Shopping for the kids is a lot different than it was "back in the day."
Aside from traditional supplies like No. 2 pencils and college-ruled paper, there are technical gadgets that can be beneficial to our kids' education.
In fact, many kids are pretty tech-savvy by the time they even get into kindergarten.
And that's a good thing.
Using technical gadgets such as computers, tablets and e-readers is a "huge opportunity for kids," said Pam Betten, director of Sunnyside School District's One-to-One Computing program. "The more they learn and better skilled they become on what apps to use gives them many more options and opportunities to take control of their world."
Technology also give kids instant feedback, which allows them to decide right then and there how to move forward in a different way.
"It's not like when you use a pencil and paper," Betten said. "If you do it wrong, you throw it away and give up."
A lot of these things can cost a pretty penny. However, if you get a quality product, it can be used for a few years, which adds value to what you purchase.
If money is tight, you really don't need to get the most expensive item on the market. Look around and see what your options are. Many companies like Best Buy and Walmart sell bundle deals where you get a computer and a printer for a discounted rate.
I got some input from Sunnyside's Betten and a Best Buy spokesman to get some ideas on different products for each age group.
Here's what we came up with.
Kids in this age group are developing motor skills, learning to read and do basic math and science. Learning tablets are good for kids in this group. The drag- and-drop features a tablet provides help develop motor skills. "There's something to that drag-and-drop piece of a tablet," Betten said. Young children also have more control of their hands and fingers than they do a computer mouse, she added.
Nabi 2 Tablet
This learning tablet is backed by the Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) operating system. It's a 7-inch tablet with a bright, drop-proof bumper. It's got 8 gigabytes of memory and a 2-megapixel camera. Comes preloaded with $200 worth of apps, including 25 games, 50 songs and 30 books. Designed for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade.
• Where: Best Buy, Walmart, Target
• Price: $179.99.
LeapPad 2 Explorer
This touch-screen learning tablet comes with five apps,4 GB of memory, camera and video recorder. LeapFrog offers a library of more than 800 games, ebooks, videos and music that can be downloaded onto the device. Added bonus - gives parents access to their child's play and learning, including levels achieved, skills practiced and recently played games.
• Where: Toys R Us, Walmart, Kmart, Target
• Price: $79.99-$99.99
E-Readers are great for kids this age. The new ones are pretty close to being a tablet, plus they're affordable. "If you're not in a situation to buy a laptop or tablet, the Kindles are economical," Betten said. "And you can get Internet, use them for reading, note taking or games."
Here are a couple of ideas for technical gadgets for your middle school kids.
Nook HD Tablet
This reader has 32 GB of memory, a 9-inch screen, Chrome Web browser, YouTube, Google Maps and Gmail. Runs on Android operating system. Apps, games and books can be downloaded through Google Play. Also has parental controls and email and calendar syncing.
• Where: Walmart, Best Buy, Office Depot, Barnes & Noble
• Price: $179
The Fire has 8 GB of memory, a 7-inch screen, built-in WiFi, free unlimited cloud storage and personalized tablet experience for kids where you can set daily screen limits and give access to appropriate content for each child. Support for Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! and more.
• Where: Best Buy, Office Max
• Price: $129.99 -$159.
By the time kids are in high school, if not before, they're ready for a laptop. They'll need it to do research, write papers and make presentations. Laptops have more convenient functions like printing and saving capabilities and keyboards, Betten said.
Asus 15.6 inch laptop
This laptop has 4 GB of memory and a 500 GB hard drive. It does not have a CD or DVD drive. Runs on Windows 8.
• Where: Best Buy
• Price: $349.99
HP Winter Blue 15.6 INCH Laptop
Has 4 GB RAM and a 320 GB SATA hard drive, as well as a DVD burner. It also features a 2-in-1 memory-card reader and three USB ports.
• Where: Walmart
• Price: $278
College kids, ahem, young adults, are ready for anything. Getting a good computer will be helpful for class, résumé writing and job searching.
Here are a couple suggestions.
HP Split x2 convertible 13.3" Touch-Screen Laptop
This is a cool gadget that can be used as a laptop or a tablet. It's got 4 GB of RAM and is expandable to 8 GB. Runs on Microsoft Windows 8.
• Where: Best Buy
• Price: $729.99
Apple MacBook Pro
This laptop has a 13.3" display and 4 GB memory. Runs on OS X Mountain Lion.
• Where: Best Buy, Apple Store, Simutek
• Price: $999 - $1,199.
"Centsible Mom," Angela Pittenger shares ideas, tips and news stories on how families can stretch their budgets. Send your questions, tips and ideas to her at firstname.lastname@example.org