Thomas The Tank Engine Harry Potter Videogame Games and Gadgets Family Science Quest Longer Lasting Batteries Electronic Toys Beach Party Family Game Educational Preschool Channel

Celebrate A Special Train














(NAPSI)-The sense of adventure and excitement that is built into railroad history is core to the stories of a blue steam engine created by a father for his son 65 years ago.

Now, that train, Thomas the Tank Engine, is celebrating his milestone birthday with a new generation of kids and parents. As part of the festivities, Thomas is teaming up with historic railroads across the country for Day Out With Thomas: The Celebration Tour 2010. It encourages families to spend time together and with the popular engine. Events at regional railroads across the country show how each railroad station stop has its own distinctive history to explore.

Rolling out of the station for its 15th consecutive year, the tour is expected to welcome more than a million passengers in 45 cities throughout North America. Each event offers fans the opportunity to take a ride on a 15-ton replica of Thomas the Tank Engine and meet Sir Topham Hatt, Controller of the Railway on the Island of Sodor, among other exciting activities.

The tour is presented by HIT Entertainment and sponsored by MEGA Brands, a leading toy company. Tickets are available at (866) 468-7630 and www.ticketweb.com/dowt. For more information, visit www.thomasandfriends.com/dowt.

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Videogame Offers Magical Adventure For Kids And Parents

(NAPSI)-A new videogame is casting a spell on young players by combining the humorous gameplay of LEGO® and the magic of Harry Potter™. The two beloved brands have come together to give players of all ages a unique way of experiencing the Harry Potter adventures.

Readers and moviegoers have been enchanted by the story of Harry Potter and "LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4" allows them to experience Harry's first four years at Hogwarts™ School of Witchcraft and Wizardry-LEGO style! Players are encouraged to learn spells, solve puzzles and mix potions as they explore iconic environments such as Hogwarts™ castle, the Forbidden Forest, Diagon Alley™, the village of Hogsmeade and more.

Easy drop-in and drop-out cooperative gameplay, one of the key features that have made LEGO videogames a hit with families, gives kids, parents and friends a reason to gather around the television to spend time together. Fans will get a kick out of unlocking and selecting from the diverse cast of 170 playable characters including Harry Potter, Ron Weasley™, Hermione Granger™ and Hagrid™, as well as pet characters such as Ron's rat, Scabbers, Hermione's cat, Crookshanks, and Hagrid's dog, Fang. They'll also have the opportunity to build and customize their very own LEGO character to use when they play in Freeplay mode.

"LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4" is rated "E 10+" by the ESRB and is available for Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS, PSP (PlayStation Portable) and Games for Windows PC.

For more information, visit www.magicisbuilding.com.

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Travel With Less Stress: Tips And Gear To Make Travel More Enjoyable

(NAPSI)-Getting the right on-the-go gear is an easy and affordable way to avoid the stress of traveling and can keep everyone entertained. Here are some helpful tips to make your vacation more enjoyable:

• Bring a survival kit--Travel plans don't always go smoothly, so ensure you can keep everyone in good spirits in the unlikely event of a breakdown or airport delay. Essentials such as snacks, sunscreen, bottled water, first-aid supplies and a flashlight can help you weather the unexpected. The little extras--coloring books and crayons, a favorite pillow or blanket, DVDs to watch en route and a Kindle loaded with your favorite books (available nationwide at Target)--will keep everyone comfortable and occupied.

• Watch the road--Having maps handy will take the hassle out of any road trip--or even the quick drive across town. A GPS navigation system is a must-have to keep your travels headed in the right direction. Most GPS systems can guide you through unfamiliar areas; suggest an alternative route around rush hour traffic; find the closest hospitals, police stations and fuel stations; and perform an increasing array of infotainment functions. Printing out airport or roadside maps ahead of time lets you preplan your pit stops and make the most of every minute.

• Keep kids entertained--Keep boredom at bay by bringing along entertaining gadgets such as the RCA 10" portable Blu-ray player ($299.99 at Target) or the new big-screen Nintendo DSi XL handheld that will keep kids of all ages amused for hours, on and off the road.

• Tune in or out--Take your iPhone or iPod Touch and you can use free apps such as Pandora Internet Radio and Shazam to turn your trip into a musical adventure. Just make sure you don't forget an iPhone/iPod car stereo adapter-they're available for almost any car, whether you have an auxiliary input, AM/FM adapter or a tape deck connection. Also, bring along some headphones for those family members who prefer to travel to the beat of their own iPod.

• Capture the moment--Don't miss a moment of the fun--capture it on video so you can share and remember your trip for years to come. With the Flip MinoHD Camcorder, it's easy to film your own videos and upload them directly to Facebook or to your computer. The Flip is a stylishly small, pocket-sized device and it's available for $199.99.

Reduce stress before you hit the road by getting the gadgets, games and groceries you need to make the most of your travels.

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Tips For Keeping Kids (And Families) Science Smart

(NAPSI)-American students need a boost in science education and getting families involved may be the key.

