Teaching With Technology: Bringing the Outdoors In
These programs offer on-screen adventures
- Grades: PreK–K
COMPUTERS AND OUTSIDE PLAY DON'T MIX - AT LEAST THAT'S WHAT MANY PEOPLE THINK. For this column, we went to work in search of some safe, no-fail games that are loads of fun and bring a sense of outdoor adventure and activities to the screen. Have a great time!
Stuart Little: Big City Adventures
(Age 4 and up) temporal and spatial relations
Stuart Little, mouse extraordinaire, invites children to join him in five fun arcade-style games set in New York City. Each game has three levels of challenge and can be played randomly or in linear story fashion. There's a sailboat regatta in which players steer Stuart's boat through an obstacle course and a neat miniature golf game where the holes are larger than Stuart himself. There's also a roadster game in which children help Stuart drive home plus two logic games-a timed pantry climb and a train challenge in which tracks must be switched at appropriate junctures. This is a likable, just-for-fun program. Hasbro Interactive, 800-683-5847; www.hasbro-interactive.com; Windows; $19.95.
Fisher-Price Outdoor Adventures: Ranger Trail
(Ages 4-7) animals, nature facts
This playful set of six outdoor-themed games is one of the few nicely designed computer programs that deals with science and the out-of-doors. Children start by typing in their name and then choosing a cartoon buddy to play with. This buddy shows up in several of the activities, such as a fun and engaging race in which children must steer a log down a river to win. There's also a campfire sing-a-long with five excellent campfire songs. As each song is played, children see the words, in a "follow the bouncing ball" fashion, The program can keep track of multiple users. The Learning Company, 800-- 716-8506; www.learningco.com; Windows/Mac; $19.95.
Super Duper Arcade 2
(Ages 3-10) eye-hand coordination
This four-game set, based on popular Humongous programs, is guaranteed to be a sure hit. Included are Dog on a Stick starring Putt-Putt and Pep; Lost & Found starring Pajama Sam; Maze Madness with Freddi Fish; and Hold the Mustard featuring Spy Fox. Each game is nonviolent and has numerous challenge levels and entertaining graphics--so even three-year-olds can start at the easy level. Games can be saved too. This is a great program for a small group of children, as there are plenty of chances to take turns. Humongous Entertainment, 800-499-8386; www.humongous. com; Windows/Mac; $19.99.
Thomas & Friends: The Great Festival Adventure
(Age 2 and up) listening, following directions, problem solving, colors, shapes
Players help Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends prepare for a big festival. There are trains to clean and repaid tracks to clear and freight to load. Graphics, sound effects, and overall responsiveness are just great, making the experience a positive one for young computer users. While playing, children must use their listening and problem-solving skills. Our two- to fouryear-old testers really enjoyed the program and played it repeatedly. Hasbro Interactive, 800-683-5847; www.hasbro-interactive. com; Windows; $19.95.
Tonka Construction 2
(Ages 5-8) creativity, vehicle recognition
This sequel to Tonka Construction lets players tackle all new construction projects using 12 Tonka vehicles at four different work sites. In our favorite part of the program, children design and build their own Tonka Town. Players can also build a ski resort, demolish buildings, pave desert roads, and dig for buried treasure. Best of all, the vehicle control is easy and smooth, making the whole experience a lot of fun. Our testers loved this CD and made lots of interesting buildings in their towns.
Children's work is saved and can also be printed out. Hasbro Interactive, 800-6835847; www.hasbro-interactive.com, Windows/ Mac; $29.95.