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Game Media

By Brad Cook

Your kids enjoy watching Playhouse Disney on TV, so when the shows are over, engage them with fun, educational Playhouse-based activities any time on your Mac. Starring the characters your kids know and love — including Mickey Mouse, Little Einsteins, Higglytown Heroes, and others — Preschool Time Online offers an exciting new learning adventure every two weeks.

Playhouse Disney Preschool Time Online

Each learning adventure is centered around a theme, such as friendship or using your imagination, and it features a variety of games and activities that reinforce the idea in a fun way. For example, in the “Imagine That!” theme, children identify basic shapes while hunting for rocks with the Koala brothers and play pretend in Kip and Wayne’s Higglytown neighborhood. Seven Playhouse Disney shows are represented during the main portion of the learning adventure, as explained in “Meet the Playhouse Disney Cast,” below.

The learning adventures reinforce skills in eight key areas: reading readiness, math readiness, thinking skills, social skills, daily living skills, imagination and self-expression, motor skills, and computer skills. They also grow with your children, becoming easier or more difficult depending on their ability to complete the previous set of games and activities.

Your Host

Bear, of “Bear in the Big Blue House” fame, hosts the proceedings, speaking directly to your children in the same soft manner he does on TV. He greets your children and introduces the letter and number of the day, which must be found in a bureau. He also explains what’s special about today, such as: “It’s wear green day. Do you have anything green you can wear?”

Then Bear kicks off that week’s theme and sends your children to the main screen, where they engage in educational activities and games. Your children move through the learning adventure in a specific order; you can also change the setting to Discovery mode and allow a freeform approach.

At any time, your children can click on the Backyard icon and head there, where more Playhouse Disney characters populate activities involving art, music, reading, and other skills. (You can also access the previous two learning adventure themes there, in case your children were away from the computer for a while.) For example, they can click on a book featuring Winnie the Pooh and hear it read aloud, or create a unique work of art that uses musical instruments to dictate the style of brush stroke on the “canvas.”

Usage report.

For the Parents

You can save the art in the Scrapbook area of the Parents’ Corner, which also contains letter and number flash cards you can print out, along with a game that teaches basic keyboard and mouse skills, in case your children haven’t mastered those yet. In addition, you can view usage reports for each child included in your account (you can create separate identities for up to five children). Those reports tell you what percentage of time your child spent in each of the eight skill areas, so you know where to target the next session.

When your children are done for the day, you’ll need to enter your password so they can exit the game, which prevents them from accessing any outside Web sites without your permission. Even when your children leave, Preschool Time Online makes sure they’re protected, so you have peace of mind during your hectic day.

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Bear inside a club house.

Welcome to the Playhouse. Bear greets another visitor.

The Koala brothers on a puzzle.

Koala Brothers, Mate! One of the puzzles found in the Backyard area.

Popping balloons with JoJo.

Brought to You By the Number Six. JoJo and Goliath lead your child through a number recognition game.

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Meet the Playhouse Disney Cast

Playhouse Disney Preschool Time Online characters.

Aimed at two-to-six-year-olds, Playhouse Disney launched in 1996 as part of the Disney Channel. Its block of shows addresses many of the age-appropriate skills as Preschool Time Online, albeit in a less interactive fashion.

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