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Last-minute gift ideas: 8 cool tech toys for kids

Fun products might even be educational as well

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Smartphone-controlled Desk Pet Carbot: Zippy, tiny and ultra rad, the Desk Pet Carbot lets you steer it with your touchscreen iPhone, Android phone, iPod Touch or iPad thanks to an adapter that plugs into your headphone jack. Charging is done via USB and the little hot rod carries an infrared sensor so it can navigate mazes and avoid obstacles on its own or take on other Carbots in battle mode. Way cooler and cheaper than a radio-controlled car, and easier to conceal in class, too. ($29.99 U.S.; thinkgeek.com)

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Paper Jamz Pro Drums: With the same tap-sensitive technology as the Paper Jamz guitars but for people who like to smash things, the Pro Drums pad comes with three built-in kits recorded but allows you to download your own if you like. Tap away in Freestyle mode to create thundering drum solos or play around with backbeats and loops, either made by you or preloaded. ($19.99 U.S.; wowwee.com)

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Hypnocube Animated LED Cube: The aptly named Hypnocube can help students chill out on busy homework nights. Packed with 64 multi-colour LEDS, the cube runs a blinking, morphing animated light show that continues for more than 30 minutes without repeating. Stare at it to space out or just have it going while you study to help you concentrate. ($89.99 U.S.; thinkgeek.com)

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Paper Jamz Pro Guitar: If you’ve ever played Rock Band or Guitar Hero and wondered if you could ever play a real guitar, now you sort of can. Touch-sensitive, loud and featuring actual notes and chords but without the hassle of strings, the Paper Jamz Pro Guitar is a lot more fun that it deserves to be. Tilt the guitar to raise the pitch, perform hammer-offs and palm mutes like a guitar god and even upload songs to strum along. Three styles each with 14 frets to wail on. ($19.99 U.S.; wowwee.com)

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Scalextric Star Wars Race Tracks: Forget boring little cars on a boring little track, instead why not have Luke Skywalker’s X-wing and Darth Vader’s TIE fighter chasing each other on a glow-in-the-dark course? The track pieces push and pull apart very easily and the hand controller comes with fast and slow setting options. Now that George Lucas has sold off the Star Wars franchise, racing around quickly in circles seems like an apt metaphor as well. ($99-$149 U.S.; thinkgeek.com)

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LeapPad 2 Explorer Learning Tablet: Kids’ tablets are hot and the LeapPad 2 Explorer might just be the best of the bunch. With a five-inch touchscreen, front and back cameras and a processor just about as good as any regular tablet, the LeapPad 2 is a solid bargain and a great training aid for kids 3 through 9. ($99 U.S.; leapfrog.com)

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Digital Light Designer: Much cooler than an Etch-A-Sketch, Crayola’s Digital Light Designer cone lets kids paint with light to express themselves. Add effects, save your drawings and create animations. You can also create personal messages to display later. It does require a lot of batteries though – two AAA and four D batteries, to be exact – but at least it won’t run out of juice for a good while. ($49.99 U.S.; crayola.com)

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Cubelets: Like Lego blocks for geniuses, Cubelets are the equal parts engineering marvel and creative outlet. Each battery-powered block comes with a unique set of equipment on board allowing it to do things such as sense light, move around or respond to temperature changes. With multiple blocks, kids can build functioning robots that move, although at a price tag of $160 (U.S.) for six blocks it’s not an impulse buy by any stretch. ($160 U.S. for six blocks; odrobotics.com)

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