Playstation, Xbox or Wii
Does everyone really have one? Not exactly. Among children ages 4 to 14, 37 percent own a portable gaming device (like a Nintendo DS), while 26 percent have their own video-game console (like a Wii). However, in many households, Dad may claim the Wii as his toy, but the kids certainly play along.
What age to start: If your 3- or 4-year-old is interested in his big sister’s Wii, check reviews at commonsensemedia.org, says Bickham. Some games, like Dora the Explorer: Dora Saves the Snow Princess, have a helper mode that lets another person jump in with a second controller when a child gets stuck. Keep the system in view in the family room.
As they grow up: Games like Civilization, SimCity, and Zoo Tycoon help kids acquire complex problem-solving skills. And active games, like Dance Dance Revolution, are good for fitness. Before buying a portable system (and shelling out more than $130), make sure your child can be trusted not to lose it.
Causes for concern: “There is consistent evidence that violent media affect the way kids think and act with regard to violence,” says Bickham. So insist on nonviolent games. Look for the ratings EC (early childhood), E (everyone), and E10+ (everyone 10 and older). And read reviews from parents at Amazon.com or commonsensemedia.org.