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Up the learning ladders

Play and learn, Age group: 4-10. CD-Rom for Multimedia Windows PCs (with 4 megabytes of memory), Pounds 39.99. Available from major retailers

Play and Learn, a CD-Rom containing 10 interactive games and 10 "learning activities" would be a useful purchase for any parent or teacher frustrated by games with lots of little pieces that are always getting lost and broken. The Games section is a good mix of traditional games, games to support learning and a few gently futuristic games. The traditional games include Snakes and Ladders and Pairs.

One of the strong features of this package are the amusing graphics, which mainly feature a Pooh-like teddy bear. In Pairs, if you click on the same card too many times without achieving a pair, the teddy slides down the pole, eventually falling in a pink blancmange.

Two games with some learning content in this section are Freefall and Splat! In Splat!, pupils have to predict the angle and speed at which a jelly needs to be thrown in order to hit another blancmange wielding teddy.

Freefall is a Hangman type game where you have to predict the letters in the word as a teddy freefalls through the sky. If you predict in a certain number of turns his parachute opens, otherwise he is left with an ineffectual parachute of clothes and makes a crater in the ground. Perhaps this game should have been called Splat! instead.

One frustration with the games is that children can only compete with the computer and not with each other.

The Learn section of this package is rather weak but it is at least varied. There are ten learning activities, two spelling activities, two number activities, colours, animals, instruments, household objects, time and science, 100 animations and 300 sound sequences.

This package is patchy, but used judiciously it has much to recommend. However, teachers and parents should familiarise themselves with the contents first.

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