While every parent is trying to limit their child’s screen time, it’s not always a battle that can be fought and won—or one you even want to wage in the first place. Alternatives to video games and online videos don’t necessarily have to mean zero screen time. With these app-controlled toys, kids can stay busy and engaged—and hone a few skills—while using a smartphone or tablet.

A child is seen playing with a Cube-Tastic! augmented reality puzzle

Challenge the Brain 

A puzzle can be a great challenge and teach patience, persistence, and, ultimately, victory for a child. Cube-Tastic!’s Augmented Reality Puzzle is an app-enabled toy that actually helps along the way if the challenge becomes too hard. It scans the real-life cube into the smartphone or tablet to help kids solve it. It also adapts to the skill level of the player, offering alternative problem-solving methods. 

A little boy is seen playing with an Airblock modular programmable drone

Take a Flight of Fancy

Have a child that’s fascinated with flight? Give them screen time, something to fly, and force them outside at the same time with the Airblock Modular Programmable Drone. To start, kids can make this drone look the way they want by configuring six foam covered magnetic propellers. The Makeblock app turns any smartphone or tablet into a remote control to fly it. By dragging and dropping blocks of commands like forward, turn, and pause, kids tell the drone exactly what to do. 

An Ozbot color sensing robot is seen coding a screen on a tablet

Collaborate & Enjoy

App-controlled toys are typically solitary, used only by one kid, and limit social interaction. The Ozobot Color Sensing Robot is a smart toy that teaches kids to collaborate and code. The Ozobot’s movements are dictated by drawing color-coded lines on a tablet or white paper. Once it’s placed on the lines it will do as commanded. Some examples include advance, retreat, spin, speed up, dance and more. Kids can set up races or different routines to show one another the different commands they are teaching their Ozobot. It’s a smart toy, game, and educational tool all in one. 

A person is seen using their tablet to help compose music on their One Music Group piano

Encourage the Truth of Music

Phone and tablet apps have revolutionized how we do daily tasks, and they can even help teach us new things. The One Music Group’s Piano Hi-Lite is a plug-and-play LED strip that can transform any 88 key piano or keyboard into a smart one. Sync it up to your smart devices and the LED light-up keys integrate seamlessly with an on-screen keyboard to give you step-by-step and hand-by-hand instructions. It allows players to stop, rewind, and slow down whenever you want. 

  • Two kids are seen playing with a Jooki app-controlled music player
  • A parent is seen using the Jooki app to control the Jooki music player

Make Them the DJ

If you want to give kids the gift of music while eliminating screen time, the Jooki Kids Music interactive jukebox gives kids a level of control or at least the illusion of it. It’s built for kid users, who place a cute character on the speaker to play a parent-created playlist via the mobile app. Kids get to choose the music and grown-ups maintain a level of control over songs as well as volume and shut-off times. Parents can also use the app to send voice notes to their kids.

These app-controlled toys are all fun and engaging ways to give kids the screen time they crave with learning benefits that will please parents. 

We know app-controlled toys are always a great way to keep kids occupied, but they’re not always portable. Here are some Gifts That Keep Kids Busy While Traveling that might come in handy!

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