This title marks the entry of a very popular series of baby videos into the world of software. Based on the Baby Einstein line, Baby Newton: Fun With Shapes presents a unique and interactive environment for learning about colors, shapes, new vocabulary, and familiar objects along with a lion host, Baby Newton.
Parent and child are presented with a main menu from which to launch sets of "shape lessons", an interactive board book, and more. Selecting the square, for example, launches a vignette featuring colorful squares presented through familiar objects (such as alphabet blocks and a cracker) and abstract designs. These shape lessons can be enjoyed in both "play through" and "interactive" modes. When parents select "interactive" mode, they (or their children, if developmentally ready) control screen changes either by moving the cursor over the large Baby Einstein icon or by tapping a key on the keyboard.
A special feature of the program allows caregivers to upload their own photos into the game. Adults can easily insert meaningful photos, such as pictures of baby's family members and pets, into the "Heart" activity. This activity works much like an interactive photo gallery. Caregivers can also upload photos that will appear in the regular shape lessons. For example, they can add a picture of baby's favorite ball to the Circle lesson! This feature is unique and significant. It effectively helps to build connections between abstract shapes and real-world objects that are personally meaningful to young children.
Classical music, performed on toys, provides the musical backdrop for the program's bold and appealing visuals. The program features a mix of animations and photo-realistic objects. Besides the shape lessons, each devoted to a basic shape (square, circle, rectangle, and triangle), children can enjoy an interactive board book and a Shapes Scenes activity. The board book presents a series of objects of varying shapes, sizes, and colors. Parents can set this activity to "guess" mode to offer children the chance to name objects on their own before the program does it for them, or to "learn" mode. Filling unfinished portions of familiar scenes, such as a farmyard or a playground, is the object of the Shapes Scenes activity. This simple game involves moving the cursor over grey areas in a colorful scene in order to fill them up.
Baby Newton Fun With Shapes offers engaging opportunities for children to enrich their understanding of colors and shapes. At times, we felt the program could be a little more interactive than it is. However, parents who enjoy the Baby Einstein series of videos will be pleased with this new setting that effectively offers a springboard for learning and interaction.
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98/ME/XP, Pentium 200 MHz or equivalent, 32 MB RAM, 16-bit DirectX 8.0a-compatible sound card, 2 MB, 16-bit color video card DirectX 8.0a-compatible, and 8X CD-ROM. The program requires 50 MB of hard drive space.
Children develop skills in shape and color recognition, new vocabulary, object association/identification, music appreciation, cause and effect, and basic computer mouse skills.
When used as a parent-child interactive experience, this program offers plenty of unique opportunities to talk about shapes, colors, and names of familiar objects.
Although some of the screens are busy and fast-paced, most feature large, crisp, and vibrant images on white backgrounds. Most children will find the images engaging, and parents will appreciate the classical musical backdrop for the shape lessons.
Caregivers can easily access the parental controls panel to select the modes of play for the program's activities. The program responds to taps on the keyboard and "clickless" use of the mouse. The photo center controls are exceptionally easy to use, making it a breeze to upload and crop personal photos and images that are smoothly incorporated into the game.
We were surprised that the shape lessons didn't vary, although their predictability may be well-suited to the target age group.
This CD-ROM carries a suggested retail price of approximately $20 US.
Reviewed: February 2003