Kids software that delights and educates
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Arthur's 2nd Grade (Ages 6 to 8). One of a series of grade-oriented learning programs, this one is totally charming on the animation level, especially for fans of the adorable aardvark. However, the learning games themselves, as the children accompany their parents to work, are a little dry and uninspiring, and may appeal only to the most academically oriented kids. They cover the bases: geography, math, reading comprehension, measurement, telling time, but the games are not as lively as some of the other programs.Skip to next paragraph
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Carmen Sandiego's Think Quick Challenge (Ages 8 to 12). Carmen Sandiego fans will be happy to note a new title in the series. However, it doesn't quite come up to previous programs. It's tricky to figure out at first, especially the rather lame point-and-shoot games to capture robots that precede each thinking challenge. The games themselves, however, are in a quiz-show format that should appeal to kids, and there's a lot of tangential information offered along the way in subjects ranging from math and science to art and music. One new feature is that it comes in a multiplayer format, allowing up to four players at a time.
The Cluefinders' Reading Adventures (Ages 9 to 12). This is a terrific program for older kids, playing off their inherent interest in pinball-type games, but involving the thinking processes as well. The dramatic setup is also quite a bit more involving than most, based on an adventure that takes the young ClueFinders on a trip across the galaxy to rescue a dying planet from an evil sorcerer's spell. Players help the ClueFinders gather clues and decipher information, bringing in skills in reading comprehension, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and critical thinking. As with Reader Rabbit, The Learning Company's A.D.A.P.T. technology helps get kids started at one of four different skill levels within each activity and monitors their progress.
There is also a second disk for tips and printable workbooks and activities.
A few more notable new titles may not be as attractive as gifts, but are valuable additions to software libraries.
Typing Tutor 10 offers typing lessons for all abilities along with delightful games that children and adults both will enjoy to help build speed and accuracy.
The new Simon and Schuster New Millennium Children's Encyclopedia and Reference Library offers six reference books on two CDs, making it a good resource for homework and school projects.
And to help with reading, the JumpStart Phonics Learning System (Ages 3 to 8) offers a system of software, videos, and workbooks to develop and reinforce verbal and reading skills. A microphone is included along with speech-recognition software to allow children immediate feedback on their reading progress. (The package retails between $60-$70.)
In addition to these new releases, don't forget the tried and true classics that your children may not already own. From Gizmos and Gadgets to Kidpix, there's a wealth of software that can engage kids over and over. And won't end up at the bottom of the toy box.
Helpful Web sites
A good source for software information is the New York Times-Kids First! "Guide to the Best Children's Videos" (Pocket Books). There are also Web sites that offer information and reviews of software; many provide links to online shopping sites that allow you to compare prices and purchase by the click of a mouse. They include:
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society