This is a renamed and slightly updated version of Let's Start Learning, a program we previously reviewed and liked. Now part of The Learning Company's Reader Rabbit series of multi-subject, early-education programs, this animated, upbeat program
takes the user on a quest to earn the four keys that will unlock and free Wonder
Pony, a carousel horse who, with help, becomes real. To earn the keys, the child
must master 4 levels of easy to understand and complete, skill-building activities. The 4th
level, in this instance, is not the most difficult, but rather the most creative
of the 4 levels, allowing the child to take concepts learned in the first 3 levels,
and experiment and create with them. Each activity is filled with lovable characters, lively
dancing and child-pleasing music.
The core of the program consists of four activities: Counting Club, in which the user practices beginning number recognition and counting skills; Shape Shack, where the user sorts shapes based on one or more like features; ABC Diner, where letter and letter-sound recognition is practiced resulting in kooky concoctions;
and Pattern Parade, which focuses on repetitive pattern conceptualization.
New to this updated version of the program are a pseudo "Where's Waldo" section; virtual paper
dolls; a 'build a body' section (with Arno Moose, the zany Schwartzeneger-esque Master
of Ceremonies); and a zoom-in scene that allows the child to view a scene with different perspectives. Each of these projects encourages exploration and discovery.
Not only does this program provide a good early computer experience, engendering positive
feelings toward computers in general, but it also introduces important prereading
and early math concepts, paving the way for successful learning in the years to come. Most importantly, the program stresses the importance of investigation and discovery,
without which learning becomes rote and imaginations stifled.
The friendly, engaging characters in this program appealed to SuperKids reviewers
of both sexes, although girls were especially drawn to the carousel horse theme.
Children well beyond the given age range (and well into their school years) enjoyed
playing the program, suggesting that its usefulness is not confined to preschool years. Wrong
answers are dealt with in an entirely non-threatening way, making even the most timid
child anxious to make an attempt at solving problems posed. "My daughter played
this program continuously for 3 1/2 hours!" related one parent reviewer, "she needed
only two more keys when I told her to quit for the day."
Ease of Use / Install
The program installed easily on our test Mac machine, and without problems on Windows 95.
The manual or "handbook" not only explains the program itself, which for the most
part is easy to use and requires no explanation, but also provides insights into
the educational bases for each included activity. Song lyrics can be found
in the appendix.
Best for... / Bottom-Line
This preschool program contains much to educate and entertain the young mind. With
excellent graphics and upbeat charm, it is a good bet for almost any young child.