Apps, Websites and Video Games
For one parent who rated the Little Things app ($3 in the App Store), this "seek and find" game is the new alternative to the bedtime story for her children, ages 2 and 5. Little Things offers up collages - images such as a dog, a pair of scissors, a pony and cupcakes - that are actually art built from thousands of "other" things.
There's a different game, complete with soundtrack, each time your children play with it. As your kids find listed items in the game and solve timed puzzles, they collect 99 jigsaw pieces that can eventually be assembled into a new picture.
"NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS"
The iPad is a great way to read and interact with magazines. National Geographic is one of the leading publishers with titles created for this tablet computer, and National Geographic Kids was added in late May.
The app itself is free, as is a free sample of how the magazine works and looks on this portable device. The June/July issue of the magazine is available for the introductory price of $2.
This interactive publication is chock-full of videos, reader-submitted photos, games, puzzles, fun facts (Did you know: it takes 2,220 cupcakes to reach the top of the Washington Monument?), quizzes, jokes, and lots and lots of animal stories. National Geographic Kids is published 10 times a year.
The Sesame Street kids' site is fun and easy to use. Children can play games, watch videos, meet all of the Sesame Street characters, and create their own page. One neat feature: Sesame Playlists, where characters, videos and games can be combined to teach one concept or skill. There's lots of content and ideas for parents as well, and the emphasis is on school readiness. -Laura Nawojchik
NINTENDO'S Wii U
During the Electronic Entertainment Expo last month, Nintendo introduced the world to the next iteration of its home video-game console. The new system - called the Wii U - takes yet another offbeat approach to video games, though it's not as groundbreaking as the accessible-motion gaming of the Wii.
The Wii U, which will miss the holiday 2011 season and arrive on shelves sometime in 2012, represents a further evolution and update to the Wii itself. The new game system finally brings high-resolution gameplay to the Nintendo platform and promises video on par with Microsoft and Sony's current game systems.
It'll also continue to support the games and add-ons developed for the current Wii - including Wii MotionPlus, the Wii Remotes and Wii Balance Board.
The new innovations of the Wii U focus on the player's interaction with the system. Instead of a traditional button-laced handheld controller, the Wii U uses an iPad-like touch tablet with a 6.2-inch LCD screen built in. This new controller/display combination allows play even without a TV connected and includes a camera to track and augment traditional on-screen games.
The Wii U release date is about a year away, so a price has not been announced. Neither has much else about the system, besides that the Super Smash Bros. game series will be converted for the new Wii.
Parents who want to stay in the know should keep an eye on the Wii U. Undoubtedly, gamers young and old will be putting it on their birthday and Christmas lists next year.