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You can rescue Reader Rabbit and Sam the Lion from a bouncy world of bubble trouble chaos. Their dreamship is trapped in the enchanted Balloon Town and they have to find a way past the sleeping bulldozer in Pointy Palace. Kids come to the Rabbit's rescue by using their phonics, matching, rhyming and math skills to save the day.
There are eight activities for kindergarten age students to play, in two different ways. They can choose to navigate through the story, or they can practice specific skills. Skills levels adjust automatically or they can be preset. Parents can track progress with tracking reports. There are additional Learning Creation Activities which are intended to provide enrichment in music and art.
Reader Rabbit's Balloon Town objective is to reinforce and build on basic classroom curriculum for kindergarten age students. Reader Rabbit and his sidekick, Sam the Lion, meet other animated animal characters who help direct the twosome around Balloon Town and through the learning activities.
Reader Rabbit Kindergarten Bounce Down in Balloon Town is intended to reinforce and build on classroom curriculum for ages 4-6. The skills addressed include: patterning, matching by memory, phonics, math and reading comprehension. This is quite a bit to tackle for a children's software program but Balloon Town does a good job giving young players the opportunity to practice these skills.
The program covers all the skills adequately, but doesn't teach them. Initially, players get a lot of practice with these skills once they have navigated through the long intro and into the game/activity locations. Luckily for repeat users, you can skip the story quest/intro and hop right into the location of a specific skill to practice. Advanced 4 year olds might be able to master some of the activities, but all skills addressed are more appropriate for 5 and 6 year olds who have had more academic instruction and practice in phonics and math. Skill levels do adjust automatically, or in some cases, they can be set. In some cases, the games progress a bit too quickly. For example, in the rhyming game, some children may find that multiple rhyming families are introduced too quickly.
The lively cartoon animated style of the entire program is engaging and motivating to young players. In addition, The Learning Company's website provides quick and easy assistance and resources to its software users. It has a nice option for parents/teachers to pick and print worksheets designed for all skill levels. Parents/teachers can easily print a comsumable 'Play and Learn Workbook' which covers all kinds of academic skills. These clearly described activities are different than the games found in the software.
Reader Rabbit is a favorite among young educational software users. His adventures are filled with fun animated animal characters who appeal to the targeted audience. The highlights in Balloon Town for kids include the intrigue and adventure of a quest, but also the variety of activities offered. Some students will work long and hard to complete all the activities in order to collect the needed instrument pieces so they can find their way into Pointy Palace. Other students may only be interested in doing selected activities. There are enough activity choices that players will want to return to this program for repeated use. Some of the dialogue of the narrating characters is repetitious, which can be boring to older players, but it's all done in a cheery manner and is engaging to the intended younger audience.
Balloon Town can be easily installed. Navigation is fairly simple. Green arrows guide the way for players. Additional learning activities and playing options are available from the main introduction screen as well as links to The Learning Company's website which offers additional assistance.
Once caveat: for users with computers running Windows Me and Internet Explorer 5.5 -- the installation of this program may cause the encryption capability of Internet Explorer to become disabled. (This capability is necessary if you ever want to perform secure transactions on the Net). The Learning Company has posted a patch for this problem on their website, at:
Balloon Town provides entertainment and learning experiences for children ages 4-6. Children below age 5 might have some difficulty with some of the phonics and reading activities if they have limited academic experience in these areas. The program provides opportunities for reinforcing and building on basic classroom curriculum in math and reading, but it doesn't provide practice with the skills of problem solving and critical thinking. Creativity can be expressed using the learning creations options through calendar creation, art, and music.
PC: Windows 95/98/Me/2000, XP, Pentium 166 MHZ or faster, 100MB available, 32 MB RAM, 8X Speed, 16-bit color monitor (thousands of colors), Soundblaster 16 or compatible, speakers (stereo recommended), mouse, internet access, color printerreturn to top of page
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