The The 2012 National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) results are in and we’ve identified and awarded the year’s top products for children, providing busy parents with this year’s sure-bet holiday gift guide. These Gold Award-winning toys, games and DVDs have been carefully tested, evaluated – and played with – by expert judges and kid testers alike. They were chosen for their entertainment and educational value, as well as their quality and ability to withstand hours of play.
INFANTS - AGE 2
SPECIAL NEEDS PICK
LEGO DUPLO My First Build LEGO builder-in-training! Oversized “menu” cards show kids how to build. The pictures have actual-size illustrations for children to match up and lay out the bricks before connecting them. The DUPLO bricks and accompanying object pieces help bridge the gap between constructive and imaginary play. LEGO, $24.99; www.LEGO.com. Ages 18 months and up.
NogginStik Developmental Rattle More than a rattle, this developmental milestone-maker taps into an infant’s abilities from birth by introducing eye tracking through an innovative three-color changing light. Tap the rattle and NogginStik’s friendly face glows – red, then blue then green. SmartNoggin Toys, $21.99; www.smartnoggintoys.com. Ages birth and up.
Tots Art Start All the glory without the glue! Everything’s assembled for an aft ernoon of art. Create collages by placing doilies and fringed tissue anywhere on the sticky paper for a successful start to creative art! Triangular crayons, shaped paper and stickers add to the options. ALEX, $16.95; ; www.alextoys.com. Ages 18-months and up.
AGES 3 and 4
BabbaBox from BabbaCo Ready for fun all in one ... box! Once a month, your mail carrier will deliver a gift box of fun that lasts all month long. Themed box includes an art project, book, exploring activity and access to a smartphone app. The prep work is done for you – just answer the door when it arrives! BabbaCo, $29.99/month; www.babbaco.com/babbabox. Ages 3 and up.
LeapPad2 The durability of a toy; the technological advancements of a tablet. Double the memory and two cameras equal two thumbs up for parents and kids! Stylus, touch screen and motion sensor are used to play games, listen to five songs or read a book. Downloadable apps and cartridges are also available. Pretty soon, we ll be begging our kids to use their LeapPad! LeapFrog, $99.99; www.leapfrog.com. Ages 3 and up.
STRIDER ST-3 No-Pedal Balance Bike Riding starts with balance and coordination – not dependence on training wheels – with this cool, pedal-less rider. Intuitive to use, beginners gradually build skills needed to ride a traditional bike. Kids advance at their own pace, boosting confidence as they roll along. Strider Sports, $110.00; www.StriderBikes.com. Ages 18 months to age 5.
Symphony in B. A concert hall with the comforts of home and the sounds of a symphony! Place tall plastic instruments in the orchestra pit – in any order, on either of the two levels, to hear ever-changing music. Vary the music by taking away or adding instruments, and listen and learn how each sounds alone or within the context of an orchestra. B.Toys, $49.99; www.justb-byou.com. Ages 3 and up.
Tag Get Ready for Kindergarten Look, listen and learn! Each page of this book shines a spotlight on a different school-readiness skill with interactive Tag touch appeal. Different voices respond, teaching alphabet recognition, early math, emotions, seasons, months and more. Just open the pages and you’ll see just how fun kindergarten will be! Works with the Tag Reading System. LeapFrog, $13.99; www.leapfrog.com. Ages 3 and up.
AGES 5 AND UP
Doctor Dreadful Alien Autopsy Ever been invited to an edible autopsy? It’s creepalicious! Bubbling guts, injected intestines, and eye balls provide a hair-raising, spine-chilling smorgasbord for dig-in diners. Lung Bugs provide the traditional, gummy candy lure that does not disappoint. Spin Master, $29.99; www.spinmaster.com. Ages 5 and up.
Razor® FlashRider™ 360 The sparks are flyin’ with this ride-on! Evolved classic three-wheeler delivers style and performance with highly responsive back casters that send kids into 360-degree spins while a spark-bar cartridge with a pull-up lever leaves a blazing trail! Razor, $129.99; www.razor.com. Ages 6 and up.
