Holiday Tech Gifts for Kids of All Ages

By Warren Buckleitner

Find out which gadgets match the skill set of your child by scrolling through the timeline.
  • Age: 6 months
  • Tech Level: Electronic toy
Electronic toys reward exploring fingers with lights, sounds, or motion. Just make sure the child controls the toy, not the other way around.

Should your preschooler be allowed to go online? What age makes the most sense for a cell phone? These are just a few of the tricky questions facing 21st century parents. Some parents take the "more is better" approach, buying every latest gadget and game. Others take a "wait and see" approach. Which is best? I suggest starting with a child's developmental level. In this timeline, I've matched the gadgets with the skills kids typically have as they mature.

Babies/Toddlers

Before age 2 1/2, children learn by touching, mouthing, and directly experiencing objects. For that reason, a good-natured puppy often makes more sense than things that have batteries.

Age: 6 months

Tech Level: Electronic toy You can't fail with a rattle. Bump it with an arm, and you're treated to a fun sound. Likewise, electronic toys reward exploring fingers with lights, sounds, or motion. Just make sure the child controls the toy, and not the other way around.

Age: 1 Year

Tech Level: Touch screen Increasingly, touch screens are replacing mice and complex QWERTY keyboards as input devices. These enable younger children to pop balloons with a counting game, or just "scribble" with digital ink, with a jab of their finger.

Preschool

Preschoolers learn that a mouse movement can trigger a screen event. They're adept enough with fine motor skills (for pointing and clicking), and they can use a Wii game controller or a Nintendo DS touch screen.

Age: 2 1/2

Tech Level: Toy cell phones, computers Children love to engage in representational play with the gadgets they see their parents using every day. Thinks like phones, remote controls, and keyboards. This is the way they make sense of the world, and it's a valuable learning activity.

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