Tech gifts for children

Shopping for a techie gift for a young child this Christmas? Then swot up on our pick of the best kid-friendly gadgets.

Choosing a Christmas present for a young child is daunting -- even seasoned shoppers will get cold sweats at the prospect of trawling the baffling maze of toys in the vain hope of getting it right. And if you'd like to buy something with a techie spin, the chances narrow considerably.

Hopefully, by checking out this round-up of top tech gifts this Christmas, you'll avoid the soul-destroying sight of the kids playing with the box more than the toy.

Your gadget needs an instant 'wow' factor, while keeping the little ones interested in the weeks and months to come. Here's a varied selection with more staying power than a Duracell bunny.

LeapPad2 Explorer Tablet by LeapFrog

Price: £72 from Amazon.

LeapPad2 Explorer Tablet

Anyone who has ever wafted an iPad in front of a child will know just how much they're drawn to tablet computers. But while the iPad doesn't take too kindly to being chucked around or treated roughly by kids, the LeapPad2 is a tough cookie and can take some abuse.

It's designed for use by children between the ages of three and nine and has an accelerometer and front and rear facing cameras, all of which are used by the onboard apps. It comes pre-loaded with some apps, ebooks and games that are all designed to improve your child's skills, while hundreds more can be downloaded from the LeapFrog site.

Nerf Vortex Lumitron by Hasbro

Price: £19 from Amazon.

Nerf Vortex Lumitron

Nerf blaster guns have been a huge hit with kids (and some adults too ), but it's always good to see a new twist on the old concept. As with many of the previous Nerf blasters, this one fires discs rather than darts, but the Lumitron's unique feature is the glow-in-the-dark discs that look very cool as they whizz by when the lights are off.

The cartridge, or Firefly Clip as maker Hasbro calls it, has a small light built in to 'charge' the discs so they glow when fired. The blaster mechanism has enough power to send discs hurtling up to 60 feet, so long-range firefights are a real possibility.

Tag Junior by LeapFrog

Price: £15 from John Lewis.

Tag Junior Book Pal

The Tag Junior is designed to help improve a child's reading abilities by making books more fun. The system works by using a 'Tag Junior Scout', which is like an over-sized stylus that's supposed to be easy for kids to hold. Children touch the scout against the pages of the book to hear characters read parts of the story.

The pack comes with one book included and there are more than 15 others available that aim to help children learn the alphabet, as well as ones that aid counting and social play.

Kidizoom Twist Digital Camera by VTech

Price: £35 from Tesco.

Kidizoom Twist Digital Camera

Kids love taking snaps, but the average digital camera isn't very sturdy or easy for small hands to hold or control. The Kidizoom solves this, with large buttons and big grippy handles on the side that are much easier for kids to get the hang of.

It features a 2-megapixel resolution and shots are saved to the 256MB of storage. There's also an SD card slot for expanding its memory if you've got a junior Rankin on your hands and the built-in memory isn't enough. Other cool features include the twisting lens and flash. It can shoot video too, and kids can add wacky effects to the images on the camera itself.

AppMates: Cars 2 by Disney Pixar

Price: £15 from Toys R Us.

App Mates: Cars 2

AppMates is a new line of toys from Disney Pixar that's designed to work in conjunction with the iPad, turning it into a virtual play mat that children can drive the cars around. They cars have special sensors on the bottom that tell the iPad's capacitive screen where on the display they are.

The app is free to download from the App Store and lets children recreate scenes from the movie, or just explore the world at their own pace. There are also mini games and they can collect tire hubs to purchase in-game upgrades.

LeapsterGS by LeapFrog

Price: £51 from John Lewis.

LeapsterGS

If your child isn't quite ready for the LeapPad2, then the LeapsterGS may be a more sensible option. Designed to look like a handheld games console, it has a small touchscreen display in the middle that's flanked by a large D-pad controller on the left and two game buttons on the right. There's an accelerometer built in that's used to control some games and LeapFrog has also added a camera and microphone.

It comes with Pet Pad, a pet nurturing game, and Escape of the Sillies, a maths game. Children also get a free download of one of three more educational games from the App Centre. It also works with LeapFrog Explorer cartridges and there are over 300 titles to choose from.

Joebot by WowWee

Price: £70 from Conrad.

Joebot

Joebot comes from the same people who developed the massively popular Robosapien, so it's no surprise to find that, like its predecessor, it's got a lot of personality. This is apparent from the funny phrases and jokes that he likes to drop at random times.

You can control him either by using voice commands or the supplied joystick, and you can also set him up to roam freely around the room blasting objects with the LEDs in his hands. You can even take him on in a battle by firing at him with your TV's remote control, and if you hit the target, he'll play-act a humorous death scene.

Video Camera by Fisher-Price

Price: £30 from Toys R Us.

Kid-tough Video Camera

If you reckon your child might be a budding Spielberg or Lucas, then this is the ideal Christmas gift. It's a fully working video camera that's designed to be tough enough to withstand being repeatedly dropped by young filmmakers.

It runs off four AA batteries and there's enough memory onboard to store 15 minutes of video. There's also an SD card slot and if you add a memory card it not only extends the recoding time, but also allows recording in the higher-quality 640x480-pixel mode, rather than the standard 320x240 pixels. The buttons are big and chunky and the simple controls should be quickly mastered by young kids.

InnoTab 2 by VTech

Price: £80 from Argos.

InnoTab 2

If you're struggling to wrestle your iPad or Android tablet away from the little 'uns, then the InnoTab 2 might be the thing to distract them with. It's a kid-friendly 5-inch tablet with a touchscreen and accelerometer that comes loaded with educational games, creative activities and ebooks.

The games cover reading, spelling, maths and logic puzzles. When the kids get bored of the built-in apps, parents can download new ones from their computer and transfer them to the InnoTab 2 via SD cards. There's also a built-in camera that can be rotated to take self-portraits and record videos.

Smart Fit Park by Fisher-Price

Price: £60 from Toys Direct.

Smart Fit Park

Smart Fit Park is like a Wii Fit for children. It's an all-in-one device so the pad connects directly to your TV and comes with eight learning games built in. Children control these games by jumping around on the central portion of the pad or tapping on the coloured icons at the top.

The games are designed to teach children about letters, numbers, shapes and colours through active play by making them walk, run, jump and stomp on the mat. It's intended for use by children aged three and over and is powered by four AA batteries.

Tags:
Gadgets
About the author

Niall has been writing about technology for over 10 years, working for the UK's most prestigious newspapers, magazines and websites in the process. What he doesn't know about TVs and laptops isn't worth worrying about. It's a little known fact that if you stacked all the TVs and laptops he has ever reviewed on top of each other, the pile would reach all the way to the moon and back four times.

 

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