McLean, VA (written by Jinny Gdmundsen/Special for USA Today) --

TV watching is no longer a passive experience. Kids can now interact with two of their favorite TV shows, Sesame Street and Nat Geo Wild, when watching them on the Xbox 360 running Kinect.

Boxed as Kinect Sesame Street TV and Kinect Nat Geo TV, these two products combine watching TV episodes with interactivity available by playing on Kinect. Kids and families are invited to get up off the couch to move and play while appearing inside these TV shows. Providing a two-way TV experience, these two new titles are revolutionary. Here's a closer look.

Kinect Sesame Street TV

Co-produced by Sesame Street Workshop and Microsoft Studios, this game presents eight special 30-minute episodes of Sesame Street put together from segments of the 2011-12 season with extra filming for this game. Broken into two discs, Volume 1 presents four episodes about growing up, while Volume 2 focuses on science. Families can select to "watch" and "play" a whole episode or they can select to view a smaller portion.

As preschoolers watch an episode of Sesame Street, new content has been inserted that allows your child to be brought into the action. The most obvious new content is the arrival of an original muppet named Cooper, who serves as host.

The interactivity can take many formats. For example, in the episode entitled "Elmozilla," kids meet Cooper's friend Mirror. The mirror actually shows your child in its reflection. Kids stand and line up in the mirror to activate some of the interactive games.

Kids will play catch with Elmo and his new-for-Kinect pal Paul the Ball. Elmo will throw Paul to you and then ask you to throw Paul back. When kids mimic the action of throwing, the ball appears to be sailing into the screen from your child's throw! The game uses this throwing to reinforce ideas such as throwing the ball "under" the acrobats or "over" Gladys the cow.

In other episodes, when a section about Elmo's World comes on, your child shows up inside that world with Elmo and can play by moving around, batting things to make them move. Kids can also move their hands to pick up a watering can and then sprinkle the seeds to make them grow. In a cute sequence, the plants open to reveal the player's photo inside. It's fun, silly, and completely enthralling. Other interactive games use voice commands, such as instructing a camera character named Flash to take photos every time a ruler appears in the background.

Kinect Sesame Street TV takes learning to a whole new participatory level for kids. Two children, or a parent and child, can play this game together. Don't miss this new two-way TV experience.

Score: 4 stars (out of 4)

Rating: EC (Early Childhood)

Best for: Ages 3-6

Publisher: Microsoft,

Platform: X360 running Kinect

Cost: $29.99 (each episode can be downloaded for $4.99 (400 MS points))

Kinect Nat Geo TV

Equally as good as Kinect Sesame Street TV, Kinect Nat Geo TV is hosted by wildlife expert Casey Anderson, whose love and awe of nature is infectious. In these eight special episodes, Casey invites kids to "reach in and explore" nature as he takes them on trips into the wilds of the United States. Kids will learn about bears, mountain lions, wolverines, owls, and more as they interact with episodes from America the Wild.

The game offers more sophisticated interactivity than that found in Kinect Sesame Street TV. Here, kids watch the screen for visual cues, such as paw prints, to alert them that they can trigger an interactive "sidetrack activity." These specially filmed activities place kids inside what is happening. Casey may challenge them to take a close-up photo of a Great Horned Owl by shouting the word "snap." In another game, players appear on screen as a mother owl, tasked with grabbing crickets out of the air and feeding them to the baby owlets. Kids see their face sporting an owl mask and their arms covered with feathered wings. This game relates to what Casey has just shown viewers about how abandoned wild owlets are nursed back to health by naturalists dressed up to look like owls.

Casey Anderson makes these Nat Geo TV episodes fascinating as he shows kids animals in their natural habitats. By adding the extra element of letting kids play with the animals inside each episode, this TV is compelling. Cleverly, every few minutes, Casey invites the audience to participate -- in taking photos, answering questions and playing mini-games. Kinect Nat Geo TV is a brilliant blend of realistic TV and fanciful games that teach as they entertain.

Because the filming includes animals in their natural predator/prey relationships, and a little blood can be seen when animals hunt for their food, this game earned an E10-plus rating from the ESRB. Judge your child's ability to handle these sequences when deciding the appropriateness of this program for your child. Included in the game package is a one-year pass to Nat Geo Wild episodes on-demand on Xbox live via the Nat Geo TV app.

Score: 4 stars (out of 4)

Rating: E10-plus (Mild Blood and Mild Violence)

Best for: Ages 10-up

Publisher: Microsoft

Platform: X360 running Kinect

Cost: $29.99 (each episode can be downloaded for $4.99 (400 MS points))

Gudmundsen is the editor of Computing With Kids magazine

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