Flip Boom, from Toon Boom Animation, $30. Who's going to support you in your dotage? Hopefully, your well-paid animator kids. Flip Boom brings the TB pro products into the kid-friendly world with easy and fun animation design.
Guitar Hero 3 for Mac, Aspyr, $80. If the family doesn't have a next-gen console gaming system, why not get down and get funky on the Mac? Yes, I know, Mike said he's done with Aspyr, but he's just crabby because his Xbox 360 is broken. Ship times at the Apple Store indicate that this should be available in time for Christmas. If you want something aimed at the younger set, perhaps Lego Star Wars will fit the bill.
iPod Nano 4 GB, Apple, $150. It's shiny, it's durable, it plays video and it's an iPod. Granted, this is probably a good gift for anybody, but tweens and teens especially will love it. Paired with HandBrake, Miro or EyeTV for content collection and you've got a great media device for car trips.
Kid Pix 3 Deluxe 1.1, MacKiev, $40. The oft-discounted, vintage kid's art application just keeps on keepin' on, with a recent Universal Binary update for full Intel compatibility. Millions of students have grown up with Kid Pix and your kids should too; if you want an open-source and free alternative you might give Tux Paint a spin. Note: there are two licensees of the Kid Pix brand, and the Encore version of Kid Pix Deluxe (v4) does not appear to include the most recent Mac OS X product. Get the MacKiev v3 Deluxe 2007 version.
EVE Trinity Online / World of Warcraft, CCP & Blizzard, subscription-based. What's shocking to me, and probably anyone else who grew up in the Dungeons & Dragons era, is that role-playing games are now actually cool again. Both these MMPORGs will keep your family gamer satisfied (and probably invisible) for weeks. Check out sister site Massively for more on both EVE and Warcraft.
"Mastering" series, Fogware, various. Fogware's age-targeted series of class mastery applications bundle Weekly Reader content and bunches of apps that target the learning challenges of each grade. Includes iPod-ready audio files to supplement the computer-side exercises.
Alphababy, Laura Dickey, donationware. For the very youngest Mac users, an application that lets them pound away on the keyboard to great effect -- without accidentally deleting Mommy's files.
Kidwidget 2, Astoundit, $29. If you're looking for "iLife Jr." this all-in-one package may be it.
Rosetta Stone, prices vary. These pro-level language education packages aren't cheap, but they pack a punch and can help beginning learners get a jump on a new tongue. You can find Mac-friendly language dictionaries at Ultralingua and free, video-game style Spanish language instruction at Practiquemos. Older kids may also be able to take advantage of language podcasts or MangoLanguages.com instruction.
Driller, $10, quantumbeat. A basic but helpful arithmetic drill application, great for beginning math students. More advanced drills (in a very 1996 UI) can be had with the $20 Math Stars Plus 2007.
ContentBarrier DP, Intego, $70. While the best Internet content filter is still an attentive and engaged adult, a safety net for adventurous young browsers may be necessary in some cases. Intego's approach is interesting; there's a Windows content filter bundled with the package, so that virtualized or Boot Camp environments get protected along with the Mac. Intego has comprehensive AV, firewall and content bundles as well.
iTunes U, free. Not all education happens at school or at home; some can happen on the bus or while waiting to be picked up from soccer practice. iTunes U offers hundreds of podcasted courses from colleges and universities across the USA. Something to suggest to your high school student who's pondering AP credit options.
iPhoto calendars, Apple, prices vary. They aren't just for grandparents anymore (although they are fabulous for grandparents); you could liven up a child's room or study area with a family calendar featuring all your most touching, or embarrassing, moments from the past year. Order by 12/11 to receive by 12/23 with standard shipping.