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Article:    Summer Time Fun & Learning with Software 

 
 

 

10 +best games for
Summer

Not many children will want to hit the workbooks during summer vacation. Happily, they can still learn as they play with "edutaining" software programs and educational games. We've selected some outstanding programs that are especially appropriate for reviewing concepts learned during the school year, and for getting a head start on the school year to come! What follows are our choices for the best summer "fun and learning" games:


Just for Fun

1 Perfect for rainy days, Petz is a friendly virtual pets computer game that kids love.

What does it do? Children choose petz from a variety of breeds of both cats and dogs, care for them, play with them, and play mini-games.  

Why do we recommend this title? Pets don't die or grow old, and the software has long-lasting appeal.

Who is it for? Best for children, ages 5 to 9, who love free-play computer games.

See our full review of Petz here.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Petz: Dogz 5 and Catz 5 Compilation at Amazon.com]

 

2 A fabulous book that will keep children busy creating unique artwork is Ed Emberley's Complete FunPrint Drawing Book, which combines two of his popular books, Great Thumbprint Drawing Book and Fingerprint Drawing Book.

What does it do? This book offers whimsical suggestions of how to "dress up" simple thumbprints and fingerprints, and turn them into one-of-a-kind creations.

Why do we recommend this book? It offers open-ended opportunities for children to create little masterpieces with very little in the way of art tools.

Who is it for? Children ages 6-12.

Our rating of the book: A+

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Ed Emberley's Complete Funprint Drawing Book at Amazon.com]

 

 

Logical Thinking

3 Chess is certainly a brainy game, but it can also be great fun. If you are interested in getting your kids interested in the game, Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster will motivate children to learn the rules of the game and offer them valuable interactive lessons and tips at the same time. Kids who want to learn even more about chess can also benefit from Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster 2

What does it do? Children progress through a series of mini-games that help them get acquainted with the basic rules of the game of chess. Later, they "work out" at the gym...the Intelligym, where they participate in interactive chess lessons. Eventually, they get to play complete games. Children gradually build logical thinking skills as they learn to strategize and plan ahead.

Why do we recommend this series? Both games in the series are unique programs for a few reasons: rather than enduring dry lessons about the game of chess, kids take part in a charming animated adventure story (the goal is to beat the dastardly King Black in a chess "duel"), the games and mini-games are clever, and the games progress in a logical, organized fashion so that kids aren't expected to learn too much at once.  

Who is it for? Children ages 8-9 through 12. The game is, at times, slow-moving--some children might become impatient with the pace, especially those who already know the rules of the game.

See our review of the Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster here and our review of Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster 2 here.
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster or Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster 2: Chess in the Black Castle at Amazon.com]

 

4 The I Spy series of CD-ROMs simply gets better and better. One of the more recent releases is fantastic. The trademark I Spy riddles and lush images come alive in I Spy CD-ROMs, and I Spy Fantasy is jam-packed with things to do and to see. Fortunately, the game is as rich in educational value as it is rich with visual stimuli. 

Replay value is high because of the fact that there are three levels to the game. Completing the game the first time takes many hours for most kids. Most will find the game compelling enough that it begs to be played on the second and third level. Gorgeous screens, pleasingly stumping riddles, and rich replayable content set I Spy Fantasy apart. Highly recommended!

Who is this game for? The box reads ages 6-10. Many six year olds will find the game a little too difficult to complete on their own. This game is best for children ages 8-10, especially those who enjoy solving riddles and problems.

Our Rating: A+

See our full review of the game here and a screenshot gallery here.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: I Spy Fantasy at Amazon.com]

 

5 The Incredible Machine Even More Contraptions is a classic software game that is now offered in Hoyle Puzzle & Board Games 2005

What does it do? Incredible Machine Even More Contraptions features 250 new puzzles, taking the form of mind-bending contraption challenges. It is an addictive game of trial-and-error as players work through zany puzzles that become progressively more involving as levels advance. This game is now available in Hoyle Puzzle Games 2003, along with a wide assortment of fun puzzles, such as word games, tiles, and arcade-style solitaire.

Why do we recommend this title? With pleasing graphics, and the option to play head-to-head, this title is a must-buy for puzzle lovers ages 9 through adult. It makes an extra special gift for all those kids (and adults) who love to tinker.

Who is it for? Children ages 9 through adult, especially those who like to work their brains and solve visual problems.

See our full review of this excellent software here, and our screenshot gallery of the game here.

Our rating of the game: A

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Hoyle Puzzle & Board Games 2005 at Amazon.com]

 

Uniquely Fun & Educational

6 Apples to Apples Junior

Apples to Apples Junior! is based on the party game, Apples to Apples, but it is designed to be enjoyed by children as young as 7. This game is oh so funny and very educational. 

