As a former kindergarten teacher, it sometimes seemed like my life revolved around KidPix. And while it had a bazillion features packed into it, when you got right down to it we spent 90% of our time creating pictures and slide shows.
While there had been a few open source programs similar to Kid Pix (anyone remember Tux?), they don’t hold a candle to one of my new fave’s for lower elementary/early childhood, Kerpoof! You can make books, pictures or stories.
Just choose a background, and start dragging the clip art onto the page. Yes, you can resize, rotate, and move them all. What’s interesting is that they incorporate the concept of scale! Put a penguin on the picture. If you move him towards the back (farther away) he gets smaller. Bring him into the foreground (closer to you) he gets bigger! You can always resize them manually, but it does a pretty good job on its own. That’s not the only dynamic piece. In the arctic background, all the chunks of ice are live. You can move or delete them to your hearts content. Same thing with other backgrounds. When you drag a sun into your picture, it figures out automatically if it should be in front of the mountains or behind them. If the sun is low in the sky, you’ll get a beautiful sunset on your picture. Drag the sun up to the top and it’ll turn the sky to noontime! Drop the sun way down low and the picture turns to night with the sun invisible. VERY cool.
And what’s the cost of Kerpoof? Oh yeah… Free. They even have a teacher section with a few ideas for using it in the classroom. Only thing two criticisms from me. 1) I’d love to see some drawing tools in there so kids can add their own free hand stuff. And 2) They need code to embed the resulting projects into web pages and email them to friends. I had to do screenshots instead. Well worth checking out!