As any parent can attest, a happy child is a distracted child – and nothing distracts better (which is to say longer) than a gadget. If you’re taking your kids on vacation to Sands of Kahana, the key to your contentment is finding those devices whose unique trance-inducing qualities can significantly reduce the likelihood you’ll hear those two dreaded little words: “I’m bored.”
Find the right ones, in fact, and it may just be you telling them to put the darn things down – “or else.”
So while what follows is ostensibly an article on the best electronic gadgets to entertain your kids on vacation – summer will be here before you know it – you may also consider it an instructive guide to maintaining your sanity.
Now that we’ve established how to keep them occupied, you’ll need to know with what. Gadgets, like vices in Vegas, are ubiquitous; how do you choose precisely the right ones from a nearly infinite number of choices? The short answer is, you don’t. For your convenience, we’ve taken the liberty of searching to the last page of the internet (where you’ll find a greeting from the creator of the internet, circa 1991) and reduced 14,677,204,522 to 12.
Kids absolutely love tablets. The games, the touchscreen and the compact design make them highly addictive. There are several kid-friendly tablet options out there that are easy on the eyes and the wallet. There’s the VTech InnoTab ($59) for the very young, the Nabi Jr.($99) for the preteens, and the Kindle HD Kids Edition ($149) for those mature enough to be trusted online.
Kidizoom Smart Watch
This may be the coolest kids watch ever. Not only doesthe Kidizoom Smart Watch tell time, it will also take and edit photos, shoot videos and record your voice. Oh yes, it also has three games and different analogue and digital watch faces from which to choose on its intuitive touchscreen.
LeapFrog’s LeapTV is a $149 game systemthat’s leading the trend in toys that focus on physical activity and a healthy lifestyle. With this game, made for children 3-8, kids engage in a bunch of fun, active games such as Disney adventures, superhero crime fighting, sports and dance. This is a tech toy that really does keep kids off the couch and moving. The LeapTV controller is super easy to use and fits even the smallest hands, and you don’t need to worry about mature games sneaking in under the radar. All of LeapTV’s games are approved for young players.
Sony PlayStation 4
What would a list of recommended gadgets be with the Sony Playstation 4? Gaming bundles are great deals right now, and the PlayStation 4 Limited Edition Destiny Bundle in Glacier White (just $449!) combines the most powerful game console currently available with a best-selling game. Add to that a whole bunch of extras like multiplayer maps, strike missions and exclusive content, and you have a tough-to-beat deal.
With even your youngest kids spending as much time on a tablet as you do, you may as well combine the digital games they love with real puzzle pieces, word games and drawings that build skills they can use for life. Osmo ($79) lets you do just that. Just slide your tablet into the Osmo base unit, snap the reflector onto the camera, and watch as the games they play with their hands appear magically on the tablet screen. It’s kind of like tricking them into playing with real toys!
Activision Skylanders Trap Team
Kids collect the Skylanders action figures, set them on the glowing portal and watch as the characters magically appear in the Skylanders video game. It basically brings toys to life – or life to toys. Skylanders Trap Team ($74.99) is the fourth installment of the fantastical franchise and the first to work with a tablet. You trap villains in the “Traptanium” and then use them to help you fight against the evil Kaos. This is an insanely fun toy/game. And since it’s on a tablet, you can have the TV back.
Bop It! Beats
For the aspiring DJ. Choose from five game modes and move fast to keep up with the action commands. Can you Spin It clockwise, Scratch It with the turntable, or Reverse and Spin the turntable clockwise as the game commands. Play the Classic, Classic Party, DJ, DJ Party or Remix game by yourself or with friends. Sometimes you’ll be looking for the high score and sometimes you’ll be cooperating with everyone to get the high score together.
Legos have come a long way since the days when they were just a bucket of brightly colored blocks. LEGO Technic sets (starting at $39) let kids build some amazingly intricate wheeled creations, complete with moving parts a tablet. Every Technic set includes a digital build guide with 3D models of every single brick, showing where it goes and how to place it perfectly. It turns the actual building into a game itself.
Building isn’t just for boys. GoldieBlox kits encourage young girls to build, experiment and create all kinds of amazing things. The Movie Machine kit ($29) teaches kids how to shoot their own movie using the GoldieBlox tablet app. They can draw their own animations and merge it into their own short film.
Techno Source Rubik’s Revolution
The Rubik’s Revolution from Techno Source is an interactive electronic version of the classic Rubik’s Cube. It features six games: Light Speed, Rapid Recharge, Pattern Panic, Cube Catcher, Code Cracker, and Multiplayer Madness. Just follow and press the lights on each side of the cube by turning and spinning it to challenge your memory. The faster you move the cube, the faster you’ll advance to each level. During play, your score and/or time will be announced. That’s a lot of fun for just $19.99.
Tiger Electronics POWER TOUR Electric Guitar
Is your son or daughter a wannabe rock star? Before they beg you for a real electric guitar, let them try their skills on Tiger Electronics’ POWER TOUR Electric Guitar first. Instead of strings, it features touch sensors with LED lights and dual-function knobs. Kids can choose to learn how to play the 12 preloaded songs or plug in their MP3 player to jam along to their favorite tunes.
Once a pre-loaded song is selected, such as “Wild Thing” or “Smoke on the Water,” kids can learn how to play the song by following the multi-colored lights along the frets. Don’t worry: There’s a headphone jack so that you can still enjoy a quiet night at home. It’s available in black or white and sells for $69.99. The POWER TOUR Amp sells separately for $49.99. Rock on!