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Kip the caterpillar 'comes to life'

When Sally Harris wrote "The Caterpillar's Dream," her vision was to have children all over the U.S. read about the small caterpillar that nods off to sleep and dreams he can fly.

Like Kip, the book's main character, the project has sprouted wings.

Published in August 2007, "The Caterpillar's Dream" immediately became part of the eight-book "Little Nuggets" series produced by Journey Stone Creations. Only months later, the book was picked up by Maggie Tales, a new company that digitalizes children's books directly to computers, iPods and iPhones.

Now, "The Caterpillar's Dream" has gone one step further. Children all over the world can learn and play with Kip in doctor's offices, on airplanes, at home - anywhere - through iKids Play: Creative play for "i" generation kids!

iKids Play provides children - and adults - with educational activities that include rubbing the screen to reveal hidden images, coloring book pages, story time, reading and recording aloud, and a finger paint pad.

iKids play is available in more than 18 countries. "The Caterpillar's Dream" is the first children's book adopted by iKids Play; the second book is expected to launch by the end of the month.

The new technology is being used at Sequim Valley Smiles orthodontics office, where Harris works, for children to play with while passing time in the waiting room or to ease their nerves in the exam chair.

"How neat is it for them to have something to distract them," Harris said. "It's a fun, creative and educational device."

A "rub in color" touch screen allows children to view the book by rubbing the screen and erasing a picture of Kip the caterpillar to view the words as a voice reads the story aloud. A "touch in color" page acts as a computerized coloring book.

"I just saw it for the first time on the iPod touch screen," Harris said. "I was speechless. It's a whole new way of viewing Kip. The children can interact with Kip as they practice their motor and reading skills. Kip has come to life."

Unfamiliar with computers and iPods, Harris had to ask for help to understand what was happening with the book. "I had to call my son to even find out how to do this and get my iTunes account," she admitted with a laugh, "which turned out to be really easy to do."

Now, Harris is "blown away."

"Going around the world like this ... that was my dream for the story," Harris said.

iKids Play and the Maggie Tales were developed by Mark Smith, of Buckingham, Pa., who observed a father in an airport calm his restless youngster by allowing the child to view CNBC.com on a SmartPhone. Smith took the idea and ran with it.

"This isn't rocket science; it's just finding something for kids to do," Smith said. "The cool thing about 'Kip the Caterpillar' is it's a story kids and moms can relate to. It's clean, simple and a wonderful place to start applying new technology and concepts to."

Just last week, Smith said, his 12-year-old son asked to borrow his iPhone to use the iKids Play paint function to draw a tic-tac-toe board on while waiting in line at a busy restaurant.

For more information, go online to www.ikidsplay.com.

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