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Gift Guide: Learning toys are hot for Christmas

Companies are reinforcing science, technology, engineering and math in their products; filling toy aisles with education. (SBG Photo)

Video games, action figures, princesses and ponies. Toy store aisles and online searches can get exhausting for parents like Kim Curtiss trying to find that perfect holiday gift.

“I'm always looking at mom blogs to see what they're giving and what they recommend,” explained Curtiss.

This year the hottest toy isn't one item. Claudia Towles, owner of aMuse Toys, says toy companies are reinforcing science, technology, engineering and math in their products; filling toy aisles with education.

“It's a category,” says Towles. “What's hot right now is math, STEM - anything teaching science.”

Even though MagnaTiles are nothing new to store shelves, Towles says it's a classic favorite that promotes early math concepts. As a child ages, add to the collection, so they can build more complex structures.

“Think about it. With Legos the more pieces they have, the more they can build. These don't hurt though when you stand on them,” says Towles said with a laugh. “Parent win!"

It's never too early to start learning. The NogginStik is one of the hottest toys for babies.

“This changes color every time you shake it. It helps with visual tracking. It's educational,” says Towles. “Now does the baby know they're being educated? Of course not, but it teaches cause and effect.”

Even Barbie is hopping on the STEM bandwagon.

“Barbie is something very familiar to kids, but STEM and engineering concepts may not be. So this is trickery. This one's really cool and I don't know if you've heard of the slime craze, this is another one, this is all chemistry.”

And don't forget family game night! Klask is a skill game with magnetic control.

“This is one we sell to college kids and five year olds. It's kind of like air hockey, but without the danger. And it doesn't take that much space,” said Towles.

This Holiday season the emphasis is on anything that fosters critical thinking and problem solving.

For Curtiss, she's hoping a gift now will also provide her son Henry with skills he'll be glad to have later.

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