GlitterToos Fun to do and look at, too! Fifteen sticker stencils, six glitter colors and a nail-polish-like bottle of glue makes for easy glitzy fun. Tattoos are temporary, lasting several days with no glitter trail left behind on bed sheets. Hand washing is no match for them, but they can be removed when desired. A great tween gift or stocking stuffer. GlitterToos, $15.99; www.glittertoos.com. Ages 3 and up.
AGES 7 AND UP
3D Puzzle La Tour Eiffel Ooh la la, Paris in a puzzle! Piece together the famous landmark – puzzle-style! Ideal for kids who have mastered flat puzzles and want an incremental challenge. Flat and hinged plastic pieces are all numbered and have arrows to indicate placement, so this can be easily and methodically erected in an afternoon. Ravensburger, $25.99; www.ravensburger.com. Ages 10 and up.
DC Universe Super Heroes The Batcave “To the Batcave!” all you Batman-LEGO fans! This set masterfully combines two obsessions – to build the Batcave and to surrender your imagination to the Caped Crusader. The detailed LEGO rendition includes a transforming changing station for the Bruce-Batman switch and the iconic red phone. The Dark Knight zips around on the Batcycle while the evil Bane bores into imagination in his spinning-drill tank. Two-expressioned characters include Batman, Robin and Poison Ivy. Bruce Wayne and Bane each have one expression. LEGO, $69.99; www.LEGO.com. Ages 6 and up.
PlayStation Vita This portable gaming system has the advanced technology to astonish, yet the intuitiveness to pick up and play. Vita reaches beyond the ho-hum handheld systems and presents gamers with fingertip access to apps, chats and stats. Impressive graphics, touchscreen and analog controllers, video/music player, voice chat during play, picture-taking capabilities and much more! Sony, $249.99 WiFi, $299.99 WiFi/3G; www.us.playstation.com/psvita. Ages 8 and up.
PRESCHOOL AND EARLY ELEMENTARY
GameChanger Specifically designed for use with an iPad, different game boards and play scenarios come alive with animation and sound. Easily download the free app, and it teaches you how to play. Never the same game twice! Identity Games, $59.99; www.identitygames.com. Ages 3 and up.
Willy’s Wiggly Web Learning to use scissors has never been so fun! As a group, players make cuts in the paper web to release trapped bugs while trying to make sure Willy doesn’t wiggle and fall. Use the cards to pass the scissors different directions or to swap seats in this multilevel game. Peaceable Kingdom Press, 19.99; www.peaceablekingdom.com. Ages 3 and up.
ELEMENTARY – AGES 6 AND UP
PathWords™ Jr. The “Tetris Meets Word Search” Puzzle for Young Players Single Player Tetris™ teams up with Word Search in this unique puzzle. Kids flex their spatial reasoning, vocabulary and logic skills as they work their way through 40 fun, themed challenges. Thinkfun, $19.99; www.thinkfun.com. Ages 6 and up.
FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY – AGES 8 AND UP
FitzIt What comes in a box, fits inside a blender, and will make you laugh? Name an object that fi ts the attributes on your cards and then play them to the grid. Use your creativity and you’re fit to win! Gamewright, $9.99; www.gamewright.com. Ages 8 and up.
IOTA Add little-bitty cards to a grid, making sure that color, shape and number are either all the same or all different across the line. As the grid expands, so do the possibilities. Pocket-sized, go-along game; easy to play on any table anywhere. Gamewright, $7.99; www.gamewright.com. Ages 8 and up.
Chloe’s Closet: Super Best Friends Does anything inspire fantasy better than a good costume? Smart fun and imaginative play bring Chloe and her friends closer when outfits in her magical closet transform them into heroes who solve problems and support each other. NCircleEntertainment, 2012; 60 min.; $9.99; www.ncircleentertainment.com. Ages 2 to 7.
Chuggington’s: Wilson and the Ice Cream Fair; Traintastic Adventures; and Brewster’s Little Helper What better way to “train” impressionable preschoolers in responsibility than with adorable little trains? Young Chugger “trainees” are forgiven for their poor judgment by their elders so that they can learn and grow from their mistakes – but they are still silly and fun to watch. These three outstanding DVDs offer important lessons in teamwork, patience, paying attention, overcoming fear and self-acceptance. Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2012; 62 min.; $14.98; Anchorbayentertainment.com. Ages 3 to 6.
