Handheld gaming for kids: Nintendo 3DSWith kids asking for all sorts of gadgets, it can be hard to know when they’re ready. Sometimes just playing the family gaming device or using your tablet is all them need. But in other cases, it might be time to get them their very own.

So we’re putting together a new series of posts that will help you determine when to buy what for your kiddos.

First up, we’re tackling handheld gaming devices, a favorite gadget of lots of kids. And moms too.

Gaming systems for Preschoolers
If you’ve got a preschooler who’s dying to get their own device, we
suggest starting them out on a Mobigo or a Leapfrog Explorer, both of
which are fairly cost effective and have a slew of fun, educational
games that will definitely keep them occupied.

Mobigo kids' game systemHowever, keep in mind that if your kiddos are used to playing on
something like a Wii or your smart phone or tablet, these devices might
not hold their attention. Plus, you’ll have to deal with batteries and
added game cartridges, both of which can start to add up–not just in cost,
but in clutter. Still, it is nice to have something other than your own
gadgets to keep them occupied, and these do the job without a huge

Gaming systems for 4-5 year olds
For kids around four and five, especially if they’re already playing
with your gadgets, we like the Nintendo DS or DS Lite, though we
recommend turning off the WIFI and monitoring their usage (which you’d
do with any gadget at this age), and being discerning about the games.

You’ll find that the Nintendo DS type devices are going to jump up around $75-100 (depending on which one you choose) more than your VTech and LeapFrog gadgets. And yes, there are
still cartridges to purchase. Or in our house, lose. But we’ve found
that tech-savvy elementary-aged kids enjoy hand held gaming devices as
much as they enjoy tapping away on a smart phone or tablet. And there’s
just much more a older child will be able to do with them compared to
the more kid-friendly devices.

First tablets for early graders
If your kids aren’t specifically asking for a handheld gaming device,
you might just skip it altogether and purchase one of the kid-friendly
tablets, like the VTech Innotab or the LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer.

from the fabulous price point and plethora of educational games and
tablet-like features, you’re not having to deal with cartridges or extra
pieces. Something all parents can really appreciate. (Though you will pay to add apps, games, and ebook packages via downloads.)

Smart advice for all gaming systems
With all of these gadgets, we strongly recommend that you keep them in your own possession, and
have your kids ask for permission to use them. And the timer is your
best friend. In fact, we like the idea of kids earning video gaming time
as part of a chore reward. Sometimes alone time with their DS or
tablet is just as valuable (if not more) than a few dollars or some gummi snacks.

Stay tuned for more of our “Are you ready for this” features on Cool Mom Tech.