Gadgets to help students going back to school
Preschoolers to post-grads are gearing up for the school season, and no matter what age a student is, there are gadgets, gizmos, electronics and tech products to help ease the way. From a toy that teaches young learners the basics of coding to a charging station that keeps numerous devices ready to use, these items can make kindergarten to college easier and more fun.
LeapFrog LeapStart Interactive Activity Book Systems
These learning systems — one for preschool-prekindergarten, the other for kindergarten-first grade — teach children life skills and challenge them intellectually. A library of 16 replayable activity books focus on more than 50 skills, including ABCs, numbers, shapes, colors, creativity, music, science, technology, engineering, math, counting, critical thinking, geography, logic, reasoning, global awareness, vocabulary, fractions, health, social skills, reading comprehension, communication, phonics, problem solving, space science and coding. The preschool-prekindergarten system (ages 2-4) comes with an ergonomically designed stylus for smaller hands, while kindergarten-first grade (ages 5-7) has a sleeker design to help children practice finer pen control.
Buy: $39.99 each; leapfrog.com
If a youngster is old enough for school but too young for a cellphone, find peace of mind keeping in contact with this interactive waterproof wristwatch-phone that has a 1.3-inch touch screen and allows young ones to call up to 10 parent-approved contacts. GizmoGadget sends and receives text messages to or from designated caregivers and can be tracked on a caregiver’s phone through its app and the device’s GPS locator. There’s also a compass, stopwatch, timer and activity tracker. Available in red or blue, only through Verizon.
Buy: $149.99 (with a two-year contract); verizonwireless.com
WD My Passport Ultra Portable Hard Drive
When you require a lot of backup, portability and a small price, it’s hard to beat My Passport Ultra. Packed within its small, sleek case that’s available in four colors, are up to 4 terabytes of storage. It has password protection and 256-bit hardware encryption, plus automatic, local and cloud backup.
Buy: $59.99-$139.99; wdc.com
Wearsafe Personal Safety System
Think of it as a panic button if you encounter danger. Pressing Wearsafe’s Bluetooth tag — which can be attached to clothing — sends the user’s designated family or friends live audio from the scene and creates a chat room, via the Wearsafe app (for Apple and Android), where they can coordinate a response or call 911. It captures audio from 60 seconds before the tag was pressed to reveal what led up to the situation, plus reassures the user that help is coming by silently vibrating each time someone gets the alert. Alerts can be sent from up to 200 feet away from the user’s turned-on, connected smartphone.
Buy: The device and a 30-day trial are free, then the monthly subscription fee is $5; wearsafe.com
Kinkoo Six Port USB Charger
Students need all their devices all of the time, but how do you keep them charged? One way is with this 40-watt desktop charger that has six high-speed ports and an intelligent chip to detect each device and select the optimal charging speed for it, making it 85 percent faster than conventional chargers. A blue LED indicates when the gadget is ready for use. Compatible with all 5-Volt USB-charged devices. Available in white or yellow.
Buy: $39.90; ikinkoo.com
Hot Logic Mini Personal Portable Oven
WHY: Dorm dwellers can say goodbye to living on sandwiches — even if they don’t have a microwave. This portable, lunch-box-size oven uses convection heating and a heat-reflective interior to cook or reheat food, then keeps it at the perfect serving temperature for several hours. Place a fresh, frozen or refrigerated meal in a glass, plastic, aluminum or paperboard container, put the container in the Mini, zip it up and plug it into any standard 120-volt outlet. Food cooks evenly with no frozen centers, burnt edges or overcooking. The polyester exterior comes in four colors.
Blockhead Plug for Apple chargers
Apple products may be sleek and well-designed, but its chargers? Not so much. Their brick-like shape extends far out, making it difficult, if not impossible to plug them into some outlets. Blockhead replaces Apple’s foldable prongs, which are easily removed, with a UL-approved plug sculpted to fit the charger and allowing it to be plugged in sideways. It also directs the cord downward to help protect against cord stress and brings the charger’s center of mass closer to the wall, so it is less likely to pull out of the outlet.
Buy: $19.95, tenonedesign.com
iSkelter Slate 2.0 Mobile Lapdesk
The improvements to the second iteration of this lap desk include an underside hand bevel and protective mousepad border. Perfect for laptops, the desk is cut from strong-but-lightweight bamboo. A thick, heavy-duty mousepad is built in, flush with the surface. Its heat ventilation openings cool down laptops, with any remaining heat absorbed by the bamboo. Functional, ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing, Slate 2.0 also includes a dock to hold a phone or small tablet.