Pocoyo: Fun and Games Perfect simplicity, purposeful action and a calm, clear presentation hold even the youngest attention spans. Line-drawn characters playing over a white backdrop will make children laugh out loud while they learn about good sportsmanship. NCircleEntertainment, 2012; 90 min.; $12.99; www.ncircleentertainment.com. Ages 2 to 7.
The Adventures of Chuck and Friends: Monster Rally Like preschoolers, Chuck the litt le dump truck and his vehicle friends get over-revved and run into trouble sometimes. But they stick together, even if it means putting their dreams on hold, to help each other learn from their mistakes. Shout! Factory / Hasbro, 2012; 110 min.; $12.99; www.hasbro.com. Ages 3 to 6.
The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!: Ocean Commotion Though storybook-traditional in his appearance, this is a new Cat. Well-behaved and thoughtful, he leads kids on an innovative journey of discovery and science in short, digestible episodes with irrepressible Thing One and Thing Two in tow. NCircleEntertainment, 2012; 60 min.; $9.99; www.ncircleentertainment.com. Ages 3 to 6.
The Gruffalo A complex and beautifully produced story, the narrative of a mouse using its wits to outsmart scary predators ultimately empowers children by celebrating intelligence over brute strength. This is a great how-to-deal-with monsters tale for those who fear them. A bit scary for some of the younger folks. NCircleEntertainment, 2011; 40 min.; $9.99; www.ncircleentertainment.com. Ages 3 to 6.
WordWorld: To The Rescue Take your little ones to bright and colorful WordWorld when they’re ready to start spelling. Simple story lines built around engaging word characters help kids memorize spellings and absorb word recognition. Catchy songs underscore the visual techniques. NCircleEntertainment, 2012; 60 min.; $9.99; www.ncircleentertainment.com. Ages 2 to 7.
AGES 5 AND UP
The Magic School Bus: Blast Off! From Sea to Space (3-DVD set); Field Trip Fun and Games (3-DVD set) Renowned for making science accessible to young minds, the Emmy-winning Magic School Bus travels to destinations no one can visit in real life. The focus is on content over glitz, and the trips prove to be rewarding learning experiences. Students are exposed to topics such as dinosaurs, forces and insects in one three-disc set, and water, the food chain and space in the other. Perfect for kids who love science – and for those who don’t yet know that they do. The New Video Group, 2012; 270 min.; $24.95 for each DVD set; www.newvideo.com. Ages 5 to 10.
Worlds Together: East Africa, West Africa and Ethiopia This set helps parents prepare their children for an increasingly globalized future by introducing them to the nations of the world at an early age. Nothing beats seeing the smiling faces of children with their hardworking parents to promote cross-cultural understanding, especially in the exotic environments of Africa. Maps orient the viewer to scenery so striking that it instantly generates interest – in parents and kids alike. Each of the three DVDs comes with a teacher’s guide. Master Communications, 2015; 25 minutes each; $29.95 each; www.asiaforkids.com. Ages 5 to 12.
Meet NAPPA’s Judges
■ Toys – Ellen Metrick consults with major toy manufacturers on product design. She has created systems to research and evaluate toys’ impact on childhood development and their therapeutic value for children with special needs. She has written extensively on creative applications for play products, including a bi-monthly column for ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailers Association). The lead evaluator for the Toys ‘R’ Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids for 16 years, Metrick currently serves as manager of business development at the National Lekotek Center, a nationwide nonprofit that focuses on accessible play for children of all abilities.
■ Games – Peggy Brown works for many of the world’s biggest toy companies as an inventor, designer, writer, creative director and consultant. She’s done creative development for hundreds of games, and she writes children’s activity books that promote curiosity and creativity. She has won the TAGIE award for game design, a prestigious honor in the toy industry.
■ Games – Kim Vandenbroucke is a game inventor and developer, brainstorming facilitator and president of Brainy Chick, Inc. In her spare time, she writes for Games for Educators (www.G4ed.com), which promotes using games in schools. She also runs her own game review website, The GameAisle (www.thegameaisle.com).
