When trying to get my 2 year old to pick up basic computer skills, I needed some software that I could dip into as I needed, that would also entertain and educate. I found that the first Play and Learn CDROM from DK was so good, that I bought the other two in the series for use when my children are old enough! The colours are bright, the animations are rich enough to keep attention, but not so long as to bore, the sounds are fantastic and the selection of activities makes provision for all of the core learning areas in addition to some extra puzzles. Truth be told, I tend to wrestle the mouse (no keyboard required for this disc) from my son occasionally... The program doesn't install onto your machine (at least not on my macintosh) so there's no clutter, it's quick to launch and you're straight into the activity menu screen. once you select an activity, you have a number of progressively more demanding tasks (simple increments). you can choose to stay as long as you want on any activity, and any task - a personal favourite is matching the musical instrument drawings to the big noisy disc that is dragged into place - once each of the 3 images is matched to their sound, the discs reset so you can start over. very basic stuff, but it has kept my son riveted for weeks, and this is just one task! I'm not worried about him outgrowing the disc too quickly, as he will go on to use the puzzle section - I do - as his computer skills develop more, and his coordination improves.
This delightful game for 1-4 players is designed to help preschool children learn the alphabet and recognize the associated letter sounds. Developed in association with early learning consultants, this package contains 4 sturdy game boards featuring photographic images, 36 easy-to-read letter cards, and an easy-to-follow instruction sheet with a helpful note to parents and teachers. My daughter and I have much fun playing the game that she doesn't mind that she is learning whilst she plays. DKFL has a large assortment of books for all kids, starting out with Newborn. The selection includes There are some brilliant Starter Sets which have books grouped together and selected by experts as "best bets." Some of these sets include CD-ROMs which bring the books to life. The CDs include words, motion, sound, video and special effects,which not only provide interesting entertainment for children but are also enducational. The products are very useful and will be for many years.
Educational software. A very tricky subject. How to buy something that is useful, and addicative enough to keep kids on it. This primarily means that it must be enjoyable. We tried Rayman which combined learning with playing typical rayman platform games. Useless - our daughter's number and word handling are well in advance of her years, whereas her motor skills - i.e. the ability to play a platform type game, are not. So, this sort of educational game was far too easy in the education, but she couldn't play it and gave up. Uselessly, the relative difficulty could not be changed - I emailed them about this, but surprise surprise, no response. So we resorted to the tried and tested Dorling Kindersley - or www.dk.com if you want a look at their impressive range. We selected stage 3 from the learning ladder series (which corresponds to Year3) Our daughter is year 2, but doing well, and the alternative for Years 1 and 2 combined would have been little challenge. This range of software covers all the primary school years in 6 different programs, and in turn these concentrate initially (for the first 3 programs including this) on the three R's. No wonder educational standards have slipped because of course these three R's are Reading (fair enough), Writing (hmmm) and Arithmetic (hah!). FRom year 4 on, these then concentrate on maths, english and science, though science is covered to some degree in the Year 3 program we bought. The format is simple - there are three main areas - one for a bit of fun for the kids is a playroom with a simple paint package, wordprocessor, games etc. Second, there is a parents area which shows at a glance how far the children have got in each of the twelve subsectioned areas in the educational part. And last of course IS the educational part. These are split again into 3 main areas - numbers, words and what/where/nature. The content is, therefore, slightly blurred from the 3 supposed subject matters but covers the introduction of science and nature issues. "Numbers" involves recognising numbers in written form and numerical form, additional/subtraction and division/multiplication. The addtion/subtraction starts with the sums on a grid which allows children to notice patterns in answers. It may seem obvious therefore what the answers are, but pattern identification I would guess is important in demystifying the whole numbers process. Words is spelling - insering missing letters etc, phonetics (select words in which the "ph" sound is supplied by an "f" or not, etc), and use of words in sentences. These two areas are reasonably well matched to my daughters abilities, and both are very enjoyable for her. Probably 60 to 70 exercises are covered in each of the two areas. Unfortunately the science/nature area seems both a lot easier, and a lot thinner, probably only having 30 to 40 exercises. She raced through areas such as "which items are magnetic", "which conduct electricity", basic co-ordinates (She has done much harder examples in her homework this first term in Year2. basic nature tests only seem to cover where various animals are found, so is very thin. This area certainly could have been more challenging and deeper - the tests given would have been great for the first half of the subject. On completion of each test the child is "given" a sticker to put in an album that is aprt of the program. Stickers are labelled A1 to Z5 and so the child has to find the right place. This I think will fade in interest as annoyingly every time the album is accessed the helper - a pencil with a knot in - says what to do -ie find the page and put it in. More annoyingly is that nothing can be clicked when this is in process - indeed, whenever the little blighter issues one of his useless comments throughout the program, then the progr am is unresponsive. That really is poor programming and there is no reason for it apart from laziness in trying to avoid conflicts in the software. You can save stickers to put in in a batch and this is advisable. So, in summary, an excellent way for a child to learn maths and english, but not so good for basic science, However, it is better this way round seeing how Maths and English are the most important areas in basic education and the most difficult to do on a program. Science and nature can be explored in more depth and at more leisure using enclyclopedias and in general reading of books and day to day communication. Better this way, and better that the other areas offer challenges that a child finds interesting. The useless and irritating helper who stops everythign working would knock half a star off the rating. But I have to give it five stars as it is the best I have seen of its type - with the slight reservations given here.
With five kids in the house then there is a lot of software floating about. I find the Dorling Kindersley range excellent for the children. Brittanica and Encarta is to detailed for them. The boys are constantly using how it works and little do they know they are learning all the time. Its very easy to follow and full of pictures. The encycopedia and dictionary are also very good, its in childrens terms with easy to follow basic pictures showing what kids want to see and understand. I recommend the Dorling Kindersley range to anyone its not to expensive and the kids will enjoy learning.
My First Incredible Amazing Dictionary by Dorling Kindersley was a gift from my older sister (hence, i don't know the price!). It is truly a fantastic tool to help young children learn the concepts of a dictionary. It aids alphabet recognition, and offers them excellent opportunities to learn about a myriad of subjects, utilising fun sounds and visuals. Very easy to navigate, even for a 3.5 yr old, and the graphics, though basic, offer occasional surprises. We were particularly taken with the dancing "skelington" (her words, not mine!) and the opportunity to recognise animal sounds and press the correct picture to match - excellent for teaching natural history as well as memory testing. There are several ways to utilise the programme, either by clicking on the alphabet letters and seeing what comes up on each, or by clicking on a Dictionary entry and hitting the headword to hear it pronounced - hence a natural tool here for assisting early reading. The "trumpet" icon offers the option of hearing the definition of words and surprises generally follow when you press on the actual pictures. All in all, a fabulous educational but fun CD-ROM.