JumpStart Toddlers is an introductory title designed for use with very young children. What we wanted to know was, "could we really use it with a toddler?"
Built around seven basic activities, the program covers mouse use, letters, numbers, shapes, and musical instruments. Beginning with Peek-A-Boo, a young child in your lap will learn to move the mouse (no-clicking required) to uncover a hidden animal. At the next level of difficulty, Give the Dog a Bone features a friendly talking dog who asks the user to bring him various objects. Again, no clicking is required, but mouse skills are developed, as well as response to verbal requests. A third mouse skills development activity is a Songbook which features nine different singing animals, each with with click-and-explore features in the picture.
Once a child has become comfortable with the mouse, Toddlers offers activities in four more traditional educational areas. ABC's and 123 are blackboard-based settings, where clicking on a letter or number will present the character on the board, along with a picture and the word naming the picture -- a cat, for example, with the letter C. Bouncing Shapes is a variation on Thinking Things classic program, albeit at a much less sophisticated level. Finally, Musical Instruments presents seven instruments that are named when clicked, and play 3 different songs each.
Ease of Install / Use
Our reviewers reported that Toddlers was easy to install and use. One caution: several reviewers who used the program with higher resolution monitors reported that their children could inadvertently jump to another activity if they clicked the mouse while the cursor was anywhere beneath the screen image.
JumpStart Toddlers uses rhyming, song, and familiar pictures to introduce toddlers to computer use. "It's hard to imagine a less-threatening, more comfortable approach -- especially if you follow the manual's recommendation to treat this program literally as lapware," according to one of our parent reviewers. Our youngest testers were bouncing happily in their parents' laps during many of the songs. One minor distraction in the ABC and 123 activities was reported by several of our parent reviewers, "When my son mistakenly clicked on non-letter keys in ABC's, he was told to click only on letters, but rewarded with a neat fireworks display on the blackoard!"
Proxy Parent Value
Proxy parent value is Superkids' measure of how well a program attracts and holds a child's attention. JumpStart Toddlers was very effective in this measure, but by design, a parent or teacher should plan on working with the child with this program.
"Can you really use this program with 18 month old kids?" That was the key question we asked our parents review editor. Her answer: "It totally depends on the child, and your expectation level." In our test with a mechanically-inclined 22 month-old boy, we had a mixed outcome. On the positive side, he was captivated by the program, willing to spend more than an hour at a time in his dad's lap! Hand-eye-mouse-cursor coordination, however, was beyond his ability. He was cognizant that moving and clicking the mouse did things, but purposeful targeting was lacking. The program anticipates this, in that many activities also allow random keyboard clicks to activate screen movements - this is interesting to the child, but potentially frustrating to the parent.
JumpStart Toddlers is an excellent starter program for very young computer novices. Would we use it with a two and under child? Yes, but with realistic expectations, based on the child's attention span and level of fine motor ability. As the child grows, this program will offer additional challenges and opportunities for learning.
|Operating System||Windows 3.1, Win95||System 7.1 or higher|
|CPU Type and Speed||486DX33 or faster||68040 or PowerPC|
|Hard Drive Space||3 MB||none|
|Memory (RAM)||8 MB||8 MB|
|Graphics||SVGA 256 color||13" or larger color|
|Audio||MPC-compatible sound card|
|Other Needs||Mouse||QuickTime 2.0 (incl)|
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SuperKids Review of JumpStart Toddlers. SuperKids Educational Software Review provides unbiased reviews of children's software by parents, teachers, and kids.