■ DVDs – Ranny Levy is founder and president of the Coalition for Quality Children’s Media. The Coalition’s KIDS FIRST! initiative reviews and evaluates children’s programming, trains kids to become critical media users, and produces the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival.
By Helen Foster James, Ed.D., and Virginia Loh-Hagan, Ed.D.
INFANTS: BIRTH TO 18 MONTHS
All Kinds of Kisses. Farm animals give their babies kisses in this lullaby that wishes little ones sweet dreams. Written and illustrated by Nancy Tafuri; Little, Brown and Company, 2012; $17.99; www.nancytafuri.com. Infants to age 4.
Highlights Hello. What a fabulous new idea! A magazine just for your baby with sturdy bright pages that are full of listening pleasure and great possibilities for adult-child interaction. Published by Highlights for Children Inc; 12 issues, $34.44 (yearly subscription); www.highlights.com. Ages 0-2 years.
TODDLERS: 18 MONTHS TO AGE 2
Andrew Drew and Drew. Through a series of folds and unfolds, readers will follow along as Andrew doodles and noodles. Andrew’s lines lead to his imaginings. The illustrations are realistic and childlike. Charming and delightful. Written by Barney Saltzburg; Abrams Appleseed, 2012; $15.95; www.abramsbooks.com. Ages 18 months and up.
Baby Bear Sees Blue. Baby bear explores the many colors of his forest home with mama bear. The gorgeous illustrations were made by printing linoleum blocks in black and then hand-coloring them with watercolor. Writt en by Ashley Wolff ; Beach Lane Books, 2011; $16.99; kids.SimonandSchuster.com. Ages 18 months and up.
Up Dog. A playful dog is the star in this board book that showcases canine antics and the word “up.” It’s sure to be a big hit with dog lovers. For feline fans, check out Up Cat. Written by Hazel Hutchins, illustrated by Fanny; Annick Press, 2012; $6.95; www.annickpress.com. Ages 2 to 5.
PRESCHOOL AND KINDERGARTEN: AGES 3 TO 5
All the Awake Animals. A lullaby of animals, in alphabetical order, sets the stage for slumber in this sweet story that’s packed full of information to be enjoyed for many nights and years. Written by Crescent Dragonwagon, illustrated by David McPhail; Little, Brown and Company, 2012; $16.99; www.lb-kids.com. Ages 3 and up.
Arlo Needs Glasses. Arlo the dog loves to play catch; but one day, he can’t see the ball! Readers can interact with Arlo as he goes to get his eyesight checked and buys glasses. This is a clever and fun popup book. Written by Barney Salzberg; Workman Publishing, 2012; $15.95;
www.workman.com. Ages 3 and up.
Creepy Carrots. Jasper Rabbit loves carrots from Crackenhopper Field. He greedily takes as many carrots as he wants until creepy carrots start following him around. He builds a fence to keep the carrots away from him. In the end, the reader learns that the carrots have been plotting all along to keep Jasper away from them. Very clever and funny with creepy, colorful illustrations. Written by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown; Simon and Schuster Books for Young Children, 2012; $16.99; www.simonandschuster.com. Ages 3 and up.
Monster Mash. A rollicking, rocking salute to the 1960s classic song, and it’s sure to catch on like a flash. So do the Mash! The Monster Mash! Written by David Catrow; Orchard Books, Scholastic, 2012;
$16.99; www.scholastic.com. Fun for all ages.
Red Knit Cap Girl. With the help of her animal friend, Red Knit Cap Girl seeks to meet the moon. She realizes the importance of appreciating quiet and solitude. The most striking feature of this book is the beautiful illustrations, which were originally painted on wood. The art is minimal, reflective of an Asian style; newspaper cutouts are used for the lanterns. Very unique. Written by Naoko Stoop; Little, Brown and Company, 2012; $15.99; www.lb-kids.com. Ages 3 and up.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Beautifully and fantastically illustrated, it tells the story of how Mr. Lessmore escapes tragedy by opening a book and
turning a page. This is a tribute to book lovers everywhere. Written by William Joyce; Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012; $17.99; www.simonandschuster.com. Ages 3 and up.
