Original Authors: Sherry Feiler and James Wilson
Current Maintainer/Modifier: Margaret D. Gibbs
Frequently Asked Questions
about Software for Children
For a list of other FAQ topics, tune in to misc.kids.info, and/or
look for the FAQ File Index posted to misc.kids weekly.
Copyright 1997-99, Margaret Gibbs. Use and copying of this information
are permitted as long as (1) no fees or compensation are charged for
use, copies or access to this information, and (2) this copyright
notice is included intact.
NOTE: This is a rough draft, and most of the below information was
compiled in May 1995. I apologize for any errors or inaccuracies.
Please send any comments or corrections to the above email address.
The purpose of this FAQ is to give a concise summary of the comments and
opinions of readers of misc.kids and misc.kids.computers on topics related to
children and computers, and to provide a list of resources (electronic and
print) for information, reviews, demos, and shareware.
Table of Contents:
1. Recommended Programs by Age Group
2. Product Info and Reviews (Web sites)
3. Company List
Internet: Web Pages and FTP Sites
Printed : Magazines, Catalogs, & Books
5. Program Access and Management and File Protection (for PCs only -
feel free to contact me with information about Macs)
6. Pointing Devices (this topic is not well-covered in the rough draft)
7. Known Bugs and Fixes (this topic is not covered in the rough draft
- please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions, for example:
how does one use "KidPix" with "AtEase"?)
Subject: 1. Favorite Programs
Infant (hit a key and something happens):
BabySmash - Mac shareware - available for ftp at
KeyWack - Mac - at URL:
Babydraw - PC shareware - available for ftp at oak.oakland.edu
Danny's First Program - PC shareware - available for ftp at
Mickey's ABC - PC made by Disney - No mouse required.
Each alphabet key triggers multiple animation responses
The Playroom - Broderbund
Bailey's Book House, Millie's Math House, Sammy's Science House -Edmark
Living Books - Broderbund. Many titles available. Just Grandma and
Me is great; Sheila Rae the Brave; Dr. Suess' ABCs
KidPix - Broderbund
Humongous Entertainment - Putt Putt, Fatty Bear, and Freddi
KidDesk - Edmark
ManHole - Cyan
Jumpstart - Toddlers, Preschool, Pre-K
Disney - Toy Story, Winnie the Pooh
Richard Scarry's Busytown
Dorling Kindersley - The Way Things Work, My Most Amazing Dictionary
Baby ROM - Windows and Mac - Byron Preiss Multimedia
discover and play with numbers, letters, shapes and
colors and learn about different parts of the body.
(3 levels of play, from 6mo-3yrs) (one person did find
this program very annoying)
Carlos's Coloring Book, <http://www.ravenna.com/coloring/>
Math Workshop, Logical Journey of the Zoombinis (both for
Math) - Broderbund
The Amazing Writing Machine - Broderbund
Write, Camera, Action! - Broderbund
Imagination Express - Edmark
Company unknown?? - Magic School Bus
Where in * is Carmen San Diego
Dyno Park Tycoon
Middle School - ???
High School - ???
Subject: 2. Product Info and Reviews
NOTE: There are currently no product reviews available directly in this FAQ.
For detailed product descriptions and system requirements visit
The Children's Software Company Web page at
The Childrens Software Reviews WWW site at
"Tigger's" Software Reviews Web page at
Tina Velgos' The Review Zone page at
Some more web sites which include product reviews are:
http://www.zdnet.com/familypc/ --Family PC Mag
http://techweb.cmpcom/hpc --Home PC
http://www.pepsite.com --Children's software review
! http://www.learningwarereviews.com --Learningware
http://www.harbornet.com/mediamom/ --Multimedia Mom Network
http://www.superkids.com - SuperKids Educational Software Review
! http://www.brainplay.com - Brainplay
+ http://www.geocities.com/~reviewcorner - The Review Corner
Subject: 3. Company List
7th Level, Inc.
1110 E. Collins Blvd., #122, Richardson, TX 75081
Apple Computer, Inc.
Three Infinity Loop, Cupertino, CA 95014
(408)996-1010 or (800) 776-2333
Broderbund Software, Inc.
500 Redwood Blvd., P.O. Box 6121, Novato, CA 94948-6121
Davidson & Associates, Inc.
