Christmas is all about kids, isn't it? And kids these days are all about tech. As you shop for the various kids on your list, consider these great tech gift ideas for the young ones, many of which focus on education and, more specifically, STEM learning.
Play Shifu Orboot
Rather than robots and computers, this clever educational toy (Erikson Consumer) takes a traditional product and makes it interactive. It's a $50 world globe with a tech twist: it uses augmented reality (AR) to help kids learn more about each region, country, body of water, and more. Use an iOS or Android tablet to call up a specific country or region you're looking at, then discover more details, like the languages spoken there, cultures, traditional cuisines, monuments, typical weather patterns, notable inventions, native animals, and more.
Beats by Dr. Dre Mickey Mouse Disney-Themed Headphones
OK, there's nothing educational about this gift idea, but there's no denying the cool factor. In celebration of Mickey Mouse's 90th anniversary, Beats by Dr. Dre is offering a special edition version of its Beats Solo3 wireless headphones. They come finished in cool grey with an all-over design, and can operate for up to 40 hours, plus another three hours after just five minutes of charging. Employing cushioned, pivoting and adjustable earcups for a customized fit, they contain the Apple W1 chip for one-step Bluetooth connection, and the ability to toggle seamlessly among iCloud-registered devices. They come with a custom felt case inspired by the materials from Mickey Mouse ear hats, plus a collectible 90th anniversary pin and decal sticker. Thhey'll be available starting November 11 for $399.95, and are on pre-sale now.
Garmin vivofit jr. 2 Fitness Tracker for Kids
Some people frown upon the idea of fitness trackers for kids, believing that it could give little ones a complex about weight and body image. But with the right presentation, kids can understand that this is more of a fun device that helps them measure activity, and work toward employing healthier habits. This particular tracker, designed specifically for kids, was developed in partnership with Marvel, and features Spider-Man themed bands. It works with a mobile app that parents can manage. As kids meet activity goals, different adventures are unlocked in the Spider-Verse, along with games, gems, and step icons. Swim-friendly, it has a customizable colour screen and a battery that lasts for up to a year. Within the app, mom and dad can view activity of one or more children, assign chores, and schedule reminders, with alerts that appear on the child's device. When kids receive and complete a given chore, parents can provide virtual coins that can be redeemed for agreed-upon rewards. Step challenges with friends and family provide extra motivation. MSRP US$80, optional accessory bands US$30 ea. If Marvel isn't the child's favourite, other band options feature characters like Disney Princess, Star Wars, and Minnie Mouse.
Meyko Playful Companion for Kids With Asthma
This is a gift that parents of kids with asthma will appreciate, and kids will love. Developed by 27-year-old Sandrine, who suffers from asthma, Meyko is a playful companion dedicated to motivating children aged 3-10 to take their daily asthma treatments. When it's time for treatment, Meyko's face changes and becomes sad, encouraging the child to take his medicine. When it's done, the child gives Meyko a hug to confirm, at which point it starts smiling again. It works with inhalers, nebulizers, tablets, and injections, with small scanning tabs called Lynkos that stick to any container. It also has a night-time mode. Co-designed with children's hospitals and made in France, the cute device also connects to a mobile app that parents can use to monitor a child's treatments. $170, plus $19 for shipping to Canada.
Kano Computer Kit Touch
Designed for kids 5 and up, Kano's computer kits, available through Toronto-based ReSource Group Canada, walk kids step-by-step through how to build their own computer, then use it to enjoy a series of games and apps, and practice coding. The fully-functioning computer runs on Raspberry Pi and the educational Kano OS. It comes with a USB board, sound sensor, and 16GB capacity, and can be used for accessing apps like YouTube and WhatsApp, with parents' permission, of course. The storybook instruction booklet contains colourful pictures and detailed instructions explaining not only what to do, but, in simple terms, why each piece connects to the next. The latest version is the Computer Kit Touch ($379), which has a 10.1" touchscreen, as well as a wireless keyboard with trackpad. Once it's built, kids can make apps, art, games, music, and more using multiple programming languages. The addition of the touchscreen exposes kids to tactile interfaces, and allows for painting with fingers, hacking Minecraft, and creating art using block-based coding editors. Creations can then be shared in the Kano World community. The computer can run for up to three hours.
