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Guide to electronic educational tools

Naomi de la Torre is freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom with two delightful boys, ages three and six. Naomi has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, is a self-proclaimed salsa diva, and can make a killer octopus ...

The learning gadget checklist

The high-tech world of electronic educational tools offers your kids endless possibilities for hands-on learning fun. For maximum benefit, make sure the following six traits can describe the digital gadgets you choose for your child.

Kids with table pc

1User-friendly

If a system is not intuitive and user-friendly, it's going to end up in the garage sale bin before you can say "obsolete." Make sure to spend time researching and, if at all possible, testing the product in person.

2engaging

Electronic educational toys have come a long way since the days of Teddy Ruxpin. Beware of products that are nothing more than button pushers. Learning toys for young children should feature spoken instructions, large buttons, touch screens and other interactive features. A toy with staying power is both educational and engaging.

The Fisher Price Smart Cycle is a great example of an educational tool for little tykes that is both fun and mentally stimulating. Your little ones will love jumping on to pedal their way through a learning adventure. Older kids love interactive tablets such as the Innotab, LeapPad Explorer and VReader, with which they can hear stories, make art, play music and more.

3

Geared to your child's interests

Before you buy the latest, greatest tech tool, get familiar with its features and make sure it falls within your child's area of interest. Certain educational toys such as the GeoSafari Talking Globe and the GeoSafari Motorized Solar System are wonderful tools for learning -- but not if your kid isn't interested in geography or outer space. Take the time to explore all the options and find the perfect system for your child.

Looking for an electronic learning toy for a child with special needs? Check VTech's Able Play Rating for a comprehensive guide to toys for children with disabilities.

4Versatile

One of the most exciting developments in the world of electronic educational tools today is the versatility of the newest systems. Instead of having one toy for math and another for reading, you can now find lots of good products that offer a wide selection of exciting features. The iPad, for example, has hundreds of apps that are designed especially for children; these cover everything from geography and physics to puppetry and musical composition. Many e-readers, such as the Nook Color, feature apps, music, games, video, pictures and more.

5Fun

There's no reason an educational tool should be boring. Dive into a world of adventure with learning toys that know how to make learning new words, math, geography facts, problem-solving skills and science lessons as much fun as playing a traditional video game. In fact, you can find thousands of excellent educational games that are interactive and age-appropriate for your children right on the Internet. Little ones enjoy sites such as PBS Kids, Nick Jr. and Starfall. Older kids love BrainPOP, Math Playground, Life Beyond Earth, Arts Edge, Amazon Interactive and Fun Brain.

6Age-appropriate

Last, but not least, make sure your choices are age-appropriate for your kids. Children are easily influenced and often ask for games that are developmentally inappropriate. Take time to work with your child on his new toy to help him understand all the features and discover all the hands-on learning fun it has to offer.

Sneak a preview of the new InnoTab for kids

More about electronics for kids

When to use electronics for learning
Electronics your students actually need
This year's trendy school supplies

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