Must-have kids’ tech to help teach real-world skills

Living Well | Patricia Maunder | Posted on 12 May 2020

Five tech toys and games that help kids develop real-world skills. 

Covid-19 has thrown up countless challenges, including how to keep children entertained and educated at home – as if too much screen time wasn’t already a problem.

Fortunately, tech toys and games are increasingly combining digital and analog experiences that help kids develop real-world, hands-on skills rather than being glued to computers, tablets, mobiles and televisions.

We’ve gathered four products that can keep children busy, plus a device to give you peace of mind when you’re not watching over them yourself. All are available in Australia.

GoSave digital piggy bank

GoSave, next-generation piggy banks.


Five educational tech toys for kids 


The penny drops

A cashless society makes it harder for children to understand the value of money, so two Australian dads created the GoSave digital piggy bank. Its touchscreen shows money given to kids virtually via an app as pocketmoney, presents and rewards, including for doing jobs at home. Penny the pig, Astro the astronaut and Uma the unicorn also display tasks you want your little helpers to complete, goals they can save towards, and messages such as birthday greetings with a financial gift.

Penny and friends are also able to store cash, whose value can be added to (and deducted from) the digital total. Whether it’s real or virtual money, seeing it on the screen helps children gain financial literacy, especially the importance of saving and reward.

Ages: Five to 12
Price: US$149 (about A$230, distributed from Melbourne)

Once upon a time ...

Birde, the world’s first smart media player for children, was launched in 2018 by an Australian couple concerned about the inappropriate content and advertising their children could be exposed to while using smartphones and tablets. Their ‘walled garden’ console lets little kids safely enjoy audiobooks, music and videos, with parents controlling access via an app.

Physical tap-and-play books were recently added to Birde’s content options. These hardback picture books come to life when tapped on the console, which plays songs and the author’s narration. Slideshows of the books can also be viewed on a connected device’s screen. Tap-and-play titles available so far are A Bug Called Doug and two Funky Chicken tales.

Ages: One to four
Price: Books $19.95, consoles from $179.95

Birdie

Birdie, a smart media player for children.


Jigpix

Jigpix, the next-generation jigsaw puzzle.


The art of robotics

An educational toy that develops kids’ creative and technological abilities, Artie 3000 is a cute battery-powered robot that draws physical pictures. He wheels around on paper, drawing geometric designs according to code that children create using a custom interface on a connected tablet or computer.

The beginner option is basic drag-and-drop command blocks, such as ‘turn left’ and ‘move forward’, with adjustable degrees and distance, but users can keep developing their skills with two more advanced block-coding options, as well as traditional coding using Python or JavaScript. Artie can also demonstrate several showpiece designs all on his own.

Ages: Seven to 15
Price: $119

Puzzling times

When social distancing began, sales of jigsaw puzzles surged – even before Prime Minister Scott Morrison described them as “absolutely essential”. However, once all their pieces are in place, the pleasant distraction ends. Except with Jigpix, the next-generation jigsaw puzzle that can be configured to recreate a theoretically infinite number of portrait photos.

It comprises 884 interlocking cardboard pieces that, unlike traditional jigsaws, are of identical size and shape, and the undersides are numbered and coloured. Numeric and colour-coded ‘DNA’ is provided to create the puzzle’s perfect primary image of a tiger. Then it’s up to users for whose face is next, from siblings and friends to pets. An app turns each photo on your device into fresh ‘DNA’ that’s followed to create (somewhat blurry) mosaic pictures.

Ages: Six-plus
Price: $39.99

Keep watch, anywhere, any time

You can’t be with kids 24/7, especially if they spend time with another parent or you’re unable to work from home. Stay connected using junior smartwatches such as Moochies, which was inspired by a Gold Coast mum’s anxiety about her young daughter’s fondness for playfully running off.

Designed for younger children, they are like mini-mobiles with GPS tracking. So you can stay in touch with messaging, voice and video calls, monitor the wearer’s location, create ‘safe zones’ so you’re alerted if they stray beyond them, and there’s an SOS button for kids in distress. Robust, waterproof Moochies’ other features include class mode, alarms and swappable straps.

Ages: Three to 12
Price: $199.95