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The Best Educational Software

Each year, FamilyPC magazine surveys thousands of families across the country to come up with its top-rated, family-tested educational titles. CBS News Consumer Correspondent Herb Weisbaum reports on some you might want to consider buying this holiday season.
Dr. Seuss instructs: Dr. Seuss Toddler features seven different activities to teach youngsters more than 75 lessons on everything from shapes and colors to language development.

Alex, 2 and 1/2, loves learning from the classic kid's book character, the Cat in the Hat.

The first thing Alex learned was how to use a mouse. "He's learned to recognize numbers; he's recognizing some letters, learned the alphabet song," says his mother Julie Baier.

Dr. Seuss Toddler, from The Learning Company, sells for about $30.

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Blue's back: America's favorite preschool puppy is back with another top-rated educational title: Blue's 123 Time Activities.

Youngsters can boot up with Blue and play games that teach pre-math and problem-solving skills.

Blue's 123 Time Activities, from Humongous Entertainment, is priced at about $20.

Math aid: Another title FamilyPC's testers really liked is Jump Start Math for Kindergartners.

This new Jump Start title teaches fundamental math concepts using a variety of interactive story lines.

"So in one section you're playing in town matching shapes, and in the next section you're doing plus and minus or weights," explains Robin Raskin, editor of FamilyPC magazine.

JumpStart Math for Kindergartners, from Knowledge Adventure, costs about $25.

Science exploration: The next winner combines software and a real microscope to let students explore the world around them. It's the QX3 Computer Microscope. Just look at the computer screen for an up-close view of all kinds of things.

"It's a lot of fun for the kids; it's easy to set up, and it's so much better than the microscope I had as a kid," says father Gordon Hyne.

The QX3 Computer Microscope is from Mattel Media. Its $99 price includes the microscope, software and everything needed to get started.

Reference at your desktop: Finally, last year's winning reference software wins again with a whole new edition.

Encarta Reference Suite 2000 is a CD-ROM encyclopedia for the whole family that includes a dictionary, a virtual globe and more than 42,000 articles.

Testers gave it rave reviews, saying, "The comments come back over and over and over again: This is the best piece of software I've ever seen."

Encarta Reference Suite 2000 is from Microsoft. After a rebate, you can get it for just $65.

This new edition of Encarta boasts the first newly written English dictionary in 30 years. It includes all of the new words coined for this high-tech age.

When buying educational software, be sure to check the system requirements on the package before the purchase. Some softwar packages have Mac versions; others are only for Windows. And some varieties can only run on the most advanced computers.

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