Global Positioning

jinny@choosingchildrenssoftware.com

Travel usually entails physically going from one place to another. But with a computer, children can travel all over the world and never leave home.

With "JumpStart Languages," children ages 3 to 6 can travel to a World Festival to explore the language and culture of four countries. In "My Amazing World Explorer," children ages 5 to 9 travel around the world by playing a variety of games and exploring interactive maps.

'JumpStart Languages'

Youngsters join Frankie the Dog and his JumpStart Pals as they visit the JumpStart World Festival. At each of four pavilions--French, Spanish, Japanese and English--children explore language, culture and music by playing games and other clickable activities.

When children enter a pavilion, they are joined by a JumpStart Pal and a "Listen & Learn Language Buddy," who speaks only the language of the pavilion. The JumpStart Pal can translate when the player doesn't understand.

Although each pavilion represents a different language and culture, the activities in each are similar. For example, each pavilion features a clock that recites time in the language of that pavilion and a telephone that plays a Simon Says game asking children to repeat a sequence of numbers in the designated language. Children also learn about native art and music.

Children can also listen to traditional stories in a foreign language, recite parts of the body and names of clothing as they play with puppets, learn food and kitchen words as they play hide and seek in the kitchen and pick up more vocabulary words by playing a board game. Children are rewarded with video shows about the culture of the countries.

"JumpStart Languages" provides a fun and relaxed way to introduce young children to languages and cultures. The program allows players to determine how deeply they want to be immersed in the experience.

For example, with the story activity, children can listen to the story in the foreign language, or they can have each page translated into English. There is also a question mode in the games in which the native speaker makes an activity more challenging by asking the player to find or do something. This is a great passport to world travel.

'My First Amazing World Explorer'

"My First Amazing World Explorer" is found in a two-title bundle called "World Explorer Deluxe." (The other title explores world history.) "My First Amazing World Explorer" contains a trove of information about the world, including wonderful maps filled with clickable animations and narrated pop-up areas. There are also five games, interactive journeys, stunning videos, a place to collect stickers and a searchable database.

The main menu is the player's new bedroom. By exploring this room, children find all the interactive activities. While the player is in the bedroom, a boy named Joe stops by on his way to take a trip with his folks. Later, Joe calls and solicits the player's help in bringing him a forgotten package.

So starts the Great Globe Trotter Game. Joe provides a clue about where he can be found. Because Joe and his parents are constantly on the move, players have to go to several locations and find several clues before finally meeting up with Joe.

Kid-testers particularly liked playing this global scavenger hunt. It's a wonderful way to encourage children to learn about the world, and it can be played numerous times because there are more than 50 destinations to explore. Children can use the on-screen database to help figure out clues.

On the wall in the bedroom is My Map of the World--the true heart of this title and an incredible gateway for exploration. Click on a continent, and the map zooms to that area. There, children are greeted with regional music and numerous inviting icons.

For example, click on China, and the map shows a Giant Panda, the Great Wall of China and a paper dragon. Each of these icons leads to a narrated pop-up box, and the dragon shows a video of Chinese festivals.

"My First Amazing World Explorer" has so many layers of information that, at times, young children can get lost in all the pop-up boxes. Because of this, it helps to have a parent traveling with the child.

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Jinny Gudmundsen is editor of Choosing Children's Software magazine.

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The Skinny

"JumpStart Languages"

Price: $20

Ages: 3 to 6

Platform: PC/Mac

System requirements: On the PC, a Pentium 166 with 32 MB of RAM and 30 MB of available hard disk space. On the Mac, a G3 with 32 MB of RAM (64 MB recommended) and 30 MB of available hard disk space.

Publisher: Knowledge Adventure

The good: Wide variety

The bad: Some children might not stay interested

Bottom line: A fun way to introduce tots to foreign languages

"My First Amazing World Explorer" (found in "World Explorer Deluxe")

Price: $20

Ages: 5 to 9

Platform: PC/Mac

System requirements: On the PC, a 486 33 with 16 MB of RAM and 13 MB of available hard disk space. On the Mac, 68LC040 25 with 12 MB of RAM and 13 MB of available hard disk space.

Publisher: DK Interactive Learning

The good: Interactive maps and engaging games

The bad: So many layers children can get lost

Bottom Line: A wonderful window to the world

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