By GreatSchools Staff
Wondering how to turn your tiny film geek into a budding filmmaker? Since the advent of the Flip, camcorders need no longer be limited to responsible members of the family. Unbelievably easy to use, your average 5-year-old can figure out its one-touch recording, instant playback, and editing features (I know because mine did). Designed without the need for cables or extra parts (the computer connection flips out) and with foolproof Flipshare software for editing, sharing, and uploading (pre-loaded, thank you very much), this little movie camera may transform a generation of media consumers into media creatives. Our neighborhood gang of kids — ages 5 to 12, whose only previous projects involved competitive snacking in front of the TV — got their hands on the Flip and transformed into the Little Rascals 2.0. They made a string of short films conceived, written, acted, directed, filmed, and edited with virtually no adult supervision (memorable titles: The Wizard of Snoz and Cannibal Dance Party).
If the price breaks Santa's proverbial bank — as in "We won't be spending money like this on our kids" — the Flip may be just the thing to nudge spouses who need weening from the boob tube.
The bottom line: A foolproof camcorder that empowers kids to be innovative not inert.
$149 (2,000 songs and eight hours of video)
If you've resisted the begging, wheedling, and pleading for a digital music system that allows your children to enter their own private rave, the new iPod nano gives you one good reason to rethink your reluctance. Now the nano isn't just another way to listen to tunes — its video camera and built-in microphone allows your kids to become an active chronicler of their lives. There's even a study skills tool for the child who may not have everything but forgets everything. The "note to self" Voice Memo feature allows kids (and adults) to keep track of appointments and homework assignments without an old-fashioned to-do list.
The bottom line: An all-in-one music-video gizmo that allows kids to produce and consume media.
Do your kids adore music? You may have ambitions to offer them a proper musical education, but until you get that upright piano and those lessons in place, consider giving your children the tools to make music rather than just listen to it. The Casio's hands-free headset microphone allows kids to sing over the amp while they play, and the LCD screen displays the musical staff notes being played. This keyboard won’t satisfy serious students of music, but its ability to create multiple sounds, songs, and rhythms will appeal to any kid who wants to make noise, sing, and explore his or her inner muse.
The bottom line: Not a Steinway, but this affordable keyboard is great for budding musicians.
VTech KidiZoom Plus Pink
Ages 3 to 9
We hesitate to recommend a kid's camera when most have such a pathetic reputation for low-quality pictures and easy-to-break features. After all, what better way to trigger a tantrum? But this one stood out — not only for its improved reliability but also its manic multitasking. It's a camera that allows children to shoot, edit, and share images as well as record digital movies and play games.
The bottom line: Not the perfect digital kid's camera, but the best the toy world has to offer.