Developed at the MIT Media Lab, Scratch is a visual coding language designed to teach young people the basics of computer programming. Blocks of code fragments can be moved like puzzle pieces and assembled to create games, music and stories. The handiwork can then be uploaded, shared and remixed by others on the Scratch website. Free, scratch.mit.edu .
Staring contests are so passé. Prove your mental mettle with Mindflex Duel, an updated, multiplayer version of Mattel’s mind-control game powered by EEG technology. Kids use brainwaves to move a ball around an obstacle course or into an opponent’s end zone. $180, chapters.indigo.ca.
These days, it’s impossible for anyone, even preschoolers, to escape the tablet wars. LeapPad by LeapFrog and InnoTab by VTech are leading the charge. Both feature colour touch screens, interactive e-books, art applications and additional content via game cartridges and downloadable apps. The compact LeapPad boasts robust casing and a camera with video capture. The larger and less sturdy InnoTab lacks a camera but includes a music and video player and expandable memory slot, which give it the edge. InnoTab from $90, vtechkids.com; LeapPad from $130, leapfrog.com.
A Starry Night
Twilight Turtle by Cloud B is a cuddly friend and a sleep aid rolled into one. With the push of a button, the soft toy projects a series of constellations onto a bedroom’s walls and ceiling in an array of calming colours. Its glowing shell acts as a night light, and a built-in timer shuts everything down after 45 minutes. $43, toys.scholarschoice.ca.
Secret agent wannabes will fall all over themselves (wink, wink) for Wild Planet’s Spy Gear Lazer Tripwire. The battery-powered toy creates an invisible beam that triggers an only moderately annoying alarm when crossed by an intruder. Kids can deploy the gizmo in all kinds of imaginative scenarios-from a silly prank to top-secret bedroom security-and parents can use it to guard the cookie jar. $25, toysrus.ca.
Capture the act of creation with the simple but ingenious drawing software Doodlecast for Kids. This app gives tentative mini Monets directions and makes a sound recording of the process, resulting in a nifty keepsake for kids and parents alike. $1.99, itunes.apple.com.