By Scholle Sawyer McFarland
When you ask kids to close their eyes and think about summer, odds are they think about hot days and playing outside. But summer comes with its downtime too. One way to be prepared for rained-out afternoons and other idle hours is to load up the kids' computer with links to great Websites and other computing activities. Here are some of the Macworld editors favorites:
Fun4theBrain Kids can practice math skills by helping a panda get his food back from bunny ninjas, flattening poisonous frogs with a monkey, and more.
Lumosity These brain games were made by Stanford and University of California at San Francisco neuroscience and cognitive psychology experts to improve memory and attention. The site tracks your progress over time and even computes your current "brain grade." Kids might enjoy the Luminosity Scholar training, specifically for students. Start with a free trial and then continue with a subscription (one year costs $80).NASA Education This endless supply of breath-taking space videos, robots, World Book Encyclopedia content, and interactive games is broken into areas for kids in grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12. Stevespangler.com Ready to create giant bubbles with a hoola hoop or make a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke erupt? At this site, kids can watch videos of fun science experiments and then try them themselves. Geocaching.com Get location coordinates from Geocaching.com and then head out with the family on a treasure hunt. You need a GPS device to start--an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad will do. (There's a $10 Geocaching iPhone app, of course.) This fun, high-tech activity helps kids explore concepts of mapping and geography. GarageBand '09 music lessons Do you already have Apple's $79 iLife '09? Plug a USB music keyboard or an electric guitar into the Mac and your kids can start learning to play. (No keyboard? It's not quite the same, but you can turn on musical typing and use your computer keyboard.) GarageBand '09 includes basic lessons as well as optional artist lessons ($5 each) for learning songs by musicians as Ben Folds, John Legend, Fall Out Boy, Norah Jones, John Fogerty, and Sting. More music options If your child burns through the GarageBand lessons before you can say "beach trip!" check out some of the more in-depth music software available for the Mac. Chris Breen covers the highlights in " Learn to play an instrument." Did I miss your favorite site or activity? Make sure to share it on the forums.