Video Game Systems
As with laptops, this choice is all about the content: Whatever game console you're considering, what will matter most is each game's appropriateness. Guide yourself by how your kid is handling TV. "If he watches Pokémon or Power Rangers and doesn't transfer those aggressive behaviors and messages into real life, he might be ready for a game system," says Michael Osit, Ed.D. Meanwhile, when it comes to educational game systems, like those from LeapFrog and VTech, trust the age ranges printed on the packages. "These are not ages to be beaten," says Michael Rich, M.D. "Those are the guidelines as to when your child can most effectively learn from that specific software."
Nintendo DS Lite: One thing you can be sure of with this uber-popular handheld system: With games aimed at everybody between preschool and the AARP, your kids won't outgrow it. And it's got those easy-to-handle touch-screen controls. $130, Ages 5 and up
Nintendo Wii: It may not be a system made explicitly for young kids, but of all the major game consoles, this is the one that the youngest audiences glom on to. The motion controls are easy to pick up and learn, and the library of E-rated games is larger than anywhere else. $200, Ages 5 and up
V.Smile Motion, by VTech: The graphics may be old-school, but the motion controls on these learning games are definitely next-gen. How much easier could it be than to steer a race car simply by tilting the controller in the direction you want the vehicle to move? $60, Ages 3 to 7