19840 Pioneer Ave., Torrance, CA 90503
(800) 545-7677 or (310) 793-0600
EA*Kids (A Division of Electronic Arts)
1450 Fashion Island Blvd., San Mateo, CA 94404-2064
6727 185th Ave NE, P.O. Box 3218, Redmond, WA 98073-3218
(800) 426-0856 or (206) 556-8400
13110 NE 177th Place, Suite B101 #180, Woodinville, WA 98072-9965
(206) 485-1212 Tech Support email@example.com
(800) 499-8386 US/Canada Sales
(Putt Putt, etc.):http://www.humongous.com/
Knowledge Adventure (Jumpstart...): http://www.Adventure.com/
The Learning Company
6493 Kaiser Dr., Fremont, CA 94555
3380 146th Place SE, Suite 300, Bellevue, WA 98007
(800) 757-7707 or (206) 649-9800
1390 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041
Subject: 4. Resources
4a) Internet Resources: WWW sites, ftp sites, etc.
The Children's Software Company: http://www.childsoft.com/childsoft
Highly recommended. Lots of product reviews and information.
Childrens Software Reviews WWW site:
Several reviews of childrens software products.
Info Mac archive: http://hyperarchive.lcs.mit.edu/HyperArchive.html
University of Michigan's archive site:
Best bets are the /game and the /misc directories
Macintosh shareware site
US Dept. of Education archive: Get to gopher.ed.gov and take
Casady & Greene: http://www.holonet.net/casadyg/demo.html (Mac)
Claris: http://www.claris.com/ (Mac)
Internet Shopping Network: (Mac)
4b) Printed Resources: Magazines, Catalogs, & Books
Family PC magazine - Reviews of hardware and software for home/family use, as
well as ideas for fun things to do with computers. $2.95 at newstands, $14.95
subscription (10 issues), $22.95 overseas. P.O. Box 400454, Des Moines, IA
50340-0454, or call 800-413-9749.
Club Kidsoft magazine, CDROM and software catalog - the magazine is intended
for kids, the catalog for adults. The CDROM has lots of demos, and software
that can be unlocked from the CDROM when you purchase by phone and get an
unlocking code. A great source for software demos and they generally have
decent prices, too. One year subscription (4 issues) for $29.95. 718
University Ave, Suite 112, Los Gatos, CA 95030-3317 or call 800-354-6150.
Educational Resources catalog - huge selection of software for preK - 12
grade, as well as software for teachers/educators. Most software available as
home versions, school versions, lab pack and many site/network licenses
available. Some software available for Apple II and IIgs too. 1550 Executive
Dr., Elgin, IL 60123 or by phone USA/Canada 800-624-2926, in Illinois
The Edutainment Catalog - 932 Walnut St., Louisville, CO 80027 or 800-338-3844
MacUser, December 1994 - This issue had a great article with mini-reviews of
300 children's software packages available for the Macintosh, but most are
also available for DOS/Windows. Borrow this issue from a friend or go to
the library and photocopy it if you don't already have it! It is too much
to include here, but a great resource!
That's Edutainment: A Parent's Guide to Educational Software, by Eric Brown.
Osborne McGraw-Hill 1995. A book that "will reveal the concepts behind the new
wave of entertaining educational ("edutainment") software and help you choose
the right programs to supplement the skills your child learns in school."
Includes reviews of 100 edutainment titles, plus a CDROM of software demos.
List price $29.95
The Computer Museum Guide to the Best Software for Kids (Boston
Computer Museum book)
Subject: 5. Program Access and Management and File Protection for PCs:
A problem that concerns many people when they start letting their children use
their computers is how to keep the children from destroying important files or
otherwise wreaking havok on their computer. Here are some solutions suggested
by people on misc.kids.computers. Suggestions for MS-DOS/Windows were
compiled by Stephen C. Steele, and a more recent copy might be found at
Protecting Files under MS-DOS/Windows
Protecting files under MS-DOS and Windows systems is difficult: both
Windows and MS-DOS are single user systems that assume a single user who
should be permitted full access to all the resources of the computer.
* Making Backups
* Marking Files Read Only
* Program Manager Restrictions
* Replacement Shell Programs
Note: this is a first draft of this document. Comments, further suggestions,
and additional information will be gladly received.
Stephen C. Steel
This is the only absolutely reliable method to protect your data.
Software can only do so much: it can't guard against a disk crash caused by
someone flicking the power switch on and off too rapidly, bumping violently
against the computer, etc. Besides, it will also save your data from your own
mistakes, lightening strikes on the power line, etc.. If the files are really
important, especially if you use them to earn your living, then back them up.
