The Fisher-Price Digital Arts and Crafts Studio is a fun way for kids to translate their creativity to the computer screen. Using a pen-shaped stylus, kids can draw their designs on a tablet rather than struggling to use a mouse. They can use a wide pallette of colors, hundreds of stamps and backgrounds, and special effects to create their masterpieces.
I found the device easy to install and to navigate, although I have heard some people complain of installation problems.
What Kids Love
The Digital Arts and Crafts Studio is easy and intuitive. The color pallette and tools are accessed by buttons around the edge of the device and some quick exploration reveals how each button works. Drawing is as simple as pressing the stylus to the work space, just like using a pen.
Kids can choose to draw freehand using tools such as a paintbrush, crayon or spray paint can. They can also create art using rubber stamps, backgrounds and special effects. The Digital Arts and Crafts Studio also has templates for party decorations, greeting cards, paper dolls and other crafts. Kids can color them in, print and follow the directions to assemble. If they get bored of the current selection, additional craft kits can be purchased with favorite characters such as Diego, Dora and Barbie.
What Parents Love
One of the best aspects of the Fisher-Price Digital Arts and Crafts Studio is also a drawback. Once the system is on, the mouse and keyboard are disabled. You can only exit the studio by entering the password that was created during installation (or by turning off the computer). Obviously, this keeps your kids from playing around with other files, but it is a cumbersome system, especially since the password has to be entered using the stylus and a virtual keyboard displayed on the screen.
Another favorite feature for parents is the ability to limit printing from the device during a given session. Since it is designed to allow kids to play without parental supervision, this is very important. If you haven't already discovered this, kids love to print and will continue to do so long after the printer runs out of paper (meaning there will be a queue of things that will start printing when you finally have time to add more paper).
What's Not So Loveable
My biggest complaint is that the stylus requires quite a bit of pressure to draw on the screen. Lightly moving the stylus on the drawing area simply moves the mouse around on the screen. Although this can be helpful when positioning the mouse to draw something new, it makes it very difficult for younger artists to create more detailed work. Even I found it tiring to apply the constant pressure necessary.
As mentioned above, the lack of keyboard access is a limitation as well. Entering text in a journal page or greeting card is slow going with the stylus.
The only other complaint I have is that some of the prompts are a bit confusing. Many of the craft projects prompt you to "Print and Exit" when you try to quit, rather than asking you to save. It will be unclear to kids (and probably to you) if there will be an option to save, or if you'll be required to print. It seems to all work out in the end, but a better menu system for exiting projects would be a nice addition.
The Bottom Line
In an age of electronic toys that seem to have no reason for being electronic, the Fisher-Price Digital Arts and Crafts Studio stands out as a nice change of pace. Although there is no replacement for the feel of a crayon (or ink or paint) on paper, this device allows kids to explore and create, without fear of making mistakes. Errors can be easily undone or erased. It also allows kids to make special cards and gifts on their own that would be difficult otherwise.
Quirks aside, this would be a nice gift for the more creative kids in your life. Kids who aren't into arts and crafts will probably not be won over by the electronic medium, so don't bother there. It's not that much different from using traditional art supplies. I would also avoid giving it to younger kids, who will most likely struggle (and become frustrated with) the stylus.
The device requires Windows XP or above and is recommended by the manufacturer for ages 4-9.