It may have only been a week since schools shut their doors for the summer, but chances are your children have already come to you whining about how bored they are. Once the initial excitement about having two months to run free wears off, so too does the fun in spending endless days plonked in front of the television.
Even if they are perfectly content catching up with the latest goings on in Sam and Cat’s world or helping Dora the Explorer on yet another adventure, keeping them, and their brains, a little more active is likely a priority. Luckily there are plenty of options when it comes to keeping your kids entertained that don’t involve cozying up on the couch.
Ages 4 – 8
The LeapBand (€35) is ideal for younger children who are still at an age where they want to be just like you. It’s an activity tracker that works similar to an adult fitness tracker, but with a game element built in. The more active your child is, the more points they gain, which can then be used to unlock new games or buy treats for the Tamagotchi-style virtual pet on-screen.
If you’re looking for something to encourage more outdoor adventuring, the Kidizoom Camera (€48) is a great option. While you might not be comfortable giving your little one your digital camera just yet, it can be a hard one to get away from as kids love snapping photos of just about anything, particularly on holiday. There are quite a few cameras for children on the market, but the Kidizoom camera has the advantage of taking decent photographs. Get their editing skills started early with the simple built-in photo effects and video recording, without any worry about breakages. The dual handgrip makes it easy to hold onto and hard to do damage to if it falls.
A dog is not just for Christmas, but this one can just be for summer – the Zoomer Interactive Dog (€70) is an interactive electronic Dalmatian puppy that follows you with his eyes and can understand voice commands. His motion sensors allow him imitate a real dog’s movements, you can train him to do tricks, and if he’s left to his own devices, he’ll take a wander. Perfect for kids who are curious about a pet, but who aren’t quite ready for the mess and responsibilities of a real puppy.
Ages 9 and above
By the age of nine, most children are reading with a fairly solid proficiency, when given books suitable for their age group. While Kindles (from €89) and other e-book readers mostly seem to be the preserve of commuters, your kids can benefit hugely from owning one.
Creating a bit of distance between books they read for pleasure and their readers for school, a Kindle means they can have any number of books at their fingertips. They make bringing books while travelling a breeze, and with a great battery life, you won’t have to worry about lugging chargers around.
Picking up a cover, such as the Fintie Casebot Kiddie Series (€18) will keep it protected for accidental falls, and also provide a stand to make reading easier.
It can be harder to get older children outside when all their gadgets and consoles reside indoors. The more grown up version of the Kidizoom camera is the Spy Gear Panosphere (€63). This is a camera that takes 360-degree videos by shooting in bubble view. Small enough to go generally undetected, this comes with multiple attachments to help children place the camera in secret, or not so secret, filming locations. It even comes with a bracket for attaching the camera to the front of your bike. Kids can then explore the footage and photos from every angle in the editing software that comes with it. There’s multiple other products in the Spinmaster spy products range, but this camera should be your first choice.
A good pick if you’re looking for something simple your child can share with their friends is the Bop-It Tetris (€30). The original Bop-It provided hours of fun, and this version mashes up that action with Tetris in a light-game that has you matching the iconic Tetris shapes in different challenges. One of the best ways to get the brain firing is a fast moving activity, and this is one that definitely requires both concentration and coordination. It’s just as much fun to play alone or with a group of friends, and just like the original Bop-It, there’s something just a little bit addictive about it.
If there’s an iPhone, iPad or Android device in your house, you should take advantage and download a couple of fun and educational apps. There’s a huge range of choice out there, but these kinds of apps are great for keeping your children’s brains stimulated, but without it feeling too much like work to them, so they’ll stay interested.
Age bracket: 3-6
Little Writer is a fantastic little app that allows kids to trace letters, numbers, words and shapes, allowing your child to practice writing in a fun way as they collect apples along the way. You can even add in words, like your child’s name, to allow them get familiar with writing it. There is enough leeway given not to frustrate younger kids, and there are no ads to confuse them.
Sight Words & Spelling with Pixopop HD
Age bracket: 6-9
With over 200 words broken up over 24 levels across three different activities – Flashcards, Word Challenge and Spelling – the idea is the as your child becomes familiar with the words in the flashcard level, they can move on to challenges to test themselves and earn rewards. With cute designs and characters to give it a fun and child-friendly feeling, what’s really great about this is that it’s easy for you to see where your child is struggling and address their tricky words.
Available: iOS, Android
Age bracket: 9+
This is one that has become popular with adults the world over as a simple way to start picking up a new language. If you’re heading on holidays during the summer, choosing one of the five languages – French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese – and working from there could be a great way for your child to pick up the basics before you go.
Originally published in the Sunday Business Post Connected Magazine on July 6th 2014.