EARLY ELEMENTARY: AGES 6 TO 8
Bon Appétit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child. Your budding gourmet cook will learn about this trailblazing chef in a picture book biography. There’s an abundance of interesting tidbits about Julia, the woman who brought French cooking into American homes. Written by Jessie Hartland; Schwartz & Wade Books (Random House Children’s Books); $17.99; www.randomhouse.com/kids. Fun for the entire family.
Crafty Chloe. Chloe might not excel at sports, dance or video games, but she’s got mad skills as a crafter. The spunky heroine uses those talents when presented with the problem of finding the perfect birthday present for her best friend, Emma. Written by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated
by Heather Ross; Atheneum, 2012; $16.99; kids. www.simonandschuster.com. Ages 4 and up.
Those Rebels, John and Tom. John and Tom were complete opposites; yet they shared a deep commitment for American independence from Great Britain. This picture book biography tells the story of how an unlikely friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson turned into a
great partnership. The author uses direct quotes whenever possible, and the illustrations cleverly set the colonial scene. Written by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham; Scholastic Press; $17.99; www.scholastic.com. Ages 6 to 8.
Twice As Good: The Story of William Powell and Clearview, the Only Golf Course Designed, Built, and Owned by an African American. Young Willie Powell loved golf at a time when the sport was denied to African-Americans. He learned he had to be “twice as good” as white players. He eventually overcame his challenges by building his own golf course. This is an inspirational story of a young man’s perseverance. Written by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Eric Velasquez; Sleeping Bear Press; $16.95; www.sleepingbearpress.com. Ages 6 to10.
World Atlas. This gorgeous atlas presentation has lift -up spots and pull-open pages. The entire family will want to pore over each page again and again. Bright, vibrant and immensely entertaining and informative! Written by Nick Crane, illustrated by David Dean; Barefoot Books,
2011; $19.99; www.barefootbooks.com. Fun for the entire family.
TWEENS & TEENS: AGES 9 TO 15
Black & White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor. Reverend Shuttlesworth used nonviolent actions as he led the civil rights struggle for equality in Birmingham, Ala. Connor was backed by the Ku Klux Klan. Th is photo-essay is a fascinating nonfi ction account of both men and their confrontation. Writt en by Larry Dane Brimner; Calkins Creek, 2011; $16.95; www.calkinscreekbooks.com. Ages 12 and up.
Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities. Vincent Wu is obsessed with Captain Stupendous. When he discovers that his hero’s secret identity is Polly Winnicott , his crush, he leads his friends in a campaign to prepare her for battle against Professor Mayhem. (He’s having a harder time getting the courage to ask her out on a date.) The protagonist of this story is Asian-American. It’s funny, sci-fi , fantastical, and full of teen drama. Written by Mike Jung, illustrated by Mike Maihack; Arthur A. Levine Books, 2012; $16.99; www.scholastic.com. Ages 9 to 15.
The Mighty Miss Malone. The Malone family perseveres despite the racism, poverty and other hardships of the Great Depression. Deza Malone’s father is forced to leave the family to seek work. Deza proves to be a heroine in her determination
to reunite her family. Written by Christopher Paul Curtis; Wendy Lamb Books (Random House Children’s Books), 2012; $15.99; www.randomhouse.com/kids. Ages 9 to 15.
Wonder. August was born with a facial deformity and had numerous surgeries, which required him to be home-schooled. But this year, he’ll attend a school and be the target for bullies and mean comments. This is a satisfying and emotional novel to
read aloud, ponder and discuss. Written by R.J. Palacio; Knopf Books for Young Readers (Random House Children’s Books), 2012; $15.99; www.randomhouse.com/kids. Ages 9 and up.
By Michael Berick
INFANTS TO TODDLERS
Good Morning My Love – Vered Benhorin. An enchanting album to share with your newborn. This lovely CD comes with gentle lullabies and fun ditties, all performed with warm, soothing, yet inventive musical arrangements that will make parents and babies smile. Vered Music, 2012; CD, $12.99; www.veredmusic.com. Infants to age 2.
