Playing with Mickey Mouse means learning. (educational software package) (evaluation)
by Beth Ann Murray
You sit at your home computer, your favorite driving simulation loaded and running. As you concentrate on avoiding a fiery crash, suddenly a small voice about hip level pipes up, "Mom, can I play, too?"
Your three-year-old can't race cars with you but wants to play computer games. What should you buy that can involve both of you? An excellent first purchase would be one of the following Mickey Mouse packages from Disney.
Mickey's Colors and Shapes is subtitled The Dazzling Magic Show. In this particular package, America's favorite mouse comes on stage and performs various magic acts, such as juggling and pulling an animal out of his hat. A friendly lady's voice leads your child through the game, and you can watch and help him or her make choices.
Mickey's 123's is called The Big Surprise Party. Your child plans a party for one of the Disney characters; buy toys, food, and decorations; and sends invitations. At the end, he or she serves the food.
Mickey's ABC's offers you A Day at the Fair. You begin by waking Mickey up at home and then go with him on a interesting trip to a country fair. Again, the friendly voice helps your child along.
Children will find the controls for all these games to be user-friendly. There are no wrong moves. The animation is top-quality and quite imaginative. Your child will be entertained and may never notice he or she is also learning numbers, letters, and shapes!
How do the three packages compare to one another? I played all three games with my three-year-old son, and he liked each one. But ABC's is my favorite by far. My son is well acquainted with the alphabet and spelling, and we both were challenged by the game. Besides offering a chance to become familiar with letter shapes and sounds, this game also teaches many useful cognitive skills necessary for computer use--primarily learning to make the connection between what you see on the screen and what you need to do with the keyboard. Your child will learn how to control Mickey's actions and how to anticipate events that are offscreen. He or she will learn to go through several steps to arrive at certain places or to see certain actions.
My least favorite Mickey Mouse adventure is 123's. It is only slightly more interactive than television. Each number that is pressed causes a lengthy animation sequence. My son enjoyed looking at it, but he was not very involved in what was happening. A lot of number information was handed to him, without much opportunity for active thought until the party at the end of the game.
Colors and Shapes is my son's favorite game. It calls for the most creativity, particularly during the segment in which he creates his own picture by selecting colors and shapes. The animation is less dramatic than that in ABC's, but that didn't affect his level of interest. This game comes with a soft rubber template printed with color blocks and shapes that fits over the keyboard. I think this makes it an especially suitable first computer game for the younges of children.
Which of these packages should you purchase if you can afford only one? Colors and Shapes is best for the child who has the least computer experience and is still unfamiliar with letters and numbers. If your child likes Candyland, he will love Colors and Shapes. ABC's is the most complex, interactive game. It is best for the more computer-literate, verbal child who is able to discern patterns and make complex connections. Somewhere in between, 123's is the one to pick if your child is one of those who has a love of numbers.