Tuesday, September 18, 2012

From Back to School to Holiday Shopping - Picking Out the Best Gadgets for Kids

Content written by Theresa Payton, Fortalice, LLC. Also featured in an article for "Wee Ones" Magazine.

Many of you have sent your older kids off to school and might have little ones in pre school.  You just finished buying school supplies but do not put away your checkbooks and credit cards yet, it is time to start planning out your holiday gift giving.

We know you do not have a lot of time on your hands so we have done some pre-holiday shopping for you and have recommendations on digital fun for the family along with tips to keep you and your kids safe while you work and play online.

Tablet Apps that Entertain and Are Educational:
Five Little Monkeys:  Good for toddlers through 5.  This is a book collection and uses the popular "5 little monkeys jumping on the bed" song.  Books can be played in autoplay.  Visually appealing and keeps the attention of even the most fussy of the wee ones.  This will run you about $12.99

Disney's "Where's My Water?"  Good for ages 7-10.  A puzzle game that will make them laugh and use their brain.  Main character is Swampy the Alligator, a Disney original character.  Over 100 puzzles to solve.    There is a free version and prices vary depending upon device.

Doodlecast for Kids  Good for ages 3-5.  Your child draws and the app turns it into a story.  The story it creates based on their drawing can be shared with anyone with a quick upload to email or YouTube.   Approximately $1.99.

Device Protection:
If the kids hold your device as much or more than you do, consider the Woogie.  The Woogie is going to bring smiles and protection to your device.  Think stuffed animal meets protective case.  They make them for smart phones and it comes with a built in speaker.  Perfect for entertaining the kids with music, games, or movies.  Also comes with a spot to plug in headphones.  Different models run about $19.99

Devices "on the go" can be easy to lose, especially the smaller ones. If you are going to invest in an iPod nano or your kid already has one, consider pairing it with the Slapband.  It's a great way to turn it into a bracelet and/or functioning watch.  I have personally enjoyed one on a long run because you get a timer and music on the go and you are hands free.  Depending upon the model, roughly $25.

School or Just for Fun Art projects
There are lots of free fabulous apps out there that you can use to delight children from 0-100+.  If you want to do something more lasting, you may want to consider purchasing the Crayola Color Studio HD.  It comes with a stylus which can become a paintbrush, pen, crayon or marker all with just one touch!  Approximately $30.

Math Apps
Whether your little ones loves math or is struggling to keep up, apps are here to help.  For the pre schoolers, try Counting Caterpillar.   For ages 5-7 try MathBlaster Online.  For ages 9-12, try CoolMath.  (Note: prices vary depending upon your device). 

Group or Family Fun - It's Game Time!
Many of us grew up playing board games but nobody wants to huddle more than 2 people around today's digital devices.  Try a product called The GameChanger.  It allows you to plug your iPad into it's board system so you get the beauty of digital and the space of a board game for a group.  Approximately $60.

7 Tips in 7 Minutes to Staying Safer Online:
1.  Never purchase apps or toys online from sites that you do not know and beware of fakes and counterfeits
2.  Password protect all your devices 
3.  Teach your children never to click on pop ups
4.  Set browser settings to the tightest security and parental controls possible if your children will be using the devices
5.  Show your children how to use Google Safe Search tool for all internet searches that they do - Google will do their best to shield your kids from sites you don't want them to accidentally be exposed to
6.  Do not give your child's information when registering the gifts, use your own 
7.  Tell your children to never type in their name, age, gender, address, birth date or where they go to school on any site...even if it says they'll get a free gift

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