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

Toon Talk 2

Toon Talk 2

Fall 2001 Software
Ages: 5 - 18 yrs.
Price: $49.95
Platform: Windows 9X/ NT/2000/Xp
Imagine Gumby teaching computer basics using Legos and you've got some idea of what this neat convergence of high-tech science and young minds looks like. Ken Kahn's Toon Talk teaches children the basics of computer programming -- and if adults look over their kid's shoulder, they might learn something too.

The program has a thorough introductory tour as well as additional pre-play demo "movies" that show step-by-step how to program a ping pong game, how to program claymation-style robots to work Fibonacci numbers and how to program a bank account, among other assignments that demonstrate basic skills used in the full-blown program.

Kids learn to make simple video games, build towns and cities, play games and puzzles -- generally be creative little programmers on the computer. The animated help-meister who lends a hand and alerts users to the do's and don'ts is a polite Martian named Marty, who only shows up on the screen when needed or when kids err in their programming tasks. Then, Marty speaks up: "Excuse me, you can't do that!"

Tooly the Toolbox is always at hand with the necessary tools and pieces -- like numbers, letters, programmable robots, birds and nests, scales, bombs and a hammering mouse that runs out and slams down the parts. The click-and-drag interface uses a large hand for the cursor and lets kids feel like they are manually selecting and moving the pieces.

While this programming program is a lot more fun and easier than "computer programming" sounds, this is challenging and, at times, difficult learning software. Kids younger than 8 or 9 are going to have rough going at first; many may find the activities tedious until their attention wanders. Older kids, too, who aren't already computer brainiacs, may find some of these concepts too much work, despite the fun look of it all. So you've got to know your child before investing in this program.

Don Oldenburg   ©2001 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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