It’s that time of year again, and the annual video game scavenger hunt is underway. The kids are getting impatient and your mounting frustration is beginning to surface.
Like most parents, you feel that study aids make far better stocking stuffers. But such suggestions are usually greeted with tearful screams of protest: “That’s not fair! I don’t want boring schoolwork!” Instead, you’ve been bombarded with endless requests for games that feature grimacing, muscle-bound, virtual warriors programmed to demolish and dismember their opponents.
Fortunately, our gift guide offers a painless compromise that both parents end kids will appreciate–and use: educational software that’s also fun and enlightening. These entertaining CD-ROMS cover a variety of subjects such as reading, math and science, and range in age level from toddler to college graduate and beyond. They strengthen listening and problem-solving skills while encouraging independent thought. Not only do these particular tools teach users the basics, but several include positive images of blacks–an important lesson for our children.
The American Girls Premiere, ages 7-12 by The Learning Co.; 800-2275609; www.learningco.com
Animated characters Felicity, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha and Molly–each representing a different period in American history–help children engage their creative energies as playwrights. Each character can star in plays authored and directed by the user. It also develops storytelling and writing skills. $34.95; Mac/Windows.
Pop-Pop! Math, ages 4-8 by Softblue Inc.; 800-757-5385; www.ashantipub.com.
Big Guy and his Pop-Pop guide users through basic math. Correct answers reveal a portion of the story, which is hidden under a panel of math problems. In the reading section, Big Guy reads the same story aloud. Pop-Pop! Math shows positive black male images and illustrates the importance of family. $29.95; Mac/Windows.
Reader Rabbit’s Toddler, ages 18 months to 3 years by The Learning Co.; 800-227-5609; www.learningco.com.
Reader Rabbit and his adorable cartoon friends keep even the earliest learners engaged for hours while teaching the basics of colors, shapes and numbers. Allows parents to set specifications such as sound and level of difficulty. Graphics are clean, bright and simple. $29.95;Mac/Windows.
Also check out:
Reader Rabbit’s Preschool, ages 3-5
Explores the alphabet, counting, patterns and directions. $29.95; Mac/Windows.
Reader Rabbit’s Kindergarten, ages 4-6
Introduces math, memory and reading skills. $29.95; Mac/Windows.
Young Dilbert in High-Tech Hi-Jinks, ages 5 and up by KnowWonder; 888KNOWNDR; www.knowwonder.com.
The younger version of Dilbert, the popular cartoon strip character, and his companions teach youngsters the basics of technology, including parts of a computer, how to get around on the Internet and technical terms. Great interactive setup does away with impersonal edge associated with technology. $34.95; Mac/Windows.
Apply! ’98 by Apply Technology; 203-740-3504; www.weapply.com
This free software eliminates the traditional, handwritten college application. Electronic versions supplied by more than 500 colleges and universities are completed by filling out the provided data form, or by using cut-and-paste features of word processing programs. Free updates are available for this program via the Web. The beta copy we tested still had a few bugs, but the program is well worth the trouble. Mac/Windows.
Kaplan SAT, PSAT & ACT Deluxe. by Kaplan Educational Centers; 800-KAPITEM; www.kaplan.com
This five-disk set