A friend's birthday can happen any day of the year. If your kids are going to birthday parties, you need to buy a lot of presents for their pals, sometimes without much notice. Most kids love gadgets, so it's hard to go far wrong with a choice in that category, as long as it's a good match for the birthday child's age, skill level and interests.
1. Laugh & Learn Smart Series Tablet from Fisher Price
As you might have already found out, the seemingly endless round of kids' birthday parties can start as early as the toddler years.
Every kid needs a tablet of some sort, right? An iPad might be a bit over the top for a one- to three-year-old, but the Laugh & Learn Smart Series Tablet from Fisher Price is specifically designed for this young crowd. The kid's tablet comes with three levels of play, each with its own built-in apps. Parents can step the child up to the next level just by sliding a switch.
2. Cat & Bat Headphones for 3+
Like their parents and grandparents, preschoolers crave private listening experiences. Decked out with a set of iClever Boost Care headphones, little kids can look adorable while tuning in on their fave songs on a phone or tablet in the car, on the plane, or just about anywhere.
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Children can't crank the volume up to full blast, though, and that's on purpose. The headphones feature volume-controlled circuitry which makes sure the audio is under the 85 decibel level recommended for protecting children's eardrums and inner ears.
Available in cat ear, bat wing, and reindeer antler styles, the kid-friendly wired headsets are made of soft, bendable and twistable silicon. A mic is included, too. Pricing begins at around $15
3. Marbotic Smart Numbers for Ages 3 to 8
The digital age certainly brings lots of educational advantages, but research shows that kids make better progress when on-screen activities go hand-in-hand with physical, real world components.
Marbotic has created sets of beautiful wooden numbers and letters that can used with apps for iPads and Android tablets to make learning more successful,as well as more fun.
The numbers app contains three levels of counting, arithmetic and subtraction games for ages 3 to 8. Play revolves around correctly placing the "Smart Numbers" on the screen. A numbers set is priced at $40, while a letters set is $60.
4. Digital Birds for 5+
Give a kid a real tweet! (Sorry, treat!) Blowing a whistle at these cute little digital bird robots activates the creatures to start dancing, turning their heads, opening their beaks, singing, and tweeting back at you.
The DigiBoards are offered in various configurations. The Duet Three Pack set, priced at about $20, comes with a tree stand and two birds. If you sit the two birds close to each other, the duo can harmonize on a duet.
Kids can add to the collection with individual birds, priced at about $8 each, until creating an entire choir. (Plus, moms and dads will be glad to know that these pets require no feeding or watering.)
5. Lizard Toy Robot for 10+
Some older kids might prefer a lizard robot as a pet. Modeled after the actual "frilled lizard" native to Australia, OWI's Kangii Dragon Robot
When the switch is set to escape mode, the lizard will act shocked and threatened. It will drop its jaw, illuminate its bi-color LED eyes, and scamper away to what it perceives as a safe distance. To the contrary, in follow-me mode, the robot will assess danger while trying to scare off potential attackers by furling and unfurling its "frill," a pleated material encircling its head. If no danger is detected, the lizard might then approach its owner in a friendly, pet-like way
Targeted at ages 10 and up, the lizard comes in a kit that requires a considerable amount of assembly. However, some eight-year-olds have been known to build the robot quite easily. Pricing is approximately $32.
6. Circuit Maze Board Game for 8+
Board games are a traditionally popular birthday gift. Think Fun's Circuit Maze Board, for that matter, isn't just any board game, because it uses lights and other electronic components to safely teach kids the basic principles of electricity and circuitry.
Players also get to develop their logic and sequential reasoning skills. Priced at $30, the game gadget comes with 60 challenges, at four levels of play, for hours and hours of fun.
7. Recon 6.0 Programmable Robot
Smart Labs' Recon 6.0 is an affordable and programmable roving robot that doesn't require the use of a computer. Kids can get endless entertainment out of programming Recon to perform tasks like showing off its latest dance moves or collecting field intelligence with its built-in mic.
The box includes a guide book with instructions for 10 Recon missions. Pricing is $40 -- not bad, at all, for a programmable robot.
8. Starter Drone
Is there a tween or teen in your town who doesn't own a drone yet? If so, the Holy Stone HS170 Predator quadcopter is a great one for starters.
The mini-drone's headless security system is aimed at allowing just about any level of player to fly the drone. Outfitted with propeller guards for softening impact on walls and ceilings. the HS170 is designed for indoor as well as outdoor use.
It flies in the 2.4 GHz range for anti-interference. Other specs include six to eight minutes of fly time, 60 to 80 minutes of charging time, and wind-resistant control at up to 30 to 50 meters. Best of all, you can purchase this drone for $40 or less.