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Review Corner Best Educational Software
Preschool Pack
Rating:  4.5 star rating
The Bottom Line
This bargain bundle of three solid programs makes a good choice for families with preschoolers. Children practice and learn a nice variety and wide range of early skills.
Award
Ages: 2-4  Subject: Early Learning  Brand: Knowledge Adventure
Review Sections:  Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview

This bundle of previously-released preschool software titles contains three full-version CD-ROMs, as follows:

JumpStart Preschool (Classic Version)

This classic program is the most apparently educational of the bunch. It covers most of the academic basics of preschool curriculum, including letters, numbers, shapes, colors, patterns, puzzles, and more.

A classroom in a school house provides the setting for varied activities--ten of them in all. Most activities can be played at any of three difficulty levels, and these are easy to adjust. Children play matching games with pictures and letters, and are introduced to basic letter sounds. In other activities, kids match numerals with quantities; paint by letters, numbers, or shapes; connect the dots; spot differences; complete puzzles; listen for clues in order to find a hidden fish; and more.

Educational extras can be found in the classroom as children explore the screen with their mouse. An adorable alphabet song-video is just one of these enhanced "clickables". Another feature is a clickable package which leads to a random, surprise activity.

I Spy Junior

Based on the I Spy series of books, this software title features photo-realistic objects packed into detailed screens. Children listen to riddles, then explore the screens in search for specific objects. One riddle, for example, reads "I spy two pumpkins, a silver key; A fussy scarecrow, and the number three." When objects in the riddle are found, they come to life, and the word or phrase is highlighted. Other activities involve extending patterns, such as adding colorful pom-poms to a caterpillar in a special order, and a wonderful exercise for the brain called "Oops Hoops". This latter activity requires children to sort objects into hoops by finding similarities. Children effectively are working with Venn Diagrams. Finally, a "Make Your Own I Spy" activity allows children to choose backgrounds and add objects to their very own "I Spy" page.

This charming program features clear instructions and children as narrators. A child's sign-in name appears in different places in the game, which is a pleasant surprise for preschoolers. The program does have limited screens, making the experience best the first time around. Despite this, we have seen young preschoolers return to the program time and time again--they are fascinated with the activities and enjoy the hunt for objects.

Bear's Imagine That!

Featuring characters from the preschool television series, Bear in the Big Blue House, this program is designed for children ages three to five to explore their creativity and imagination. What it really boils down to is just plain fun, with a little bit of education peeking out here and there. Its five activities can be played in directed or free play mode. Testers' favorite activities include a sundae-making one and a music activity in which children help create silly rhymes. See our review for more details.

The Package

For less than the price of one new program, children receive three likable programs. This is one of the better bundles for preschoolers currently on the market.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98, 32 MB RAM, Pentium 133 MHz, 4X CD-ROM, 16-bit windows-compatible sound card, and 50 MB free hard drive space. Mac users require an iMac/G3 processor or better, System 8.1 or higher, 32 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM, and 50 MB free hard drive space. Printer and microphone are optional.

Skills Covered
Players build skills in letter recognition, alphabet sequence, counting, numbers, time, days of the week, seasons, vocabulary, visual discrimination, word identification, identifying rhymes, spatial relationships, shape and color recognition, music appreciation, early life science concepts, powers of observation, sorting, classifying, pattern recognition, creative expression, problem solving, and following directions.

Educational Value
Practice with letters, numbers, quantities, and more is featured in JumpStart Preschool, while higher order thinking skills are creatively exercised in I Spy Junior. Rounding out the package is Bear's Imagine That!, which is more for fun than learning. All things considered, this bundle is educationally solid.

Entertainment Value
All three programs in the package are enjoyable in different ways. Testers especially enjoyed searching for objects in the I Spy Junior title.

Design
The first two programs feature clear, understandable instructions and straightforward design features. Navigation in Bear's Imagine That!, however, takes a little time to figure out.

Replayability
Each of the programs included in the set has decent replay value. Although the learning in I Spy Junior is best with children's first encounters with the riddles and games, it is a rich and irresistible title for preschoolers.

Dollar Value
This package of three CD-ROMs carries a suggested retail price of $14.99 US.

Released: 2001
Reviewed: April 2002