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Fun, educational toys for kids over the summer

May 23, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you want your children to stay sharp over the summer, there are some cool new toys to help keep their minds and bodies active during the break.

Whether they're 6 or 16, it helps to be sneaky by making things appear as fun as it is educational. For example, Crayon Physics is a toy that makes kids master science skills before they can move up. Even younger kids can up their IQ.

An old favorite - the LeapPad - now has e-books that help kids read at their own pace.

"Their progress is actually assessed as they go through different activities and different games, and the books will auto adjust to their level," said toy expert Laurie Schacht.

If you're worried about too much computer time, the Kurio tablet comes loaded with controls that limit access. Parents can even set up "minute meters."

Or try a new way to learn: augmented reality from a new Animal Planet game.

"They can watch a 3D version of behavior in the habitat. Then, they can go into the library. They can get all kind of facts about the animal," said Schacht.

But getting kids to go outside is important, too. The Plasma Car is good for getting kids outdoors, as is the Descender, which puts a different spin on a skateboard. But the Rockboard Scooter really gets them going.

"It is a scooter, but with a platform that you actually have to pedal forwards and backwards," said Schacht.

Other outdoor fun that's a little more cerebral? Teach them about nature with garden set and planting kit. Solar energy panels could be a bright idea. Or, if you have a history buff in the making, a model of the battleship Missouri will transport them back in time.

"They're going to learn. They're going to have fun, and they're going to role play," Schacht said.

The game Suspend is the sneakiest teaching toy of all, requiring a steady hand and strategic mind.

"What kids are going to learn about is cause and effect and balance," said Schacht.


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