In fact, a recent nationwide survey co-sponsored by the National Science Teachers Association and pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim found nearly all science teachers wish their students' parents had more opportunities to engage in science with their kids--and many parents said they need help. Parents also said that access to materials and community resources would help them get more involved.

Science can be a tricky subject for mom and dad to discuss with their kids but there is no need to fear. Here are a few easy tips:

1. Incorporate science into everyday life. Ask your kids questions about things they see around them to encourage curiosity. Let kids take things like old toys apart to explore how they work.

2. Link family vacations to science. Whether on a camping trip or visit to the ocean, explore nature with your kids. In addition to being fun, trips to museums and zoos are good opportunities to ask kids questions about what they observe.

3. Conduct fun experiments at home. Some easy experiments can be found on the Internet. For example, the Family Science Quest Channel on YouTube features video tutorials of fun and engaging experiments using common household products. To find it, go to YouTube and search for "Family Science Quest."

The YouTube channel is part of the Boehringer Ingelheim Science Quest program. The program and its mobile laboratory bring hands-on science lessons directly to students at elementary schools that need it most.

Jim Baxter, senior vice president of development for Boehringer Ingelheim, explains, "As a company committed to innovation in science for 125 years, we support programs that further science education and help extend the learning process into the homes and families of students. Through our Science Quest initiative, we hope to encourage a passion for science in children beginning at an early age."

It doesn't have to be hard to get kids curious about science. Trying these tips and engaging the family together are great ways to bring science to life.

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When It Comes To Batteries, Parents And Kids Hate Surprises

(NAPSI)-As parents continue to depend heavily on batteries to power not only their gadgets but also their children's toys, the need arises for more information about rechargeable batteries and the recharging process. Parents who've experienced their children's favorite toys losing power learned firsthand the importance of being prepared, to keep those important devices running in the future.

Keeping electronic toys running is particularly important for many busy parents. Battery-operated games are often the key to entertaining children on long road trips, short errands and to support the babysitter back at home, so a drained battery can mean a very unhappy child.

In fact, according to a survey of 1,059 parents, conducted in April by Impulse Research Corp., 60 percent of parents have had to cope with an upset child because a battery-powered toy or electronic device would not operate because of dead batteries.

Kids aren't the only ones who get frustrated when a gadget isn't charged or batteries unexpectedly run out of juice. If you have missed a photo opportunity for this reason, you aren't alone. In a recent Consumer Reports survey of 13,571 of its subscribers, 38 percent couldn't take a photo at one time or another because their camera batteries weren't charged.

To add insult to injury, 52 percent of parents, according to the Impulse Research survey, say they have been exasperated when they have attempted to replace batteries and found that the replacement or spare batteries are drained. The survey also revealed more about what consumers are looking for from rechargeable batteries and chargers: Seventy-four percent of parents surveyed said they would like a "fuel gauge" on a battery charger that indicates the current level of power in the rechargeable batteries, while 68 percent want a charger that indicates how much charging time remains.

The good news is that companies like Energizer are responding to consumer needs and have developed chargers and batteries that are superior to ones created as recently as 2009. Energizer's new rechargeable NiMH AA batteries can now be charged up to 600 times and retain about the same amount of power at 12 months than previous Energizer 2450mAh rechargeable batteries retained at six months. That means charging less often and powered devices when you need them most, for more play and picture-taking time than ever before.

The company's new Energizer Recharge Smart Charger also represents a new era in NiMH battery charging. This charger clearly displays a countdown clock to let consumers know how long until the batteries are fully charged, and a battery fuel gauge that shows the level of power in the battery. It also features a bad battery alert that will let you know if you have inserted a non-rechargeable battery or a rechargeable battery that is beyond its useful life.

With 69 percent of parents in the survey saying they feel they are always replacing or recharging batteries, and 56 percent saying they've run out of battery power at the most inopportune moment, there are likely to be a lot of people who will be pleasantly surprised by the recent innovations in rechargeable batteries and battery chargers. For more information, visit www.energizer.com/smartcharge.

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Keep Kids Entertained On Vacation With Technology Designed Just For Them

(NAPSI)-Keeping kids happy and entertained during the summer months can be a difficult task, especially as families hit the road for vacations. But new electronic toys made just for kids offer the perfect solution.

Some of today's hottest new toys mimic Mom and Dad's portable electronics. An innovative new handheld game from VTech lets young learners keep busy on long trips. With MobiGo, young users can tap, flick and drag like their parents thanks to the same touch-screen technology.

Electronic games are also the perfect opportunity to make learning fun. Many of the games incorporate a wide range of skills including math, vocabulary, spelling, logic and categorization. For older children, the slide-open QWERTY keyboard introduces valuable text-typing skills. From drawing and playing instruments to fishing games, handheld electronic games are the perfect portable way by which parents can ensure their kids are occupied while traveling on vacation.

Travel Tips For Parents

Before hitting the road, here are a few things that parents should keep in mind:

• Select electronic devices that have AC adapter kits to ensure they last during long road trips. Devices such as MobiGo also come with headphones to keep youngsters busy while not disturbing parents who might be driving.

