Familiar Preschool Pals Educate and Entertain on the Computer
Want to spoil your children or grandchildren and teach them at the same time? Take a moment to peruse these engaging educational titles featuring characters you know and love; then add these adventures to your library and keep them handy. The next time the little ones drop by, surprise them with some together-time that will teach everyone something new!

Where’s the Blanket, Charlie Brown?, Tivola; Windows 98/ME/NT/2000/XP and MAC; ages 4 and up; approx. $20; 1-800-728-4000.

People of all ages are familiar with the Peanuts characters created by Charles Schulz. In this adventure, players may take on the role of either Charlie Brown or Lucy. Throughout the game, players are on a mission to help Linus find his blanket. Along the way, players test their thinking skills as they discover nine hidden games. Music exploration, logic and reasoning, critical thinking and orientation skills are all enhanced as players enter a “Supermarket Rally,” “Steer the Bus with Snoopy,” learn “Houndini’s Greatest Trick,” play the “Flying Game” and “Catch the Beagle.”

Some of the extraordinarily detailed sets that players encounter include Charlie Brown’s room, the Brown’s living room, one of their hallways and even their kitchen. Every room, building and street scene is so detailed players will feel as if they are walking through a miniature dollhouse. Even Sally’s room is a sight to see, as is the bus in which players ride to get to computer camp. From Schroeder’s music room and garden to Sally’s house and the local supermarket, kids will travel through colorful locations that have an exceptional feeling of reality as these endearing characters are brought to life.

This program is an extraordinary delight – a one-of-a-kind program that belongs in everyone’s library.

Curious George, Downtown Adventure, by Knowledge Adventure; Windows 95/98/ME/2000Pro/XP and MAC; ages 3 to 6; approx. $20; 1-800-545-7677.

This familiar character will engage both young and old as they travel with Curious George on yet another one of his mischievous adventures. This time, George has brought chaos to the town and players must use cool “curiosity tools,” such as trampolines, balloons, ladders and bowling balls, to get George back to safety. In this episode, George and the Man with the Yellow Hat are spending a day visiting the city when, as usual, George’s curiosity gets the better of him. George is distracted as a crowd watches a gold ball being placed on top of a building. He instantly begins to climb up a lamppost and onto a clothesline to get a better view – which naturally results in a series of humorous mishaps.

Using their critical thinking skills, players must create bouncing, bursting, flying, falling and floating contraptions that will end each of George’s predicaments and free him from his mischief. The adventure includes more than 60 progressively challenging puzzles in four town locations – the circus, the candy factory, the park and downtown. Players earn 21 curiosity tools, such as ladders, balloons and swinging ropes, and use them in any combination to help George. The puzzles were designed specifically with young children in mind so that all frustration is removed from the problem-solving process. At any time, the hint button may be clicked and markers help define where various puzzle elements are to be placed. This is a “must-have” for Curious George fans as it even comes with two Curious George books included in the box!

Clifford the Big Red Dog, Learning Activities, Scholastic; WIN 95/98/ME/NT and MAC; ages 4 to 6; approx. $20; 1-800-724-4718.

Here’s another familiar face that will appeal to kids, parents and grandparents alike. In this Clifford experience, a popular magazine is looking for a special community of dogs to be featured in its next issue. Clifford, T-Bone and Cleo want to make a big impression on the publisher, so they work – with the player of course – to complete a scrapbook containing snapshots of their adventures.

Players bounce on a trampoline with Cleo as they find it to be a clever way to pick fruit. They help Clifford clean up the big mess he made when he accidentally knocked over a big pile of junk in the alley. And they build a jungle gym, make posters, write poems – and print all of this to keep. Word recognition, rhyming, counting, addition, subtraction, memory matching, fine motor skills, sorting and reasoning are all skills that this predominantly academic program addresses.

There are three levels of difficulty, ten activities, automatic help buttons, and the activities adapt according to the child’s progress. Again, here is a lovable, familiar character that can guide children through some fundamental learning skills in a fun and humorous way.

Little People, Discovery Airport, Knowledge Adventure; Windows 95/98/ME/2000Pro/XP and MAC; ages 2 to 4; approx. $20; 1-800-545-7677.

You guessed it, more familiar faces. Remember those little Fisher-Price people? Well they’re inside your computer now, and they’re off to the airport. Travel with these vibrantly colored characters as they visit the control tower and clear planes for takeoff. Players will get the chance to sort suitcases onto planes, get pets ready for their departure and learn some of the basic elements of weather. Players can even paint a new airplane with their Little People pals as Pilot Paula guides the way, encouraging imagination and curiosity along the way. Eddie, Sarah Lynn, Maggie, Sonya Lee and Michael are all participants in this warm-and-fuzzy mission that allows toddlers to play with their favorite carpet-time buddies during some quality computer-time.

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Janice Stickley-White reviews software for United Parenting Publications several times a year.