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Parents' Guide to Children's Products for Fun & Learning

First-Rate Software for First Graders 

First grade is filled with new challenges, as kids focus on developing skills in reading and math along with a host of other subjects. Happily, there are a number of edutainment software titles that will help kids practice their newfound skills at home.

All-Purpose First Grade Programs

All-Purpose 1st Grade Program Comparison Chart:

  1st & 2nd Grade Excelerator


Arthur's 1st Grade JumpStart Advanced 1st Grade Reader Rabbit 1st Grade: Capers on Cloud Nine!
Method 4 CD-ROMs, each of which is devoted to a subject. 15 skill-building activities; arcade games as rewards 20 skill-building activities Adventure story line with 7 educational activities along the way.
Pros 4 different programs for the price of one; the only program with foreign language instruction Large variety of activities, smart features. Fun, playful approach to learning; high incentive to play. Fun, bright graphics; educational games have high value
Cons Not integrated (4 different CDs); some dated graphics Activities sometimes grow tiresome. Rewards and animations are sometimes superfluous. May be too challenging for some kids.
Best For Those looking to add variety to their software collection; kids who are studying Spanish in school. Arthur fans; struggling students. Kids who appreciate an ample reward system and lots of variety. Advanced first graders; kids who enjoy an adventure format.
Our Rating






Reader Rabbit First Grade

Top Pick A particularly engaging program that takes kids on an adventure as they take part in educational activities is Reader Rabbit 1st Grade Capers on Cloud Nine! This rather challenging program is involving, filled with songs and gorgeous animations, and brimming with valuable educational content. 

[Buy Reader Rabbit 1st Grade at]

This title has been repackaged along with a music CD featuring Reader Rabbit songs, a "printable activities" CD, and flashcards: Reader Rabbit 1st Grade. The graphics in the game are appealing, and parents will certainly appreciate the title's organization. In fact, its organization is a strong factor in this comparison, as the other programs suffer from a lack of cohesion.

[Buy Reader Rabbit 1st Grade at]


With treasure hunts and eye-popping graphics, JumpStart Advanced 1st Grade is appealing to kids. Its activities are rather educational and quite varied. Plenty of motivational rewards are here—in fact, some parents might find there is too much focus on rewards. As well, because so many topics are covered, there is not a whole lot of focus or depth in any one subject. The program is a little too busy for our liking. Still, the program helps kids equate learning with fun.  

[Buy JumpStart Advanced 1st Grade]

Arthur's 1st Grade is an encouraging program that keeps kids busy learning. It's probably best for Arthur fans, because though the activities are sound, there are none that truly stand out. Still, the smart features in this program are commendable, and the educational content is multi-level and age-appropriate.  [Buy Arthur's First Grade at]

In 1st and 2nd Grade Excelerator, a 4-CD-ROM set, kids will get a simple but effective Spanish-learning software, Instant Immersion Spanish for Kids, a paint and print studio loaded with options and starring Curious George, an excellent math program that allows kids to explore and experiment entitled Mighty Math Zoo Zillions, and a so-so reading program called Beginning Reading 1-2. This bundle is notable for its range of offerings and foreign language content. None of the programs are particularly exciting to play, but the package's strength lies in the fact that each of its featured subject areas—math, reading, foreign language, and creativity—is explored in more depth than the other titles in this comparison. 

[Buy 1st And 2nd Grade Excelerator (4 CD-ROM) at]


More All-Purpose Titles

Older first-grade titles that are still quite worthwhile include Big Thinkers First Grade, which can be found bundled with two other titles in a very low-priced package, entitled Big Thinkers Series Bundle. The first grade title is truly packed with educational and creative activities. It's harder to find this title, but if you can get your hands on it, it's truly worth it! 

[Buy Big Thinkers Series Bundle at]

Another older title that has excellent educational value is Microsoft My Personal Tutor 1st & 2nd Grade. This is a good program for your first-grader to play now, and grow into as his or her skills develop. This 3-CD-ROM set is very valuable and includes an especially effective and focused reading program. We love this discontinued item. 

[Buy Microsoft My Personal Tutor 2.0... at]


Focus on Reading

For a fun and breezy program that helps kids practice language arts skills, turn to Spelling Puzzles Grade 1 by School Zone Interactive. It's packaged with a colorful workbook and contains electronic workbook pages. While the educational content is not very deep, this program presents a surprisingly fun way to practice facts at home. As well, most first graders will find the program exactly the right challenge. Excellent! 

[Buy Spelling Puzzles 1 at]

Another fabulous—and delightfully different—program by School Zone Interactive that is just right for first-graders is Vocabulary Puzzles Grade 1. It, too, is paired with a printed, high-quality workbook. What this title does is encourage children to play with words through crosswords, codes, rebus puzzles, word searches, and more. It's hard to find word puzzles targeted at first-graders, and this program fits the bill perfectly with age-appropriate exercises. Fun and educational. 

[Buy Vocabulary Puzzles Grade 1 at]

Reader Rabbit I Can Read with Phonics contains two tried-and-true Reader Rabbit titles that are ideal for kids who know how to read basic words, but who can benefit from further practice developing phonics and sight word skills. 

[Buy Reader Rabbit Learn To Read With Phonics! 1st-2nd Grade at]

First graders who can benefit from intensive phonics and sight word practice will get a good workout with a package entitled Phonics, Reading, & Writing Excelerator, which contains the 2 Let's Go Read titles—programs that are systematic and thorough, and that incorporate speech recognition. The two other older titles from the Imagination Express series further the learning to creative writing, which may be too advanced to think about for many first-graders, but they are programs that kids can eventually grow into. 

[Buy Phonics, Reading and Writing Excelerator... at]


Focus on Math

An electronic workbook from School Zone Interactive entitled Math Grade 1 is particularly appropriate for basic math facts practice. Parents will appreciate its age-appropriate content, and kids will actually love playing the fun games and completing the bright, colorful workbook pages. This title lacks depth, but has loads of appeal and helps reinforce facts. 

[Buy Math 1 at]


Focus on Logic and Fun

The best Humongous adventure pack for this age group is Humongous Heroes Three-Pack. Three adventures starring fantastic "heroes" are included: Putt Putt Travels through Time, Freddi Fish 3, and Pajama Sam 2: Thunder and Lightning Aren't So Frightening. Any one of these titles is worth the price of the whole package. All are outstanding for problem solving fun, and probably perfect for the first grade crowd. Though not as explicitly academic as the other titles mentioned here, these problem-solving adventures do make kids think logically, plan ahead, and visualize. The programs require drawing upon memory skills and are entertaining--and very satisfying--at the same time. 

[Buy Humongous Heroes Three Pack at]


Leapster Game: First Grade

If you own the Leapster portable, handheld system, the Leapster 1st Grade cartridge for the Leapster is an excellent game, with challenges that are dead-on for first grade practice. The program's challenges adapt to a child's performance, and tips are in place for problem areas.


November 2001/Updated December 2004