Buying for kids isn't easy, but this is a good place to start!
No two kids are alike, but chances are if they know you there's a tech streak in there somewhere that will let you appreciate gadgets together. Sometimes that means playing a game together on your favorite console, and sometimes that means running around outside while a 360-degree camera grabs your failed cartwheel at just the right angle. Yeah, that one's going on YouTube.
What about gear that's just for the kids, though? Stuff that will not only be fun for them to use, but in some small way actually be good for them? That's where this gift guide can lend a helping hand. You'll find everything you could possibly want to gift that will make kids smile and think at the same time. Enjoy!
This post was updated in December 2016 with the latest information!
Kano Computer Kit
They say kids appreciate things more if they've built it themselves, so why not make that thing a computer? The Kano Computer Kit lets a child build a small PC that connects to any HDMI screen and learn the basics of user interaction and programming. It's a simple, fun kit that can be expanded to include a separate portable screen for a little more, but the real challenge is in the teaching. This kit helps kids understand how the individual components function, and includes a huge variety of apps and games once everything is set up.
The truth is this isn't much more complicated than a Raspberry Pi with a wireless keyboard and a special casing. To a child looking to learn, that simple kit could mean a great deal more.
Maybe a Smartphone?
Deciding to equip a kid with a smartphone is no small thing, and that decision has requirements that vary wildly from parent to parent. It doesn't matter if your kid comes home and says they're the only one in the class who doesn't have a phone or that they're the first, the choice is yours and there are some great options for younger users.
We've assembled the perfect list of the best smartphones for kids, so you can make the most informed decision possible!
littleBits: Rule Your Room Kit
Every parent wants to see their kid be a creator, and there have never been more tech options available to help make that possible. Free programming apps are all over the place, digital drawing has never been more accessible, and then there's littleBits. These are kits for the little engineer in your life, giving them the tools to build everything from simple alarm clocks to a pressure sensitive switch for whatever they can think of.
The Rule Your Room Kit comes with step-by-step instructions and all of the materials for eight different inventions, as well as access to a community of builders that have used this same kit to build a lot more.
The Starter Smartwatch
Kids tend to emulate the adults in their lives, and if you're walking around all day with a computer on your wrist there's a good chance your kid wants one to be just like you. That's not always a good idea, especially if your watch is one of the pricier Android Wear offerings, but that doesn't mean there aren't options out there built for kids to fill the need. Whether your kid has a smartphone already or just wants something colorful to be like you, there are some great smartwatches out there for kids. Here's our take on the best available today!
There's no such thing as being too young to enjoy a good gadget, and there's no such thing as being too young to learn how you think about programming. The Fisher-Price Code-A-Pillar is proof of both of these statements, and it's pretty great. The little wiggle worm "learns" the pattern you put in its back, and travels based on those instructions. This teaches kids how to think about step-by-step instruction assembly, which can be very helpful later on in life.
The standard Code-A-Pillar can be upgraded with expansion modules that add new instructions, so even if your kid quickly masters this critter there are ways to keep things fun and continue the education!
View-Master Deluxe VR Viewer
Generally speaking, kids under 13 should be careful to not spend more than an hour in VR at any given time. That being said, there are some incredible VR experiences that you can manage by making them only available when you put your phone inside of their special headset. Mattel's futuristic View-Master Deluxe is where you start, and everyone who uses it is going to fall in love.
This VR viewer comes with a couple of special educational discs for View-Master field trips to different locations all over the world, but it's also a Google Cardboard viewer. That means you can watch 360-degree videos on YouTube, play VR games from the Google Play Store, and in this improved model connect whatever headphones you want for a more complete experience.