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It’s Summertime: Tech Things to Do (or Not) With the Kids

Whoever designed the three-month summer vacation must have received kickbacks from the electronics industry. Even the most well intentioned moms and dads need a break from lemonade stands, swim parties, and cookouts. Here are a handful of great ideas followed by a handful of fair warnings.

A Publishing System for Young Kids: Tikatok

tikatokThe cofounder of this site was sitting in a bookstore with her kids when she realized that every book on the shelves was written by an adult. The epiphany? Create a site where kids can publish. Tikatok brings out the storyteller in every kid, allowing them to see the fruits of their labor shared with others on the web. Posting a story is free. Creating a book and selling it has varying costs depending on the size of the book. Story Sparks, an idea generator, helps those with writer’s block and it’s relatively easy to add artwork, too. (Average price for printed copies is around $20.)

A Stay-cationer’s Dream: Wii Sports Resort

Players participate in a virtual vacation on an island with 12 different activities. Basketball, table tennis, canoeing, archery—the games are eclectic and tons of family fun. Sports Resort is one of the first Wii games to use Motion Plus—Nintendo’s new accessory. It allows the game to track the motion of your forearm and wrist which makes table tennis and archery more realistic. But the new accessory adds to the price and doesn’t add anything new to older Wii games. ($49.99)

Summer of Apollo:

This one won’t cost you a dime. The moonwalk (no, not the Michael Jackson kind) has captured and re-captured the imagination of kids and adults everywhere. Earth.google.com/moon is a joint project of NASA and Google. You can zoom in and actually see the 1969 footprints from the first spacewalk and take an guided tour narrated by Apollo astronauts.

A Quirky Game for Teens: Little King’s Story

little-kings-storyFor the teens in the house, this quirky masterpiece mixes adventure, strategy, and a heavy dose of whimsy. The plot begins with a young king that inherits a mess of a kingdom. Done in something similar but not as irritating as anime style graphics, the game includes cultural references and clever innuendo as the king (you) assembles his motley crew of subjects. Be warned: there are scenes with drunken and crude behavior. Normally I’m no fan of the anime style nor lengthy multicharacter games, but this one seems to be the pacesetter. And if you don’t believe me, see what the gamers have to say. ($49.99)

And what should you be avoiding this summer?