Children love digital technologies as much as adults do, and gadget makers have responded with some smart, entertaining options.
Here are some noteworthy devices that will keep children entertained and parents happy.
$60, ages 4 and up
Wearable tech has finally reached the playground. VTech, which makes learning toys for children, has introduced the Kidizoom Smartwatch, a multifunction watch that not only tells time, but also lets children take photos and videos and play learning games on a 1.4-inch color screen. The device comes with four games, and more can be added from the Learning Lodge, VTech’s app store. Photos and videos can be uploaded to a computer using an included USB cable. The watch is sturdy and splash-proof and comes in four colors: blue, white, pink and green. When fully charged, the watch’s built-in battery lasts up to two weeks.
$150, ages 3 to 8
Parents who think that video games are too violent or a waste of time can largely put their worries aside with LeapTV, a video game system from LeapFrog. Like other game consoles, LeapTV connects to a TV set, but it is compatible only with LeapFrog’s library of more than 100 cartridges, downloads and videos. Using a motion-sensor camera and a wireless controller, the game system combines learning with movement, making children run, jump, chop, wave and swat to get the right answer. Games adapt to a child’s learning level, adjusting to offer an appropriate challenge in areas like math, reading and science.
$550, all ages
Fuhu believes bigger is better. The company is expanding its Nabi line of secure tablets with the Big Tab, which comes in two models: 20 inches and 24 inches, or the size of a small flat-screen TV. The larger of the two weighs 13 pounds, which is a lot for little hands to carry. But the tablets have an integrated handle and kickstand, which make them easier to lug around and display. And being big has its advantages: Playing with an app is no longer a solitary experience because the large screen makes it easier to engage with siblings, friends and parents.
$35, ages 7 and up
Lego has a successful line of construction toys and a successful line of video games. With Lego Fusion, the company found a way to bridge the two. Using the plastic bricks included in a Fusion kit, children can construct the facade of a town hall, restaurant or tower. Taking a picture of the creation with a mobile device imports it into the Fusion app, and tiny Lego workers get busy constructing a 3-D digital counterpart. Players can see their designs come to life with three distinct Lego Fusion sets. To combat what Lego calls “zombie gaze," the app challenges players to construct more physical objects for their digital world.
$75, ages 10 and up
Activision Blizzard continues to keep the Skylanders franchise fresh. For the newest game, Skylanders Trap Team, Activision added physical traps to hold digital villains. But the smartest update was to release a full tablet version. The team at Toys for Bob, the Activision subsidiary that developed the game, strove to ensure that players could get the complete console experience on an iPad, Kindle or Android-based tablet, a rarity for mobile games. The starter kit for tablets even includes a wireless portal for the Skylanders figures and traps, as well as a wireless controller, so anyone can play the game without having to pay $400 for a game console.
$60, ages 3 and up
Many toddlers may be too young to use smartphones and laptops, but they still like to stay in contact with family members. Toymail, a start-up with operations in Michigan and Brooklyn, gives them an opportunity to stay connected with Mailmen, a line of whimsical smart toys that work like Wi-Fi walkie-talkies. Voice messages are sent through the Toymail app, which is available for iOS and Android devices. When a Mailman receives a message, it snorts and growls and plays the message in a funny voice. Children can reply with the press of a button. Busy parents can subscribe to a daily greeting, which includes jokes and fun facts, delivered every morning.