Cool Software for ChildrenJanuary 3, 2005
Since our main Christmas present this year was a new iMac, our family gave Ben a few pieces of software to help smooth his transition from PC land. Two of them have really impressed me and since they're a bit uncommon, I thought I would highlight them. By the way, both are for Mac and PC and are from Viva Media, which makes most of the great children's software. We are eagerly awaiting Learning Chess with Fritz & Chesster 2 for the Mac, the sequel to a way cool introduction to chess.
This is a terrific game based on the outstanding book by the same name, which Ben and I read together earlier this year. You visit a frustrated math student, Robert, in his dreams over ten nights and learn math principles through very unique and creative ways. On the first night, my son Ben and I were creating Roman numerals after about 20 minutes of practice, despite being equally clueless about them at the start. I would recommend this for children 8 and older, but a parent should definitely play along as it is not terribly intuitive.
This software has amazed me. When I initially saw the screenshots, I was concerned that it would be too young and too easy for my 9-year old. That has not been the case in the least. Since he has taken piano for the past year, he worked through the very first level quickly, but the next levels have definitely challenged him (and me, for that matter).
The game is very simple and is lovely to look at and listen to (most of the music is classical). There are four things to do: listen to two short pieces of music and guess whether they are the same or different, listen to a piece of music and choose which musical score represents what was played, listen to three short pieces of music and determine which two are the same, and, lastly, listen to a lengthy piece and then put three or four blocks of music in the order of the song. Each area has its own unique challenges and really pushes your listening skills.
This would be great software to help a child along who is currently taking music classes, but would also be terrific for children looking for their first taste of music. I think any child 5 or older would be able to enjoy it, with some assistance.
I will admit that if Ben is using the computer by himself, he drifts more toward the action and arcade games, but he loves to put both of these in if we are going to use the computer together. And what fun it is to have such interesting, mind-expanding and playful software to share!