Reviewed by Anne Farr
Senior Lecturer Newman College and Early Years writer
This review first appeared in MAPE focus on Maths Autumn 1999
Thomas the Clown is a CD-ROM containing five learning games for young children (from 4 years upwards). It has been aimed at the educational market including parents and grandparents, as well as primary schools.
Instructions for installing on your computer are clear and it isn't long before Thomas the Clown and his dog invite you to solve a range of problems.
The graphics are simple, almost like children's drawings, but very effective. Instructions to proceed are given clearly and simply by Thomas (a child's voice). Once children are familiar with the program they would be able to work without adult support.
It's worth printing out the hints and tips before getting into the activities. These can be kept for reference and help sheets made to support older children working individually. These also give details of mouse use, printing a screen, returning to program manager, and using 8-bit or 16-bit sound (higher quality and standard setting).
Starting the activities is through the large stars. Thomas gives precise details about where to point and how to click the mouse button. Once a star has been chosen you get a glimpse of the game and can then proceed to play.
There are five games and each one has different levels. The games are:
1. Funny faces
A two-level game with five activities. The task is to copy the face on the billboard. The first level is quite easy with two parts needed to make the face. However, level 2 is much harder as parts can be placed to overlap each other in order to complete the face quite testing and children will need adult support before they understand what is required. It would have been nice to have a few more levels in this activity.
2. Thomas the postman
This is fun and the four levels, each with five activities, allow young children to develop their sequencing and logical thinking skills. Level I allows children to explore the scenario with Queen, castle, cottage, birds, animals and dragons. Level 4 involves planning a route which Thomas then cycles. He even cycles quicker down hill.
3. Building blocks
This begins with lots of circus noise. There are five levels, each with five different activities. These range from 'free' building with any colour and block to a building plan with a mistake. The idea is to find the mistake, delete it and insert the correct block.
4. Ice cream break
This is a problem-solving activity involving Thomas choosing different flavoured ice creams from the bears. As he moves around on his unicycle he leaves a trail. Can you visit all the ice cream sellers without going over the same path? Again the progression from level I to level 3 is good.
5. Strawberry garden
Thomas has a robot gardener and the player has to direct the robot into the garden, around it to pick the ripe strawberries and then out. This is achieved by clicking on sign-posts with direction arrows and strawberries. Levels involve making a sequence, correcting a given sequence and finding what is missing in a given sequence.
The presentation, ideas, differentiation and range of activities in this CD-ROM are super. It addresses shape and colour recognition, logical order and pattern recognition. I have had great fun reviewing this and would strongly advise all early years educators, parents and carers to add Thomas the Clown to their IT resources.
Well done Logotron, let's have more like this to support the teaching and learning of our young children.
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