A few months ago I was invited to an event where I was introduced to two new games - Cookie's Counting Carnival and Elmo's A to Zoo Adventures. After learning about all of the research that went into developing these two games, I was really looking forward to playing them. I finally found a game that my little one could play that was actually at her level, yet educational. Yes, she's two and a half, but she "plays" video games with her brothers all the time, - mostly things like Mario, Sonic, Pokemon, and none of them are accessible to her. I have seen the value of games for little folks though - Lucy is learning whole words and phrases because of a few of my iPhone games - so I was curious how she'd interact with our Wii with a game that was designed just for her. Let me start by saying that I personally don't really play video games - I have a few that I like to play occasionally, but don't play that often. My kids, on the other hand, are game aficionados, and they tolerate their little sister hanging around and "playing" the games with them, but there's never really anything for her to do, and there's certainly no educational value to her watching them play.
I was curious which of the boys would plug into this game - if any at all. I have thee guys that are 7,7 and 10 are old, and they've long since stopped watching Sesame Street. I knew that Lucy would be excited - she loves Elmo, Cookie, Grover, and the rest of the gang as they hang out on her diapers - but his is a game designed for pre-schoolers, and they are 2nd and 5th graders. Lucy and I watch Plaza Sesamo regularly and she really seems to dig that as well, but I had no idea what plugging in this game would do. For the past three months, all FOUR of my kids have been sitting with each other, interacting with each other for 20-30 minutes at a time, all while th older three encourage their 2.5 year old sister to toss the ring on the stick, scoop up the right duck, or toss the ball at the right stack of cans. Funny thing this video game does - it allows a parent or older sibling to actually interact with the kiddo playing the game.
Initially I was going to review this game and talk about how cool it was that Lucy had a game of her own, that at 2.5 years old she kind of got what she was supposed to do, that she was learning some cool things. But then I saw what the game did for the boys when they started using the parental control. Suddenly they were sharing an activity that they loved with their little sister. The Parental Assistance mode is an easy way for a parent or big brother to take over control of he game without tearing the controller out of the hands of the toddler. That's that kind of thing that starts a temper tantrum in my house. Because she can't read yet, she had no idea that Max was taking over control and helping her to complete the tasks. When she's get stuck (she can't count cans, and while she knows her colors she isn't always sure what she's supposed to pick) they take over and help her along, then give her control back, all without her knowing. They play the game with her, encouraging her to continue on, and she loves every minute of it.
Even with the cool parental assistance feature, it's probably a game that's best played by 3+ years. Lucy is a bit young to understand some of the tasks, but she can certainly manipulate the controller as needed to play the game. The folks who designed the game made sure that little kids can easily work the controller so they can focus more on the games themselves. As you can see, Lucy spent a good deal of time bouncing, scooping, and moving around while playing.
And what a cool controller it is! We have a blue Cookie Monster here, but here's a snap of the cute Elmo cover:
Both of the games come with one of these, and while Lucy liked it the first few times she played, she hasn't been using it more recently, opting instead to jump right into the game. The covers come with the games and slide right on, covering up the buttons that aren't being used and providing a better grip so the controllers don't go flying.
All in all this is a fantastic game for little folks. Sesame Street and Warner Brothers have done a bang up job of combining early childhood educational research and characters that little folks know and love into a game that the whole family can enjoy. While the game is way too basic for an older kid, as seen in this pic it's a game that the whole family enjoys.
If you are looking for a game with easy to understand directions, fun graphics and that has an educational component that's a notch above the rest, definitely check these games out. Cookie's Counting Carnival is our already, but I think that I'll grab Elmo's A to Zoo Adventures when Lucy turns three as she's starting to get into her letters. You can learn more and order the games here: http://www.sesamestreetvideogames.com/, but I'd definitely recommend it if you are looking for a game on the Wii, Nintendo DS, or PC for your pre-schooler. And I think Lucy would give you two thumbs up on this one as well!
*The game was provided to me by Warner Brothers free of charge, but the opinions here are all mine (and Lucy's)!