Sesame Street's Music Maker
(Ages 3-6) musical sounds, songs
This set of eight activities, which encourages children to gather 'round the computer and sing along with Ernie, Elmo, Grover, and Cookie Monster, is great for group sing-alongs. In one activity, preschoolers can create their own tunes by placing instruments in a sequence of squares and pressing a "play" button. The activities are all open-ended, and the scenes to explore seem endless, offering a nice introduction to music and environmental sounds. Mattel Media, Inc., 888-628-8359; www.mattelmedia.com; Windows/Mac; $19.95.
(Ages 3-6) cooperation, following directions
This colorful playset attaches onto your keyboard to turn your computer into a little kitchen, complete with measuring cup, mixed oven door, and baker's tools. The plastic playset attaches to a Windows-based computer keyboard with an elastic strap. As children manipulate objects on the playset, signals are sent to the computer to make things happen onscreen. There are many opportunities for sharing as players work with the tools to decorate their creations with letters, shapes, and animals. While it's tough to compete with the experience of real, live baking, this playset offers a fun, mess-free alternative that children love to share. Hasbro Interactive, 800-683-5847; www.hasbro-interactive.com; Windows; $39.95.
Blue's Treasure Hunt
(Ages 3-6) cooperation, problem solving
This scavenger hunt works well as a shared experience. Children need to help Steve and Blue as they look for treasure somewhere in a house, school, and park. Blue is adorable, as usual, and the program's graphics and animation rival those of the television show. As children travel about, they'll come across activities that involve helping the characters. For instance, they'll recycle trash in a sorting game and gather fall leaves according to color Items are collected along the way that may prove useful later on. Humongous Entertainment, 800-4998386; www.humongous.com; Windows/ Mac; $29.95.
Fisher - Price Rescue Heroes: Hurricane Havoc
(Ages 4-7) cooperation, problem solving
The five activities on this CD-ROM, based on the Fisher-Price Rescue Heroes figures, provide plenty of opportunities for cooperation. As children perform all kinds of heroic tasks-gabbing pets from a burning building, putting out fires by helicopter and smashing down roadblocks to keep the streets safe-they'll want to consult friends and even take turns ("You be Wendy Waters; I'll be Billy Blazes"). The Learning Company, 800-716-8506; ww.learningco.com; Windows/Mac; $19.95.
Bear in the Big Blue House: Bear's Sense of Adventure
(Ages 3-6) matching, colors
In this program based on the Bear in the Big Blue House television show, players will find an engaging set of activities and adventuresall of which involve helping others and encourage side-by-side play. There are five adventures, which makes the program rich in content. Graphics are great, and among learning concepts touched upon are the five senses, color mixing, and matching by attribute. Knowledge Adventure, 800542-4240; www.knowledgeadventure. com; Windows/Mac; $30.