still need more control and safeguards, especially when money is involved. The latest update to the parental control app for Android and iOS finally delivers that, allowing parents to monitor and limit spending on games.

Parents will be able to set limits on how much a child can spend when buying games or making in-app purchases. Of course, that presupposes that kids have a sort of “wallet” for buying those. The app does let parents add and view a child’s balance, allowing them to give kids a reward for good grades or chores well done.

In case their money does run out, kids can also ask their parents if they can buy a game. Parents can either buy it on their behalf or give them additional money for it. Of course, they can also deny the request.

Parents can also keep track of what their kids buy with the money given to them, in case they give them the trust and freedom to make their own purchases without having to ask every time. The app’s new features not only empower parents but also empower children to make their own decisions and earn the trust of their parents to further give them more freedom when it comes to their gaming choices.

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Game

Tencent taps facial recognition to stop kids in China from gaming past curfew

Tencent has announced that it is now using facial recognition to enforce China’s gaming curfew for minors, one that forces them to play games only during allotted hours during the day and to turn off their games by 10 PM. The law, which has proven controversial within China and beyond, doesn’t apply to adults.

In November 2019, China’s government announced new regulations that would prevent minors under the age of 18 from playing games outside of the hours of 8 AM to 10 PM. As well, the restrictions limit minors to only 90 minutes of gameplay per day. The only exception is national holidays during which minors are allowed to play for up to three hours during the day.

These rules have, as you’d expect, proven controversial among many; some complaints on Chinese social media include the issue of older teens who are near 18 years old and who have finished their schooling, yet are still impacted by the gaming restriction. Under this law, China requires all gamers, including adults, to register their names and phone numbers for online games to aid in the enforcement of these restrictions.

In an announcement last week, Tencent said that it is now using a facial recognition system to spot kids who are still playing games after 10 PM, including those who may have registered as an adult or who may be using a parent’s phone. Failing the facial recognition or refusing to partake in it will result in being kicked offline.

Tencent said its facial recognition system is now live in more than 60 of its games, including titles like Peace Elite, and Glory of the King. Additional games will also get the age verification systems in the near future, according to the company. More than 5 million accounts were subjected to the facial recognition system as of June, Tencent said.

The verification system is part of China’s wider movement against video games. Under the same crackdown, China also banned anyone in the nation — including adults — from playing games that feature content like gambling, sexual explicitness, violence, and gore. If there’s an upside to the draconian system, it’s that minors are also limited to spending only up to $57/month on microtransactions.

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Tech News

Creepy new facial recognition system detects kids gaming at night

The teenage joy of late-night gaming sessions faces an uncertain future in China.

Tech giant Tencent has launched a time-sensitive facial recognition system that prevents minors from binging on video games after dark.

The platform, called “Midnight Patrol,” arrives amid a moral panic over gaming addiction among children in China. Under-18s are now barred from gaming between 10PM and 8AM, and must register for games using their real names and government ID numbers.

Tencent‘s system uses a facial verification system connected to a public identity database to detect minors posing as adults during the curfew.

“We will conduct a face screening for accounts registered with real names and that have played for a certain period of time at night,” Tencent said on Tuesday, according to a translation by news outlet Sixth Tone

“Anyone who refuses or fails the face verification will be treated as a minor, and as outlined in the anti-addiction supervision of Tencent’s game health system, and kicked offline.”

The feature will also allow Tencent to know when, what, and how much gamers are playing, tweeted Yulong Cui, an analyst at Ark Investment Management focused on innovation in Asia.

It’s not like the good old days, when parents would just hide consoles, or smash them into pieces with baseball bats. Instead, Tencent is automating the enforcement of China‘s strict gaming rules.

The move could lead teens to try out other adolescent habits, like sniffing glue, unprotected sex — or using VPNs.

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Tech News

The Toybox 3D Printer lets kids create their own toys with a button press — and it’s under $300

TLDR: The Toybox 3D Printer Deluxe Bundle is a kid-friendly 3D printing kit that allows youngsters to bring all their toy ideas to life easily and safely, even without adult supervision.

Since the days of wide-eyed, open-mouthed awe while the first wave of 3D printers showed off the marvels they could create, most viewers had the same thought: Kids would go nuts with this. 

But while 3D printing technology has improved and advanced over the past few years, printers themselves have largely remained prohibitively expensive and just way too difficult for a child to master easily to bring all their super-awesome toy ideas and all the other fantastic constructs in their heads to life.

Thankfully, the Toybox 3D Printer Deluxe Bundle ($299.97 from TNW Deals) is that tech-slash-real world sweet spot kids and parents have been waiting for: an easy-to-use 3D printer that truly empowered kids and adults alike to make toys and other grand creations with the push of a button.

Unlike the delicate, intricate processes that govern other printers, the Toybox is kid friendly. Using the companion app, they pick from the ever-expanding toy catalog, then push the button to start the Toybox making their chosen toy, even without adult supervision. And this bundle comes with an assortment of 8 different non-toxic, biodegradable filament colors that serve as printer food, good for making as many as 300 different toys.

If they’re the creative type (and what kid isn’t?), the Toybox is also ready for a child to upload their own toy designs into the catalog and start turning those wild ideas into working real world toys. 

Meanwhile, this isn’t some generic assortment of toy boats and rings and army men either. Toybox recently signed a deal with Warner Bros. to bring in new creation options for items based on DC Comics, Cartoon Network, Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera, and even more adult fare like stuff from Friends and Seinfeld.

With one-touch abilities, your kid can start creating their own Batman or Superman action figures, a Batcave computer, a Justice League disc launcher, and a whole bunch of fun toys that’ll keep children entertained and creating for days, weeks, months, and years.

Retailing for $469, this complete Toybox 3D Printer Deluxe Bundle is now enjoying a healthy Memorial Day Sale savings, bringing cost of the whole bundle down to just $299.97 for this week only. After the sale is over, the price goes back up…so get in on this offer now while you can.

Prices are subject to change.

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