10 Smart Tech Toys For Kids - InformationWeek

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11/11/2014
08:46 AM
Jeff Bertolucci
Jeff Bertolucci
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10 Smart Tech Toys For Kids

It's holiday toy shopping season. Please the budding coder, architect, robot-builder, or drone pilot in your life with these cool choices.
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10 tech toys that won't disappoint
The holiday shopping season has arrived, and whichever cultural/religious/atheistic tradition you follow, it probably involves an exchange of gifts. Unless, of course, you celebrate Festivus. Sadly, many of us aren't fond of the season's gift-buying rituals and the stresses they bring. A 2013 survey commissioned by Staples Canada of more than 1,500 Canadian adults showed that 89% of holiday gift buyers admit to having problems buying presents for at least one person on their shopping list. And half of gift givers find it hard to buy presents for a very basic reason: they run out of ideas.

Well, don't get too bummed out. Perhaps there's some tinsel to this annual ritual. Online shopping has eased the gift-buying burden a bit by allowing us to tap and click our way through a shopping list rather than braving brick-and-mortar congestion. A positive attitude helps too, as does the wherewithal to cover a month or so of unbridled consumerism and a January hangover of supersized credit card bills.

When it comes to children's toys, there's another layer of shopper's stress, particularly if your goal is to find items that both entertain and educate the youngsters in your life. Do you go with the Dragon Ninja Weapon Set -- plenty of exercise, sure, but not really educational -- or choose something a bit more cerebral? Should you select Mattel's Disney Frozen Sparkle Princess Elsa Doll -- one of Amazon's most popular toys this season -- or search in vain for a sparkly princess doll that also teaches girls to program? You won't have much luck finding that in the doll aisle, but GoldieBlox does offer stereotype-busting toys and kits for girls who love to build, as does Lego.

Whatever you choose, it may incorporate digital technology. Touchscreens, for instance, are playing a larger role in kids' activities. A February 2014 survey by the Michael Cohen Group, a research and consulting firm, shows an emerging mashup of touchscreen devices and traditional toys. Toy makers, for instance, may offer a smartphone or tablet app that adds extra capabilities to a traditional board game or building kit. And today's children (12 and under) are more likely to play with a touchscreen device than with blocks, puzzles, board games, and other traditional toys, the survey found.

It's not uncommon for new toys to blend the physical and digital worlds, a merger that ideally inspires kids to think, move, and still have fun. We've selected 10 gift ideas that span a wide range of children's interests and ages, each with a decidedly tech focus. Most, but not all, have an educational component, because sometimes it's OK to simply go out and play. Play is an important part of the early childhood learning experience. We hope you like this assortment of gift-giving ideas (and let us know in the comments section if we missed one of your favorites.)

Jeff Bertolucci is a technology journalist in Los Angeles who writes mostly for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, The Saturday Evening Post, and InformationWeek. View Full Bio

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Laurianne
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Laurianne,
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11/12/2014 | 3:35:55 PM
Re: 10 Smart Tech Toys For Kids
Plenty of kids did without a leapfrog and survived, yes. Thanks for chiming in here, readers.
Ariella
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Ariella,
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11/12/2014 | 11:43:28 AM
Re: Amazon & stuff
"I thought the basic reason was to be out of money. Who knew?" LOL @Mak63. I believe you're right. If they just run out of ideas, they can give cash or its inferior substitute, a giftcard.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
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11/11/2014 | 5:48:45 PM
Re: Interested in Sphero for my son
It's worth noting that Raspberry Pi is not open source hardware, due to its reliance on a Broadcom ARM processor.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
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11/11/2014 | 3:23:38 PM
Re: Interested in Sphero for my son
I have a 12-year-old nephew who's on the robotics team, very interested and hands-on with all things technology, so I've been wondering if something like an arduino kit would appeal at that age. Anyone have experience with it?  
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
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11/11/2014 | 1:24:13 PM
Spy Kids
A 14-year-old boy with a Sky Viper is definitely going to be peeking in bedroom windows. Just sayin'
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
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11/11/2014 | 1:21:41 PM
Interested in Sphero for my son
My son is theoretically interested in programming, but I've found it hard to get him to focus on learning the basics of how to write functions and control loops and such. Looks like you program Sphero with some variant of Basic? Anyone have experience with how much this really teaches kids about programming? I don't want something so dumbed down that it would be "just a toy" with too many easy cheats and preloaded programs available to motivate him to learn something.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
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11/11/2014 | 11:37:47 AM
Big kids
Many adults around here have voiced interest in these toys, too. Once a tinkerer, always a tinkerer.
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