Unlike other popular video game consoles, the Nintendo DS provides a platform that is accessible and enjoyable for both the 30-year-old gaming veteran and 4-year-old beginner. With minimal buttons and touch-screen interface, the portable DS (and newer variation, DSi) can be a great educational tool for children. Tap the potential of the DS by first understanding which games are appropriate for the age (and reading level) of your preschool child.
My Virtual Tutor: Pre-Kindergarten to Kindergarten
My Virtual Tutor provides exercises and interactive books to help children learn how to read. The game tailors each exercise to the player's ability, adapting to different reading levels. Four types of exercises and eight interactive books are available to explore; each book is based on the U.S. Department of Education's five core reading areas: phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension, fluency and vocabulary. Each book is positioned so that the child holds the DS vertically like an actual book. Aside from the educational value, the game is good for younger children because of the simple controls; players use only the touch screen and don't have to learn more elaborate button layouts.
The Petz titles are a series of different, yet similar, games. Titles vary by featuring different pets, such as "Bunnyz," "Hamsterz," "Horsez," "Tigerz" and the classic "Catz" and "Dogz." The Petz series requires minimal reading, and each game provides a different set of interactive activities to keep kids occupied. Children learn how to care for pets and in some of the games, even train them. Players can also exercise creativity by dressing the pets and decorating their rooms. If the child has a friend with a DS and the game, players can link via the DS's built-in wireless interconnectivity to show and share their animals.
One of the most popular Nintendo DS game series, Nintendogs features several titles, each with its own set of breeds: Labrador retriever, dachshund, Chihuahua and more. Raise a puppy and learn how to care for the animal. Any reading in the game isn't necessary for understanding how to play the game. An older player may need to assist the child at first to get the game set up, but then the child is free to play on his own. Don't be surprised if after helping, the older player wants to play, too. If this is the case, the older player can raise his pup separately and eventually combine the two games so the puppies can play with each other on screen.
Smart Kid's games include three series: Smart Boy's, Smart Girl's and Smart Kid's. Within each of these series are different games, such as Smart Boy's Winter Wonderland, Smart Boy's Toys Club and Smart Girl's Party Game. Several of the titles mirror one another, with the only difference being the featured sex. The overall series focuses on providing a preschool-level education with age-appropriate challenges and rewards. The activities are simple yet fun and each title contains a wide assortment of mini-games. Parents can record voice messages to the DS to be played to congratulate the child for in-game accomplishments.
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