From DIY PVC Marshmallow Shooters to LEGO Mindstorm Kits, young makers who have a passion for making things have quite the gamut of options these days. Despite the lack of wood shop and other ‘hands-on’ classes in school that their parents and grandparents might have taken back in the day, the amount of options for creating products—either as simple as a wooden car or as complex as an Arduino robot—is growing every year. This past week we stopped by the International Toy Fair in NYC (the largest toy fair ever on record as a matter of fact) to see what is trending and/or coming out on the market later this year for the next generation of industrial designers, mechanical engineers, and Makers of all kinds.

Ten Toys for Young Makers and Designers

Build Your Own Motorcycle Engine from Haynes
Yep, the same company known for repair manuals has created a perfect (and safe) starter kit for learning the ins and outs of how a simple engine works. Who knows…junior may have his or her own product to show at the One Motorcycle Show before too long?

While Automoblox aren’t necessarily new on the market, they definitely warrant a spot on the list thanks to founder and industrial designer Patrick Calello’s attention to detail. The wooden cars were designed in SolidWorks and are a great combination of building blocks mixed with the ‘cool appeal’ of a well-designed car.

Make2Play Vinyl Player
Make2Play actually might have deserved a couple of spots on this list with their impressive lineup of building kits, but after talking to lead product designer Luis Sebastio I was convinced that the combination of ‘escaping the iPod’ and building something that plays any vinyl record was just too cool not to put here.

You-Build-It Headphones
Speaking of iPods…if kids are going to be glued to touch screen devices anyways, why not make them at least make the experience feel a little more personal with headphones that they built? This kit features all the electrical and other internal components that are seen in most of today’s modern headphone designs and perhaps just as importantly don’t carry a ‘DIY look’ that may turn off some from wearing them regularly.

Currently a project on Kickstarter, this unique robot toy combines the physical with the digital by allowing a user to create circuit-like paths on an iPad that the robot follows. With various on-screen behavioral options, a path can have certain points that affect how the robot behaves…effectively teaching the basics of schematics without all the boring stuff.

Design Masters Sketching Kit
While perhaps a little ‘mainstream’ for some users, this drawing set is actually a pretty nifty little starter kit that teaches the basics of industrial design sketching with just the right amount of guidance provided through templates and stencils. Interestingly enough, the designers consulted with car companies to match up the colored pencil colors to actual car paint color schemes seen in the real world.

Yeah…you’ve seen Goldie before, but notice that a lot of the ‘toys’ on here are aimed towards boys? With an expanding lineup and an award for Toy of the Year, the popular GoldieBlox franchise seems to be rising with the overall interest in STEM education…and it looks like they don’t have plans for slowing down anytime soon.

Modular Robotics MOSS
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, this modular robotics set has become popular for those looking for simple and ‘smart’ construction kits that don’t require wires or coding skills. Think of the pieces as ‘smart magnetic LEGOS’ and you get the idea.

CandyLab Wooden Cars
This runaway Kickstarter hit from Candylab Toys in Brooklyn brings modern design inspired by mid-century American design and car culture to your kid’s toy chest. Not too many toys these days can claim that.

Teepee by KidKraft
Perfect for escaping the stress of inboxes, meetings, and ‘people’, this simple Teepee design from KidKraft is a perfect office for hatching the next iPhone.

Note: some of the above items aren’t available for purchase yet, however they are expected to be released in 2014.


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.