Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Didi & Ditto (Kindergarten)

Didi & Ditto (Kindergarten)

Fall 2004 Software
Ages: 4 - 6 yrs.
Price: $19.95
Platform: Windows
Just one look is all it takes. After the usual preliminaries--choosing the host character and which of three difficulty levels to play--kids are immediately transported into a wonderfully vivid and colorful fantasy world plush with odd out-of-nowhere characters and imaginative settings, all accompanied by a charming and encouraging beaver, either Didi or Ditto.

Anyone familiar with the groundbreaking "Mia" series created by this innovative software-design firm already knows its hallmark is remarkable graphics and animation combined with adventuresome plotting. This program has a different look and feel than Mia, but Didi and Ditto are indeed off on a learning adventure into an enchanted forest where 14 educational activities await - and a fruit or a vegetable is earned for completing each one. (Eventually the collected snacks are the ransom to get the red fox to free the other beaver.)

In the process kindergartners playfully practice math skills, language arts, thinking skills and creativity. In the first richly rendered landscape, we followed Ditto into a scarecrow patch where matching picture names with beginning letters sounds (with the help of clear computer pronunciation) exercised phonetic skills. In the hen house, we clicked on the four hens, each with a different color and patterned nest, to induce them to lay the right number of eggs in baskets of matching colors and patterns. In the Meadow, at the Bees Hive, we dragged bees labeled with correct answers to simple math problems to the hive. And at Grumpy the Bugs house, we picked cursive-like letters to spell simple words. M.

Between the activities are lots of unexpected "clickables"--a wacky dog that runs out of a house, a funny monster that lives inside a tree, a town clock that changes time from night and day. They're there for the fun of it and don't pretend to add to the learning content. But the overall journey here is learning in small steps that add up bigger over time. And from the beginning, this program will engage youngsters just starting that educational journey.

Don Oldenburg   ©2004 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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