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Review CornerSoftware
BabyWow!
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
An excellent first software that relies on real photographs and photographic animation to present young users with plenty of vocabulary words, foreign language exposure, as well as the teaching of other basic concepts. A must-buy for parents of babies and toddlers.
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Ages: 9 mos.-3 years  Subject: Early Learning  Brand: Bowwow House
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
BabyWow! is a unique computer program for babies because it uses real photography instead of cartoon-style or drawn images. Recent studies of the brain have been "in the news" and there has been a lot of talk about just how important the first few years of a person's life really are. BabyWow! is a product with the latest brain research in mind and helps to expose babies and toddlers to lots of images, vocabulary words, foreign languages, and concepts. All of these things have been touted as very important in the development of intelligence in children.

Babies and toddlers need only tap any key on the keyboard or click the mouse randomly to get a reaction from the computer. A simple, but very powerful, theme of this software program is that any input from a child produces a reaction and never will something happen without that input! In other baby/toddler software, animations or music can start up on their own. BabyWow! is truly head and shoulders above the more glitzy programs on the market because of this underlying theme and because children are so straightforwardly and actively involved with the program.

BabyWow! employs 8 different languages, each with its own distinct option. Parents can easily choose a language from the menu. Included are English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese, Italian and Portuguese. This is great not only for bilingual (or multilingual) families, but also for parents who recognize the benefits of exposing young children to a variety of sounds and phonemes from foreign languages.

There are a number of activities, as follows:

  • Vocabulary: Any click of the mouse or tap on the keyboard brings up a photograph from a library of over 250 words and phrases in 8 different languages.
  • Peekaboo: Hands appear on the screen and then open to reveal a photograph of mostly animal faces and a baby's face as well.
  • What Is It?: A photograph is slowly revealed as each square is uncovered (to a musical tone) one by one.
  • Lessons: These help teach important concepts through photographic animation, such as far and near, front and behind, in and out, directions (left, right, up, and down), and counting. Pictured at left is a bumblebee moving to the front of and behind the flower. Above, flowers are counted aloud as they show up one by one on the screen.
  • Basic Colors: This is an extremely basic, but most effective method of teaching a child their colors — the whole screen is filled with a color and named aloud. If a yellow duck appeared on the screen and it was labeled "yellow", a baby may associate a duck with the word "yellow" — a description of "yellow duck" may not be succinct enough for the very young.
  • Basic Shapes: Simple shapes appear with every click or tap of the keyboard. Sometimes they are rotated, helping to show that shapes can be found in different forms in the world.
  • Photo Albums: Photos are arranged into the categories of Animals, The Kitchen, On the Move, Inside, and Outside. Arrows at the bottom of the screen help parents easily get to the pictures they want to show their child.

The menu is quite intuitive and even cute. A diaper holds the list of activities within a category. Click on the pacifier to turn the sound on and off. Choose one of 8 languages or opt for no language at all to name the photographs yourself or to encourage older toddlers to say the words themselves! Easily go to different activities or categories by clicking on the green sunglasses that appear in the lower left-hand side of the screen at all times. There is also an "Info" button for parents to learn more about the activities in BabyWow! and a link to the BabyWow! store.

I am extremely pleased with this program! Its realistic features prove that there was a lot of thought behind the program and it stands out as unique in its interactivity and simple, but powerful, lessons. I only wish I had this program when my kids were babies. However, it should be noted that my 2 1/2 year-old, who has been a mouse expert for over a year, clearly enjoys this software! She is especially fond of the Peekaboo, Lessons, and What Is It? activities. An 11 month-old tester was immediately taken by the photographs and enjoyed pushing keys on the keyboard and getting a reaction. His parents are thrilled with the program and feel that it is helping him not only to understand cause and effect, but also exposing him to an interesting variety of images and vocabulary words.

I can't say enough about the use of real photos in BabyWow! My daughter wanted to eat the food items she saw popping up on the screen (and thankfully most of them were healthy foods). I doubt she would feel the same way about cartoon apples and bananas! I have always gravitated towards baby books that contain real photos, and in fact some of my favorite "baby" books were actually photography manuals! I personally have found that toddlers are more apt to attempt to name objects that are photographic images. BabyWow! contains a wide selection of photos, including things like building, valley, sunflower, smile, ladder, scarecrow, and so much more. I did find one seemingly misnamed object (a picture of a large numeral 2 was referred to as a television), but everything else is just fine, and the words are clearly spoken.

An option to have BowWow House make a customized version of BabyWow! that includes personal photos is available. Perhaps in the future, they will allow parents to import their own photos.

Technically Speaking
Minimum reqs are a 486/66 with 256 colors, 16 Mb RAM and a CD ROM drive. Mac users need at least a 68020 processor with 256 colors, System 7.01 or higher, 16 Mb RAM, and a CD ROM drive.

Skills Covered
cause and effect, vocabulary, foreign language exposure, visual memory, language, object permanency, colors, numerals, numerals attached to their quantities, counting, shape recognition, far/near concept, in/out concept, up/down, left/right, front/behind concepts

Educational Value
Because this program relies on real photographs instead of cartoons, educational value is higher. The program is strongest in vocabulary and foreign language exposure, two factors that have been shown to increase IQ. The basic method of teaching colors that is used in BabyWow! is more effective than any other I have seen.

Entertainment Value
Babies and toddlers will love to play this program. Most will enjoy the attractive photos and may particularly love playing the Peekaboo and What Is It? activities.

Design
The menu for parents is very easy and straightforward. Children need only tap on the keyboard or click on the mouse to play the activities.

Replayability
High. You can use this program as "lapware" with a baby on a daily basis in addition to regular story time. Toddlers will love coming back to this program time and time again.

Dollar Value
The suggested retail price of $35 is appropriate. Considering the content and value of this software, it is more than worth the price.

Released: 1998