Parenting 101: Decoding top Christmas tech toys

Sure… baby dolls and Legos are still popular, but the toy industry has taken it up a notch.

“I have a 5-year-old and I see tech items on his wish list,” said Luke Wood with Allevia Technology. “And, in years past, that wouldn’t even be a thing.”

Luke Wood is a tech expert. His specialty is gaming. Wood is also a parent.

“There’s a lot of stuff out there that people are confused about… a lot of options and price ranges,” he said.

So let’s start with VR… Virtual Reality.

“As far as kids go, it’s a little out there. It’s literally sensory deprivation.”

Users wear headsets and headphones to manipulate their environments.

“It might not be great for younger children under the age of 10 with their vision, with their balance,” said Wood. “It can throw off equilibrium when you get out because your brain thinks you’re in the world that you’re in when you have the VR headset on.”

It’s also pricey.

“They start between $300 and $500 dollars,” Wood said. “And, they require a computer to run it on which is a whole other thing. There are some cheaper alternatives like Google Day Dream or Samsung VR which use your phone as the screen.”

Then, there’s the new BB 8 Droid from Star Wars. It’s the star of this year’s droid/robot category.

“This one is almost life-size. It has a follow me mode,” explained Wood. “He’s motion activated. And, his movements and sounds are authentic to the movie. The BB 8 is good for kids. It doesn’t require much.”

The price tag?

“You can expect to pay a little less than $200.”

When it comes to gaming, there’s a lot of options.

“Xbox, the Xbox One S, Xbox One X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro, Nintendo switch. All kinds of things here. Different price points, different capabilities,” Wood said.

But he prefers Nintendo Switch for kids 10 and under.

“It offers more and is user friendly,” Wood said.

As for PlayStation and Xbox gaming systems.

“The content you put on them is really going to determine whether it’s child-appropriate or not.”

Most consoles start around $250 and games are $59.99.

Drones are still hot. Think: remote controlled cars that fly.

“I think the ideal is more popular than the actual thing,” Wood said.

He advises starting low end because kids can become easily frustrated. Snap circuits are also popular. The toys are electronic kits.

“It’s about circuitry, electronics, robotics.. just a neat little entry level into that,” he said. “Amazon has all of them, of course. They all have really high reviews and seem fantastic.”

And Wood’s tech toy pick for tikes… Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-pillar. Preschoolers can arrange and rearrange easy-to-connect segments which determine the Code-a-pillar’s path.

“It’s really, really neat,” Wood said.

“Basically, it just plays this happy song and the caterpillar drives around the way that you’ve programed it.”

Wood’s biggest piece of advice to parents? Do your research. If you’re not sure, contact someone in the tech field. Wood will even tackle your tech toy questions. Just reach out on Twitter: @LukeAWood.

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