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Review CornerSoftware
JumpStart Baby with Baby Ball
Rating: three stars
The Bottom Line
Although this program features charming characters and bright, colorful graphics, babies will have to do a lot of waiting and watching. As a result, JumpStart Baby will likely have mixed reactions with different families depending on the character of the child using it.
 
Ages: 9-24 months   Subject: Early Learning  Brand: Knowledge Adventure
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
JumpStart Baby with Baby Ball Product Overview
JumpStart Baby was originally released in June of 1998 and is now packaged with a peripheral — the Baby Ball, which functions as an over-sized "push pad".

This title is designed as "lapware" — to be enjoyed by parents with their babies in their laps. Any click of the mouse, tap on the keyboard, or push of the Baby Ball will elicit an onscreen reaction — as long as this is done at the right moment.

JumpStart Baby begins with Teddy, the host, waking up in his bedroom. After this short introduction, there is a main screen from which the following activities can be selected:

  • Where's Teddy? — Teddy is hiding somewhere, and after a few pushes, taps or clicks that will reveal all kinds of hidden surprises, he will appear from his hiding place.
  • Puzzle Time — a completed image appears of a favorite toy, animal, or object, and then pieces of the image float away. Kids make each piece reappear in its rightful place until the puzzle is complete, then the object "comes alive" with a short animation. For example, the completed puzzle of a bird prompts "A bird! The bird swings on her perch."
  • Connect the Stars — babies watch as the stars are connected one by one to eventually reveal a familiar object that animates.
  • Color Train — objects appear and are sorted onto the train by color until the train is full and rolls off the screen.
  • Let's Make Music — Teddy and his friends play in a band and sing nursery rhymes and songs such as Sing a Song of Sixpence. Each friend plays a song on its special instrument, then the band plays it altogether.
  • Dress Teddy — Teddy needs help getting dressed for different occasions — such as going to the beach, a rainy day, or nighttime. Children will be asked questions like "What do I wear on my feet?", then click, push the Baby Ball, or tap the keyboard and Teddy will receive the correct item of clothing. After he is all dressed, kids watch as Teddy has fun.
  • Picture Fun — children can help turn the 16 black-and-white line drawings into colorful pictures, then watch them come to life. Portions of each picture are colored one by one.
  • Down on the Farm — farm animals peek out from their hiding places, and if a child clicks the mouse, taps the keyboard, or pushes the Baby Ball when an animal is peeking, that animal will appear and make its special sound. Parents can click on the Lightbulb icon on the activity screens to get some extra Parent Tips which act as suggested activities. Included on the disc is a workbook (which is probably unnecessary for this age group).
There are a number of pros and cons to this program. The graphics are colorful and bright, and the activities have some educational value. However, children in the suggested age range generally do not have the patience to wait for animations, narration, and songs to play out before they get an onscreen reaction to their input — whether that input is through the computer mouse, keyboard, or Baby Ball. Pressing on the Baby Ball or clicking the mouse during these cutscenes will elicit a "boink" sound, but a child must wait until the (often lengthy) scene is complete before they get a reaction. This can be frustrating to both parents and babies/toddlers alike. The program is very conversational — which, on one hand, is excellent for acquisition of early language reception skills, but can be frustrating because of the inability to cut through these conversations.

The Baby Ball peripheral is large and easy to use, but be aware that it seems to require that your COM1 port be available (not used by any other device). Parents who are uneasy about allowing their babies to bang on their computer keyboards will appreciate this peripheral, but those who want to familiarize their babies with the computer may feel that it is not totally necessary.

The songs are delightful and can be played on an audio CD player as well.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98, a Pentium 90, 16 Mb RAM, and 4X CD ROM. Mac users require a Power PC 120 MHz with 16 Mb with 15 Mb RAM available, System 7.5.3 or higher, and at least 4X CD ROM.

The Baby Ball peripheral requires that your COM1 port be available (not used by any other device). We had problems with this on two test computers.

Skills Covered
cause and effect, colors, sorting and matching, vocabulary skills, auditory discrimination, perception, memory, visual tracking skills, language reception and comprehension, part-to-whole relationships, visual attention, object constancy, relational word concepts (up, down, in, behind, etc.), basic vocabulary including body parts, farm animals, weather, etc.

Educational Value
Children will learn new vocabulary by playing with this title. Words are enunciated clearly, and often a sentence that uses that word is then used, helping to reinforce language reception skills. A child's input elicits onscreen reactions that are random, so they will learn about cause and effect on a very basic level from this kind of computer usage.

Entertainment Value
This program features very charming characters and basic scenes that some babies will find appealing. However, patience is required to sit through some of the cutscenes and songs.

Design
There are 3 different input options — randomly tapping on the keyboard, clicking on the mouse anywhere on the screen, and pushing the Baby Ball peripheral that acts as an oversized push pad. However, in order to leave an activity, a parent must use the mouse to click on the arrow. This brings up a very important technical note: in order to use the Baby Ball peripheral, the COM1 port must be available on your computer.

Replayability
There is a fair amount of content and variety of activities in this program.

Dollar Value
The suggested retail price is $30 US.

Released: 1999