I unboxed, plugged in, set up and tested out more than 300 “back-to-school” gadgets and apps over the last few months. Through it all, I had one main goal; to find something new that solved a common problem better than anything I — or my family — already own.
Back-to-school spending is expected to hit an all-time high this year, even as inflation soars and parents feel the squeeze of skyrocketing prices.
A recent survey from Morning Consult found that only 36% of parents can afford back-to-school shopping this year without any issues. The NRF’s annual poll also shows that a third of families plan to cut back on other spending areas to cover the cost of must-haves for the new school year.
The number one priority for many? Electronics.
But what do we — or our kids — really need? And how much do we have to spend to get something that fills that need without breaking the bank? Here’s a look at several products that scored an A grade for meeting — and even exceeding — my cynical tester-reporter-mom requirements.
Go The Bleep to Sleep
Sleep is a massive issue in just about every family I know — and it’s often worse during the start of the new school year. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of kids ages four months to 17 don’t get enough sleep.
A new study in the medical journal Lancet shows that a lack of sleep in kids may hinder neurocognitive development, which impacts memory, intelligence, well-being and can lead to lasting health problems.
One of the biggest takeaways from all the research available today is that kids (and adults) shouldn’t have devices in their bedrooms. Unless they’re specifically geared toward solving sleep issues.
One gadget that checked all the boxes in this category is the VTech V-Hush Sleep Training Soother ($60). It’s made for little ones as young as two, but I know a few families using it for older kids to help them get back into the swing of the new school year sleep routine. It helps create healthier sleep patterns and environments through stories, songs, a glow-on-the-ceiling projector, multi-color night light and a Bluetooth speaker. It’s all backed by science and expertise, and they throw in a free consultation with a WeeSleep consultant.
For older kids, teens, and college-age students, Morphée ($100) and Hatch Restore ($100) are great options, along with apps like Calm app (iOS and Android) and Headspace (iOS, Android).
More: Got the Sunday scaries? These apps and devices can help you relax and fall asleep faster
Encouraging more STEM
Science education is a great way to encourage curiosity and creativity. Still, research shows it often takes a backseat in early childhood education, and many kids never quite catch up with peers in other countries.
For this issue, the GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope ($25) is a prime pick. It’s a real, working, scientific tool that can open up new worlds for young ones without overwhelming them. This fully functioning microscope comes with 8X magnification, extra-large eyepieces, a kid-sized focusing knob, and a bright LED that lights up details for even more discoveries. This model is great for kids ages 3-6.
For older kids, take a look at the AmScope Kids …….