Buy: $79.99; iskelter.com
Asus Chromebook C202
Designed with schoolkids in mind, the C202 is lightweight, durable, easy to repair and affordable. All exterior edges and corners have a reinforced guard, which protects it if dropped. The keyboard is spill-proof and repels liquid. The cover hinge opens to 180 degrees, which keeps it intact and allows for easier viewing by a group. The 11.6-inch display is anti-glare, the battery runs up to 10 hours and its 360-degree Wi-Fi antenna minimizes poor signal connection. It has an HDMI and two USB 3.0 ports, a headphone-microphone combo jack, an SD card slot and a security lock slot. It uses the Chrome OS, contains a 1.6-GHz Intel Celeron N3060 processor and has up to 4 gigabytes of RAM.
Buy: $199 (2 GB RAM) and $229 (4 GB); asus.com
Kensington SmartSockets Surge Protector
With the various sizes and shapes that plugs come in, a vertical power strip/surge protector is usually not practical. Kensington makes cord management easy with SmartSockets, which has six color-coded AC plug receptacles arranged in circular design and matching color-coded cord labels. Its 1,500 joules of surge dissipation protects devices from damaging spikes, and the 16-foot power cord gives extended reach for almost anywhere in the room.
Buy: $68.99; kensington.com
Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-pillar
Preschoolers can start learning the basics of coding with this toy that encourages experimentation while developing problem solving, planning and sequencing, and critical thinking skills. Kids arrange — and rearrange — the toy’s segments, which each have a command icon and connect easily via a USB port. Depending on the order the child selects, Code-a-Pillar is taken on a different path — with sounds and lights — each time. Suggested for ages 3-6.
Buy: $50; fisher-price.com
i-ScreenClean Touch Screen Cleaner
This hypoallergenic, chemical-free, eco-friendly two-sided ball provides streak-free cleaning on phone, tablet, laptop and PC touch screens and monitors. The microfiber side removes stubborn marks and the terry-cloth side removes dust, fingerprints and smudges. Just wipe it across the screen — no scrubbing or pressure is needed to remove marks and debris.
Buy: $13.99 (three-pack); i-screenclean.com
Belkin MIXIT Lightning to USB Tassels and Key Chain
Why: Your gadget needs a charge and you have a power source, but where do you find a cable when you need one? MIXIT combines fashion with function, and keeps a cable discreetly with you at all times, whether it’s hidden in your key chain or within the tassel attached to your purse. The lightning-to-USB key chains and tassels are compatible with iPhones, iPads and iPods. The key chains flexible cable rotates 360 degrees for easy connection and bends up to 70 degrees. The leather tassel conceals the braided cable within its cords. Both are available in a variety of colors.
Buy: $34.99, belkin.com
Groovies kids’ headphones
Protect young ears, whether they're listening to lessons, music, games or movies. With its adjustable headband, ear pads made from hypoallergenic memory foam and sound pressure limited to 85 decibels, Groovies are as comfortable as they are safe. Friends can share sound without a splitter by plugging into one of the two auxiliary ports on either side of the headset. Up to four people can Sharelink together. Available in pink, blue and black. Recommended for ages 3 and older.
Buy: 24.95, kenu.com
If your wallet is jam-packed with cash, student IDs and other assorted forms of plastic, MyPhonePocket may be the answer. The Lycra pocket with adhesive attaches to any smartphone case and can hold everything from lunch money to earbuds. The sleek design is lightweight and you can choose from more than 200 designs. For a more personal design, upload your own photos.
Buy: $12.95, myphonepocket.com
Trendnet TEW-822DRE Wi-Fi Extender
Want to make your Wi-Fi connection span wider? This extender, which plugs directly into an electrical outlet, can expand your connection to cover every inch of your dorm thanks to its external antennas and high-power amplifiers.
Buy: $86.99, trendnet.com
1 Voice Mapmaker FYL Backpack
1 Voice has got students’ backs with this backpack that comes with a built-in 11,000mAh lithium-ion charger that can keep your devices up and running. The pack, made of 100 percent cotton canvas, is available in navy blue, black, brown and cream, and features a padded laptop compartment and the main compartment. The side zipper allows quick access to your laptop.
Buy: $159, 1voicenyc.com
Satechi Multi-Port USB Charging Station
Students need not be sapped of strength by their multiple mobile devices. This station has four Type-A ports and two Type-C ports to handle up to six gadgets at once. Smartphones, tablets and laptops can be charged simultaneously and be ready to go. The station's compact size (less than 5-by-3 inches) and weight (7.5 ounces) mean it can be easily carried in a backpack or purse.
Buy: Available in black or white. $29.99, satechi.net
Sandisk’s iXpand Flash Drive
A child’s iPhone and iPad is always blowing up, but most especially during the school year as they snap photos, watch videos and listen to music in the course of their busy daily lives. Sandisk’s iXpand Flash Drive automatically backs up a device with up to 128GB of additional capacity by plugging directly into the phone or tablet.
Buy: Starts at $49.99 according to capacity at BestBuy.com, Amazon and SanDisk.com