With children as young as 3 clicking their way through games on their computers, there may as well be an educational element to boot.
In this week's Study Hall, Freddi Greenberg, editor-in-chief of Nick Jr. Family magazine, gave some age-by-age software picks to The Early Show's co-anchor Hannah Storm that are designed to entertain your kids while they learn.
Greenberg says educational software is great because it can combine kids' favorite characters, fun and academic learning in key areas -- especially in language arts, math, logic and general knowledge. The programs combine skill-building in core areas and creative programming to enhances learning.
Often, the biggest challenge for parents is choosing the correct program for their child. Greenberg says to look for the following items when selecting educational software for children:
- An appropriate age/skill level
- A delivery system that appeals to your child (if your kid loves "Dora the Explorer," then look for a Dora program)
- A well-rounded program that offers multiple skill-building strategies
- "Clifford the Big Red Dog Phonics" (Pre-K and Kindergarten): Everyone's favorite Big Red Dog is at the carnival teaching kids early reading skills such as letter recognition, word families and sound/symbol relationships through engaging games. Greenberg says the underlying pedagogy is strong. The program also tracks progress and gets harder as children play and master skill levels.
- "I SPY Fantasy" (Grades 1 to 3): In this program, you click on rich, animated pictures for hidden clue. There are 54 pictures, each with a riddle. The child's name is actually hidden in some of the puzzles. It also offers interesting play on words. Plus, you can click on words and read aloud. Greenberg says this program is a great way for kids to have fun with language with clever poems. "I Spy Fantasy" also allows kids and parents to play together.
- "The Powerpuff Girls Learning Challenge #2: Princess Snorebucks" (Grades 4 to 6): This story-based adventure involves an up-to-no-good princess, who manages to trap the Powerpuff trio in their own nightmares. Players are on a mission to wake them up. There are lots of creative games to get them out. This program offers five activities, with five levels of difficulty. Auto-leveling adjusts to each child's performance, and progress reports and printable activities round out this engaging program. The skills addressed also include Spanish, reading and math.
- "Blue's Clues: Blue Takes You to School" (Pre-K and Kindergarten): This program allows kids to explore a preschool. Everything you click on leads to an activity. There are five activities in this program and several are multi-level, which Greenberg says do a nice job of playfully presenting problem-solving opportunities.
- "Math Missions K-2: The Race to Spectacle City" (Grades 1 to 3): Greenberg says this is the best math program of the year, with direct connections to any school math curriculum. Children explore the subway, ferry, bus and five shops of Spectacle City, where they can solve math problems. The more children play, the more money they can earn to use toward maintaining and upgrading the town arcade. It's an economic simulation. A second title, "Math Missions 3-5: The Amazing Arcade Adventure" is an excellent extension, according to Greenberg.
- "Scooby-Doo! Case File #2: The Scary Stone Dragon" (Grades 4 to 6): The Scooby-Doo franchise is hot with the new movie currently in theaters, so tapping into their character appeal is smart. Greenberg says this is a perfect blend of zany humor and logical problem solving opportunities. Like all good mysteries, there are six multi-level activities and two mini-games to win clues and figure out who is the suspect. There are a total of five villains and five possible outcomes, plus printable activities to add life to the program. Greenberg says the games are fun, plus players learn about Chinese history and culture.
- "Putt-Putt: Pep's Birthday Surprise" (Pre-K and Kindergarten): Players drive Putt-Putt (an animated car) around Cartown, helping out the townsfolk while collecting supplies for Pep's (the dog) birthday. The games on this program can be saved for long-term use. Greenberg says the program helps with memory building and higher order thinking.
- "Alice in Vivaldi's Four Seasons the Music Game" (Grades 1 to 3): With the Cheshire Cat as a guide, players help Alice escape from a magical music clock by playing a series of mind-bending music games. Greenberg says this is a wonderful, fun exercise in ear training for future musicians. He explains the musical quality in the puzzles is a pleasure to listen to, and the program uses technology to introduce subjects outside of regular school curriculum.
- Zoo Tycoon (Grades 4 to 6): This program lets you design your own zoo from the ground up. To have a thriving zoo, you've got to build habitats, adopt zoo animals, staff the zoo and monitor guest satisfaction. Greenberg says this is an excellent way to apply math and business smarts in a "real world" setting.
- "Music Ace Deluxe": This software is a creative learning tool, which combines the best lessons from the programs "Music Ace Starter" and "Music Ace 2." Greenberg says if you can't afford music lessons, this is the next best thing. It offers a systematic, affordable way to introduce children to music essentials, and it would also be perfect as a supplement to music lessons.
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