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.
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 Waynes 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.
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 whats special about today, such as: Its wear green day. Do you have anything green you can wear?
Then Bear kicks off that weeks 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.
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 havent 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, youll 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 theyre protected, so you have peace of mind during your hectic day.
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Meet the Playhouse Disney Cast
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.
- Bear in the Big Blue House: This Jim Henson Company production aired from 1997 to 2003, returning briefly in 2006. The show proved so popular that Bear even appeared occasionally on the game show Hollywood Squares. A spin-off series, Breakfast With Bear, aired from 2005 to 2006. Bear serves as your childs guide through each learning adventure, so he doesnt appear in the games and activities.
- Little Einsteins: Four children Leo, June, Quincy, and Annie travel in their rocket, searching for friends to help and problems to solve. Sometimes, their nemesis, Big Jet, tries to interfere with their plans, which typically involve famous works of art or music.
- Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Oh, Tootles! Mickey cries when he needs help solving a problem. Tootles is a flying machine that brings tools for Mickey to choose from he always asks the viewer (or Preschool Time Online player) which one he should use before he selects it himself. Featuring basic preschool skills, the TV show also stars Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto, and other popular Disney characters.
- Koala Brothers: Frank and Buster travel the Australian outback in their plane, looking for friends in need of help. Frank is the pilot while Buster searches with his telescope for those in distress.
- Rolie Polie Olie: Olie and his family are robots who live in Polieville. Many of the everyday objects found in their teapot-shaped house come alive when needed, as does the house itself.
- Higglytown Heroes: They Might Be Giants provide the theme song to this show, in which the characters are based on Russian nesting dolls. Each episode features firefighters, dentists, and other heroes who make Higglytown a better place.
- JoJos Circus: This show, which uses stop-motion animation, stars six-year-old JoJo, a clown who lives with her family and her pet lion, Goliath, in Circus Town. Each story concludes with the question, What did you learn today, JoJo?
- Stanley: Based on a series of childrens books, this shows eponymous hero and his pet goldfish, Dennis, explore the animal kingdom in each episode. The lessons they learn help fuel Stanleys personal growth.