ADI Junior logo Helps with Counting CU Screen Star

Europress Software £25.99

Dragged kicking and screaming from the sand pit, Steve Prizeman looks at the current state of educational software.

Fronted by ADI Junior, the sprightly little cousin of ADI (mentioned elsewhere in this feature), this package targets the basic mathematical skills of two younger age groups - four to give year-olds and the six to sevens. The colourful menu screen, though which all the aspects of the program are accessed, is actually an animated picture.

Practically all the objects shown respond in one way or another when clicked on with the mouse, enticing the user further into the program by intriguing them as to what will happen next.

With 15 activities for each of the age groups this product is aimed at, ADI Junior Counting gives a pleasant introduction to the basics of adding-up and taking-away. Three levels of difficulty allow the child to progress through subjects like counting objects, identifying numbers by word and figure, and painting by numbers.

One of the tasks, for example, involves counting the number of sightseers who visit a castle - if the comings and goings are kept track of, an end sequence shows a knight walking round his home switching off the lights. In another part of the program, for junior counters increasing in confidence, a series of sums may be undertaken against the clock.

There are, in addition, plenty of activities to be done which are unrelated to maths - a car racing game, jigsaws, and identikit faces may all be played with. The graphics are bright and entertaining; the range of sound effects is both wide and of high quality.

The voice which speaks the advice given to users when they press the Help key is exceptionally clear, albeit in a cutesy American way, which is sure to help ADI Junior the intended impression of a helpful and instructive playmate. An activity-packed program which really does make learning fun, this excellent piece of software is thoroughly recommended.

ADI Junior logo Helps with Reading 4/5 Years CU Screen Star

EUROPRESS £25.99 TEL: 0625 859333
Mark Patterson goes back to school with a pair of releases from Europress.

The latest edition in the Europress ADI range is aimed squarely at the preschoolers with the aim of giving them a thorough grounding in basic character recognition and sentence structure. In addition to these exercises there are also games which teach children to recognise sounds, tell the time and match shapes. The exercises are written with the national curriculum in mind along with copious amounts of user-friendliness at every step.

If you already have a copy of ADI Junior Counting you will instantly recognise the similarities between it and the latest products in the Junior range. Apart from the main screen, they also share several games, such as the face designer and jigsaws.

On the lighter side there is a driving game, complete with track designer, which pits the player against the game's host, ADI, or another kid (or adult for that matter). Even this has multiple skill levels where the first makes the car almost crash-proof while level three produces a car with minimal road handling.

Although it looks like Europress have cut corners by including some features of ADI Junior Counting, the total package puts it at the top of the table in its age range. The activities are made as much fun as possible and the difficulty levels should make it worthwhile even for the most precocious kids.

To teach common letter combinations the child is shown two letters, then a picture of an animal. They then have to decide whether or not these letters occur in its name. There is even a sort of computerised Fuzzy Felt where the user has to stick various animals on a landscape.

Almost as importantly, the package is surprisingly easy for computer illiterate parents to use. The help function explains where everything is and what it does. The manual takes care of any other points as well as explaining the benefits of each activity and the differences between the difficulty levels. It is, however, a bit patronising in places and whoever wrote it cannot spell "disk". That aside it covers every area of the package in great detail.

To keep track of your child's progress as you go along, the package automatically saves their results to disks, so that the next time you load the package they will be playing on the same level they left off. It also displays a progress report showing how many questions were answered correctly out of the number attempted.

If you want to give your child a head start in reading before they begin attending a play group or other preschool class you would certainly be hard pressed to find a better option than this one.

ADI Junior logoHelps with Reading 6/7 Years CU Screen Star

EUROPRESS £25.99 TEL: 0625 859333
Mark Patterson goes back to school with a pair of releases from Europress.

The advanced version of the other Junior Reading package utilises the same format as the 4/5 version with the addition of a few new elements.

Where the other acts as a primer, each letter sounds and shapes, this one goes much further. Now the user is required to learn more complicated letter sounds and read and spell more complicated words.

For the most part this version is almost identical to its younger brother and they even share the same manual. The games take on an almost identical format, although the questions are much tougher. This means that if your child genius speeds through that package they won't feel out of place using this one.

All the extras are still there, including Paint Pot which is an easy-to-use art package. The amount of tools available depends on the level the application is set to, initially there is only a few line tools, eraser and a box icon to choose from. Cut and paste tools, a symmetry feature and a fill tool can be added.

Again, the package goes into great detail while being easy to use and providing a liberal smattering of games to keep minds with otherwise short attention spans interested. Despite its ease-of-use, it is essential to keep an adult on hand to help out with the trickier puzzles and the disk swapping between programs as the disk labelling could prove a little confusing for younger children.

Equally as good as the 4/5 version, it is unmatched in its field. The variety of problems to solve and the various games and extra programs make this package extremely absorbing.

Parents need not to worry about being shown up either when it comes to using the machine as there is an extremely useful on-line help system. The perfect way to prepare kids for first year education.