Posted by David Price 16 December 2013
The 10 best tech gifts for babies and toddlers: toys and presents for under-3s
The youngest among us can enjoy technology given half a chance. Parents of under-threes will be aware of how enthusiastically toddlers and even younger children will switch their entire attention to a glowing screen regardless of how much their parents disapprove. And toddlers love to slobber all over daddy's iPad.
But are there tech products out there that are actually suitable for very young children? Of course. In this article we take a look at some of the most promising baby- and toddler-focused toys, useful tech and other gifts available.
Best tech gifts for babies (and parents): From birth
1. 4moms mamaRoo Bouncer, £199.95
Aimed at the new parent for whom money is no object, this utterly brilliant baby bouncer offers a range of programs (car ride, tree swing, kangaroo?!) to mimic soothing motion that baby enjoys. Toys hang in front of his or her face – and can be switched between coloured and black-and-white depending on preferences – and you can soundtrack the experience with either built-in nature noises or an MP3 player.
A luxury item this absolutely is, but after a few weeks of relentless midnight rocking sessions we’d guess that most new dads will be wishing they had £200 to spare.
2. Withings Smart Kid Scale, £149.95
More of a present for the parents than the baby, this one (although let’s face it, babies don’t really own anything). But the Smart Kid Scale is the sort of useful item that most new parents wouldn’t think of. Being able to keep track of youngster’s growth without making a trip to the clinic can be a blessed convenience and a source of peace of mind.
The scale links to an iOS app where you can track weight gain against the demographic averages, as well as log consumed milk bottles and so on. And a few months down the line you’ll be able to remove the cradle and convert the scale into a unit suitable for kids up to about the age of eight.
3. Wooden teether phone, £7.50/£11.25
At £7.50 (or £11.25 if you want it personalised) this might sound a bit expensive for a teether, but the wooden design is rather nice, and makes it look a bit like your little one is making a call to daddy. Awww, he thinks he’s people!
Best tech gifts for babies: From 6 months up
1. Fisher-Price Apptivity Monkey, £35
The main reservation with the Apptivity Monkey is that he’s designed for pre-iPhone 5 handsets, but that actually works out pretty well in most situations. You’re better off handing an older iPhone (or iPod touch) to youngsters to mess around with, even if they are protected by a fluffy purple monkey.
The idea is that you seal your iDevice safely inside the monkey’s belly, then your child can play with the touchscreen without breaking it. Fisher-Price offers a range of free Laugh ‘n’ Learn apps, including one specifically designed for this toy, but experience suggests that babies will be entertained by almost anything on a bright screen.
The monkey itself has interactive features, too, with the ability to sing various songs and respond to having his hands and feet squeezed.
2. VTech Crawl Ball, £16
Fans of the Sphero smartphone-controlled ball toy - if you are, by the way, have you heard about Sphero 2.0? - may like this rather more kiddie-friendly version, which rolls around the floor of its own volition to 'promote crawling', which sounds like what happens in most offices.
There are nice fat buttons on there too, so when the youngster catches the thing he or she can activate some music or animal noises.
3. My First Tablet, £15
My First Tablet by the Early Learning Centre has a mirror, some buttons that make funny noises and a removable padding to make the thing easier to hold. Sounds like most of the Android tablets we get in for review.
My first tablet was an iPad 2, at the age of 32. Apparently now the starting age is 6 months. Don't know they're born, never work a day in their life, etc.
Best tech gifts for toddlers: From 18 months up
1. Peppa's Little Phone, £9
Already immortalised on this site when it (or rather, an earlier prototype unit) defeated the iPhone 5s in a head-to-head comparison review, the Peppa Pig smartphone is a popular choice among mobile business users in the 18 months to 3 years category.
It has a convenient if retro clamshell flip-up design and you can press the buttons to hear Peppa talking to you.
2. Tiggly Shapes, £25
This set of simple rubberised shapes, paired with three free apps for the iPad, helps toddlers to learn and get used to technology in a fun but safe environment. They will use the shapes to form or find animals in Tiggly Safari, create artwork in Tiggly Draw, and make igloos and things in Tiggly Stamp.
An affectionate parody of Goodnight Moon and similar bedtime stories – instead of a roaring fire, there’s a flatscreen playing a ‘roaring fire’ DVD - Goodnight iPad describes a similar ritual for babies and toddlers living in a house stuffed with consumer electronics:
Unlike Moon, which remains widely beloved 65 years after publication, this will of course seem horrendously dated by Christmas 2014. But at least it seems to have been written by someone who knows a bit about current technology. (Anyone else remember Sir Cliff name-checking microwaves and faxes in ‘21st-century Christmas’?)
4. Leapfrog Scout and Violet, £19.99
For the more advanced toddler or pushy parents Read With Me Scout and Violet are toy pups that are safe canines for young owners. Unlike real dogs they read from five included board books (rhyming, learning, narrative, patterns and concepts), and ask kids up to 70 questions to help build kiddy comprehension and language skills.
Each toy pup includes five interactive spots that respond to touch. Toddlers can pet his back to answer questions; kiss his cheek and hear him say you're his best friend; press his left paw to hear songs; and press his right paw for more responses.
Scout and Violet are made by Leapfrog, makers of the popular LeapPad children’s tablet.
And finally, an idea we can’t wholly recommend, but still find cute:
HTML for Babies, £5
Very amusing as a concept; nearly bought it. But then we read the reviews by web developers who said some of the HTML syntax in the book isn’t correct. We must therefore regretfully pass. What a great idea, though!