Shopping: If you're one of "those" (as I admittedly am) who start making a holiday list and checking it twice even before the sun sets on the summer season, then this roundup is for you. Here's a mid-year temperature check on some creative and innovative playthings worth gifting to the special children in your life, whether for a birthday, the winter holidays, or just because. For infants and moms-to-be, be sure to check out the "Brilliant for Baby" section on page 3.
Nintendo DSi - $169.99 For your techno tot, Nintendo's new DSi is where it's at. Far better than its DS predecessors, already the world's best-selling portable game system, the sleek DSi boasts a host of new multimedia capabilities that make it much more interactive and enhance the overall gaming experience.
Case in point: among other fun new features, the DSi has two built-in cameras with various lenses allowing users to create all sorts of fun pictures with cool effects. Of the 11 available lenses, the graffiti lens allows users to doodle on the photos, while a distortion lens lets users bend, pull and stretch images. Photos can be saved to the device's photo album and even sent to other DSi devices in the room. Embedded PictoChat software allows one user to draw pictures, or up to 16 users within local range of one another to chat at once.
The DSi also offers neat audio features. Using the built-in microphone and enhanced speakers, kids will love recording and playing with voices and manipulating AAC file format music that can be loaded with a SD card (sold separately). Twelve different sound filters allow them to alter the speed and pitch of recorded sounds or music files leading to all kinds of silly sound shenanigans. Particularly cool is the Instrumental filter allowing kids to strip out a song's vocals so they can take the lead. Or, they can slow down a guitar solo to try and play along, or speed up a podcast to skip the boring stuff.
There are quite literally hundreds of games that you can get for the DSi across all genres: educational, racing, adventure, sports, strategy, and just plain fun. Wireless communication allows multiplayer action with just one game card, depending on the software. With a range is 30-100 feet, your child and their siblings or friends can enjoy the spirit of competition. What's more, the DSi connects directly to an existing wireless Internet connection, allowing kids to surf the Net, download software, and play games with friends near and far. Nintendo's proprietary Wi-Fi Connection puts users in touch with other players everywhere--from across the room to across the globe. With all of this interactivity, robust parental controls are also on board allowing parents or caregivers to manage access to DSi functions and accessible content.
The DSi comes in black or a turquoise blue, and has not just one but two backlit 3.25" LCD screen displays = one of which with analog touch technology. Five brightness settings better assure kids can view the screen comfortably, with the lower settings prolonging battery charge. The DSi also has a real-time clock with date, time and alarm settings. (www.nintendodsi.com)
HearthSong SINGER Sewing Machine - $159
HearthSong The Best of Sewing Machine Fun for Kids Book - $16.95 Crafty kids ages 10 and up will love this student sewing machine by SINGER featuring no less 35 stitch functions, including buttonholes, zigzags and others that can be easily set with the turn of a dial. This kid-friendly machine is as educational and practical as it is fun and engaging, allowing kids to be creative while also learning an invaluable skill that will last a lifetime. And, using HearthSong's SINGER sewing machine couldn't be easier with its quick and smooth threading, automatic four-step buttonhole operation and a handy free arm for swing hard-to-reach areas. The machine comes with a canvas cover, but is also offered with a hard-side universal sewing machine carrying case (sold separately) for easier transport and storage.
Be sure to also pick up HearthSong's 127-page The Best of Sewing Machine Fun for Kids book intended to encourage kids to use the sewing machine by offering beginner tips, games and projects with clear, colorful directions. The book details 13 age-appropriate projects that teach kids how to sew, with skills progressively building as they work their way through it. It also offers safety precautions and "Helper Star" notes providing guidance to the adults in charge. The Best of Sewing Machine Fun for Kids is sure to have the sewing machine humming away on fun tasks in no time, like making a soft bunny, lunch bags, ornaments and cool hair scrunchies. (www.hearthsong.com)
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