My peers have questioned the targeted demographic for this holiday gift guide — after all, the majority of our readers are not parents or are trying to stay as far away from parents as possible, unless there’s a mountain load of dirty laundry and a family feast on the dining table (hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving).
But that’s okay. This gift guide may also be used by the aspiring babysitter. I think.
This is probably the most significant cultural contribution from the Danes. There are toys, and then there are toys. In fact, some folks may even dispute LEGO’s status as a toy because these bricks are so versatile. The things you can make are only limited by your imagination. Some of the things people have created from LEGO pieces: Rubik’s cube solver, Guitar Hero controller, USB stick, salt and pepper shakers, or a full desk. Amazing, right? On top of offering generic bricks for all your creations, LEGO pushes out many themed sets as well. From cityscapes to deep sea adventures to spaceships, from Toy Story to Harry Potter to StarWars. Not only could a parent and child spend hours of quality time playing with LEGO blocks, but research has shown that such play is beneficial to the child’s spatial, math, and social skills too.
Products available at Lego.com
The Foscam FI8918W is a webcam suitable for video monitoring and surveillance. Although there are ways to take a regular off-the-shelf computer webcam and turn it into part of a home surveillance system, most of these webcams are meant to be clipped onto a screen panel with an USB cable, which somewhat limits its range of use. The Foscam is definitely not designed to be an everyday computer webcam, but rather a robust and reliable video camera capable of fulfilling some basic surveillance needs. The webcam itself has both a wired and wireless interface and is accessible via the Web on the LAN or across the Internet. The resolution is decent at 640×480 with adjustable brightness and contrast settings. Furthermore, it has an infrared mode for night vision and pan/tilt operations so you can follow the action. There’s also a motion-detect feature which lets you receive emails of video snapshots — ideal for those long vacations away from home. The package comes with a mounting bracket as well to set it up outdoors, although this model is not meant to be exposed to the natural elements. (There are also various smartphone apps that you can install to control/view a Foscam cam.)
Available from Amazon.com for $79
Violight UV Cell Phone Sanitizer
Germs thrive in dark and warm environments. In other words, in and around your cell phone. And also in and around toddlers. Now, as parents carry smartphones loaded with Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja, that phone also becomes the child’s portable gaming system (e.g. while waiting for your food at a restaurant). Oh yes, whether you want to admit or not, a parent’s cell phone is a hotbed of germ orgy. Enter the Violight UV Cell Phone Sanitizer which claims to eliminate 99% of germs and bacteria from a device. The Violight is a contraption that’ll fit a device as big as a smartphone or as small as a Bluetooth headset. Once the cover is put on, the dual ultraviolet bulbs turns on and starts the killing. Within five minutes your device is ready and will then only house only 1% of germs that survived the UV massacre.
Get it at Violight.com for $50
Apple iPad 2
The iPad is like the LEGO of mobile devices. It is portable, versatile, and affordable (costs less than some TVs yet does a lot more). There are two things that make it a worthwhile gadget for a family: intuitive user interface and thousands of apps. The intuitive UI makes it a great device for users young and old. The numerous apps transform the device into an eReader, gaming system, video player, and more. It’s the perfect gadget for the kid to play games on and then when they go to bed at night, for the parent to catch up on news, stocks, and Facebook while sipping tea in bed…
Available at Apple.com, starting at $499