Tech to help busy parents keep the kids occupied
By Nick Lavars
June 20, 2014
With an abundance of kid-oriented tablets and high-tech toys, children have more reasons than ever to stay fixed firmly to the couch. While the popularity of Angry Birds and Minecraft speaks volumes for video entertainment's ability to engage, the gadgets that inspire beyond the screen perhaps don't get quite the same fanfare. With this in mind, Gizmag has rounded up some top tech to help keep youngsters occupied.
Estes Proto X nano quadcopter
There are plenty of quadcopters that will speak to a child's piloting aspirations, but few come quite as compact as this. We reviewed the Estes Proto X nano quadcopter late last year and measuring approximately 2.5 x 2.5 in (6.4 x 6.4 cm), it wouldn't look out of place among the larger creepy crawlies found in your backyard.
While the Proto X doesn't come packed with features like a camera or GPS, it is an affordable quadcopter that's simple to use, ideal for beginners whose imaginations are ready to take flight. A 2.4 GHz radio transmitter holds like a smaller video game controller and runs on two AA batteries.
The quadcopter itself is charged via USB and when full of juice can remain airborne for up to 15 minutes, with LEDs underneath each rotor that flash when a crash landing is imminent. The Proto X is priced at US$39.99.
Folding pieces of A4 copier paper into something resembling a plane is a rite of passage for kids, but there's only so many different imitation airliners and fighter jets to create. Power Up 3.0 gives the conventional folded paper airplane some extra air time, turning it into a smartphone-controlled glider.
PowerUp 3.0 consists of a processor and Micro USB-rechargeable battery that connects to a propeller and tail rudder via a carbon fiber shaft. Clip this onto your folded plane, pair it with an iOS device over Bluetooth 4.0 and you'll be using your smartphone to play pilot in no time. The PowerUp 3.0 kit is priced at $49.99
The MicrobeScope is a portable 800x microscope that works with the iPhone 4s or higher. Rather than using glass slides like a typical microscope, users simply position their specks, stones and snails on an illuminated stage and get up close and personal through the screen of their smartphone.
MicrobeScope uses a fixed-focus lens, doing away with adjustment knobs you'll find on more advanced microscopes, making it simple to use and a good fit for curious-minded kids. The company's recent Kickstarter campaign stormed through its funding goal, and shipping is currently underway. The units will be available for pre-order from the the MicrobeScope site by the end of June and prices will start at $149.50.
Tandem bikes can be a great way to share the workload, with one person steering and the other at the back pumping their legs to move the effort forward. But if the pair is made up of a parent and child, then some obvious issues come into play.
The Hugbike features extended handlebars so the rider pedaling at the rear is also able to steer, putting them completely in control of the ride, and their child's safety. Hugbike is priced at €1,990 (US$2,700).
Cubebot Wooden Puzzle
Kids love robots, right? Here's an imaginative, albeit not so functional, robotic friend – the Cubebot wooden puzzle. The Cubebot puzzle is made from hardwood and comes in the shape of a cube, its pieces fitting together to form a standing model robot capable of striking a variety of poses. Cubebot is available in different colors and in sizes ranging from micro to extra large. Prices start at $7.90.
Lego has a way of capturing the imagination of kids of all ages, and by extension, a hefty portion of a parent's budget. Gizmag's Jonathan Fincher likened Pleygo to Netflix, in that it enables users to save money by renting out products they need at that time, rather than purchasing and then permanently shelving them soon after initial use.
Pleygo offers three monthly subscription plans which see Lego kits of different sizes delivered to your door. There's a $15 small and medium-sized set subscription, a $25 Super Fan level which includes some large sets, and then a $39 Mega Fan subscription.
The sets arrives in a box with instructions for putting them together. When the kids grow tired of that particular construction and begin pulling it apart, parents can bag it up, ship it off and wait a few days for a different set to arrive.
Scalextric RCS is an add-on that brings Scalextric slot car race tracks up to speed in the hyper-connected era of the smartphone. Users download the app on their iOS or Android device, slot the RCS powerbase into the track and then have access to a range of race modes and management.
Racers can upload a profile image and make modifications such as altering the throttle curve. Race options include quick race, endurance, Grand Prix and tournament, with the RCS system simulating real-life factors such as weather conditions, fuel levels and tire degradation.
Before you go starting your engines, you will need to wait a month or so for this one. Scalextric RCS is due to go on sale in August, with prices starting at $66 for the basic version. RCS will also be available in upcoming Scalextric sets.
These foam headphones have a volume limit of 85 decibels, preventing a child's sensitive ears from being damaged during the seventh repeat of One Direction's hot new track. These child-proof headphones are claimed to be indestructible, perhaps largely due to the monobody form that enables them to be contorted into just about any shape. A set of HeadFoams will cost you $40.
Ostrich Pillow Junior
If the kids are out riding tandem bikes, building wooden robots and flying quadcopters, then the need to nap may just strike at any time. The Ostrich Pillow Junior is designed for kids aged six and up and is essentially a big padded sleeve for the head.
Slip this over the noggin and they'll be assured a comfortable rest no matter where those heavy eyes begin to set in. The Ostrich Pillow Junior is priced at $75.