At CES 2020, toy makers returned to the real world with games, bots, and AR board games. We played them all.

We’re living in the golden age of STEM toys. This year’s CES floor is host to dozens of companies all hoping their edu-taining STEM-related toys will make it your kids’ playroom later this year.
One welcome trend we’ve seen here at CES is a return of tactile toys. Every app-driving toy we saw had some real-world way you could interact with it. This mirrors the rise of AR (augmented reality) more broadly, but it may also mark a change in the way toy and app makers approach screen time with little ones.
Ahren Hoffman, business development director at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, points out that “when children have the opportunity to learn via auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and tactile play, their engagement is more impactful and long lasting.”
We’ve seen evidence here at CES that toy and app makers are coming around to this idea. As Amanda Gummer of Good Play Guide told me, “It’s great to see tech companies encouraging a more balanced approach to kids’ play.”
Don’t get the idea that kids toys are getting serious though. Going back to the real world has made these toys and games more fun, not less. Here are six of our favorite toys from CES 2020.
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Photograph: Amy Lombard
Shifu’s Tacto AR is perhaps the best example of the digital and spacial combo toys we’ve seen here. Tacto is an AR take on the board game. Place your tablet on the hardware and then interact with the games using actual pieces.
Aimed at kids ages 4-12, Tacto is launching with three game sets: Elements, which uses molecule figurines to teach kids chemistry; Laser, an Astroids-style shooting game; and Quest, an adventure game in the vein of Zelda. All three nicely balance the digital and physical worldand they’re plenty of fun, even as they teach.
Tacto comes out in June. It will cost $60 for one game or $100 for all three games.
Photograph: Amy Lombard