DeeDee the duck hosts this charming program for the very young. DeeDee is taking a trip up the river to visit her Grandma and the happy creatures that live in the woods, pond, and garden.
Many activities have two levels of difficulty that are adjusted manually, and kids can choose to use the keyboard and/or the mouse to play the games. The cursor is a feather, and it spins in a circle when it hovers over a "clickable". If left over the object for a moment or two, there is no need to click the mouse that object will automatically be selected. Taps on the keyboard will elicit random responses on-screen. There are 7 activities altogether, all of which are accessible at the main screen (pictured above). They are as follows:
Besides the main activity presented, each activity screen features clickables that help reinforce vocabulary and basic educational concepts. For example, in Musical Waterfall, moving the cursor over the waterfall will make the water open up and reveal a letter of the alphabet, and in others, a butterfly changes colors when selected.
- Grandma's Flower Garden teaches toddlers all about colors. On level 1, kids move the cursor over the butterfly (or tap the keyboard) then watch the butterfly change the flowers into her own color. Level 2 requires children to find the flower that is the same color as the butterfly.
- In Chippy's Treehouse, basic shapes are taught. Selecting a shape on level 1 will prompt the woodpecker to create that shape by chipping at a tree stump. On level 2, Chippy needs shapes for his toys that are outlined in his diagram, taking the form of a basic shapes puzzle.
- ABC Toadstools introduces children to the letters of the alphabet and objects associated with them. On level 1, kids either pass the mouse over the toadstool for a letter in alphabetical sequence, or press a letter on the keyboard. When the letter "B" appears, out rolls a ball from Mr. Mouse's door. Level 2 (pictured at right) features an alphabet game that requires children to find a letter from a group of 3. For example, DeeDee will say "car starts with the letter C; find the letter C".
- Numbers and counting are featured at the Lily Pond. On level 1, when a number on the keyboard or on-screen is selected, the corresponding number of pond friends will swim out into the pond, and DeeDee will count them. Level 2 requires children to count the number of animals in the pond and select the correct number.
- In Grandma's kitchen, kids will be able to paint and use stickers in Picture Playtime. Kids can fill the canvas by selecting colors or stamps. The stamps include letters, numbers, shapes, characters from the game, and familiar animals and objects. Alternatively, kids can color a black-and-white picture. There is a cute option that allows kids to save their pictures in a scrapbook.
- Musical Waterfall is delightful. Popular classical music selections are performed by animals who each play a particular instrument (such as strings, piano, flute, etc.). Children can experiment by turning these different musical parts off or on.
- Peek-a-Boo Woods helps kids learn about animals, mouse control, and cause-and-effect as they play hide and seek with the animals in the woods.
There is an option to print out workbook pages at start-up. There are 32 pages altogether, each featuring an activity, craft, game, or suggested activity. For example, My Shapes Shop! involves cutting out basic shapes and arranging them to resemble a train. Kids can make fish finger puppets, experiment with mixing colors using coffee filters and markers to create a beautiful butterfly, and color animal masks. At the bottom of each worksheet is a Bright Ideas suggested activity that relates to the topic of the page.
Owners of the original JumpStart Toddlers will find nothing even vaguely familiar in this new version. JumpStart Toddlers 2000 is totally new. The graphics are extremely vivid and striking with rich colors and memorable cartoon characters and objects.
Navigation, as mentioned above, is designed to make it easy for young children to play without the need for complicated mouse skills. In fact, the keyboard can be used to play the activities for random results. Clicking is not required except to change difficulty levels. Even though navigation is meant to be easy, young and inexperienced toddlers will likely fumble around a little.
Compared to other toddler programs on the market, this title tends to be more academic and would be better suited to older toddlers. Parents looking to expose their children to letters and numbers will find that this title covers these skills better than other toddler programs. A few level 2 activities are rather difficult for the average child in the suggested age group. For example, the counting activity requires children to first count the animals in the pond, then select the correct corresponding number a skill that many toddlers have not acquired yet. However, the program is quite forgiving, and after a few wrong attempts, DeeDee will do the counting for the player.
We have a few minor complaints for example, in Musical Waterfalls, changing the musical selection requires exiting and re-entering the activity. Also, the coloring activity is too advanced and intricate for the suggested age group (we prefer the color swiping activity in Reader Rabbit's Toddler). However, this program will be excellent for children who have outgrown their baby and other toddler software titles.
Aside from these little gripes, this program is very impressive.
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98, a Pentium 90 processor, 16 Mb RAM (32 recommended), and 4X CD ROM drive. Mac users require a 90 MHz Power PC with 32 Mb RAM, System 7.5.3 and a 4X CD ROM drive. Both require 15MB of hard disk space.
letters, numbers, counting, shapes, colors, music, animals, cause and effect, visual differences/discrimination, mouse control, listening skills, beginning vocabulary, creativity, imagination
Compared to other toddler programs, this one covers the most academic skills. Some level 2 activities are rather difficult for the average toddler. However, most children will find the activities on level 1 age-appropriate. Learning opportunities are everywhere you look.
Gorgeous graphics, fun songs, and charming characters help make this title appealing to toddlers (and preschoolers too).
Much effort has been put into making this title easy for young ones to control the system used eliminates the need for clicking, and there is even an option to use the keyboard alone for random responses.
Replay value is very high for this title. There are two levels of difficulty for many of the activities, and a good amount of content.
This title represents an excellent value at only $20 US! Lots of content, printable worksheets, and the ability to play songs on an audio CD player add even more value to the package.