If you have children in your life, then you know how much they love to draw and paint--and they love computers. It's a sure bet, then, that they'll love Tux Paint.
This free program is a labor of love, designed and maintained by a community of volunteers. And it's user-friendly for parents and teachers as well: There is a long list of interface languages to choose from, and when you install the program you're treated to a comprehensive how-to, then asked to configure the program. You can simplify it for use with younger children, make it run in full-screen mode, disable printing, and more.
Tux Paint is easy to use. Small children (ages 3 to 5) might need a little guidance at first, but even beginning readers should be able to follow the penguin guide's advice on how to use the various tools. Children can start with a blank drawing space or choose a background (a castle, undersea scenes, maps, and so on). Older children will likely appreciate the grid options, which allow for more precise drawings.
The download linked to this review is compatible with Windows XP, 2000, Vista, and Windows 7. But there are many versions available on the Tux Paint site, including earlier versions of Windows, Mac OS X, Linux distributions, and many more. The source code is available as well. The developers also offer a free download with extra "stamps" to add to the program.
Tux Paint is Open Source software, distributed under the GNU General Public License. It is especially well suited for schools and educational institutions--though children anywhere will enjoy it.