by Marty Demarest

With so many different computer games available, it can be tough to know when you've found a title that would make an appropriate gift for a child. Fortunately, there are ratings listed on the front of most computer games boxes - with the letter "E" indicating that the game is generally appropriate for all age groups, and "eC" marking games geared toward early childhood. But even when you've found a game with a fitting rating, there's no guarantee that it's going to be any fun. Fortunately, there are quite a few games available that are not only appropriate and useful for kids, but fun as well.

For starters, there's Rescue Heroes Hurricane Havoc, which is a game that shows kids the value of helping those in need. Younger kids will quickly get the swing of the six different activities, such as saving pets from a burning building and driving the fire truck, as they earn printable honor badges and a personalized certificate. The Rescue Heroes are around to narrate, so younger kids will pick it up and be making themselves heroes before you know it.

The ever-curious duo of Freddi Fish and her friend Luther star in The Case of the Creature of Choral Cove, trying to find out why a monster is menacing the citizens of Choral Cove. Kids get to work through a variety of puzzles involving shapes, colors, counting and listening, all of which fit the story perfectly. Plus, the puzzles change each trip through the game, making it a different experience every time.

With the Nicktoons Nick Tunes Microphone Playset, kids get the chance to interact with their favorite Nicktoons characters, while picking up some communication and social skills. The included microphone plugs into the computer and allows kids to sing along with their favorite characters karaoke-style, reading the words as they sing them. They can mix their voice up, create a CD, and give an acceptance speech in front of the whole Nicktoons gang.

Finally, there's no avoiding Harry Potter for the foreseeable future, so parents may want to offer budding wizards their very own chance to adventure as Harry with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, in which kids control Harry in his first big adventure at Hogwarts. Some of the more interesting features include wonderful graphics, along with a spell feature in which kids must trace patterns onscreen with their mouse pointer to conjure up specific effects.

Spokane Home & Garden Show @ Spokane Convention Center

Fri., April 19, 12-8 p.m., Sat., April 20, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sun., April 21, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
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