It isn't usually necessary to rush out and purchase a tape drive which can
back up your entire hard disk: you can always reinstall your application
software from the original media, so you just need to backup the files
you create with it. The storage requirements for this are usually much
more modest: you may find that a couple of floppies a month is enough.
This is easier to do if you keep the files you create separately from the
application software and its example files. For example, I keep all my
data files in subdirectories of C:\USER\STEVE. If you configure your
Windows application icons with the appropriate default working directory
(using the File|Properties command of Program Manager), this will be more
or less automatic. Don't forget to make backups of important configuration
files too: CONFIG.SYS, AUTOEXEC.BAT and all those .INI files in the
Marking Files Read Only
The read only attribute bit is an underexploited feature of MS-DOS
that can be quite effective at preventing children from damaging important
data. If you then limit access to programs that are capable of removing the
read only attribute, such as the MS-DOS command ATTRIB.EXE and the Windows
FileManager, the data in these files will be relatively safe: normal programs
will not be able to delete or overwrite the protected data. There are two main
difficulties with marking files read only. The first is remembering to mark
all your work in progress files read only when you're finished working on
them and then back to normal when you're ready to work again. This can be
quite tedious if done manually, although it is much easier if all your data
files are in one common directory tree. Then the MS-DOS commands
cd directory attrib +R /s *.* can be used to mark an entire directory tree
read only (or normal if +R is changed to -R). The second difficulty is
figuring out which files can be marked read only without causing problems:
most applications need write access to some files, and they may crash if
this isn't enabled. Some DOS programs even expect write access to their
EXE files in order to store configuration information. The information in
files which can't be marked read only can be protected by making a read
only copy with a different name or in another directory.
Program Manager Restrictions
There is an optional section to the program manager .INI file that
allows you to restrict its capabilities. These options do not appear in any of
the Program Manager menus; they must be added by editing the file PROGMAN.INI
with an ASCII editor (such as NOTEPAD.EXE). The section must be named
[restrictions] and the possible entries are :
NoRun If you include the option NoRun=1, then the File|Run menu entry is
disabled, and it is only possible to run programs from Program Manager if
there is an icon defined in a program group. The NoRun option is only
effective if none of the programs with icons defined can themselves be used
to start additional programs (such as File Manager, for example).
NoClose Setting NoClose=1 will make it impossible to exit the
Program Manager, and hence Windows, with the File menu, control menu or
NoSaveSettings If NoSaveSettings=1, then any changes made to the
arrangement of icons and group windows will not be saved when the
Program Manager exits (regardless of how the Save Settings on Exit menu
item is set).
NoFileMenu Setting NoFileMenu=1 will disable the entire File menu of the
EditLevel Setting EditLevel=n sets the following restrictions on
modifying Program Manager settings:
o EditLevel=0 allows user to make any changes (the default).
o EditLevel=1 prevents the user from creating, deleting or
renaming program groups.
o EditLevel=2 sets all the restrictions of EditLevel=1, and in
addition, prevents the user from creating or
deleting program items.
o EditLevel=3 sets all the restrictions of EditLevel=2, and in
addition, prevents the user from changing the
command lines for program items.
o EditLevel=4 sets all the restrictions of EditLevel=3, and in
addition, prevents the user from changing any
program item properties (although they can
still be viewed).
Replacement Shell Programs
There are a number of these on the market, such as Edmark's KidDesk
Family Edition for Windows. These programs allow you to limit the applications
individual users can run. The various users' access can be password protected.
They have two main weaknesses: 1. They can be bypassed. Booting a computer
with MS-DOS 5 or later with the left shift key held down will cause it to
start up in a simple DOS session, ignoring the contents of the CONFIG.SYS
and AUTOEXEC.BAT files. 2. If you allow your children access to any program
which writes some sort of data to any filename they specify, then they can
overwrite your important data files: "Hey Dad, how do you like my new drawing,
I called it REPORT.DOC". Although they are not ironclad, the use of a program
shell in combination with marking important files read only can be quite
effective (since your children are less likely to need a program that can
change file attributes than one that overwrite files).
May 5, 1995 Stephen C. Steel reviews@qv3pluto.LeidenUniv.nl
Subject: 6. Pointing Devices (this topic is not well-covered in
the rough draft)
Basically there are a few approaches: Let the child use a normal mouse,
get a smaller child's mouse, or get a trackball. (Sherry Feiler) favors
small mice for kids under 3, but regular mice for older children. Her 3
year old uses a standard Mac mouse with no problem. Mac mice might be
easier though, since there is only one button.
Margaret D. Gibbs