• Pack plenty of water, napkins and hand sanitizer for quick cleanup on the go.

• Encourage sharing. Whether it's electronic games or music, play fair with limited supplies and make sure each child has the ability to play for part of the trip. Reward them for waiting their turn.

• Keep kids engaged by purchasing items that are designed to make learning fun.

In addition to being an easy item to bring along wherever you may be going this summer, technology designed for kids is also a smart solution for rainy days inside. In fact, a recent survey shows that kids are younger than ever when they acquire their first electronic device. They are also getting a lot savvier when it comes to technology.

According to the study, while parents report the average age they received their first personal electronic gadget was 18, their children received theirs at the average age of 4. In fact, four out of 10 parents surveyed report that their child has used their own personal electronic device as a toy.

For more information on electronic toys for your tots through teens, visit www.vtechkids.com, www.facebook.com/VTechToys or follow @VTechToys on Twitter.


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A Tropical Family Vacation In Your Living Room

(NAPSI)-Planning ahead can help make your next staycation a success. Shake things up by avoiding the daily routine and get family and friends involved. Take pictures just as you would on a real vacation and create a scrapbook of your activities.

With DVDs and fun games, it's easier than ever to entertain the whole family without leaving your living room.

Some families even choose a theme for their staycation, such as the beach party. For beach party fun:

• Plan your menu around tropical fruit such as coconut juice and fresh pineapple. Fire up the barbecue for kebabs and burgers.

• Have the kids make leis out of paper flowers. They can also use green construction paper to cut out palm fronds with which you can decorate your room.

• If the weather permits, let the kids play in the sandbox outside and build sand castles.

• To help create the beach-party mood, ask family and friends to wear flowered shirts and skirts and sunglasses.

• Play reggae music.

• Show some movies about being stranded on a tropical island or surfing.

• Play games such as "Vacation Isle: Beach Party." The game offers fun activities for the whole family and even affords the unique opportunity to see Mom, Dad or Grandma surf.

From the moment they step on the game's island, players are surrounded by exciting beach activities that the game offers. Players can enter that surf contest in which they launch themselves on the water-ski ramp or test their agility by learning to fire dance.

Up to four people can play using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. To enhance your experience, you can also play the game using the optional Wii Balance Board.

When fire dancing, players spin, flip and move to the rhythm. While surfing, players ride out some monster waves...but have to watch out for that giant squid ahead. During slalom water-skiing, players zigzag their way through the course as the boat takes them around the island.

Wakeboarding players get to speed through the course and impress the crowd, pulling off amazing tricks behind the boat.

For more information, visit www.vacationislegame.com.

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Helping the Environment-One Preschooler At A Time

(NAPSI)-Imagine how wide your preschoolers' eyes would pop if they knew a dripping tap wastes about 55 cups of water each day. Or that it takes 450 years for a plastic bottle to degrade.

Being wasteful harms the environment in so many ways, and those are the kinds of facts most parents are unlikely to have at their fingertips. But for those eager to teach their children about the importance of caring for and preserving the world around them--and experts say it's never too early to start imparting such values--help has at last arrived.

The 24-hour, preschool TV channel Sprout has just begun airing a new series, "dirtgirlworld," that's the first ever to introduce children as young as age 2 to what it calls "the joys of outdoor play and sustainable, green living." The idea being, kids will naturally find it fun to "go get grubby" along with their own gumboot-wearing eco-heroine (dirtgirl) as she grows awesome tomatoes, calls clouds by their names, and drives a big orange tractor. And, oh, yes, it's no accident that there's plenty there to engage and inspire their parents, too.

"Engaging children's shows like 'dirtgirlworld' really encourage parents and preschoolers to discover and learn together," said Gael Levin-Simon, an educational content developer for children's television. "Young children can learn so much from playing outside and experiencing nature.

"And, with their parents as guides," she added, "it provides an opportunity for the family to share these special moments together while building knowledge and respect for the wonders of the outdoor world around them."

The music-centric show features a blend of catchy rock songs, live action and animation. As for its wildly assorted cast of characters, in addition to "the Green Thumbs," a bunch of real kids having fun in real gardens, they include dirtgirl's best friend, scrapboy, who's a whiz with junk; grubby, with her grub's eye view; hayman, a monosyllabic scarecrow; and ken the weevil, a super stunt star.

The "dirtgirlworld" series airs daily at 4:50 p.m., EDT, and includes educational preschool curriculum. The Sprout channel is known for its unique TV, on-demand and online programming for kids ages 2 to 5, their parents and caregivers.

And since "dirtgirlworld" is intended to provide ideas on how preschoolers can make a difference environmentally, parents can also go online at www.SproutOnline.com for tips like the following:

• Reuse already-read newspapers--and have fun doing it--by folding pages into hats.

• Since kids love watching things grow, plant trees or flowers together in your backyard or neighborhood.

• Turn recycling into a habit by making a game out of separating trash.

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