Holiday Gift Giving Suggestions: Tech Gifts for Kids
November 30, 2015 | Home and Family
By Karl Gouverneur, chief technology officer at Northwestern Mutual.
When we prepare for holiday shopping, it’s natural to think back to the gifts we received as children. What I remember most are the technological gadgets—not only were they fun to play with, but they also sparked my lifelong passion for emerging technology.
I’ve seen the same in my own son and daughter, as over the years they have become really engaged with toys, games and gadgets that let them explore science and technology in creative ways. That interest has carried through to their studies, as they both have embraced STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects in their schoolwork. Now I’m always on the lookout for the best innovative toys and gadgets to share—for fun at the holidays and for learning all year round.
Of course, grownups like gifts too, and there’s no shortage of technological gadgets for us. Click here to see my list of gifts for kids at heart.
Want to inspire that creative child on your list? Take a look at Roominate, a modern take on building sets that incorporates electronic circuitry inside the modular pieces. Roominate lets kids combine sets to design and create miniature houses, amusement-park rides, rocketships and other structures and then trick them out with motorized elevators, whirling fans, glowing TV sets and whatever else they may imagine. Designed to encourage girls’ interest in building, engineering and programming, Roominate develops problem-solving, spatial-relation and fine motor skills.
Lego blocks aren’t exactly new—but when their ingenious design is combined with servomotors and electronic sensors, the result is Lego Mindstorms EV3. This combination of traditional building activity with interactive robotics gives this gift great appeal for kids ages 10 and older. They can construct one of five robots and bring it to life, either with the included remote control or via smartphone or tablet. In addition to building the bots, kids can use an icon-based programming interface on a PC or Mac to give them additional capabilities. Each set includes all the pieces needed to build the robot, along with plenty of technological components.
When talk turns to STEM education, many also mention STEAM—that’s STEM studies with the arts added in. To follow that theme, Compose Yourself is an innovative game that melds the worlds of internet technology and music. Compose Yourself comes with a set of transparent cards, each of which contains a series of notes. Kids can stack the cards any way they want to create a musical sequence, then enter the codes onto Compose Yourself’s website. Almost instantly, they’ll hear their digital composition played by a full symphony orchestra. Young composers can then make changes, listen again and download their composition as an MP3 file. They can even print out sheet music for their masterpiece, allowing them to play it through more traditional means.
Adidas miCoach Smart Ball—$200
Parents are naturally concerned about kids spending too much time staring at smartphones and computer screens. Here’s a gift that shows how technology can promote some time in the fresh air and sunshine. The Adidas miCoach Smart Ball helps your young soccer stars up their game and train like pros. With its unique sensor construction, this innovative app-enabled soccer ball sends instant feedback via Bluetooth to your iOS or Android device—displaying data on the power, trajectory, spin and strike accuracy of your child’s kicking technique, all while maintaining the weight and feel of a regulation size 5 soccer ball. The app even provides coaching tips to guide your child, based on the data it captures.
Smart Lab Room Defender—$39.99
Kids can seize control over their bedroom while also learning the basics of programming with the SmartLab Room Defender. This create-it-yourself digital room security system lets kids record messages for visitors to their room, and includes an alarm that warns brothers, sisters and other would-be trespassers to stay away! Sirens, lights and sound effects add to the fun. Room Defender will even let them know if an unauthorized visitor entered their room while they were away. Young programmers grant access to their room by giving their friends and family secret codes and key cards.
With any of these gifts you give more than fun—you also offer the kids in your life the opportunity to learn, explore and grow.