AGES 3 TO 5
Backseat Driver – The Cat’s Pajamas. A purr-fectly marvelous album of kids’ tunes to enjoy at home or in the car. The Pennsylvania-based group The Cat’s Pajamas cruises confidently
through a variety of styles – from blues to pop to jazz and rock – on this entertaining musical journey. Howlin Records, 2012; CD, $14.99; www.howlinrecords.com. Ages 3 and up.
Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie – Elizabeth Mitchell. Mitchell celebrates Woody Guthrie during his centennial year with this excellent album filled with 13 charming renditions of the American music legend’s children’s songs, like “Who’s My Pretty Baby?” and “Riding In My Car.” Smithsonian/Folkways Recordings, 2012; CD, $11.99; www.folkways.si.edu. Ages 3 and up.
AGES 6 TO 8
All About Bullies . . . Big and Small. A timely collection of terrific songs and short spoken-word pieces dealing with bullying, as well as topics like acceptance of difference, individuality and friendship. This important album teaches valuable lessons without sounding like a lecture. Cool Beans Music/East Coast Recording, 2011; CD, $15; www.coolbeansmusic.com. Ages 6 and up.
Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie – Randy Kaplan. Kaplan cleverly brings the blues to school kids on this disc. He reinvents old acoustic blues tunes with lyrics relevant to children, like converting the Muddy Waters song “Sugar Sweet” to a piece about a pet dog. MyKaZoo Music/Universal, 2012; CD, $12.98; www.randykaplan.com. Ages 6 to 8.
Ozomatli Presents OzoKidz. The multicultural Los Angeles band makes a triumphant transition into family music on this disc, which is filled with rhythmically rich songs that inventively mix together a variety of musical styles. Hornblow Recordings, 2012; CD, $15; www.ozomatli.com. Ages 4 to 10.
Picasso, That’s Who! (And So Can You!) – Hope Harris. On this colorful album, Harris unveils a collection of songs that artfully spotlight 10 different artists, like “A-C-T-I-O-N” about Jackson Pollock and “Swinging Little Duck” about Alexander Calder. Her creative, informative tunes leave a great impression on listeners. Holcomb Rock Road, 2012; CD, $15; www.hopeharris.com. Ages 6 to 8.
The Colored Pencil Factory – Astrograss. If you like music with a little twang, then Astrograss is the kids’ band for you. Fiddle and banjo drive spiritedly-played tunes that may have a square dance sound, but are far from square. Smoggy Borough Records, 2012; $15; www.astrograssmusic.com. Ages 4 to 9.
AGES 9 AND UP
Make Believers – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo has fashioned an album that is rare in a number of positive ways. His clever raps about growing up address issues for the often-overlooked preteen crowd. Underground Playground, 2012; CD, $15; www.secretagent23skidoo.com. Ages 9 to 12.
FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
Anna and the Cupcakes – Bari Koral Family Rock Band. The New York-based Koral serves up a real treat of kindie rock delights on this disc. Her music is energetic and engaging whether she’s singing about dragons or butterflies, shoes or rocket ships. Magenta Records, 2012;
CD, $11.98; www.barikoral.com. For the whole family or ages 3 to 5.
French Learning Songs (Chansons pour enfants) – Cha, Cha, Cha. In the past, the Cha, Cha, Cha group has concentrated on Spanish language instruction, but they smoothly move on to French lessons with this entertaining, educational set of “chansons” that may inspire listeners to learn French. Whistlefritz, 2011; CD, $14.99; www.whistlefritz.com. For the whole family or ages 4 to 8.
High Dive and Other Things That Could Have Happened – Bill Harley. The award-winning Harley has a true gift for telling comical, compelling musical tales about the ups and downs of childhood. This wonderful recording will appeal to both kids and their parents. Round River Productions, 2012; CD, $15; www.billharley.com. For the whole family or ages 6 to 10.
