Programs with natural breaks along the way foster turn-taking and working together.
YOU CAN HELP children feel good about sharing computer use with others by choosing software that lends itself to easy "mouse switching" and collective thinking. Here are three examples:

Two Heads Are Better Than One

There are a number of logic and problem-solving programs that are so challenging that it helps to have a little "group cognition" along the way - to remember where things are or to help with the puzzles. With Freddie Fish 3: The Case of the Stolen Conch Shell, ages 3 and up (Humongous, 800499-8386, $29.95), children work together to remember where clues are hidden as they search the bottom of the ocean for a missing conch shell. The graphics and music are top-notch, and there are plenty of simple games along the way to save for continued play over many days.

"Scary" Software

Nothing brings people closer together than a good scare, right? In the Living Book Harry and the Haunted House, an original story by Mark Schlichting, ages 3 and up (Broderbund, $19.95), children visit -- along with Harry D. Ribbit and friends -- playful monsters and creaky doors. A click on nearly any object in the story launches an animated routine that works to support the story line. As with all the Living Books, this program is fun, easy to use, and offers excellent language experiences.

You Add the Eyes, I'll Add the Nose

Open-ended software, like Kid Pix, provides natural opportunities for mouse swapping. Just-released Paint 'n Play Pony, ages 4 and up (IBM Corp., 800- 426-7235, $19.95), is perfect for this kind of sharing. In this program, children style and accessorize their own on-screen pony with different manes, saddles, saddle blankets, tails, and so on. The program makes it easy to print each design so children can each have a printout. Young horse lovers shouldn't pass this one by, and the price is right.