A COASTER FOR KIDS

PBSkids.org/catinthehat– “Marvel Coaster” allows kids to create their own kinetic sculpture (like we’ve seen at some museums), but with artwork by Dr. Seuss.  Arrange springs, racks and funny items on a grid, then pull a string to watch a ball roll and bounce along a track until it reaches its destination. You can extend or change paths at any time.

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FUN AND GAMES: THE SIMPSONS

“The Simpsons: Tapped Out” is a fun, free game from the Google Play store for Android phones and tablets.

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FUN AND GAMES

“Mech Mice” is an online game and iPhone app (coming soon to Android) that challenges players to build their own squad of mechanical mice to defend against invading armies. It was designed by Lance Priebe, the co-creator of Disney’s Penguin Club.

We liked it that instructions pop up to show you where to

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MAKING KIDS SMARTER

A new study from SRI International found that using games from PBSKids.org made four and five-year old kids significantly smarter in math. They improved in counting, recognizing shapes and patterns. The games they played, “Cat in the Hat,” “Dinosaur Train,” “Curious George” and “Sid the Science Kid” are all free at PBSKids.org.

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FUN AND GAMES

“Legends of Chima” is a free LEGO game at ChimaOnline.com. All you need is a computer and the right browser. Google Chrome worked fine for us, but using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, gave us a message saying we needed an upgrade — even though we were already using the latest version.

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BOOKS: PROGRAMMING FOR KIDS

“3D Game Programming for Kids,” by Chris Strom; $36 from oreilly.com. Here’s a great system for teaching you to program, no matter what your age.

All you need is a computer and preferably the Chrome web browser, though anything except Internet Explorer will do. The author explains things so well that in literally a few minutes, Joy had created a colorful ball and cube on her screen and was able to animate them.

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LEGO BOOKS

You can do a lot with LEGO  blocks, but surely nothing more remarkable than what’s pictured in these two books from No Starch Press. Should keep the kids busy over the holidays. – “Beautiful Lego” ($30), by Mike Doyle, is all pictures of completed projects, and beautiful they are, everything from a haunted house that seems to be falling apart, to a fantastic city floating in space. – “More Amazing Vehicles ($20), by Kuipers and Zamboni. Using step-by-step photos and instructions, the authors show us how to build anything from a Formula One race car to a fork-lift truck.  

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CHILDRENS BOOKS ON THE IPHONE

iStory Time is a free Apple app with children’s books. The first four books: Madagascar, Robin Hood, the Smurfs and Ice Age, are free:. After that it’s $3 a book. You can have the books read to you or read them yourself. The Robin Hood book comes with a history of the time.

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IT’S ZOMBIE TIME AGAIN

Our favorite six year-old will thrust out his arms, walk toward you and say, “Brains, they’re coming.” It’s a reference to the game “Plants Versus Zombies,” now out in version 2.

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DISNEY INFINITY ACTION

“Disney Infinity: Action!” is a free iPhone/Android app for making videos combining your own images with Disney characters, including those from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Monsters,” “The Incredibles,” and “Toy Story.”

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