The box simply consists of cards & red apple cards and green apple cards in a tray. Players are dealt 5 red apple cards each. These cards each feature a word (such as "ants", "grocery store", or "my hair") along with a definition. The player who has been chosen as "the Judge" draws a green apple card. The green cards feature a descriptive word (such as "spooky", "important", "large", or "funny") with synonyms of the word. The other players then look at their concealed red cards and attempt to find the card in their hand that BEST fits with the green card word. For example, if the green card word is "large" and a player has a hand with the words "ants", "the first day of school", "pajamas", "grocery store", and "my hair", then he/she might decide to play the card "grocery store" as one that best fits the word "large". Each player selects a card, lays it in front of them, and then the judge mixes up the played cards and makes a "judgment" on which card is the best fit. The beauty of the game is that the decision is at the discretion of the judge!  

Kids really laugh through the game and they learn vocabulary words and associations at the same time. This is a hilarious thinking game. Note that the nature of the game means that it can't be played by just two kids. It's a party game! In fact, Apples to Apples Junior is just wonderful for promoting social interactions. It's a almost as fun to watch as it is to play. (Parents will love watching kids giggle, negotiate, and associate!)

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Apples to Apples Junior at Amazon.com]

 

7 Cosmic Blobs: Lab Rat Edition is an entirely unique 3D graphics software designed for kids. Children work with 3D shapes ("blobs") by stretching, shifting, molding, merging, gluing, and animating them. It's not unlike working with modeling clay, except kids are developing computer and graphics skills as they "play".

Why do we recommend this title? Cosmic Blobs offers kids a one-of-a-kind computer experience that is not only fun, it's educational.

Who is it for? Best for children who enjoy creativity games on the computer, ages 8-9 and up.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Cosmic Blobs: Lab Rat Edition at Amazon.com]

 

8 For preschoolers, Blue's Room: Blue Talks is a nice, well-rounded title that will keep little ones busy.

Why do we recommend this title? The activities in the game are enjoyable and quite original. Children and their parents will be floored by the graphics--they're irresistible. You won't find your standard preschool fare here (no ABC's and 123's), but you will find some engaging games that are far from run-of-the-mill. More of them would have been even better.

Who is it for? Best for children who are fans of the Blue's Room television show, ages 3 to 5.

See our review of the game here.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Blue's Room: Blue Talks at Amazon.com]

 

Math & Science

9 Achieve! Math & Science Grades 1-3 bundles a number of titles together to create one very educational package for children on the younger end of the suggested age group.

cover What does it do? Two math titles, Mighty Math Carnival Countdown and Mighty Math Zoo Zillions, offer a range of unique activities that exercise children's early math skills. Children learn money math, 3D geometry, addition, subtraction, place value, and more with these titles. Sammy's Science House offers a nice exploration of early science concepts like weather, animals, and seasons. The fourth title, Thinkin' Things Fripple Town is a wonderful exercise in both art and logic. 

Why do we recommend this title? Children explore math and science concepts in ways that stretch their thinking and offer them a chance to truly understand the concepts, rather than learning only by rote.  

Who is it for? Best for first and second graders who prefer open-ended games to fast-paced arcade or adventure programs.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Achieve! Math & Science Grades 1-3 at Amazon.com]

 

10 Math & Science Excelerator Grades 3-6 bundles 4 excellent software programs: two Geosafari CD-ROMs for math, and two Mango Plumo titles for science. Lots of skills practice and concepts to learn.

cover What does it do? The two math titles are based on the Geosafari Knowledge Pad electronic toy. These programs offer math quizzes that feature bright graphics and a scoring format. Decimals, percentages, number lines, fractions, multiplication, and division are the games' focus. The Mango Plumo titles star a perky little bird and feature adventure formats with creative and unique science lessons about weather and space.

Why do we recommend this title? Lots of learning and variety is packed into this bundle. The science lessons are quite unique and offer useful information. The math quizzes are actually quite fun to complete and feature lots of variety. 

Who is it for? Best for children at a third to fifth grade level.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Educator's Choice Math and Science... at Amazon.com]

 

11 Math Missions Grades 3-5: The Amazing Arcade Adventure is an excellent program for a variety of math exercises within the context of an adventure.

What does it do? Children attempt to rebuild a city by helping out store clerks who are not very adept at math. Kids earn money by playing a variety of activities found in the city. Kids do real-world math problems in graphing, fractions, rounding off, percentages, and more--and they work towards owning and managing an arcade.

Why do we recommend this title? This CD-ROM strikes an excellent balance between fun and learning. 

Who is it for? Three difficulty levels are intended to cover third to fifth grade math. The program is likely to be too challenging for children just entering third grade, and is therefore best for children working at a 4th-5th grade level.

See our full review of this excellent software here, and our screenshot gallery of the game here.

Our rating of the game: A+

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Math Mission 3-5 With Bonus Card Game (3rd - 5th Grade) (DVD Box) at Amazon.com]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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