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  • Lisa Jevens

Gear Wise: Fun with grandparents

September is the month when we celebrate grandparents. Why not try a new gadget to boost the intergenerational fun? Here are some suggestions that foster creativity, connectedness and learning together.

1. Mickey Mouse Waffle Maker The love of Disney knows no age limit, so why not share the charm of Mickey with your grandchildren at breakfast? The Disney DCM12 Mickey Mouse Waffle Maker makes a 6-inch waffle in the shape of Mickey’s smiling face. It features nonstick cooking plates, nonskid rubber feet, and a power light. Note: This is a basic waffle maker, with no indicator light for when the waffle is done. You have to time it yourself. Retails for $24 at

2. Apple Pencil The Apple Pencil is a digital stylus pen that turns your iPad into a place for drawing, illustrating, note-taking, and good old-fashioned writing. The grandkids will love to doodle or color with it, and you can take notes, annotate documents or retouch photos. There are lots of apps that allow you to use the device in different ways. The Apple Pencil only works on the iPad Pro and the new 9.7-inch iPad (6th generation). It retails for $99 at Apple stores and online at

3. Astronomy Binoculars Astronomy can be a cool multigenerational activity that the whole family can enjoy. Did you know you can stargaze with a good pair of binoculars? A strong pair will allow you to see Jupiter and its moons, galaxies, and much more. The Celestron brand’s SkyMaster line features astronomical binoculars ranging from about $100 to $400. They feature high-quality lenses and components, plus special features that make them great for nighttime viewing. Visit for details and specifications.

4. Long-Distance Friendship Lamps Long-distance Friendship Lamps make it possible to “reach out and touch someone” using light. This is a unique gadget that most kids would love to use to connect with their grandparents and vice versa. Simply buy two lamps and give one to your grandchild. When you turn yours on, or they turn theirs on, its mate emits the same ambient glow. Use it as a silent message to let the other know you are thinking about them. The lamp cycles through a rainbow of colors. Each home must have Wi-Fi to use the lamps. They measure 4.75-inches square and 8-inches tall. They retail for $170/pair at

5. Echo Spot The Echo Spot is essentially a mini “Alexa” (Amazon Echo) with a small, built-in video screen. It is a hands-free, voice-activated, internet connected device that does what it’s told: play a song, tell a joke, give the weather forecast, set an alarm, report the news, read an audiobook, control things around the house like lights, TV and the thermostat, makes calls, and orders a pizza or an Uber. The video screen can show the weather report, a news briefing, your calendar, the time, your shopping and to-do lists, and more. You can video chat with it if the other person has another Echo Spot, an Echo Show (similar, but has a bigger screen) or the Alexa app on their phone. The Echo Spot is about 4-inches tall, so it fits nicely on a nightstand or desk. The Spot can be used as a standalone device, or connected to other Echo devices around your house. It sells for $130 on

Originally published in the Chicago Tribune Prime Time senior living section on September 20, 2018.

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