For some of us, figuring out how to have a balance of technology in our homes is tricky. Contributor Patricia Dimick shares her top five tech gift picks for the holiday season that are sure to educate and delight your kiddos.

Finding the perfect gift for your tech-savvy kids can sometimes be difficult and even stressful. This is especially true if you are looking for something with a ‘wow’ factor that won’t evaporate by the time they open the next present. Most parents want to make sure that their kids get something that is both fun and educational and not just a time-killer. One of these five tech gifts might be just what you are looking for this holiday season.

screen-shot-2014-05-22-at-11-21-41-amOsmo: $29-$189
Osmo is an interactive add-on kit designed to fit all iPads except the 12.9″ iPad Pro. There are three basic kits to choose from and each one comes with an iPad stand and a reflector that you slip over the tablet’s front camera. This reflector allows Osmo’s app to see everything on the surface in front of it. It can recognize specific items from the kit and user drawings or movements.

The activity kits come with letters, numbers, puzzle pieces and even coding blocks. They are designed for kids aged 4 to 12 but adults can find them just as enjoyable and fun.

The apps that power each kit do a very nice job of bridging spatial and conceptual thinking because there is a physical component to it. If your kid is the type that learns quickly when manipulating real objects, then Osmo might be just the thing to help them understand theoretical concepts like spelling, mathematics, and even coding.

8VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch DX: $44.99
The VTech Smartwatch DX is a good introduction to the world of digital media for 4 to 9-year-olds. It comes equipped with a camera lens for photos or video as well as a microphone. It has a 1.44″ color touchscreen to allow for video playback or photo review. The built-in software also has photo effects and filters as well as other apps like an alarm clock, calculator, timer, and stopwatch. It has eight games with the option to download more. With over 50 analog and digital time displays, it can help kids learn how to tell time.

With active kids in mind, the Smartwatch DX is resistant to water and sweat. This is a handy feature because kids can engage in action challenges where they run, jump, or dance with an onscreen character. The built-in motion sensor and basic pedometer keep track of the challenges.

The watch is PC or Mac compatible with no additional software required. New apps can be loaded by connecting the watch via USB and simply dragging files into a specific folder.

dsc_0076-1024x678Nabi 2S: $179.99
Have you ever felt anxious letting a child hold on to your prized tablet so they could watch a video or play a game? If so, the engineers at Nabi have you covered with their Nabi 2s kid-proof tablet. This 7-inch tablet is encased in a food-grade silicone bumper which is safe to gnaw on and also protects it from accidental drops. It is a full featured wi-fi enabled tablet but there are robust parental controls that can limit which parts of the internet the child can access as well as the time allowed on the device.

Along with the features normally found on an Android tablet, the Nabi 2S comes with pre-installed software for the Wings Learning System. This is a digital classroom with classes for Pre-Kindergarten through 6th grade. There are plenty of instructional videos on major educational topics that feature real teachers. They provide instant feedback for students on tutorial topics and parents can get a grade based assessment for their child to track their progress. This makes the Nabi 2S a solid learning tool disguised as a child’s toy.


da Vinci miniMaker: $249.95
The da Vinci Minimaker is perfect for kids who are beginners in 3D printing. Don’t be concerned if your child has no experience with 3d modeling software as there are hundreds of ready to print projects available at the XYZprinting website. But there is also a free downloadable 3d modeling software called XYZmaker so that your child can create their own 3d models and print them out.

This 3D printer is very user-friendly, thanks to an auto-calibration system that makes sure the print bed is level and the print nozzle is at the optimum height prior to use. In order to use the printer, you will need to attach it to a Mac or PC with at least iOS 10.8 or Windows 7. The da Vinci uses biodegradable, non-toxic PLA filament which is also DEHP-free and heavy metal-free.

anki-cozmo-robot-e1467371972719Cozmo: $179.99
Cozmo is a cute robot that is designed to interact with its surroundings. He explores the area around him on his own but can also be controlled via the accompanying app. Cozmo comes with a front mounted VGA camera with facial recognition software. He also has a display that will tell you how he’s feeling as well as small speakers in case he needs to make sounds.

Cozmo also has a set of blocks which your child can use to play games with the tiny robot. He isn’t preprogrammed and reacts differently every time. The more Cozmo interacts with its environment, the more he learns and over time, Cozmo will develop his own personality.

If your child wants to learn more about coding and robotics, they can explore the Cozmo Software Development Kit. The kit is so simple that a customization can be achieved with a single line of code.

These five are gifts will wow your kids and give them plentiful educational opportunities. They are sure to keep pace with your child’s development for some time and might even be entertaining for the inner child in you!

Patricia Dimick is a freelance writer from Denver. She’s also a fun stay-at-home mom, a bit of a tech freak, great nature lover and a huge fan of DIY projects. You can follow Patricia via Google+TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.