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Review CornerSoftware
Reader Rabbit Playtime for Baby
Rating: five stars
The Bottom Line
This program is a bright, cheerful, and positive introduction to the computer that is designed to be enjoyed by parents with their babies and toddlers. Well-designed and customizable, the activities are age-appropriate and fun. An audio CD is also included for away-from-the computer entertainment and learning.
Award of Excellence
Ages: 9-24 months   Subject: Early Learning  Brand: The Learning Company
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
Reader Rabbit Playtime for Baby Product Overview
Here is yet another outstanding program for young children from The Learning Company. Since Reader Rabbit Toddler is a personal favorite, I had high expectations for this software title — and Reader Rabbit Playtime for Baby didn't disappoint. Not even for a minute.

This program is made as easy as possible for young computer users to interact with the computer. Like Reader Rabbit Toddler (see our review), kids can simply tap the keyboard and watch the results on-screen, or move the mouse (swipe) without needing to click in order to play. The cursor is a chubby star, and it fills with little stars when it hovers for a moment over a "clickable".

Kids are treated to a cute introductory animation showing Reader Rabbit and Mat the Mouse playing hide and seek. Mat jumps into an uncovered toy box, the inside of which transforms into the main screen. Here, kids discover 10 clickable toys that lead to the activities:

  • Clicking on the toy cow will transport kids to Hide-and-Seek Animals where they will find a farm scene filled with a number of familiar animals, who then scurry to their "hiding" spots. Kids will see the curly tail of a pig peeking out of the trough, a goat's head out of a pile of hay, etc., then move the mouse over them to uncover the animals, and hear their names and animal sounds.
  • Discovery House is great fun (see picture at right, above). Kids pass the mouse over the door and windows of the bright house, and they open to reveal a familiar character greeting them with variations on "hello", then they return inside the house after saying their goodbyes. The doorbell rings, and mailbox opens as well.
  • Mat's Faces involves moving the mouse over the different expressions to change Mat's feelings. Kids are exposed to the concepts of happy, sad, shy, mad, sleepy, surprised, etc. There are often cause and effect phrases to accompany the display of Mat's feelings.
  • In Peek-a-Boo Bubbles, flowers shoot out bubbles in front of a billboard, and as kids move the mouse over them, they pop to reveal a portion of a colorful and educational picture. The pictures are slowly revealed and feature numbers or letters and a cute animation (for example, S is for silly snowman).
  • Kaleidoscope Symphony involves placing different shapes into a kaleidoscope which morph and twist into some delightfully fun patterns and designs.
  • In Shape Slide, kids put shapes in the correct hole in the shape sorter and the shapes slide down a curvy slide, hitting flags, and other obstacles along the way. This is an excellent game that kids thoroughly enjoy.
  • Rhyme Time involves selecting a song and watching Mat do the fingerplay along to the tune. Songs include such favorites as Pat-a-Cake and If You're Happy and You Know It.
  • What baby doesn't enjoy opening up drawers and making fun discoveries? In Musical Drawers kids explore a bureau and discover playable musical instruments and various kitchen objects.
  • Kids explore body parts in Mat Says simply by moving the mouse over different parts of Mat. Another way to play the activity is accessed by moving the mouse over the light switch. When the lights turn off, the mouse magically turns into a flashlight and kids can explore the body parts as they are spotlighted by the flashlight.
  • My Storybooks contains four very simple rhyming storybooks that Reader Rabbit reads to players. These can even contain baby's name, voice, and/or actual photograph if the customization feature has been used.
The customization feature is great — baby will love seeing his/her own photo incorporated into a couple of the activities. There is even the option to record baby's own voice — which could be babbling or an actual word or two, depending on the stage he/she is at. Personalization also includes baby's name, although many babies at this age won't be impressed! Each of the 10 activities in the program have an "away-from-the-computer" activity. Parents need only press ctrl-P to access and print these activities. They are really quite cute and include simple coloring pages of scenes that are taken from the Bubbles activity, song lyrics, paper plate puppets, a shapes "baby bowling alley", and more.

There is a bonus audio CD called Baby's Favorite Songs which is filled with adorable songs that are so characteristic of The Learning Company — what a nice touch.

The Learning Company took the care and responsibility to emphasize throughout the program the importance of parental involvement — the subtitle for the CD-ROM is Fun and Discovery For You and Your Baby. There is even an introductory video that stresses the interaction between parent and baby, as well as placing emphasis on safety and fun. The video features a father and baby using the software to demonstrate how to best use the game.

Children testers were delighted by the program, and found lots to do. There are some similarities to Reader Rabbit Toddler (the next step in the early learning series from TLC), which is a good thing. Activities are so positive and charming, they will not only appeal to babies and toddlers, but to their parents as well.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98, a Pentium 75, 16 Mb RAM, and 2X CD-ROM (4X CD ROM recommended), Direct Draw-compatible video card. Mac users require a Power PC Mac with 16 Mb RAM, System 7.5.1 or higher, and at least 2X CD ROM (4X recommended). The program requires 20 Mb of hard drive space.

Skills Covered
computer skills, mouse skills, language development, auditory discrimination, coordination, kinesthetic development, cause and effect, sound patterns, visual patterns, coordination, beginning literacy, tracking, predicting, matching

Educational Value
Babies and toddlers will learn about shapes, colors, songs, parts of the body, feelings and emotions, patterns, and a whole lot more. Perhaps one of the most educational aspects of the program is its emphasis on language and visual skills.

Entertainment Value
This program is so bright and cheerful, it is sure to entertain. The youngest baby in the targeted age group (9 months) may not be developmentally ready to focus on the screens, but many 1 year-olds will find the scenes fun and attractive. Reader Rabbit and Mat the Mouse are enthusiastic hosts — the voices and songs are very pleasing.

Design
The program is very well-designed and easy to use. Young children can either tap on the keyboard for a random on-screen reaction, or use the mouse to swipe without the need for accurate clicking. Options for parents and customization are plenty.

Replayability
This game will be played time and time again, and makes excellent lapware.

Dollar Value
Suggested retail price for this set is $29.95 US. The program is certainly worth the price, and the inclusion of a bonus audio CD makes it even more worthwhile.

Released: 1999