Sharp photos: A great digital camera can be had for about $100 in the Canon PowerShot A480. It doesn't have a lot of manual settings but has a dozen scene modes like Fireworks, Slow Shutter, Portrait, Beach, or Kids & Pets. It also has a 3.3x zoom and video mode. The 2.5-inch LCD is bright, and menus are simple to maneuver. The camera comes in several colors and is small enough to fit comfortably in a pocket. It uses convenient AA batteries. No speedster, as it can take a couple of seconds to turn on, the shutter lag is tolerable. Oh, yeah, it also takes great photos.
Young techs: Many kids have endured clumsy, complex science and electronics kits through the years. Snap Circuits is the modern and elegant version, with modules that snap together to make all sorts of fun, from radios to doorbells to launching a flying rotor. Color-coded parts and simple manuals mean children can put things together on their own. Parts pull apart just as easily for other projects. The kits start at about $30. More sophisticated sets include LED readouts, meters, and motors that can keep the challenges growing with the kids. This is one electronics toy that parents are happy to see used for hours.
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Rocking truck: Sometimes kids want a sturdy toy truck to push around, and sometimes they want something more interactive. They get both in the Matchbox Rocky the Robot Truck that sings, dances, and stands to dump a load. The body and wheels are made of durable plastic that's ready for a heavy load or a hard push from an excited toddler. The truck will sit quietly until someone comes near and makes noise. Then it comes to life with banter, jokes or singing. The popular toy is hard to find at its $60 list price, but Amazon resellers have it for about $80.