Tag Archives: Holiday tech

Top Toys for Creative Kids

By Tracey Dowdy

Back in February, over one thousand toy companies debuted innovative and imaginative toys at Toy Fair 2018. From this massive exhibition, a number of toys stood out for their creativity and pure fun for kids, and they’re proving to be a hit this holiday season.

If you’re looking for gifts that will spark imaginations and inspire your kids from STEM to fashion design, these toys should top your list.

If your kiddo is a Star Wars fan, Sphero’s R2-D2 App-Enabled Droid ($30 – Walmart) is going to be a big hit. Users can control R2-D2 via an app or a Force Band, with sounds and bright LEDs lights that mirror R2-D2’s onscreen personae. kids can use the Sphero Edu App to learn to program three different ways and complete STEM activities or explore a holographic environment like the Millennium Falcon to further immerse themselves in the Star Wars universe.

The smART sketcher Projector ($49.99 – Target) makes drawing, coloring, and writing fun through a simple-to-use app or preloaded SD cards. Kids simply upload any photo, and then the (free, downloadable) app automatically turns it into a sketch that they can then trace onto any write-on surface like paper, canvas, or wood. Kids can send photos from any smart device via Bluetooth. smART Sketcher comes with Colored Pencils, 20 Sheets of Bordered Paper & an AC Adapter.

Magformers are bright, colorful and educational 360-degree rotating magnets designed to attract the magnet encapsulated in the next shape allowing kids to construct in 3D. The Magformers 44-piece Sky Track Play Set  ($99.99 – Magformers.com) allows kids to build a space coaster then send the included sky-car speeding through its loops and hoops. As always, the Sky Track Play set is compatible with other Magformers sets, so the only limit is your child’s imagination.

Elenco Snap Circuits Bric: Structures takes ordinary bricks you have in your toy box – think Lego – and brings them to life. Kids can snap-together circuits to make their builds light up, move, or even make sounds. The set comes with 20 SNAP CIRCUITS® component parts, 75 Bric-2-Snap adapters, over 140 fully compatible building bricks, and a full-color, easy-to-read project manual so your kids can start creating from the moment they open the box.

Similarly, LittleBits Hall of Fame Kits ($27.95 and up) are designed so kids can use both their right and left brain so instead of STEM (science, tech, engineering, and math), it’s STEAM (science, tech, engineering, ARTS and math). Each LittleBits toy uses snap-together circuits so kids can create while learning STEM skills.  This years’ kits include a night light, a bubble bot, a crawly creature, and an arcade game.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Beware of Those Holiday Tech ‘Bargains’

By Robyn Wright

With the Holiday season fast approaching, we are going to be seeing a lot of deals on tech devices, including smartphones, tablets, computers, and accessories. While we all want to get a good deal and find a bargain at this time of year, you do need to be mindful of why an item might be offered at a reduced cost and if it really represents a bargain.

Value should always be more important than price. If you pay a low price but something breaks or does not work, then it was a waste of your money. Here are some things to watch out for and consider when looking for tech bargains:

Old models

Most of the time there is nothing wrong with prior models of popular tech devices, but if you are hoping for the latest and greatest, you want to make sure that is exactly what you are getting. Before shopping for a specific item, check for the latest model so you can be sure you are getting what you want. If you don’t mind an older model, you can usually find some good deals. For instance, a Samsung Galaxy S4 is still a great phone and a little less expensive than the newer Galaxy S5 version.

Tech Specs

This is the hardest thing for most people. Specifications on tech products are usually presented in terms and numbers that the average person is just not that familiar with. You also do not necessarily need the fastest processor or the highest screen pixel count – some people’s needs are not as great as others. Take a look at the tech specs on the manufacturers’ websites and get an idea of what to expect from the newer models.

Off Brands

I am not saying all off brands are bad, but unfortunately many of them are. You may find a tablet for $50 that says you can do everything you want on it, but chances are you will be disappointed when you actually start using it. Before purchasing an unfamiliar brand do some research to see what people are saying about the product in their online reviews.


Always be sure to check the length of the manufacturer’s warranty. Unfortunately with tech devices, it is usually fairly short. Extended warranties are offered at many places and should be considered but be sure to read the terms – don’t expect the cashier to know them.


This is another optional purchase for things like smartphones and tablets. While they can be beneficial, especially if the owner is a little clumsy, you definitely need to understand the terms. Some insurance plans have a large deductible or a restriction on the number of claims. Be sure to know what types of accidents or losses are covered by the insurance.


Your budget will determine the quality you can afford but don’t be so concerned with budget that you end up with a lesser quality item than you can actually afford. This also applies to small accessories like cords, plugs, and chargers. I see a lot of these at dollar stores but the quality is poor and many of them end up being recalled.