This free-play software title designed to teach Kindergarten-readiness skills provides some learning opportunities with favorite characters from the hit television show, Blue's Clues. The latest characters, including the show's live-action host, Joe, are featured.
Although Blue's Clues Kindergarten doesn't mirror the show's treasure hunt format, it does offer a handful of age-appropriate games for young learners, and its premise is cute: Blue's friend, Periwinkle, is nervous about going to Kindergarten, so Blue sets up a "play school" at home to help Periwinkle get comfortable with the idea. Blue busies herself setting up various areas of the house, while Joe goes to play hide and seek with Tickety.
The result is a set of five activities, each devoted to different Kindergarten curriculum goals basic math, science, creativity, language arts, and telling time. With the exception of the creativity activity, each game features three adjustable difficulty levels.
The most original activity acquaints children with facts about the solar system. This Super Science activity is adorable, largely because the planets and luminaries have character! These smiling balls in outer space "talk" to children and offer facts about themselves. Kids learn "stellar facts" about the planets for example, Venus spins backwards compared to the planets around it and Saturn has icy rings. Visual demonstrations include such things as Mars pictured side by side with the Earth to show its relative size in space and Saturn floating in water to demonstrate just how light the planet is. This activity has two modes of play a Learn mode allows children to explore fun facts about each planet, and Game mode features a "Who Is It?" game in which the Sun (who sports sunglasses) describes his planet friends, and players must decide which planet he is talking about.
Tickety, the talking clock, helps players get acquainted with recognizing time. Three difficulty levels demonstrate and quiz children on time-telling to the hour, half hour, and quarter hour. Rhyme Time asks children to find rhyming words simple ones on level one and less intuitive rhymes (such as "green" and "bean") on level three. In Math Collections, children sort Periwinkle's collections of objects, and practice counting, addition, and subtraction at the same time. For example, kids might count out five bronze toy trucks and 2 dark grey toy trucks, and then add them up to make seven. On level three, subtraction comes into play, and this concept is demonstrated by Periwinkle "sharing" her collections with Blue. The Book About Us is the only mediocre activity in the set. Although children get to, for example, create their own families and party scenes with backgrounds and stamps, testers lost interest in the activity far too quickly.
The television show's live-action host, Joe, does not host any of the activities, but he appears in the introductory video and he makes appearances from time to time throughout the game. As children play, they can sometimes see the top of Joe's head on some of the play screens. Clicking on Joe's hiding place is a simple but fun diversion for young players.
At times, the program is a little chatty, so it is probably better for children who enjoy slower-paced software programs. Most of the activities included in the game are pleasant and educationally sound. However, in comparison to other Kindergarten programs on the market, Blue's Clues Kindergarten comes up a little short in terms of both the quantity of activities and range of skills covered.
Minimum system requirements are Windows 98/Me/XP, Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM (64 MB RAM for Win XP), 8X CD-ROM, and 60 MB free hard disk space. Mac users require a G3 processor, 233 MHz or faster, OS 8.6 or higher, 32 MB RAM, 24X CD-ROM, and 60 MB hard drive space.
auditory perception, memory, color recognition, number recognition (1-20), shape recognition, letter recognition, matching, counting, sorting, addition, subtraction, following directions, telling time to the hour, half hour, and quarter hour, rhymes, creativity, solar system facts, listening skills, and patience.
An excellent solar system activity that makes learning about planets accessible and fun, is the program's educational highlight. The activities' three difficulty levels are well done, and the games are especially age-appropriate. Although the activities are educationally sound, this program is by no means comprehensive. However, the format is encouraging and the environment is delightfully pressure-free.
Testers enjoyed playing the game while it lasted. The characters are fun and presented well, and the graphics and premise of the game are adorable.
This program makes it very easy for children to play independently. Clear navigation and adjustable difficulty levels are featured. Some help is provided when children provide incorrect answers (for example, when a child is struggling with a subtraction "equation", the correct quantity is highlighted).
Although the program's activities are fun while they last, the program needs more content for long-term replay value.
This CD-ROM retails for approximately $20 US.
Reviewed: December 2002