Should parents encourage kids to play with tech as toys? The jury is still out. But if you'd like your little ones to get a jump on everything from coding to robotics while still encouraging creativity, there's good news. No major study has found conclusively that exposure to technology is making kids less attentive or less skilled academically

The fact is that we live in a high-tech world, so letting kids use technology the same way they play with blocks and musical instruments is probably a good idea. For better or for worse, technology is a part of childhood – the key is making sure that parents are helping to shape how they interact with it. We can encourage children to see tech as both tool and toy by choosing gadgets that enhance learning, boost creativity, and build new skills.

Here are some of the best kid-friendly gadgets that stand up as both fun and functional:

The Friendliest Kid-Friendly Tablet

Amazon Fire Kids Edition is a full-featured tablet that takes the worry out of giving kids technology. First, it comes protected in an oops-proof case. Second, it's pre-loaded with a full year's worth of curated content for kiddos courtesy of Amazon FreeTime. And third, the very reasonable price tag includes a two-year guarantee against damage caused by spilled sippy cups and slippery fingers.

The Latest from Crayola

Pairing Crayola's apps with the iMarker stylus turns an iPad into the ultimate no mess art project. While there are plenty of styluses on the market, iMarker is easy for elementary age hands to grip and Crayola has built Palm Rejection technology into its apps so Color 360, ColorStudio HD and Paint & Create only recognize input from iMarker.

Sony Wireless Earbuds

For older kids who need a quiet space to study, a solid pair of cans like Sony noise-canceling headphones or earbuds are a must have. Why buy wireless? Headphones with no wires to tear or tangle can be safely stashed in backpacks without worry. You may pay more up front but chances are you won't be on the hook for a replacement a couple of months down the road.

An Intro to Electrical Engineering

Kids can explore the why and how of circuits without the hassle of soldering with Circuit Stickers by Chibitronics. Chibitronics has created a range of make-your-own circuit kits that use innovative peel-and-stick electrical elements to let even younger children experiment with LEDs and batteries.

Only you can decide whether your kids really need a wireless keyboard (Logitech's wired Washable Keyboard K310 might be a better bet) or are ready for a wi-fi camera. But depending on the age of your kiddos, you might also want to pick up Dash and Dot by Make Wonder and Stikbot by Zing for snow day learning with a fun twist.

These are just some examples of tech for kids that's about more than entertainment. But if you're still worried that gadgets are just a distraction, know that most experts tend to agree that technology in moderation can spark the imagination and inspire exploration while giving children the tools they need to excel in an increasingly tech-centered world.