Have yourself a merry e-christmas

Technology gifts don’t necessarily mean more screen time for your kids. Here are some technology-inspired ideas for your family this Christmas that you just might not have thought of.

Christmas time can be tricky. Is it supposed to be all about tradition, family, or the brightly-coloured packages under the brightly-coloured tree? Every house has their own complicated rules about what’s allowed: presents up to a certain monetary value, practical gifts, educational toys ... the list goes on. But if your rules allow electronics, and the children have been extra good, here are a few suggestions for Santa this jolly season.

kindle

Giving a Kindle is a bit like giving a book, except that it’s cool. A traditional Kindle is easy on the eyes because the screen is passive. Kindle Fire is a miniature computer with a colourful backlit screen – this could be a problem if you think your child is reading in bed, and meanwhile they’re playing games on their e-reader. Kindle DX is heavier than the traditional six-inch Kindle, but it can receive PDF files in their original format.

learning laptop

A learning laptop is an electronic toy that introduces children to computer play ... without getting Mummy’s keyboard all sticky. It looks like a laptop but is meant for toddlers. There are even models for babies (nine colourful keys that play a tune and flash lights when pressed). If you have a younger child, a learning laptop may be a perfect choice, especially if an older sibling is getting an electronic notebook. The learning laptop for preschoolers comes with a USB drive, an iPod dock and software for the family PC, so you can sync it with your own desktop.

karaoke player

If your child likes to sing, a Karaoke Player may go down a treat. Some of the machines are designed with toddlers in mind and can be found in toy stores. Others are more sophisticated gadgets meant for adults and young adults, but they can be still enjoyed by a responsible primary school-goer. Just watch out you don’t spend too much on the music!

electronic keyboard

An electronic music keyboard can help your child learn about music. It may even teach them to create their own tunes. Many electronic keyboards come with a variety of sounds and songs pre-recorded. Better yet, many electronic keyboards come with headphones, so the young pianists don’t disturb the rest of the family.

electric guitar

If your child is musically gifted, they might love an electric guitar. However, this present is probably best suited to children aged 7 years and up, because it’s a more complicated instrument than a keyboard. Learning to play a guitar, acoustic or electric, takes heaps of time, skill and dedication. Not for the impatient.

walkie-talkie

In this age of mobile phones, it’s surprising how much fun children can still have with a piece of technology older than their grandparents! Invest in a good-quality specimen that will work over a good distance and transmit more than just static. You will need at least two of course, but for larger families or groups of friends four is a bonus.

child-friendly camera

Disney cameras are cheap and cheerful, but you might like to invest in a second-hand ‘real’ camera for your growing photographer. Boys in particular will prefer the look and feel of an ‘adult’ gadget over one that’s adorned with cartoon princesses.

lego mindstorms nxt

To quote directly from the advert: “MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 combines the versatility of the LEGO building system with all-new technologies, an intelligent microcomputer brick and intuitive drag-and-drop programming software. The new 2.0 toolkit features everything you need to create your first robot in 30 minutes and then thousands of other robotics inventions that do what you want!” Warning: it’s pricey!

The Not-So-Cool Presents

voice-recognition dolls

These come in baby and Bratz versions. The baby doll burps, makes breathing noises when she’s asleep and cries real tears. She’s also supposed to respond to your child’s voice. For example, if they say “I love you”, she’s meant to say “I love you too, Mummy”. The problem is, she doesn’t always do what she’s supposed to – pretty much like any baby – and that may be frustrating for your toddler.

And the Bratz doll doesn’t do anything apart from talking back – often to complain that you’re mumbling.

e-scooter

It’s like a scooter, except it has a built-in engine, allowing your child to ride on it without doing the work. While it’s not as good for their fitness levels as an ordinary scooter or a bicycle, it’s a cool toy that can be incorporated into role-playing games such as cops-and-robbers.

usb sticks

Decorative USB flash drives shaped like cartoon characters may be cool-looking … but “they’re not a toy”, as my son informed me, so they don’t make a cool present. After all, who wants to get useful stuff on Christmas Day?

eye-pad

An eye pad, not to be confused with an iPad, is the gauze eye patch that’s in every medical kit. So not cool, apparently. Not even as a joke.

In this age of mobile phones, it’s surprising how much fun children can still have with a piece of technology older than their grandparents! Invest in a good-quality specimen that will work over a good distance and transmit more than just static.

other ideas

  • If they already have an iPod, an iTunes gift card will allow them to purchase music, movies, eBooks, and apps.
  • If they already have a phone, give them extra credit for calls and texts.
  • If they already have an e-reader, they will want more e-books. Always.

low-tech options

  • A no-batteries iPod sound enhancer – it’s a piece of cleverly shaped plastic that bounces sound waves, making them louder.
  • A travel or storage bag for the iPod, its charger, the USB stick, etc. Okay, so this one is a practical present. Not that cool.
  • Good quality earphones.


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