OK everyone, it’s time to get out your safety scissors and juice boxes (mmmm…Ecto Cooler…), because in this blog, we’re all going to become little kids again for a short while. Recently I reviewed several Nick Jr. games, and it got me to thinking about other good educational games and TV shows I’ve enjoyed. So I thought I’d talk about them on this blog.
Now you might be thinking that it’s kind of creepy that a grown man would be talking about preschool kids’ shows and games. But keep in mind that I have six little brothers and when they were young, they all watched and played this stuff, so I got pretty familiar with it. My little brothers are all older now, and they don’t watch Nick Jr. anymore, so I’m not quite as ‘in the loop’ with today’s kid shows like I once was. But since I enjoy reviewing games for kids, I still try and keep up with the popular shows at least a little bit. Also, it’s kind of weird and hard to explain, but I actually have somewhat of an interest in GOOD educational kids video games. I don’t know why that is, but these kinds of games are fascinating to me.
Anyway, to get started, here’s some links to the Nick Jr. games I recently reviewed:
It’s just a string of educational based mini-games wrapped around three imagination adventures the bunch goes on, similar to what they do in the show. Even for a kids’ game, it is pretty short, so I don’t think it would hold their attention for long. One neat thing about these Nick Jr. DS games is that, since no reading skill is needed, there are TONS of voice samples. It really surprised me for a DS game.
This one is like the Backyardigans gameplay wise, but it’s just one adventure instead of three. But I actually like this one a little better because it feels like your kids are playing an episode of the show, and even I learned some things about how to celebrate the Chinese New Year by playing this game! Some of the mini-games show you how to make things like paper lanterns or almond cookies—things you could do with your kids in real life!
This is basically a pet simulator game like Nintendogs, except for very young children. Dora the Explorer gets a puppy named Perrito (isn’t that just Puppy in Spanish?), and you have to help take care of it. The limited number of things you can do in this one may hamper it a bit, plus the fact that Swiper the Fox isn’t in this game at all. What does history’s coolest preschool villain have to do to get his own game around here? Oh, maaaann!
It’s a bunch of Wii remote controlled sports mini-games for very young children, with oversimplified controls. Probably the weakest of all the games I reviewed, because of the limited number of events. And no four player support. But if Wii Sports or Mario Party proves too difficult for your youngest gamer, this may be a good alternative.
This one is best described as your child’s first 2-D platformer. So if the recently released New Super Mario Bros. Wii is too hard for your young ones, try this game instead. It’s definitely the longest game I reviewed, so it’ll hold kids’ interest longer. Some neat graphical effects, too, like how you color the faded world as you walk by.
Good kids’ educational video games
And that’s all I reviewed. Now I’ll go over some other kids’ video games that I’ve had personal experience with. Of course, there are TONS of good video games for kids: LEGO titles, Kirby, even Mario. But I wanted to narrow mine down to some that are and were considered more educational fare. Although some non-educational kids’ games may seep out here and there.
Back when I was in Kindergarten, we got our first home computer: the Apple ][+. One series of video games with surprisingly good graphics starred a bear and his family as they provided mini arcade challenges and educational games on those big, black disks! The character was called Stickybear, which was a horrible, horrible name. And I don’t really remember if these games were really any good or not, but I do remember playing them at least.
Mickey Mouse Space Adventure
I’m not exactly sure if that’s the exact title or not, but it was another little kid game I played on the Apple][+. It was kind of like a text adventure such as Zork, but there were pictures of what Mickey could see and do on the screen, so kids would know what to type, I guess. Anyway, as Mickey, you had to go to the different planets of the solar system, learning facts along the way, as you collected crystals for a UFO. The thing I remember most about this game is that it was the first game I ever finished, and that really gave me a great sense of accomplishment as a kid. I think this game may be one of the reasons why I do like reviewing games for kids now. Kids deserve good games for them, too, and I know first-hand the feeling those kids must get when playing and conquering a game made just for them.
Back on the N64, I thought this game was brilliant. And educational. Why? Because it taught good basic photography techniques while you were trying to take snapshots of Pokemon. And that was a pretty original thing to teach kids in a game. On the GameCube, there was another Pokemon game geared toward little kids that I liked, but nobody else did. It was Pokemon Channel. It really wasn’t very educational, as you mostly just watched TV with Pikachu. But it was a cute little activity center and the Meowth’s Party cartoon you unlocked while playing was very cute.
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest
OK this one’s not educational either. This was a RPG on the SNES that Square designed to introduce Americans to RPGs. At the time, when I was just a teen, I thought this idea was kind of lame because it wasn’t as good as FF4 the year before. But looking back on it, I’d like to see a Final Fantasy game for kids now. Or maybe put Mystic Quest on Virtual Console. I’d like to play it again, and I’ll say one good thing about it: the music was really awesome.
These were point and click adventure games on the PC that were designed for little kids. They were full of likable characters: Putt-Putt the car and his dog Pep helped out his car friends, Pajama Sam conquered his fears, Freddie Fish solved undersea mysteries, and Spy Fox saved the world! I once heard a rumor that they were going to make a cartoon for Nick Jr. about these characters from the games, shame that never came to fruition. I loved watching my little brothers play these games back in the day. And when I was writing for the newspaper and would go to E3, the visit to Humongous’ booth was one of the highlights of the trip. I would usually have lunch with the developers and have fun talking with them about how cool Putt-Putt is!