Tech Will Save Us
A relatively new company, having launched in the U.K. in 2012, these kits are sold worldwide, in everywhere from the MoMA in New York to the Design Museum in London, and in Canada through Baie D'urfe, QC-based Erikson Consumer. They range in price from $37 up to $135, and involve making electric dough, growing plants, soldering, and building machines that make sounds. The Bright Creatures Kit ($55) provides hands-on learning about electricity and circuits. Using the electro, conductive dough and LED lights, kids can build a creation following instructions in the free Android or iOS app. Then, use the smart controller to make them light up.
UBTECH Jimu Robots
There are several buildable robot characters, available through ReSource Group Canada, that kids can put together following detailed instructions, then use a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet to program actions for it. Each kit uses the PRP (Pose, Record, Play) system, or Blockly coding for creating sequences that range from simple for beginners, to complex for older kids once they get the hang of it. The new Robot BuilderBots Series: OverDrive Kit ($150) interactive robotic building block kit includes more than 400 parts that can be used to code two robots, the DozerBot and DirtBot, as well as unique inventions. It comes with two smooth motion robotic servo motors and two DC motors, and an ultrasonic sensor and RGB light for each robot for detecting and avoiding obstacles, and reacting to the environment through lights and motion. The total 410 parts snap together, interlocking with connectors. There's also a main control box and USB cable, and it works with the free iOS or Android app. Kids can easily follow along with the 3D building instructions, which provide 360-degree views of the robot so you can see it from every angle. Use the in-app joystick remote to control the robot via a smartphone or tablet. There are pre-programmed actions, like "crazy dance," or more advanced kids can create their own using Blockly coding. As they learn, kids can follow a series of lessons to further expand their coding skills. Several other Jimu kits are available, including animal add-ons where kids can make their own robot parrot, T-Rex, and more.
Sphero Bolt Robotic Ball
Working with the Sphero Edu app, kids can experiment with this robotic ball, programming and coding it to perform different actions. An animated and programmable 8x8 LED matrix displays real-time data and graphics, while infrared sensors allow for Bolt-to-Bolt communication, new games, and advanced movements. There's an Auto-Aim feature, and ambient light sensor. Offering up to two hours of continuous play per battery charge, it's available for US$150, or comes in classroom packs for schools: the Bolt Power Pack with a charging case is US$2,500, and the Bolt 15 Pack is US$1,950, each of which comes with 15 robots and accessories. The Sphero Edu app works with iOS, Android, Kindle, Mac, Windows, and Chrome; and the new Sphero Play app offers unique drive modes and games on iOS and Android.
littleBits Avengers Hero Inventor Kit
Kids can make their own superhero gear using littleBits electronic blocks, then customize them, and make them light up in unique ways using coding. Developed by Canadian entrepreneur Ayah Bdeir, in collaboration with Marvel Entertainment, LLC, the Kit includes a hero gauntlet and wearable tech sensors that work with in-app block coding to create customizable LED matrix light designs and authentic Marvel Avengers sound effects. These include characters like Iron Man, The Hulk, Black Widow, Black Panther, and Shuri. Kids follow step-by-step instructions and video tutorials on a tablet, and once the gear is built, can play more than 18 in-app activities to create their own personal high-tech hero. Each kit comes with nine Bits, seven hero gear parts, two sticker sheets, and access to the free app. $200.
Fisher Price Think & Learn Rocktopus
Help mom and dad get their children started on the basics of coding when they're still toddlers! The Rocktopus ($70) combines learning about music and musical styles and facts with counting, creating patterns, and basic math concepts. It includes 15 musical instruments for preschoolers to explore, mixing and remixing to create their own tunes. Use it with the free Rocktopus app to create personal music videos and patterns, and count, helping with the math concepts of addition and subtraction. It's also great for teaching kids to follow directions and develop attention skills through playing fast-paced musical games.
