We love these gadgets that do the job, while still being kid-appropriate and kid-durable. Shh… don’t tell them they might learn something, too.
1. Brilliant Creations Advanced Notebook
Kids these days need to learn to operate a laptop as soon as they’re in school. That doesn’t mean you’re comfortable turning over your precious machine to your accident-prone 5-year-old, though. The Brilliant Creations Advanced Notebook from VTech lets your kids get a feel for using a mouse and keyboard while playing the 120 pre-loaded learning activities. (vtechkids.com, $50)
2. LeapPad Ultra
The people over at LeapFrog have really done it this time. The newest version of their hit kid-friendly tablet features a larger memory and Wi-Fi, so parents no longer have to connect to their own computers to download new apps and updates. Don’t let that Web access freak you out, though, mama. Only LeapFrog-approved, kid-friendly sites are accessible, and the parental controls let you be even more selective. Kids can download educational games, read along with interactive e-books, watch their favorite shows and take their own pictures and video, all in one device. (LeapFrog.com, $150)
3. Kidzoom Camera
Kids love taking photos, but letting them use your camera can be nerve-wracking. And buying them an adult camera is premature since it can easily break. Fortunately, there are several digital cameras on the market for kids. Not so fortunately, few take decent photos or get good ratings. But the Kidzoom Camera does both. The fact that it includes built-in photo effects and a video recorder? Total gravy on this cool kids’ gadget. (vtechkids.com, $40)
Moms and dads are quickly replacing their watches with fitness devices meant to keep track of activity and encourage a healthy lifestyle. Thanks to the new LeapBand from LeapFrog, kids can do the same. Kids can choose a pet to “live” on the screen of this tiny wearable device, and they earn food and other rewards for that pet through their own activity. Fifty unique challenges keep them motivated and interested in staying active. LeapBands hit the stores late this summer, but you can check them out now. (LeapFrog.com, $40)
An iPad for kids? Really? Believe it. There are so many great educational apps for kids available on the iPad (apple.com, $299 and up). From learning to read and developing math skills to more complex subjects, it’s like the ultimate learning system. Not so sure about handing your treasured tablet over to your sticky-fingered tot? We don’t blame you. Protect it with an iGuy case (speckproducts.com, $40), meant to protect it from drops and spills. It also looks totally cool and gives kids a little something more to hold on to.