There are some amazing electronic toys and computers for toddlers and preschoolers now, from Leapfrog, V.Tech and the like. And the kids are loving every bit of it (see “For Toddlers, Toy of Choice Is Tech Device“). These toys tend to be very expensive though, and sometimes it seems a bit ridiculous to pay for things like an “Internet Launch Pad” (Fisher-Price) when you can access websites for free, or a kid-friendly digital camera that has a lower image resolution than digital cameras from 5 years ago. So here are some other ideas, too, for kids which may cost you nothing, but kids still love them.
- Web-based Games. As I mentioned a year ago, there are some fantastic online educational gaming sites for kids out there which cost nothing, including PBS Kids, Playhouse Disney, The Wiggles, Thomas the Tank Engine, NickJr, UpToTen, and Noggin. You might want to bookmark some of these sites on the favorites toolbar.
- Youtube for Kids. Search for videos your child may be interested in watching, such as Thomas the Tank Engine videos on Youtube. Our little one likes these user-created videos better than the real ones. Definitely supervise young children here as this isn’t a site designed for children.
- Give Away Your Old Digital Camera. They are making digital cameras for kids now, but I’ve noticed they are 1) still pretty expensive (>$75) and 2) have a much lower image resolution than normal digital cameras (i.e. less than 2 megapixels). We have an old camera that would be virtually worthless on ebay, but our little one loves it. And, like the ‘hole in the wall’ example of kids in India learning how to use a computer on their own, young kids can pick up the basics on taking and reviewing pictures pretty quickly.
- Run the XO Laptop on Your PC for free. Wolfgang Rohrmoser and Kurt Gramlich recently announced a live cd version of the OLPC XO laptop software.
- Crank Radios/Flashlights. One other item – pretty much everyone is selling crank-driven flashlights & radios now. These serve two purposes, for using when the power goes out or there is an emergency, and also your child can play with them as much as they like and you never have to worry about the batteries going out.