Good Kid Shows
Well there are plenty of good kids’ games that I didn’t mention, but this blog is going to be long enough as it is. So now we’ll take a look at good kids’ TV shows that I’ve had personal experience with.
Modern Day Stuff
I’m not really a huge fan of Dora the Explorer and Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, but I will say one good thing about them. I like how they teach kids words and phrases from other languages. I think it’s important to learn another language, if anything, simply because I think it helps us understand our native language better. I think by taking German in high school and college, I have become a better writer. Of course, Sesame Street was teaching Spanish long before Dora (more on Sesame Street later). And plus, Swiper the Fox on Dora is just plain cool.
Other modern day Nick Jr. shows that I think are cute are Max & Ruby, based on the children’s books. I love Max’s expression when he’s about to get into mischief, and Ruby has to be the most patient big sister rabbit I’ve ever seen. Blue’s Clues is also a cute show for kids. I like Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper. But my favorite modern day kids’ show is The Wonder Pets. It’s so adorable and pretty funny, too, if you watch it. I like that bratty duck. I tell you two kids’ shows I DON’T like are Yo! Gabba Gabba and Barney. I think those shows are anti-educational. I’m glad that Barney’s popularity isn’t what it once was. Ugh!
All right, now I’ll talk about some good kids shows I watched when I was young.
This is the ultimate best kids show. Maybe not as much today, but back then it was. Did you know that Sesame Street just celebrated their 40th anniversary? In a way, it’s good that there are more kids’ shows now, but it’s also bad that Sesame Street has to compete with so much more today. My favorite characters on Sesame Street were Oscar the Grouch, the Yup Yup Aliens, and Cookie Monster. I think the best things the Sesame Street Muppets taught kids was tolerance. Each Muppet has personality quirks and flaws, and everyone found ways to deal with each other. That’s a theme that has been in many Jim Henson Muppet shows, and is why I also think most Jim Henson stuff is good for kids, too. Like Fraggle Rock, The Muppet Show, etc.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood
The only reason why I watched this show was it came on right before Sesame Street. I would change the channel when the puppets would come on, because I thought they were freaky. I did like the red trolley that would take the audience to the Land of Make Believe, though. Mister Rogers had a really hypnotic voice!. When Fred Rogers passed away, I watched a biography on him and it was pretty interesting. Did you know he was a minister?
Another Mr. Rogers-type show that was on local Texas TV when I was a kid was Peppermint Place. It starred a dapper man wearing a red and white striped suit and hat, and he had a raccoon puppet named Muffin, who cracked me up.
Back when we first got cable, there weren’t very many extra channels. I remember HBO, and later MTV, but right at the start we had Nickelodeon. Back then, there was no Nick Jr. yet, but they did show a Sesame Street rip-off called Pinwheel. I still remember that insipid theme song, and if you saw the show, I bet you remember it, too.
Nick Jr. Anime
Anyone remember in the early 90’s when Nick Jr. showed a lot of kids’ anime cartoons? Seems kind of odd now what with their focus on education, but I bet many an anime fan cut their teeth on this stuff back in the day. I remember one show was about a girl who could make her stuffed toy Koala bear come to life. It actually had a sci-fi like storyline, with a conclusion, and the ending got pretty dark if I remember correctly. Another show I remember was called The Little Bits, and while I never really watched it, I know it was like The Smurfs with little elves that looked like the Harvest Moon sprites. That cartoon was made by Tatsunoko, and I thought it would be funny if they were in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom!
This was a Saturday morning cartoon back in the 80’s and I loved it. Good for kids, too, as it encouraged them to use their imagination. I wish they would make a DVD set of this, but I bet the stock footage they used of movies like Star Wars, plus all the 80’s pop culture references, probably keep that from happening.
This was a Saturday morning cartoon about a five year old boy and how he saw the world. It was created by Howie Mandell and he even provided some of the voices, including Bobby. I think this was Howie’s best work and it was a very sweet show. I wish this would get the DVD treatment, too. I used to have a friend whose little brother reminded me of an exact replica of Bobby from the cartoon.
Winnie the Pooh
Finally I’ll say that Disney makes a lot of good stuff for young kids, too. But I think the best is Winnie the Pooh. It’s one of the only franchises Disney hasn’t ruined yet. The classic movies are still the best, but even the old Saturday morning cartoon was decent. And I bet you can guess what my favorite world was in Kingdom Hearts.
And I think that’s enough out of me for now. I’ll conclude by saying that while there are a lot of good educational video games and TV shows for kids, they can’t replace good teachers and parenting. So I’d like to give a shout out to my parents and good teachers like my high school German teacher. In the comments section, let us know what YOUR favorite kids’ games and TV shows are, as well as your favorite teachers.
Next time on my rambling blog, I’m going to tell you all about my new job. I’m running a day care, now, but I only have one customer. But that’s fine, because he has eight kids! The dad is always grumbling about some plumbers, so I think they must be doing a lot of home repair. Some of the kids I watch are named Larry, Roy, Wendy…well, I’ll just tell you more about it on my next blog! –Cary