By Allen Rausch
PRESCHOOL TO EARLY ELEMENTARY
Pat the Bunny. Random House added all kinds of wonderful improvements to this extraordinary digital update version of Dorothy Kunhardt’s classic touch and feel children’s book. The illustrations are even more interactive and include an Easter egg hunt and a coloring book. The best additions this year are the ability for children to record themselves reading the book and a camera function that projects the child’s face into a mirror. Random House; $4.99; www.randomhouse.com/kids. Ages 2 to 6.
Reading Rainbow. This app from the popular television program for kids presents users with a magical world of floating islands, each following a particular theme. On each island, parents can purchase virtual books to download. All of the books are of uniformly high quality
(many are classics) and come with fun games to play. Many of them are read by celebrities. Each island also has a collection of video clips featuring Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton in a variety of fascinating places, including an observatory, a sailing ship and a nuclear submarine. RRKidz; $9.99 a month or $29.99 for six months; www.rrkidz.com. Ages 3 to 9.
Toca Kitchen. Toca is an app company that specializes in creating “electronic toys” for the iPad. Toca Kitchen lets kids explore the world of food preparation with no mess to clean up and no danger of burning anything on the stove. Kids can combine a dozen ingredients in hundreds of ways and try feeding the resulting mixtures to the inhabitants of the house. Toca; $1.99; www.tocaboca.com. Ages 3 to 5.
ELEMENTARY AND UP
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes. LEGO Batman 2 is more than a digital game; it’s a whole LEGO city for your kids to explore! Fly, drive LEGO vehicles, or just walk around Gotham city with LEGO versions of classic DC superheroes like Superman and Batman, and villains like Lex Luthor and the Joker. You’ll discover a world of hidden secrets, hilarious comedy and pure joy. Available on all game systems: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, 3DS, DS, PS Vita and PC. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment; $19.99 – $59.99; www.dcuniversesuperheroes.lego.com.
Ages 8 to 12.
National Geographic Animal Jam. Animal Jam is a virtual world where kids can create animal avatars and explore the land of Jamaa with hundreds of other kids from around the world. While they’re there, they can play a variety of games, collect virtual money to buy items to decorate their lairs, and discover fascinating facts about the natural world through terrific short films. National Geographic; prices start from $5.95 per month; www.animaljam.com. Ages 5 to 11.
Skylanders Giants. Imagine the chance to actually bring your toys to life. Skylanders Giants gives you that opportunity through a brilliant melding of toys and video games. Th e sequel to last year’s “Skylanders,” Giants features a series of action figures that, when placed on the “Portal of Power,” come to life. As you play the game, all of the powers, skills and special hats and prizes you win are stored on the figure itself, eventually making each Skylander totally unique. Activision; $74.99; www.skylanders.com. Fun for the entire family.
Meet NAPPA’s Judges
■ Books – Helen Foster James, Ed.D., is a veteran teacher and former coordinator of library media services for the San Diego County Office of Education. A recipient of the International Reading Association’s Celebrate Literacy Award, she’s also a book reviewer and author
of the children’s books E is for Enchantment: A New Mexico Alphabet (Sleeping Bear Press, 2004), and S is for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet (Sleeping Bear Press, 2011).
■ Books – Virginia Loh-Hagan, Ed.D., is a multipublished author, full-time professor at Ashford University, part-time faculty member at San Diego State University and University of San Diego and a former K-8 school teacher. She has a B.A. in English and a Masters in Education (K-8) and Special Education/Learning Disabilities (K-12) from the University of Virginia and is a recipient of the “Outstanding Woman Scholar in Education” award.
■ Music – Michael Berick is the calendar editor at L.A. Parent, where he also reviews children’s CDs. He has written about children’s music for the Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Weekly, and about music, in general, for more than 20 years.
■ Apps, Software, Websites & Video Games – Allen Rausch has worked for such renowned game developers as Acclaim Entertainment, Toys ‘R’ Us, Interplay Entertainment, UbiSoft, Riot Games and Nexon America. The PC Editor for GameSpy.com (www.gamespy.com) for seven years, he has also been a contributing author for games published by White Wolf and Wizards of the Coast, a noted columnist-reviewer, and an editorialist for publications such as PC Gamer, GameSpot and Gamasutra.