Friday, 11 February 2011

The Land of Me Software...Review

The Land of Me offers a "Magical Interactive Learning Experience for Adventurers aged 2 -6 years old".  It is an award winning collection of creative games for the PC for children and adults to enjoy together.  Children can discover an enchanting world using their computer, printer, glue and scissors...and most importantly their imagination.  Journeying through six unique chapters of playful learning, three intrepid friends Buddy Boo, Eric the Raccoon and Willow the Owl explore in an adventure of the child's making.

Research shows that playing with your child and encouraging them to be creative is fantastic for their early years' development.  The Land of Me brings together different elements, combining them into something new to nurture children's imagination and creativity.  Playing together, communicating thoughts and feelings and nurturing creative ideas supports the idea of Sustained Shared Thinking which is recognised in the academic community as being something that can significantly boost children's academic achievements at school.

As both a mother and an ex-Early Year's Professional, having worked as a Specialist Teacher Assistant in a Primary School prior to having my son in 2009, these claims intrigued me.  Children love playing on computers, but all too often the resources available mean substandard software that does nothing to nurture the child's imagination or creativity.  In this technological age, giving pre-schoolers the confidence to use computers is a positive thing which allows them the flexibilty to create and learn. So the Land of Me software  is a perfect way to nurture both Sustained Shared Thinking and computer confidence.
I was given the opportunity to download all six chapters of The Land of Me free of charge for the purpose of this review.

The game is like a sumptuous story book that comes to life.  The artwork is exquisite and the characters are charming and engaging.  The attention to detail is beautiful with lots of interactive creatures to click on.

Children use symbols to influence what happens on screen creating monsters, animals and vehicles.  They can dictate the time of day, the weather conditions and the environment.  They decide what buildings to make, what songs to sing and dance moves to do.  They can choose which of the three characters they want to use in each chapter.

By editing the words on screen, children can change what is happening, teaching them the power of the written word and aiding language development.  Children are empowered by the interactivity of the game.

There are over 100 printable downloadable activities so the adventures  can continue away from the computer.  Things to do include making masks, dioramas and finger puppets to matching games and join-the-dots.
The six chapters are Shape, Size and Colour, The World Outside, Making Things, Rhythm and Dance, Songs and Rhyme and Story Time.   Each chapter is overseen by a wonderful animal character including Yama San a wise Japanese Snow Monkey, Dodo a Dancing Otter and a Singing Crocodile called Bernard.

My daughter is 8 years old and she absolutely loved this software.  She enjoyed playing with her 19 month old brother, singing the songs and talking about what was going on.  There is a lot of humour written into this software.  Clicking the space bar gives an unexpected surprise....which always raises a giggle!  The animation is beautiful and wonderfully observed. The voices are all quirky incorporating different accents to give a rich audio soundtrack.  Freddy at 19 months took great delight in joining in with his big sister and loved watching the characters' antics.  I see huge potential for him in using this software.  He already presses the space bar when prompted and understands the cause and effect of his action on what happens on the screen.

Japanese snow monkeys, the land of me,
The beautifully observed and drawn Japanese Snow Monkeys.
Japanese Snow Monkeys, Japan, monkeys

The thing I liked most about this programme is the prompt box that generates questions about what is going on.  It gives fascinating facts and asks about thoughts and feelings regarding the subject.  This encourages a dialogue between parent and child, providing lots of scope for discussions, imagination and sharing ideas.

The Made in Me shop sells CD-Roms, downloads and activity books to support the software and soft toys are coming soon.  Given the appeal of the three lead characters, a bear, a raccoon and an owl, I'm sure these will be a huge hit.  My daughter adores the scaredy-cat Buddy Boo the Bear and would love a cuddly version!

The software is available for £6.95 a chapter or for £29.95 for all six.  Chapter One is available as a free download.  I'd highly recommend downloading Shape, Size and Colour for yourself so you can see the beautiful artwork and share the fun activities with your child.  I'm sure you will be impressed. I certainly am!

I leave you with a video of my two children playing on Chapter One of The Land of Me.  You can see how much they love it :)



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