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Buyer's Guide:    Getting Ready for Kindergarten: Best Software & Games


Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten: Best Computer Games

While Kindergarten is largely a social experience, children who have been exposed to certain educational concepts often find the transition into school a little easier. Software that painlessly introduces and reinforces essential early learning skills can help encourage kids to learn and to think logically.  

We've selected some excellent programs for developing Kindergarten readiness skills, below.

When selecting outstanding Kindergarten software, we look for the following:

  • An encouraging, helpful environment for learning.
  • Strong educational content that gently challenges a child, rather than overwhelms.
  • Good replay value.
  • Enough entertainment value to appeal to children, but not so much that it distracts children from learning.

Our Buyer's Guides help make buying choices easy for consumers. We test hundreds of children's products and strive to keep up to date on the latest releases. Of course, every family is unique. We can't please everyone. However, we are able to select some special titles that are at the top of our "edutainment" list--those that have that extra edge in the categories of design, entertainment, education, and play value. 

Besides the letter grades we give most products, reviews on this site often come with a rating bar chart--a visual breakdown of how the product rates in a number of categories. If you'd like to know more about how software products are rated, click here.

As we test new software and products, we update these buyer's guides to reflect current availability and up-to-date recommendations. These guides are intended to help parents make sense of the often overwhelming choices available to them.

coverLeapster Kindergarten is an educational game cartridge for the Leapster. If you don't already own the Leapster Multimedia Learning System (a portable game unit for young children), you might seriously consider purchasing it. Leapster Kindergarten is just one of many currently available (with many more games in the works including Reader Rabbit) educational games for the Leapster.

What does it do? Children interact with the game using the arrow keys, attached special pen, and by touching the Leapster screen. Kids play multilevel educational activities that gently challenge them in logical thinking, basic phonics, math, and more.

Why do we recommend this title? The portability of the Leapster is a huge draw. The game is truly fun and gently challenging, offering children to learn and play "on the go". 

Who is it for? Children who are getting ready for Kindergarten through to children in the midst of Kindergarten (ages 4-6).

Our Rating: A+

See our full review here. For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Leapster Software: Kindergarten - affiliate link

coverDragon Tales: Learn & Fly with Dragons is designed for children ages 4-6 (we feel 4-5 is a better target audience). It uses the helping-and-sharing philosophy of the television show and adds some clever activities that gently encourage children to think logically.

What does it do? The program includes a fair amount of practice with colors, shapes, logic, and early math skills. Children help dragons earn their badges by playing a number of activities that increase in challenge as kids play.

Why do we recommend this title? Gentle encouragement and gradually increasing challenges. Good replay value.

Who is it for? Appropriate for children entering Kindergarten. Ages 4-5.

Our Rating: A-

See our full review of this software. 

For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Dragon Tales: Learn & Fly With Dragons- affiliate link

coverStuart Little Learning Adventures doesn't follow the Stuart Little movie's story line at all, but it does "star" the lovable mouse. Truly packed with educational activities, this program contains 2 CD-ROMs, each featuring activities based on language arts, visual arts, and math curriculum for early elementary-age children. 

What does it do? The program is not particularly fast-paced, and it doesn't tie in with the movie's story, but it is very creative and clever in its presentation of educational concepts. More activities than you count are featured in this set that takes children through number recognition to counting to addition and subtraction and more.

Why do we recommend this title? This is one of those rare programs that can last for a very long time, and the time invested into it will be very well spent. It is especially original for its introduction of visual arts concepts and early math skills.

Who is it for? Large range in difficulty levels makes the game appropriate for children as young as 4 and as old as 7 or 8.

For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Stuart Little Learning Adventures - affiliate link

Didi & Ditto Kindergarten is a new curriculum-based title by the makers of the excellent Mia software titles.

What does it do? Children collect fruits and vegetables for a vegetarian wolf by playing activities that exercise skills in phonics, math, music, and art. Kids can choose to play along with a girl or boy beaver. Colorful worlds and charming characters are featured. 

Why do we recommend this title? The unique graphics draw children in, effectively promising something different than the usual software fare for this age group. The educational challenges are multi-level. 

Who is it for? The program is a little too sophisticated for younger children in the suggested age group. Best for older Kindergarteners or advanced, software-savvy kids.

Our Rating: A-

See our full review of this software.

For more information, user reviews, or to buy: KUTOKA Didi & Ditto Kindergarten ( Windows/Macintosh ) - affiliate link

coverJumpStart Advanced Kindergarten features a tutoring system and multi-level activities that help acquaint children with Kindergarten curriculum.

What does it do? Kids prepare for a big race by playing inviting educational activities that help them practice pre-reading skills, early phonics, pattern extension, simple math, music, and more. 

Why do we recommend this title? This program is best for reinforcing skills rather than offering experimentation in skill-building. However, for what it does, it is entertaining and educational. 

Who is it for? The difficulty levels make this appropriate for children entering Kindergarten, as well as for children in the midst of Kindergarten.

For more information, user reviews, or to buy: JumpStart Advanced Kindergarten 2003 - affiliate link