From the remote mikes we use to monitor babies in the nursery to the gaming consoles and headphones teens use to tune out Mom and Dad, electronics have become integral ingredients of modern family life. But, if you’re looking for digital gear for parents and/or kids, you don’t have to stick with the tried-and-true. Here are five creative suggestions for the electronic family, from Mac-themed baby togs to a slick camcorder that’ll let you record every burp, soccer game, and graduation ceremony.
Key : $ —gifts costing between $0 and $30; $$ —gifts costing between $31 and $200; $$$ —gifts costing more than $200.
No chores required $-$$
$10 to $200 per month; Apple Computer
Want to make a teenager happy all year long? An iTunes allowance lets you credit recipients’ accounts monthly, so your favorite kids can stay hip to all the latest releases without demanding their own credit cards—or worse, borrowing yours. You simply choose a monthly dollar amount and enter the recipient’s Apple account (or create a new one); Apple charges you automatically every month until you cancel.—Frith Gowan
Up close and personal $$
$80; Digital Blue
Children over eight—as well as a few adults I know—will get a kick out of the QX5 Computer Microscope . Instead of looking through an eyepiece, you hook up the QX5 to your Mac and then view images and control the microscope from there. With 10x, 60x, and 200x magnification, the ability to create time-lapse movies, and basic image-manipulation tools, budding scientists will want to eyeball everything and anything—bugs, dog hair, and maybe those suspicious three-week-old leftovers in the fridge. (Mac users have to download separate software for the QX5; at the time this article went to press, that software was free, but a 2.0 update made it $15 shareware.)—Frith Gowan
Just my size $
Anyone who took piano lessons as a kid knows how irritating it is to play a full-size keyboard with pint-size hands. Ditto with the computer. That’s why KidzMouse’s Keys keyboard is so cool. KidzMouse has downsized the brightly colored, rounded keys for junior users. It has also simplified them, eliminating the function and Command keys (to reduce keyboard size and prevent errors) and making sure letter and number keys won’t repeat when held down. To go with the KidzMouse Keys, Logitech’s small, three-button optical mouse comes in Tiger , Spot (paw prints), Ladybug , Football , and Soccer designs.—Frith Gowan
Geek out your baby $
Kids born today are going to know more about technology by the time they’re ten than many of us adults do now. If you want to give your favorite infant a head start in the tech world, wrap him or her up in one of these cute onesies or T-shirts. The Newbie onesie and Geek in Training T-shirt (sizes 6 months to 4T) boldly proclaim a baby’s technological proclivities, while the iPod My Baby onesie (sizes 6 to 18 months) is a bit more ambiguous. Sure, iPods are known for their elegant interfaces. Babies? Not so much.—Frith Gowan
Check the dailies $$$
If you can’t be close to the families and children you love, you can get the next best thing: high-quality video footage of the most-important events in their lives. Give parents a DV camera and they’ll have no excuse not to send you tapes or DVDs of first steps, loudest-burp contests, and birthdays. The Canon Optura 60 ( ), our current favorite, offers excellent color, solid still images, optical image stabilization, manual controls, and flexible features such as microphone and headphone jacks.—Frith Gowan