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Creative summertime fun with kid's art software

By Elizabeth Knefel

June 15, 1998
Web posted at: 2:28 PM EDT (1428 GMT)

(CNN) -- When I was growing up, my grandmother never let my siblings and me watch TV. She always gave us drawing paper, crayons and pens. How the times changed! Simple crayons and pens have been replaced with exciting multimedia tools. Today a child can create movies and slide shows with sounds, animation, and special effects. Now that summertime is just around the corner, it's more important than ever to provide fun and educational amusements for your kids. Here are a few creative computer software packages to consider for your home computer.

"Crayola Print Factory" brings crayons to life   

Digital Crayons

"Crayola Print Factory" from IBM is an all-in-one art and print studio. It focuses on printing and coloring either with the computer or with real crayons and markers. It's for children from five to ten, but even I found it exciting and interesting. Two animated crayons act as your tour to help you navigate the program.

Its main menu looks like the inside of a print shop. From here, you can choose to create posters, cards, awards, banners, stationery, bookmarks or stickers. "Crayola Print Factory" features fun music, colorful graphics and easy to understand help menus. Select from one of the production categories and create your own artwork or cut-and-paste pre-made designs. The easel screen features a range of creativity tools with fun sound effects

Choose from 80 Crayola colors -- 64 classic, eight glitter and eight multicultural tones. If your child is hesitant to get started, the "Idea" icon might jump-start his or her creativity. There's also a parent/teacher section with ideas to help adults encourage youngsters. After kids are done with their projects, they can use a ten-sheet printer paper sampler. It includes heavyweight and glossy sheets and sticker paper so that finished projects have a high quality look.

The program is user-friendly and easy to navigate, and "Print Factory" only lets young users work on one project at a time. It can be very time consuming and might be frustrating for users to have to save and exit a current project in order to start a new one. If users erase a creation and want to start over, the blank page will not permit creating another design. This can be confusing and awkward for a child. Also, when printing cards, be familiar with your printer and be near it. Otherwise your card will print on two sheets of paper instead of printing one sheet and folding it.

Despite the drawbacks, "Crayola Print Factory" is a fun, engaging, educational program. It's an easy entrance into the world of digital creativity. It's available for both Windows and Mac users and costs only $19.95.

Coats of many colors

Playing paper dolls and learning history with "Magic Wardrobe"   
Another creativity program from Crayola is "Magic Wardrobe." Made for 6 to 12 year-old girls, it lets them design and color clothes from twelve historical periods. "Magic Wardrobe" is an ingenious way to uncover facts not just about clothing but also about history. An animated cat, Mitzi, is your guide. Just select clothing items and drag it onto the cat and she will tell you all about it. When selecting shoes from the Elizabethan England period, I learned that platform shoes were popular during that time and were called "chopines."

When you select your historical outfits, also choose paper dolls to print and dress. Each can be personalized with hair, eye and skin color. "Magic Wardrobe" also teaches users about famous women during each historical era. Girls can also read young women's diaries from each time period and add their own entries. The diary feature and historical profiles may be too difficult for younger girls to understand. Conversely, the coloring and playing with paper dolls may be boring for older girls who will find the diary feature and historical profiles more interesting.

"Magic Wardrobe" is also available for Windows and Mac users and only costs $19.95.

Kid Pix redux

Originally released in 1991, "Kid Pix" from Broderbund was a top-selling creativity product for kids. The updated "Kid Pix Studio Deluxe" includes all the fun of the original but with an updated look and new features. Children can draw, paint, color, animate and create slide shows and movies. The possibilities are limitless. It's designed for 3 to 12 year olds but kids of any age will find it great fun.

With the text-to-speech feature, kids can make pictures talk in English or Spanish with a range of male or female voices. They can also record their voices to narrate their own creations. The new Typewriter Edit Tool solves a sticky problem from past versions. It lets users move, edit or change font size or text color without affecting the rest of the creation. Young artists can now import and export their masterpieces on the Internet. Kid Pix Studio Deluxe boasts more stamps, sounds, maps, clip art, backgrounds and cutouts than before.

Broderbund's "Kid Pix Studio Deluxe"   
There is also a host of features that let users animate their artwork.

"Stampimator" is a collection of 330 animated digital rubber stamps. The stamps move across the screen in user-determined patterns. The "Moopies" feature lets users choose 28 animated wacky brush options to create animated pictures. "Wacky TV" lets kids choose a movie to watch and use an electric mixer tool to create special effects. "Digital Puppets" are on-screen marionettes controlled by typing on the keyboard. Just select from 10 provided puppets, add a background, some music and tap away to make it move. With "SlideShow," kids can make multimedia presentations with still images and moving pictures. Here kids can add multiple media together using sound and transition effects and a "time slider" to control the duration of each event. Every young Cecil B. DeMille can spend hours creating and directing with Kid Pix's SlideShow.

Despite the endless creative possibilities, Kid Pix Studio Deluxe is not perfect. The new features are built on top of the old program making navigating sometimes cumbersome and awkward. A detailed and excellent user's guide comes with the software to offset this drawback. Plans are in the works to revise the program and make it more intuitive.

"Kid Pix Studio Deluxe" retails for around $30, and it's available for both Mac and Windows users. It promises hours and hours of creative play for any child and it's packed with endless project possibilities and millions of combinations of crazy and cool tools that will help children explore their creativity.
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