GO, GO, GADGETS
Back-to-school shopping these days doesn't stop at a new wardrobe, a new lunchbox, and a list of supplies. Kids also demand new technology, some of which is essential for keeping up with the rest of the class. Other electronics enhance learning outside the classroom and many are, well, just fun. Whether educational or extracurricular, the gadgets on this list start at $20 and culminate in a laptop under $250.
Price: $20 | Buy it on Amazon
Fitness trackers are a popular accessory for adults, but kids can use them, too. This colorful Leapband is a piece of wearable tech from Leapfrog that tracks kids' activities and encourages them to get moving. Parents can choose activity challenges for children, who earn reward points from them. There's a virtual pet that can be displayed on the screen to keep kids company during exercise. They'll have to care for their virtual pet, though, by "bathing," "grooming," and "feeding" it. The water-resistant band is available in bright green, blue, and pink.
SEE 'N' SOLVE VISUAL CALCULATOR
Price: $35 | Buy it from Educational Insights
The See 'n' Solve calculator is designed for budding math stars, with bright colors and large buttons. The screen shows the full equation as it's entered, rather than only the last number, to make it easier for kids to follow along. This simple calculator includes addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division operations.
FISHER-PRICE THINK & LEARN CODE-A-PILLAR
Price: $35.90 | Buy it on Amazon
Fisher-Price has come up with a fun way to teach young children basic problem-solving and critical thinking skills. The Code-a-pillar is made of segments that kids can put together in any order they like, with each section initiating a different action for the insect when its turn comes up. The sections include instructions to make the Code-a-pillar turn left, right, or go straight, and there's also a sound segment. The head segment makes sounds and its eyes blink. Segment expansion packs are also available.
AERIX TURBO-X DRONE
Price: $35 | Buy it from Aerix
Kids love radio-controlled helicopters and drones, and the Turbo-X is a great, and affordable choice. This nano drone is blazing fast, reaching speeds up to 30 mph. It's even preprogrammed to execute flips and rolls using a built-in algorithm. Just activate the program and press the joystick in one of four directions. The drone can fly for about five to seven minutes on a single charge, and is available in four colors.
VTECH KIDIZOOM SMARTWATCH DX
Price: Starting at $45 | Buy it on Amazon
The Kidizoom Smartwatch DX is more fun than functional, but it comes preloaded with a handful of games, and kids can also use it to snap selfies and simple videos. Children can choose from more than 50 clock face designs, as well. The watch has two built-in cameras, and kids can upload videos with a micro-USB cable. The watch is available in three colors and patterns, and the price will vary by color.
OZOBOT 2.0 BIT STARTER PACK
Price: $59 | Buy it on Amazon
Ozobot has a new version of its fun little robot, the Bit. The 2.0 Bit Starter Pack is available in Cool Blue or Crystal White. Children can program this little robot using a color-coded programming language. Just draw different colored lines on paper and watch the Bit go to work. The idea is to make computer science seem less boring and easier for curious young minds. The Ozobot Bit measures only about 1 inch in diameter. The starter pack includes the Ozobot Bit, 4 markers, a reference sheet, and 20 activities. Additional activities are available for download.
BLU ADVANCE 5.0 SMARTPHONE
Price: $60 | Buy it on Amazon
The Blu Advance 5.0 is an affordable, nice-looking Android phone that's a good choice for older kids. It's an unlocked phone, so you can use it with the provider of your choice, including AT&T, T-Mobile, and MetroPCS. Parents can install parental control apps, and the kids get a smartphone that includes front and rear cameras and a 5-inch display. The specs aren't the greatest, but given the phone's low price, it's still quite a good deal, and you won't be too distressed if the phone gets lost or suffers an accident.
KINDLE FOR KIDS BUNDLE
Price: $100 | Buy it on Amazon
Amazon's Kindle for Kids ereader bundle is designed with young people in mind. It has an easy-to-grip cover and two years of accident coverage. The Kindle includes a variety of parental controls, including the ability to track kids' reading progress, and rewards children for reaching goals. The Kindle for Kids bundle includes a vocabulary-building feature and Word Wise, which pops up short definitions for difficult words. This version of the Kindle doesn't include ads, which is nice. There's also no backlight, which is a plus or minus depending upon how you feel about your kids reading when they should be sleeping.
FIRE HD 8 KIDS EDITION
Price: $130 | Buy it on Amazon (in stock Aug. 3)
Tablets are great tools to help young people learn, but it's a good idea to get a kid-friendly model. The Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is a full-featured tablet with a high-definition screen. It's compatible with thousands of apps, books, and games from providers like Disney, PBS Kids, and Nickelodeon. It has a generous 8-inch display built into a tough, protective case. Amazon's FreeTime feature gives parents control over how kids use the tablet. They can create a custom profile for each child to set time limits and designate which content the child can access.
DELL CHROMEBOOK 3180 EDUCATION
Price: Starting at $219 | Buy it from Dell
Chromebooks are an excellent alternative to Windows and Apple laptops for students because they're affordable, yet still provide all the fun and functionality that students could want through the many apps available for the Google Chrome OS. Dell has developed a series of 11-inch Chromebooks aimed at students, including the Chromebook 3180 Education. This Chromebook is available in a few different configurations, but we recommend the model ($239) with 4GB of RAM rather than 2GB, and a 16GB hard drive. A slightly more expensive version is available with a 32GB hard drive.