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Review CornerSoftware
Elmo's Preschool Deluxe
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
With 2 fun CDs in the set, this program represents good value and shelf life. Elmo's Preschool Deluxe is a simple and quiet title that most preschoolers will enjoy.
 
Ages: 3-5  Subject: Early Learning  Brand: Creative Wonders/TLC
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
This 2-CD set consists of Elmo's Preschool and Search and Learn Adventures.

The main screen of Elmo's Preschool CD is a playground which leads to 5 different areas. Each area contains a free exploration mode, as well as 2 directed activities — click on the star and you can play a structured game with Elmo, or click on the moon for another game that is a little bit harder. The 5 playrooms are as follows:

  • The Music Room contains a music machine, and kids must move the musical blocks to the top of the machine in sequence. They can listen to their own compositions in freeplay mode, determine the sound Elmo wants them to find in the star game, and determine which sound is missing in a musical pattern to play the moon game.
  • The Face Treehouse is loads of fun. Kids can create their own Muppet faces by mixing and matching the facial features. The star game involves assembling a face that corresponds to the emotion Elmo is talking about — whether it be happy, sad, mad, or scared. In moon mode, Elmo asks kids how they would feel in a given situation, and kids assemble a face that expresses how they anticipate they would feel.
  • The Shapes and Colors Tent allows preschoolers to place different shapes onto a board and arrange them any way they want. Clicking on the star will bring up a game in which Elmo requests 3 shapes to be placed on the board, and the moon game involves reproducing designs.
  • In The Letters Room, there are 26 movable letter blocks. Kids can play around with them and listen to an alphabet song. The star game involves finding 3 letters that Elmo requests, and kids spell simple 3-letter animal words in the moon game.
  • The Numbers Clubhouse contains number blocks that kids can give to Elmo and hear their spoken names. Play "find a number" with Elmo in star mode, and the moon game requires some counting.

Automatically adjusting skill levels are present in many of the above activities, and Elmo is always encouraging and helpful. In addition to the learning games, there are fun little things to do within each playroom — kids can tickle Elmo with a feather and watch him giggle, give him his teddy bear and watch him dance, drag flowers to his hands then watch him sniff them, and even feed him cake and cupcakes.

Elmo is fun to play with — he is cheerful and encouraging. If you turn off the light in a playroom he will politely ask you to turn it back on, and sometimes he says "Elmo is afraid of the dark".

An added bonus is a certificate-maker. Kids can create their own printable certificates using scenes from the program and then customize it with their name and various designs.

Search and Learn Adventures has children searching for some misplaced items and helping Sherlock Hemlock and his dog, Watson. It is designed to develop thinking skills, and has 3 difficulty levels to choose from at the beginning of the adventure. Kids travel around Sesame Street helping characters like Big Bird, The Count, Zoe, and more, in 7 different areas. Every time kids play the game, there is a new adventure — the hiding spots are random, and the theme can be objects for a party, the beach, or a picnic. The activities are fun, but young preschoolers may have a hard time with some, even on the easy level. Notable activities include sorting garbage into different recycling bins, repeating a Honker pattern to get into the castle, and building The Count's stained glass window with different colorful shapes. Kids learn about things like manners, simple hygiene, recycling, seasons, safety, and more.

The Elmo CD is perfect for younger preschoolers. My youngest child played this game a lot when she was first learning to use the mouse. Search & Learn Adventures, on the other hand, is better for older preschoolers. Both games are quite enjoyable, and good for families with more than one preschooler! My nit-picks about the Elmo game are that navigation is a bit slow and many instructions cannot be "clicked through". Also, Elmo requests that you click twice to exit programs every time. Presumably, this is to avoid problems with kids accidentally leaving their games, but most preschoolers figure out what the stop sign means after a bit of trial and error.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 3.1, a 486/25, 8 Mb RAM, and 2X CD ROM.

Skills Covered
letter and number recognition, letter/sound association, simple phonics, number facts, counting to ten, shape and color recognition, sorting, matching, visual discrimination, sound discrimination, patterns and sequencing, music, creativity, emotions and facial features, understanding others, observation, seasons, occupations, hygiene, following directions, sizes, safety, food groups, manners

Educational Value
Kids are allowed to explore in freeplay mode, or learn through directed play. Skills covered are adequate for a preschool title.

Entertainment Value
Elmo is sure to please those preschoolers! He's ticklish and fun and will bring your child back to the computer time and time again. The activities aren't bad either.

Design
You can't exit the program or activities very fast, but kids can still navigate the game quite easily. As noted above, it can be a bit slow. Difficulty levels are embedded in some of the directed activities, and adjust automatically. Still, with all the personal and social touches in the program, it is evident that a lot of thought has gone into the game.

Replayability
This title has withstood the test of time in our household. Although my youngest child refuses to play some of the activities that she tried some time ago, there are others that she goes back to often. This software will grow with your child, or at least appeal to your younger and older preschoolers, because of the 2 CDs that are appropriate for different age groups, as noted in the review.

Dollar Value
Retail price is $35 US for the 2 CD set. Check around for rebates and in-store 2 for 1 specials because they seem to occur often for the deluxe titles. (And if you find a 2 for 1 special, may I suggest Elmo's Reading: Preschool and Kindergarten as the other title?)

Released: 1997