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Mouse magic

PLAY amp; LEARN SERIES. Reading and Counting. Writing and Calculating. Science Experiments. Dorling Kindersley Interactive (020 7753 7579). pound;9.99 each (PC amp; Apple Mac)

Getting children into computers is not the hard part - making them learn something is. Will the Play amp; Learn series be a hit ?

Reading and Counting is aimed at three to five-year-olds with nine sections offering shape matching, sound sequencing, number recognition and mazes as well as rocket building, clock setting and noughts and crosses. It's graded by a traffic light system with one light for easy activity and so on. Wrong answers are not explained; children must try again until success is greeted by an animation or sound effect.

This is fun, attractive and varied. An excellent mouse means children don't have to drag and drop. More than just electronic Fuzzy-Felt, the phonic sounds in Letters are excellent.

Next up is Writing and Calculating for five to seven-year-olds. Levels are set by clicking on the tike, car or plane and progression within and between levels has been well thought-out. Instructions are written, but move the mouse over the words and they are read to you.

The instructions for the Counting activities are over-complicated but there are some real gems - the Reading crosswords are particularly clever.

Science Experiments is for seven to 11-year-olds. Children will have to be competent readers as they delve into Gravity, Liquids, Air, Hot and Cold, Motion, Light and Colour, Electricity, Sound and Magnetism. Within each are two to five experiments, increasing in difficulty. A tab explains what you can do before you open taps and change bulbs for switches and so on.

After playing with the components, there are four questions to answer. Often there is no right answer, but you're told which is the best solution and why. Good ideas well executed.

Pam Turnbull is a Year 3 class teacherICT mentorscience co-ordinator at The Heys primary school, Ashton-under-Lyne

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