Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Shopping: Buying Tech Gadgets that are Fun & Educational for your kids

Still shopping for your kids and grandkids?  Do you want to buy them a new tech gadget that is both fun and might help them with school or afterschool activities?  You are not alone!

A recent survey said that the average shopper plans to spend around $200 on tech gadgets during the holidays.  Tech gadgets are at the top of holiday wish lists for most kids.  How do you sort through the ads and the gimmicks to find tech gadgets that are both fun and help with your kids’ education?  

Kids want to have the latest gadgets that they see on TV commercials, in the movies, the ones that their friends are using, and most of all, they want to copy and be like you which means they want what you use.

There are some great gadgets this year on both the low end and high end of the budget that support both fun and education.

I have grouped a selection of fun and educational tech gadgets into four categories:  Practical, Cool, Hands On and Games.

Practical:  Computers, Electronic Readers, Computer Accessories

Cool:  Smartphones, Gaming Systems,  Power Mats, Virtual Keyboards, Smart Pens, Portable Secure Wireless

Hands On:  Cameras that have Still & Video, Robots

Games:  Fun and educational such as problem and puzzle solving

As with all purchases, make sure you have the following with you before you purchase:
1. Budget – how much you are willing to spend
2. Price – do your homework so you know if you are getting a good deal
3. Service – how will the child receiving the gift be able to get it serviced if there is a problem
4. Warranty – if you know the child will be hard on the gadget, including an extended warranty may
                           be a good option

Practical:  Computers, Electronic Readers, Computer Accessories
Computers – Desktop or Laptop but Laptops are usually asked for more frequently by kids.  

Electronic Readers – Your kids can download newspapers and books and tag key research items that they might need for homework such as quotes and statistics.

Most kids are asking for laptops so they have the ultimate in flexibility and portability.

Windows 7 on a Desktop under $1200:  HP TouchSmart 600 has touch applications where your kid can use a touch of the screen instead of a mouse.  Sleek all-in-one design packs a nice PC into a 23.5 inch monitor.

Mac on a Desktop:   the iMac starts at under $1200 and offers a wireless keyboard and their newly designed Magic Mouse.  Screens start at 21.5 inches and go up to 27 inches.  Great all-in-one design fits on desks short for space.

Windows 7 Laptops under $600:  Dell Studio 15, HP Pavilion dm3,  Lenovo G550 2958

Mac Laptops under $1200: Apple MacBook Pro has a longer batter life with a sleep aluminum unibody design.

Electronic reader
The top 3 choices this year are:  Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, and Barnes & Noble Nook

Accessories to consider are:  extra batteries, carrying cases, adapters for car use, printers, copier/fax, scanners, mouse, headsets.

Cool – Smartphones, Gaming Systems,  Power Mats, Virtual Keyboards, Smart Pens, Portable Secure Wireless

Smartphones can provide your kids with easy access to educational information and use it as a device where they can call or text you to let you know they are safe.  Some of the top choices are iPhone, BlackBerry Storm, Motorola Droid.   Your purchase will also include a monthly service charge so make you understand contract options before buying the device.

Gaming Systems can provide your kids with a platform to surf the net, communicate with friends, store pictures, and play educational games.  Some of the top choices are PlayStation, Wii Nintendo, and Xbox.

Power Mats are designed to recharge many devices such as phones, computers, music players on one mat saving space and eliminating cords.

Virtual Keyboards project an image of a keyboard onto a desktop so you can do away with a separate keyboard.  Using Bluetooth technology, you can project a virtual keyboard to use with your computer or smartphome.  If your kids watch CSI, they will have seen this cool capability on that show.  You can find more information at ThinkGeek.com

Smart Pens offer different features and functions.  Some can record what you say and translate it to text.  Others can take short videos.  Some can copy printed words that you can upload to your computer.  For younger users, Poingo and the LeapFrog tag reading system use smart pens to help your budding reader.  For older kids, look at SpyNanny, LiveScribe and Oregon Scientific,
Portable Secure Wireless:  You can use a broadband access card as a cheaper option.  If more than one device needs to connect, consider the Sprint or Verizon MiFi option.  With the purchase of a small device and a monthly fee, you can connect up to 5 devices at a time on a secure wireless network.

Hands On:  Cameras that have Still & Video, Robots
Unique:  Pets-Eye View Camera from National Geographic allows you to see what your dog or cat sees.
Cameras for Younger Kids:  Lego and Vtech Kidizoom Plus
Cameras for Older Kids:  Nikon D300, Panasonic Lumix, Sony CyberShot, Canon PowerShot
Robot for Younger Kids:   Matchbox has a Rocky the Robot Truck that is an interactive robot and dump truck or you can program a soft and furry friend such as the My Pal Scout by LeapFrog.
Robot for Older Kids:  Tin Can Robot kit from Green Science.  The Lego and Roborover allow your kids to build robots that can also be programmed to do different tasks and functions.

Games:  Fun and educational such as problem and puzzle solving.  

This season you have many choices.   We have highlighted a few for you.  A tip to make sure your game is Family Friendly is to check the rating.  When shopping for a game, look for “E” somewhere on the box or the website.  The “E” means the Entertainment Software Rating Board has reviewed it and it is suitable for “Everyone”.  If it says "E10+", this means that the game is meant for Everyone 10 and older.
Family Friendly & Educational Games:

ItzaZoo:  Teaches children how to read or improves their reading skills.  Your kid goes on adventures with zoo animals.

Dora Saves the Crystal Kingdom:  Learn problem solving and Spanish.  Kids join Dora for adventures.

LittleBigPlanet :  Great for teaching problem solving.  You help a little boy named Sack Boy navigate by solving puzzles.  

Scribblenauts:  Puzzle solving and spelling.  You study a puzzle and spell an object that you need to have to resolve the puzzle.  

Mattel’s Mind Flex:  Using mind and body, this game uses NeuroSky technology to measure your theta-wave brain activity.  As you concentrate, you can power a fan with your mind that pushes a ball.

KidZui.com:   This is a web browser designed to keep kids safe online.  It also provides access to kid friendly games, social networking, and filters youtube videos for age appropriateness.




  1. The Mindflex Game is out of stock on Amazon - it's only offered at jacked up prices right now! I'm using the free service AZNotify.com to watch inventory and notify me as soon as they are back in stock at the regular list price so I can buy one quickly before they sell out again.

  2. Cellphones: A prepaid phone to start off will help teach them responsibility. I went to WalMart and picked up a couple of Straight Talk cell phones for my kids for Christmas. They are great quality phones and I will only be paying $45 a month for unlimited talk, text, and data. It will save me about $40 a month...not to mention the overage costs. I can't wait for them to open their gifts! I did well.