Retro Games & Solutions 2 GO THEC64 Mini Computer
Older kids (and, let's face it, their nostalgic Baby Boomer or Gen-Xer parents as well), will love the re-launched THEC64 Mini, a 50% replica of the best-selling computer from 1982. THEC64 Mini comes pre-loaded with 64 classic games and THEC64 Joystick. Kids (and their parents) can play via simple plug and play, or program their own games by adding a keyboard, which also makes it a fully functional home computer with C64 Basic. It comes with games like California Games, Winter Games, Impossible Mission II, Boulder Dash, Jumpman, Pitstop II, Speedball II: Brutal Deluxe, Street Sports Baseball, Summer Games II, Temple of Apshai Trilogy, Uridium and more. The computer has two USB ports for adding an extra joystick for multiplayer gaming or connecting a keyboard. It offers high definition output at 720p and 60Hz via HDMI, 4:3 ratio, U.S./Europe display mode options, and a CRT filter for a classic look. For the first time, THEC64 Mini allows you to save your progress in games. THEC64 Mini supports software updates via USB flash drive so you have continued access to improved and enhanced programming.
Ubtech Robotics Yanshee
Older kids might love this programmable robot with artificial intelligence (AI), which works with a programmable Raspberry Pi card, has various sensors, and an open source platform for educators, students, and robot enthusiasts. Standing nearly 15" tall, it can walk and dance, and features facial, gesture, voice recognition and activation, a speech-to-text functionality. With a built-in 1,080i 8MP camera, built-in sensors include a gyroscope, temperature, humidity, air pressure, infrared, and ultrasonic, allowing Yanshee to perform tasks on command, test environmental conditions, speak, listen, thoughtfully answer questions, and relay data. The open source nature of the platform means students can leverage multiple coding languages, including C, C , Python, Java, and Blockly, to collaborate and engage with Yanshee.
Kano Harry Potter Coding Kit
Any kid who is obsessed with Harry Potter will love this kit (ReSource Group Canada), which is designed to show kids how to code and create, includes a wireless wand that works with software and an app to capture users' movements, allowing kids to "swish" through more than 70 challenges inspired by the wizarding world of Harry Potter, doing things like making serpents slither, toads transfigure, fires flow, feathers float, goblets duplicate, and Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans enlarge. Kids build their wand, which incorporates a gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer to detect position and motion, and learn about sensors, data, and code. The wand can place a cursor on screen, and recognize the motions of ‘spells;' and the light and rumble pack can be programmed. It works wirelessly via Bluetooth, with iOS and Android tablets, and Windows or Mac computers. The Kit includes a poster illustrating classic Wizarding World spell motions. $129.
Spicebox Professor Maxwell's 4D Kitchen Kit and Augmented Reality Cookbook
For the child who loves to help mom and dad in the kitchen, this clever kit, available exclusively at Costco Canada, includes kid-sized kitchen utensils, along with a viewer, and augmented reality-enabled cookbook that brings recipes to life. Kids can both follow the 18 interactive recipes, and learn about the science behind food as they prepare culinary creations. The book, and the 4D Professor Maxwell character, teach things like why apples get brown once they're cut, how bananas ripen after being picked, how yeast works, and the differences between good and bad fats. Then, kids can proceed making everything from delicious homemade pizza, to apple crumble or chocolate chip cookies for dessert. $30
Puro Sound Labs BT2220 Headphones
Grab a pair of these headphones, which are specifically designed for little ears. The studio-grade Bluetooth headphones include volume limiting ear protection that limits levels to under 85 decibels while still offering good sound quality and noise isolation. The headband features a soft cushioning material and durable lightweight aluminum. Their design attenuates over 82% of ambient noise, and the Puro Balanced Response curve matches the sound quality of a finely-tuned listening room, with comparatively equal levels of deep bass, midrange and high treble, so that the listener can hear all the sounds of the music without needing to crank up the volume. They sell for about $125.
Want more gift ideas? Check out our other themed gift guides.