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Educational Gadgets For the Holidays and Beyond

Published on Dec 16, 2014 at 10:38 am in Tech Trends, Tennessean Articles.

This post also appeared in The Tennessean, where Concept Technology has a bi-weekly feature in the Business section.

In years past, Christmas mornings at my house have been filled with the feverish unwrapping of presents, followed by a few hours of assembling Santa’s generous gifts. After a month of Christmas shopping and parents painstakingly putting together toys that come in a thousand pieces, I see kids getting more satisfaction playing with the boxes that house the toys than the toys themselves, I’m pretty sure, to drive parents crazy.

My solution for myself and other parents has been to look for gifts that both engage and educate.

Take, for instance, Crayola 3D DigiTools. With DigiTools, you won’t have to worry about crayon scribbles ending up all over your wall. Using a crayon shaped tool and the Crayola 3D DigiTools app, kids can pick from a large assortment of bright colors to “color” images that appear on the screen. Essentially, it’s a modern-day coloring book without the mess.

Parents often tell their kids that their brains are more powerful than they think. The Mindflex gadget proves just that. Harnessing the brainwave activity produced from intense concentration, you can literally move a ball through the air with your mind. How does it work? A small headset transmits signals to a fan inside the console that makes the ball levitate. This gadget is sure to bring about plenty of oohs and ahs, plus it teaches some basic physics concepts.

If you have a budding scientist on your hands, they’ll get a kick out of the HookUPz Universal Smartphone Optics Adapter. Clamped on to any type of optic device, such as a telescope, binoculars, or microscope, this tool lets your little Einstein capture exactly what he is seeing through his lens. Discoveries can be proudly shared from images captured on the phone.

Are you a fan of scrabble or board games but can’t seem to get the kids to sit down in the living room for long enough to play together? Try Scrabble Flash Cubes. This variation of the classic board game includes cubes that light up when words are formed, has a timer to keep things extra competitive and keeps score. The game also works for solo play in the event that someone is too cool to hang out with her parents.

Have a child fascinated by insects? Are they constantly bringing bugs into the house as “pets”? Instead of having insects end up who-knows-where in your house, consider Hexbug Nano Bugs as a gift. These robotic pests are programmed to act like real bugs — children can build habitats and see how they respond. They will keep the kids fascinated, plus they’re a great introduction to environmental concepts.

And if you’re not necessarily looking to further clutter the house with gadgets, you may want to consider educational apps as a way to keep the kiddos entertained when you need some quiet. Consider apps like Balloony Word — a hangman-type game where the goal is to spell words out of the provided letters to keep a gorilla floating through the air with a handful of balloons. Or something like Stack the Statesto help hone those geography skills.

Whatever the gadget or game, products that appear fun but utilize the brain are those that get used throughout the year. And, best yet, they don’t require an excessive amount of assembly (or, in my case, massive amounts of frustration).