With its large, varied, and educationally valuable content, children's time with this new Sesame Street release will be time well spent. The special humor, engaging graphics, and thorough treatment of basic academic concepts that distinguish the Sesame Street television show are captured superbly in Sesame Street Toddler.
Big Bird, Elmo, and Cookie Monster play host to this program's numerous activities. These are divided into six main categories. Selecting the Colors & Shapes category launches a series of games and demonstrations that build upon each other. First, kids will be presented with "blobs" of color. If they move their star cursor over the color, it is named. The next activity, hosted by Elmo, asks kids to find a specific color from a set. A simple, interactive demonstration of basic shapes follows, and then a "find-it" game. Kids can then put their skills together by exploring both shapes and colors at once, and test their newfound knowledge in the category's final activity.
Letters and numbers are similarly explored, in a step-by-step manner. Both upper- and lowercase letters are demonstrated, letter sounds are introduced, numeral recognition (numbers 1-10) is taught, and counting games that reinforce counting skills are offered.
Bob sings the familiar "People in Your Neighborhood" theme in another activity, and offers musical narration for six different video clips about people with different professions (for example, a doctor). Another category emphasizes sorting skills and helps boost vocabulary--kids make music with animal sounds, and find objects that don't belong in a set.
The art activity is on the simplistic side, but probably just right for toddlers. Depending on the art screen they are on, players add objects, designs, and shapes to a virtual piece of paper. They end up with fancy-looking collages that can be quite satisfying for newcomers to the computer.
With the program's many demonstrations of key concepts, children need only explore by pointing and clicking on objects on the screen and the program takes care of the narration. Simple, that is, if children already know how to "point and click"-- a skill that is, perhaps unreasonably, presumed of the target age group. Still, if the program is used as "lapware" (in other words, parents help their children through the game), the program works well.
Both the educational content and the program's demand on a child's mouse skills may be a tad ambitious for younger children in the target age group. However, children who are showing signs of readiness concerning identifying the abstract, unique shapes of letters and numerals won't find a stronger toddler title for getting acquainted with these basic concepts. The title is, in fact, probably ideal for young preschoolers.
Parents are likely to fully enjoy the program, which is a good thing because they'll probably need to help their young children learn how to use the game. Many will be pleased with the educational content. Feedback from characters is delightful and encouraging.
An exciting bonus is the program's ability to speak a child's name, as long as that name is included in the extensive name database. Fortunately, even our testers with the most uncommon names were able to enjoy this reward! Big Bird takes on this task, and he does his toddler-pleasing "name-dropping" frequently throughout the program. Another bonus of personalizing the game is that the Muppets will acknowledge a child's age (for example, if a 2-year-old clicks on the number 2, Big Bird will say, "that's how old you are!") and the first letter of their name.