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Review CornerSoftware
Arthur's Kindergarten
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
Packed with "smart" features and excellent educational content, this program delivers a good message and covers some important skills required for Kindergarten.
Award
Ages: 4-6  Subject: Early Learning  Brand: The Learning Company
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
Part of the LearningBuddies line, this program features the lovable Arthur gang and plenty of opportunities for learning important kindergarten skills. The package comes with 2 CD-ROMs. The main disc (Disc 1) is entitled Arthur's Treehouse Adventure. Players discover that a storm has blown down Arthur's treehouse and everyone is working together to help rebuild it. Playing the activities will help to rebuild the treehouse step by step. Each multi-level activity is connected to a character from the Arthur PBS series/books:

  • Brain's Dad's Spare Parts (pictured at right) is a delightful game that can be played with one or two players (when children select one player, they play against Arthur). The object of this game is to move along crates, each bearing a shape with different characteristics, and to be the first one to get to the toolbox. Brain's dad gives the directions — on level 1, it may be "go to the shape that is red" and on level 3 the directions are more involved: "go to the shape that is red and solid and a triangle".
  • In Junk Sculpture, Francine's dad will give the kids something for the treehouse from the city dump, but first needs the player's help finding objects in the junk pile. Level 1 involves finding objects (ex. pens, shoes) from the pile. In level 3, Francine's dad might ask for "an article of clothing" and children must choose shoes to add to the junk sculpture. He may also ask for an object that rhymes with a given word.
  • Ice Cream Inventions involves finding the missing letters on the Today's Special Flavors sign. The new-fangled ice cream flavors are hysterical, and kids learn letter recognition as Brain's mother requests specific letters of the alphabet. On the highest level, for example, she will ask for "the first letter of the word snake".
  • Picture Windows requires putting 3 or 4 (depending on the level) window panes into a frame in the correct order to complete a story or sequence of events. For example, on level 3, kids must correctly place 4 panes, each with a picture on it, in logical order to show the transformation of an egg into a chick.
  • Where'd It Go? involves remembering which tool is in each crate. Kids look for rulers, boxes of nuts and bolts, and more, as they work to get scrap wood for the treehouse.
  • In Grandma Thora's Garden, kids get to play a game as they try to be the first one to get to the end of the path by choosing the correct number of flowers. Basic addition and subtraction skills are taught here, as children are shown, for example, a group of 3 flowers + a group of 2 flowers and must count them to discover that 3+2=5. Players can choose to "be" D.W. and play against Arthur or play with a real-life friend.
  • In Fact or Fiction, kids join Muffy and Arthur in the library and determine which books belong in the "Fact" bin and which books should be put in the "Fiction" bin.
At various points in between activities, there is a superb navigational activity that helps with spatial reasoning. Kids help Arthur or another character find a friend who is hiding in town. Players follow directions "right/left" and "up/down" as they help the character navigate the streets of the town on a map. Kids need to use the directional arrows on the keyboard to play this little activity, and this game really helped reinforce right/left concepts for testers.

Clicking on the star on the screen in any given activity brings up a Preferences screen in which you can control the music volume, turn the printer on or off, check on progress in Goal Checker, and turn Auto Leveling on or off.

Disc 2: Activity Center contains the following:

  • In Music Machine, kids choose from 4 instruments — the piano, clarinet, flute, or drums — and compose songs and experiment with sounds.
  • Card Creator allows children to design their own printable greeting cards using Arthur graphics. Children love this activity!
  • Print Activities allow for fun printable away-from-the-computer activities that include crafts, problems to solve, games, and puzzles.
The printable activities are superb and help to extend learning beyond the computer.

Arthur and his friends are extremely popular characters, and they translate to the computer very successfully. The "helping" theme in this software stays true to the responsible nature of the television show and books — kids are given an excellent message that helping out and working together will bring about wonderful results.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98 or NT 4.0, a 486/66 MHz, 16 Mb RAM, and 2X CD ROM. Mac users require a 60 MHz Power PC with 16 Mb RAM, System 7.1 or higher, and at least 2X CD ROM.

Skills Covered
letter recognition, letter sounds, vocabulary, phonics, counting, arithmetic, shapes, colors, memory skills, categorization, science, sequencing, patterns, social skills, creativity, sorting, logic, spatial relations, strategy, rhyming

Educational Value
The learning activities are superb. Some may be slightly more advanced than those found in some other programs (such as Reader Rabbit Kindergarten, or Fisher Price Ready for School Kindergarten), but still very appropriate for the suggested age group. The inclusion of a second CD adds some extra creativity activities as well as printable fun and learning for away-from-the-computer activities. Excellent!

Entertainment Value
There is an excellent mix of styles of activities including board game style activities. The program has quite a bit of "kid appeal".

Design
The program is very easy to navigate and is packed with extra touches that characterize much software from The Learning Company. Instructions are clear, navigation is never confusing, and difficulty levels advance automatically, if desired, but can also be easily adjusted manually.

Replayability
This title is packed with things to do and the multilevel activities will grow with a child.

Dollar Value
Suggested retail price is $29.95 US, which is appropriate for the quantity and quality of educational activities.

Released: 1999