Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reader Rabbit

My girls love to play on the computer.  Do yours?  I'm not opposed to a little {precious little} time on the computer as long as its constructive, instructive and creative.  Computer time can be a source of education if you are selective.  Of course there is easy and free access to websites like Disney Playhouse, Nick Jr., and PBS Kids, but I've found the challenge and the learning factor to be minimal. 
A couple of years ago, when my oldest was 3, we purchased a set of Reader Rabbit computer games at Costco.  It came with a Preschool, a Kindergarten and a Math CD.  Reader Rabbit is made by The Learning Company the same one who made the Oregon Trail.  Does that ring a bell?  I remember playing the Oregon Trail in elementary school.  Needless to say, we didn't know quite what we were buying.  Surprisingly, I have been VERY pleased with this software.  Let me tell you why.

The preschool CD begins with a story.  The carnival in town closed down and all of the rides are broken.  The object is to help get the carnival back to working order.  In order to do this, you need to complete certain tasks multiple times to earn tickets.  Each ride needs 6 tickets.  This adds up to a lot of work on the part of your child.  These tasks include counting, matching, creating patterns, letters and sounds.  Each task is tucked into a fun scenario of its own.  Such as letters and sounds are matched together as you try to figure out someones order at a restaurant.  You learn the art of pattern making (an early math skill) by assembling a marching band in a parade.  Counting is done in a game of hide and seek.

There are four main characters, Reader Rabbit, Sam the Lion, Mattie the Mouse and Wonder Pony.  The characters are super cute and innocent.  There is plenty to explore.  It takes dedication to get your ticket which is a good thing.  It brings great satisfaction to a child to finally get a ticket they have been diligent at obtaining. You are able to adjust the difficulty according to the level of your child, but the game does that already as more tickets are earned.   My daughter has been content with the preschool CD for a couple of years.  Recently she has begun exploring the Kindergarten CD which introduces more reading and math skills using the same adorable characters and more challenging games.  The Learning Company has Reader Rabbit for toddlers up to 2nd grade.  After that, The Clue Finders  take you through 6th grade.  There is a great selection of games on Amazon starting at about $8.00.  Today it looks like most of the games are on sale, so you may want to make your purchases soon.

Here are a couple of tips when selecting a game and letting your child play on the computer:
  • Remember your child will always learn better from you and with you.  At first my girls needed help every step of the way.  Now, though they don't need my constant help, I make a point to be in the same room with them asking questions, encouraging them and staying involved in a more passive role.
  • Always, discuss and set rules about how much time they are allowed.  Computer skills have their purpose in learning, but there are so many other things that teach more efficiently and effectively than a computer game.
  • Do your research on the game you plan on buying (ie don't follow our example, we just happened to be lucky)  Games can subtly teach your children behavior or attitudes you may not approve of.  This gets trickier as your children get older. Visit Media Wise for more information.
  • Look for games that have multiple levels of difficulty and learning and games that promote problem solving.
  • In our house computer games are a privilege not a necessity.
I would love to hear your ideas on how to manage computer time and other games that have been good for your family.

1 comment:

Theresa said...

My kids LOVE anything on the computer. We have not tried reader rabbit yet, but we have tried math rabbit- and they love it.
I have found that my kids cannot play for longer than 20 minutes....longer than that and they get "mean." There is usually a fight that erupts around the computer after the 20 min mark :). What you said about being selective on games is true. Kids pick up on so much. This is true in books as well. As my oldest gets more and more into chapter books I am getting much more selective on what she spends her time reading...