The tech gift guide: Tech toys for whizz kids

9 Dec 2012

Your digital native children are probably hoping Santa’s sack will be packed full of tech gifts with their names on the gift tags. We take a look at some of the top tech gifts for kids this year – even though we know some of them will rather play with the box anyway.

Junior gadgets

Your children may want to play with your smartphone, tablet or digital camera, but you may not be so willing to oblige them. You can, however, get them a kids-style device of their own to play with.

VTech Inno Tab 2

Last year’s VTech Inno Tab was a top seller and this year it’s back as the Inno Tab 2 (€94.99 from Argos). This multimedia handheld tablet specially made for children aged three to nine comes with 17 built-in apps for educational games, creative activities and e-books, and a built-in camera.

Nabi 2

For something closer to mum and dad’s tablet, the Nabi 2 (€199.99 from Argos), is a 7-inch Android 4.0 tablet with a 1.3GHz Tegra 3 processor, 1GB RAM and 8GB storage.  Though it sounds remarkably like a tablet for grown-ups, it’s completely kid-focused with a built-in learning system, chore list and hundreds of apps appropriate for children aged four to ten. It also comes with a changeable coloured bumper to protect the device from drops and bumps.

VTech KiddiZoom Twist

For snap-happy kids, there’s the VTech Kidizoom Twist. This 2MP camera comes with a twisting lens offering 4x digital zoom. It also comes with a built-in flash, colour screen at the rear, plus in-camera editing that lets kids add frames, stamps and fun effects to their pictures. There are five games on the device too, plus a voice recording function with voice-changing effects.

Sony PS Vita

Maybe your child is a bit older and would like a gaming device all their own. Starting from €249, the PS Vita is a fantastically versatile portable gaming device offering console-like gameplay for titles like LittleBigPlanet PS Vita, FIFA 13, and PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale. Players interact with games using the 5-inch OLED multi-touch screen, rear touch pad, dual analog sticks or six-axis motion-sensing system. There are also front and rear cameras, and players can connect with friends via Wi-Fi or 3G.

A world of wonder

If you’re already a PlayStation owner and a parent, you probably have a stack of child-friendly games and accessories to go with it. If your child likes reading as much as gaming, then the Wonderbook could be a suitable new addition to your collection.

PlayStation Wonderbook

The new PlayStation 3 peripheral uses the PlayStation Eye camera to bring stories to life through augmented reality projected via a physical book. The first story available for the Wonderbook comes from none other than Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.

Book of Spells invites children to read additional stories from Hogwarts’ history while also learning to cast spells using the Move controller. In the words of Rowling herself, “Wonderbook: Book of Spells is the closest a Muggle can come to a real spellbook.”

PlayStation Wonderbook: Book of Spells

Wonderbook: Book of Spells costs around €40, or about €80 with a PS Move starter pack. More projects in the works for Wonderbook include Walking with Dinosaurs from the BBC, an exciting partnership with Disney and a quirky new detective title, Diggs Nightcrawler.

Game on

Of course, video games will be popular with tech-savvy kids and if you’re a parent who hasn’t yet heard of Skylanders Giants, you might want to familiarise yourself. The sequel to the critically acclaimed Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure, Skylander Giants continues the mythology of the Skylands, its giant inhabitants and their superpowers.

Skylanders Giants starter pack

A Skylanders Giants Starter Pack comes with the video game for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii or Nintendo 3DS, three figures and trading cards, secret codes to activate them and gain access to the Skylanders Universe, a Portal of Power to bring the toys to life in the game, stickers and a poster. This pack costs €70 to €75 depending on the console, and figures can also be bought separately for €10 to €20.

For little gamers, Kinect Nat Geo and Kinect Sesame Street (both €39.99) for the Xbox 360 let your children play and learn through an interactive TV experience, while the whole family can enjoy Kinect Sports: Ultimate Collection and Dance Central 3 (both €49.99) – now with ‘Gangnam Style’!

LittleBigPlanet Karting

Another game we recommend for all ages is LittleBigPlanet Karting for PlayStation 3. While Nintendo’s Mario Kart holds a special place in our hearts, the PlayStation alternative is a fun-packed substitute, and the customisations that come with the LBP universe bring an added creative dimension to the game.

Old school goes high-tech

While toys don’t have to be technological to be fun – just look at Lego, the greatest toy in the universe – 2012 brings with it some new takes on old favourites.

Mattell Apptivity

Long-standing toy maker Mattell has released a range of toys that can interact with the iPad.  These special Hot Wheels cars and Batman and WWE action figures can be used to control apps and games on the Apple tablet using the latest conductive technology. Each toy costs €15 and the apps can be downloaded free of charge.

Alternatively, you could scare the living daylights out of your child with the creepiest teddy bear known to man. The Cocolo Bear from Cube-Works acts as a speaker phone for the smartphone that is docked at its heart, so the bear’s mouth moves while the caller speaks. It’s terrifying, though it may entertain any of the hardcore Ted fans out there.


Sadly, if you want to torture your kids with this demonic device, you will have to somehow get it shipped over from Japan.

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic