02 January 2008

Giggles Software for Babies & Toddlers

Giggles_abc123_box

Thank you to Adrienne of Baby Toolkit (and sharer of numerous and excellent hacks and comments) for writing this review.

Babies of geeks love technology. From the buttons on the answering machine to the bright light of the cell phone screen, their internal compasses seem to be set toward microchips and motherboards.

And, problematically for parents, they can distinguish the real items from substitutes. Sure, our son gets moderate play value from a blue plastic phone with lights and sounds, but he'll drop it in a heartbeat for any real cell phone.

The same discernment of real technology is also true for computers- which causes real problems for parents.  How is it random keyboard banging always tends to result in questions like "Format drive?"

Giggles: Computer Funtime for Baby removes the possibilities of data destruction and unwittingly horrific changes in general properties.  This fun software keeps your 6 to 24 month old child away from the desktop and makes even the function keys benign.

Our two year old is currently a huge fan of the ABCs and 123s software.  There's a block stacking game in this suite that makes him laugh hysterically as the wall of blocks tumbles down.  While the repetition of letters, shapes, animals, and numbers is not something an adult would seek to entertain themselves, it's delightful to watch your child enjoy seeing computer cause and effect in action.

The music is good and comes in 5 channel options as well as OFF, so you don't have to later Google "brainworm DIY lobotomy."

This software would be phenomenal for traveling with an older infant and a laptop.  We used it this weekend to distract our two year during much-loathed toenail cutting.  It wasn't a total distraction from his pedicure, but he was willing to behave well in order to keep playing with Giggles.

This entertaining software is $20 per version (download or box) and comes with a matching Giggles screensaver.  Giggles' Shapes and My Animal Friends appeal more to younger toddlers and infants while the ABC's & 123's is most engrossing for kids closer to 2.

For more info, visit the Giggles website.

Related: Keeping your toddler off your keyboard

Your comments

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Sounds like Alpha Baby (which is free but Mac-only). We are huge fans of Alpha Baby - at first I didn't like the idea of encouraging my son to ever use our computers, but at some point he lost interest in using our computers unless his "game" is on. It's a lifesaver.

Our son has loved Giggles Shapes since he was about 6 months old. When we had to take three plane trips (from Jersey to Alaska) when he was 8 months old, the game kept him occupied and amused for a good 30 minutes when he had been heading for a meltdown!

We only let him play with it once a week so it stays a special treat and now he's 14 months and still adores the game. He hears the loading music and gets so excited! It is great when I have to do some work on the desktop; I put him in his high chair beside me and attach a keyboard to the laptop (I don't let him bang on the laptop keypad, I bought a cheap keyboard for him to use) and he gets to be on the computer right along with me. We love it!

I second alpha baby, it will keep a baby occupied for hours - and its free too (well you should send a donation to the author).
http://www.kldickey.addr.com/alphababy/

I just downloaded Alpha Baby - it looks great - just the thing to let our 2.5 year old use - we tried Tuxedo Paint, but it's still really easy for him to click on other things. Thanks!!!!

My 22 month old is COMPLETELY fascinated with our laptops-- shortly before Christmas he managed to open up my macbook, open photobooth (clicking randomly, or perhaps with some help from his big sister) and take a bunch of self portraits.
We've been letting him use Pixel Whimsy on my husbands pc (there's no mac version).

It's loud, but cute and he can't exit from it. It distracts him from playing with the dvd drive and power cord too.

Here's a link: http://www.pixelwhimsy.com/index.html

Off to check out alpha baby!

We have all the Giggles software - I would also recommend it. I wish we'd discovered it when our 2 year old was a lot younger, but she has enjoyed it a lot and it is very useful on a laptop when you want to keep them occupied while out somewhere. It's helped her learn to read her letters, and to count. She also gets the biggest kick out of the swimming penguins on the animals one.

They have download-able trial versions of the software on their web site too, by the way!

Again, sounds just like Alpha Baby. You can use the settings so the mouse does different things-we set it to have 'duckies' on the screen. My son is obsessed with his duckies, so, any time he wants to play with the computer, he points to it and says, 'duckies please'. It's great, it says the numbers, letters and shapes as well.

We have both and our son (2.5 years old) got bored with Alpha Baby around 2, although he still uses it. We created his own user account on our computer to limit his access, and both of the games are on there for him. His only complaint is that the cursor icon is really large in Giggles and it's difficult for him to tell when he's got it over the button he wants to click. He gets frustrated occasionally, trying to click on something that the cursor isn't actually over. The quit button is especially difficult as it's so low in the corner of the screen.

It is so good to see something on this topic that doesn’t blame this type of media for ADHD, bad behavior, late talking etc. I firmly believe that this sort of thing [and the TV] if used properly can help kids learn. There is some good stuff to that effect on the Supernanny website: http://www.supernanny.us.com/Advice/-/Your-baby/-/Development-and-learning/TV-can-be-good-for-your-baby.aspx

We love Giggles for our daughter and got it for her at around 8 months. She didn't really get into it until 12 months, and now we can't even sit at the PC to do anything unless she's napping. The only issue I ever had was a lockup when she had so many bunnies the system slowed to a crawl and too 10 minutes to get to the clear button. It's a great app though, but we need another PC now for her to do any work!

Edubuntu has a lot of good software for kids too and is completely free: http://www.edubuntu.org/

and for those kids not yet ready for these, "baby bangers" is a nice little (again mac only) app that just turns the keyboard into a source of bright shapes and funny sounds. Some of these other suggestions look great for when our son is a bit older than his current 5 months, and thanks to the comments here I don't have to go searching for mac versions! Yeah for parent hacks and my fellow mac users! Does this mean we're not the minority any more? :)

Hi all - I create the Giggles programs and really wanted to thank those who made nice comments on it here.

There is definitely merit in the other programs being mentioned here particularly since they're free. As with most things in the world however, you do get what you pay for. In the interest of a fair discussion and comparing "apples-to-apples", here are a few of the key differences.

All Giggles Baby titles:
- Available for both Mac and PC, and includes both versions on same install CD in case you have both in your house
- Includes both English and Spanish versions
- Includes bonus screensaver version for free
- Each includes 14 different age-appropriately crafted activities, as opposed to just one general activity
- Each includes more than 50 songs in 5 styles of music, as opposed to none
- Program accomplishes complete system lockout on both platforms so babies can literally touch any key or key combination for on-screen fun, and parent's files and computer are safe.

I appreciate the comments on the mouse/cursor items made by Elena Murphy above. We're actually creating a new Giggles Toddler series that will have more appropriate mouse items for the older kids (ages 2 - 4). The mouse and cursors in the Giggles Baby series currently are to encourage babies to move the mouse around and click the button. They're typically not old enough yet (between 6 and 24 months) to actually begin clicking on specific smaller objects intentionally.

Fo Katie's comment on tv and computer time and the many discussions about it's pros and cons on young children, there is a really good book out currently on the subject called Into The Minds Of Babes by Lisa Guernsey. It was exhaustively researched and is probably the best single resource of information and fair discussion on the topic that I've found. You can get it on Amazon probably.

Thanks very much to those that have tried Giggles, I really do appreciate all of your support and encouragement along the way. My very best to you and your families.

I'm not sure what the problem is on our computer that no one else here seems to have, but this software did NOT lock out the entire keyboard from starting various search windows and even Belarc Advisor, somehow, in the background. Three restarts later and I can't even get Giggles to run, and other applications on that machine seems sluggish. I can't even get the installer for Giggles to run to reinstall to see if I can get Giggles running again for my daughter to play with, so I can see which buttons she's pressing that are starting things in Windows in the background.

Why does it work as advertised for everyone else when it's completely gobbed up my computer? Is it Vista?

Kathy- we ran in on XP here, but didn't have access to a Vista machine at the time of this review. If I get time later this week, I will try and load it on a Vista system and see if we enounter problems.

Root of the Tree is a free parent and child toolbar that provides instant access to age appropriate, educational and entertaining online games for your children. Check it out at http://www.rootofthetree.com

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