Tech toys and tablets for every age

Find age-appropriate tech-toys for preschoolers through tweens.

How do you know which technology toys are appropriate for children of different age groups? It’s a question many parents find themselves asking. Thanks to varying expert opinions and the individualized rates at which children mature and develop, there’s not really a simple answer.


Most people agree that even the youngest tots can show tremendous technical aptitude, and kids of all ages can benefit from these interactions. A few words of general advice:

  1. Provide parental supervision.
  2. Ensure positive content.
  3. Set limits.

For those seeking additional guidelines and an overview of age-appropriate toy options, here are some handy talking points for family discussion.

Pre-K

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages all screen time for children age two and younger. However, in reality, many parents allow their kids shared access to smartphones and tablets to play apps, games or videos. Wherever you stand on the issue, a welcome alternative may be educational toys with electronic components. These include:

  • Puzzles
  • Play sets
  • Stuffed animals that speak numbers, letters or animal sounds
  • Storybooks which vocalize the action
  • Musical learning kits
  • Faux versions of adult devices like cell phones and tablets that let kids practice playing make-believe at their leisure.

The best educational tech toys promote cognitive thinking, fine motor skills and memory while also teaching reading, spelling, science, math and other real-life subjects. Educational apps, games and software can provide further choices. See the many selections offered for play on systems like the LeapPad 2, appropriate for ages three and up.

Kindergarten and elementary school

By this age, most kids have been exposed to many high-tech, age-appropriate tech toys, including:

  • Pint-sized robots
  • Action figures with companion apps
  • Electronic diaries
  • Collectible dolls supported by virtual worlds

Reading and gameplay also factor heavily into such sprouts’ digital lives: Expect multimedia experiences, app-based storybooks and video games of all types (note: be sure to check the ESRB rating for age-appropriateness) to be popular as well.

More advanced solutions, such as motion-controlled systems and portable learning systems (i.e. the LeapsterGS, recommended for ages four and up), are also available to kindergarten and elementary school kids. Of the myriad selections, many are perfectly safe and fun to introduce to kids at this age, given proper parental guidance and supervision. But it’s worth noting that such devices also offer online connectivity and expandability via downloadable apps: Be sure to educate yourself and your children on each device’s capabilities.

Tweens and up

By the time children reach their tweens or teens, their definition of “technology toys” will have evolved to: 

  • Cell phones
  • Media players
  • PCs or tablets

It’s worth remembering that things can be safe and rewarding when used appropriately and within well-defined family limits. But it’s also important to keep in mind that most of these devices – including video game systems, digital music players and eReaders – will offer extensive online connectivity. Before putting a device in a child’s hands, be sure you’ve taken steps (e.g., using parental controls) to limit access to unwanted capabilities and inappropriate content.

Most important of all: No matter their ages, talk to your children about positive computing habits. Likewise, make a running commitment to keep up with devices, new advancements and the way your kids are using technology. If you do this, you’ll all be playing to win.