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Back-to-school gear used to be three-ring binders and colorful erasers. These days, children expect something a little more technologically advanced.
Luckily for you, shopping for kid-friendly gadgets is pretty fun. Here is a look at the hottest devices for everyone from first-grader to high-schoolers.
For elementary-school kids
Code Monkey Island ($34.99) — Programming skills could come in very handy in your child's future. Not every kid, however, wants to sit behind a keyboard when they come home from school. This colorful board game teaches the basic concepts behind coding so your kids can get a leg up without even realizing they're learning something.
Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition ($149) — Children are pretty sophisticated when it comes to technology. They also tend to break things. This full-featured tablet has the power of a grown-up Fire HD, but comes with a "kid-proof" case and parental controls.
HEXBUG AquaBot Angelfish ($19.99) — Instead of purchasing a goldfish and flushing it down the toilet two weeks later, buy this robotic pet, which can be moved around with a remote control. It automatically goes into sleep mode when it's not in use.
LeapBand Activity Tracker ($29.99) — Steps and calories might motivate adults, but children need something a little more fun. Cute "pets," such as unicorns, penguins and robots, encourage the wearer to do things like "jump like a frog" to keep the characters happy.
Middle school and beyond
Makey Makey Kit ($49.95) — This "invention kit" has all the tools to turn almost any object — from bananas to your stairs — into inputs for video games, digital keyboards and more. That's something that is sure to impress the judges at your kid's next science fair.
Alienware 13 Laptop ($900) — Video games today make "Super Mario Bros." look primitive. This laptop was designed specifically to handle the advanced graphics of modern hits like "Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare." Plus it has a touchscreen, so your kid can scroll through Facebook or, like, homework or whatever.
Jamstik+ SmartGuitar ($300) — Those "Guitar Hero" games are fun, but they don't actually teach you anything. This guitar simulator syncs with iPhones, iPads and Macs to give your budding rock star lessons they can use to eventually play the real thing.
Moto G ($179.99) — As companies like Verizon ditch two-year contracts, cheap phones are only becoming more attractiv. After all, parents don't want to buy a $650 iPhone for a teen who is only going to leave it on the bus. This is a sleek, budget phone your kid will actually want to be seen with, complete with a ton of customized color options, a 5-inch high-definition display and a 13-megapixel camera.
Livescribe Notebook from Moleskine ($29.95) — From emo poetry to funny doodles, teens have a lot of stuff to put on paper. When paired with the Bluetooth-enabled Livescribe 3 smartpen ($150), these notebooks let them automatically transcribe what they're writing in real life onto their Android or iOS devices.