You know about New York Magazine’s “Approval Matrix.” Now, the Strategist has taken that model of what falls where on our taste hierarchies and applied it to toys. In this case, the four sides of the grid are “Educational” (say, a solar-powered build-a-robot), “Brain Candy” (a Nerf Blaster), “Reasonably Priced,” and “Splurgy.” Each toy in every quadrant comes highly recommended — click here to learn more about our sourcing process and the dozens of experts involved — and every age up to double digits is covered, all of which you can see by also clicking here.
Also read: Top 10 Best Beach Toys For Kids
Here, we culminate with 10-year-olds. “Cognitively, children at 10 can think more abstractly,” says Glenda Stoller, LCSW, a psychotherapist in private practice in Manhattan. They also have “the ability to gather information and formulate well-organized thoughts.” And their math skills are expanding, too, with an increased “fluency in multiplication, division, and fractions,” Stoller adds. All of which is to say they can get a lot out of the following computer kits, word games, and 20 or so more suggestions that follow — which have been vetted by professionals like Stoller, celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker (or her Instagram account, at least), and plenty of other discerning parents. You can jump directly to the section that interests you most — “Educational/Reasonably Priced,” “Educational/Splurgy,” “Brain Candy/Reasonably Priced,” or “Brain Candy/Splurgy” — or read all the way through to get the full picture of what kids these days are into. Whether you’re shopping for the holidays or a birthday or any other day, it’s a list that keeps on giving.
“This is THE GREATEST GAME,” according to Strategist tech columnist and dad David Pogue, “and all ages can play. You’re sitting across from your partner, a board full of word cards. You have to give your partner one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the board. Their teammates try to guess words of the right color while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. For example, you might say ‘park,’ because you want your teammate to guess the cards that say ‘swingset’ and ‘car.’ Truly hilarious and satisfying.” The manufacturer has it labeled for kids a bit older, but as Pogue points out, “Codenames is super-fun with younger kids because they make fantastically imaginative connections between the words!”
Build-Your-Own Solar Robot Kit
This is not your average build-a-robot in that this one is powered by the sun. After building any of 14 different robot designs — a scurrying beetle, a rowing boat, a chaser of zombies — kids can place their creation in direct sunlight and watch it run purely on solar power (on land or in water, for that matter). And while this process requires patience, that’s just what kids at age 10 are gaining: “Their attention span is increasing and they can spend longer periods of time working on activities they enjoy,” says Glenda Stoller. Plus, of course, this toy is teaching them about alternative energy sources. (Although, as one reviewer on Amazon figured out when his son used this to make a solar car: “The car can self-drive under sun or a 60W lamp.”)
Ghost Cube Puzzle
For a 10-year-old who’s already mastered the classic Rubik’s Cube — their fine motor skills are improving at this age, according to Stoller — puzzle designer Adam G. Cowan presents a new challenge. Unlike the rainbow Rubik’s Cube, the steely-toned Ghost Cube does not involve aligning colors but rather twisting up all kinds of shapes, after which you are faced with the task of returning the pieces to their original cube form. The puzzle, which was introduced in 2013 (a relative ingenué compared to Erno Rubik’s invention of 1974), is “hours of fun,” according to Beth Beckman, a co-founder of the forthcoming site FOMOFeed Kids. “I came across it in a boutique toy store, and my son went crazy for it. He said it was a ‘way cooler’ version of a Rubik’s Cube that was dressed as a mummy.” In Amazon reviews, it has been called both “a thing of beauty” and “very spooky!”