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Shapes, Colors, Letters & Numbers

For infants and toddlers learning begins at home with shapes, colors, letters and numbers. Get a head start with these award-winning toys, videos, and books that are sure to entertain little ones while teaching them fundamental skills.

Rubbabu 3D Shape Sorter- Geometrical Shapes Rubbabu 3D Shape Sorter- Geometrical Shapes
Ages: All Ages
Rubbabu, $29.95

Rubbabu 3D Shape Sorter is a great addition to a child's toy room. Like other Rubbabu products, it is made out of soft rubbery foam, making it ideal for infants through preschoolers. It holds appeal for various age levels too. Younger children can fit shapes into their appropriate spaces while older children learn that shapes can also be combined to make new shapes. For example, two triangles put together will form a square.

Giggles Computer Funtime for Baby - ABC's & 123's Giggles Computer Funtime for Baby - ABC's & 123's
Ages: 0 - 2 yrs.
Leveractive, LLC, $19.99

This edition of Giggles Computer Funtime include letters and numbers, a departure for a company that has tried to ensure that its products are not trying to teach too much, too fast, to children who are not developmentally ready. But the narration at the beginning stresses that the point is not to teach letters and numbers to 1-year-olds. Instead, the letters and numbers are offered as a way to give children exposure to them. One game, for example, is all about popping balloons. Each pound on the keyboard leads a balloon to pop (with a ‘boink’ instead of a bang) and the result is a yellow sunburst with a capital letter inside.

Didi & Ditto Preschool Didi & Ditto Preschool
Ages: 2 - 4 yrs.
Kutoka Interactive, $19.99

In Didi and Ditto Preschool: Mother Nature's Visit, the animals are getting ready for a visit from Mother Nature. Zolt, a big bad wolf, is determined to ruin the party. He broke all of the instruments and hid the food. The player is asked to go along with Didi (or Ditto) to find the food and repair all of the instruments in time for the party. By completing instrument puzzles and playing activities, the player collects everything that's needed. This game addresses basic preschool skills - letter recognition, color and shape matching, memory, sounds, and sorting.

Here come the 123's Here come the 123's
Ages: 2 - 5 yrs.
Disney Sound/Walt Disney Records, $18.98 (CD)   

Alt-rock band They Might Be Giants (John Flansburgh and John Linnell), with an almost cult-like adult following for brainy, near-surrealistic song-crafting, brings the same inventively eccentric approach to children's music, a field Flansburgh and Linnell entered in 2002 with their delightfully strange CD release, "No!" A relationship with the Disney Channel followed. So did the duo's entertaining lesson on letters, the 2005 CD-DVD release, "Here Come the ABC's." In the band's latest outing, TMBG gives numbers a similar treatment. Wandering far beyond the title's deceptively simple "123s," the tracks are as unexpected as they are smart. A sampling: "Eight Hundred and Thirteen Mile Car Trip," an exploration of "Infinity" and "The Secret Life of Six" ("Six knows how to stand on his head, and when six pretends he's nine, he acts older and bolder"). The accompanying, full-length DVD featuring animation and puppetry matches the songs' outside-the-box creativity.

Caillou Ready to Read Caillou Ready to Read
Ages: 2 - 6 yrs.
Brighter Minds Media, LLC, $19.95

In the manner of original edu-tainment software that fuses fun and education, this Caillou title tackles the most basic and early reading challenges-from learning and recognizing the letters of the alphabet and their sounds to beginning sight-reading and phonetics.

Chicken & ABC's Chicken & ABC's
Ages: 2 - 7 yrs.
Mrs. Martinez and Kinder Rock Band, $9.99 (CD)   

Aimed at the pre-K to second grade set, the eighteen songs on Chicken & ABC's help kids learn counting, naming the days of the week, spelling, social skills and other important lessons. Marisa Martinez has been a full-time kindergarten teacher for ten years, and she has sung and played these songs with her classes for years. Martinez gathered a few friends, who happen to be some of the most noteworthy players in San Francisco, to contribute bass, drums, guitars, cello and tuba to the recording.

Play & Learn Play & Learn
Ages: 2 & Up
ALEX, $32.99

Parents looking for portable fun need look no further than this Alex Play & Learn Puzzle Set. This well-designed game pack features three "layers" of games - dominoes, lacing cards and puzzles. All pieces are double-sided and offer different options for play, ultimately providing ten activities in one neatly stacked and packed game box with a carrying handle.

Ready, Set, School! Ready, Set, School!
Ages: 3 - 4 yrs.
ALEX, $30.00

This all-in-one, grab-and-go kit is loaded with educational activities for preschoolers. There is an activity for everything - letter writing & tracing, counting, cutting & pasting, matching, shapes, colors and even how to tie a shoe. Several of the activities are contained in dry-erase spiral bound books so that kids can redo them at any time. The kit includes a dry-erase marker, stackable crayons, stickers, stencils and scissors to complete all of the tasks.

Here Come the ABCs Here Come the ABCs
Ages: 3 - 5 yrs.
Disney Sound/Walt Disney Records, $12.99 (DVD)    $12.98 (VHS)

Do not be fooled. This is not a traditional alphabet lesson. "They Might Be Giants" John and John don't even have the letter songs in alphabetical order. Starting with a rocking "Alphabet of Nations" ("Algeria, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Dominica") with its animated globe, the production continues with the strange but entertaining "E eats everything," followed by the witty live-action "QU" (showing the two Johns with a Q and a U covering their heads). This is creative and irresistible viewing for all ages.

Also look for the Here Comes the ABCs audio CD.

Welcome to WordWorld Welcome to WordWorld
Ages: 3 - 5 yrs.

Seven animated animals are the main inhabitants of Word World, "where words come to life." Showing pre-readers how individual letters make sounds, and the sounds combine to make words, are Dog, Frog, Bear, Pig, Sheep, Duck, and Bug, whose bodies are made up of the letters that spell their names. In WordWorld, a house is shaped like (and from) the letters H-o-u-s-e, and the barn is shaped like its spelling-even a sand dune is made of yellow brown letters that spell DUNE. There are four episodes on this disc. The amount of thought and detail that is in each episode means there is always something to watch for on repeated viewings, even when the initial lesson of each episode has been learned. A definite "must see" for family or preschool viewing.

Also look for: Word World: Rocket to the Moon

Computer Cool School Computer Cool School
Ages: 3 - 6 yrs.
Fisher-Price, $59.99

The Cool School Computer helps children gain essential skills for Kindergarten. The age appropriate keyboard and writing tablet connect to the computer via a USB cable, allowing the child's work to be projected onto the monitor. The CD comes loaded with a variety of learning activities (reading, writing, math, art, music, and science) that are easily accessible by pushing one of the five function buttons on the keyboard. Young learners can take a field trip to different a farm, draw on a castle to explore different musical instruments and to write out letters that appear on the computer screen. The CD also offers printable worksheets to practice tracing a letter and identifying words that start with that letter). Additional software can be purchased for more activities.

Money Matters Money Matters
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Kid 2020, LLC, $19.95 (DVD)   

In the DVD, Money Matters: Making Cents of Currency, a young boy tries to comprehend the meaning of money. What is it, exactly? How many pennies are in a nickel, how many nickels are in a quarter, and how do a bunch of coins add up to a dollar bill? What's a cashier? What's a purchase? The answers to all of these questions and more come in the form of animated songs and conversations with assorted people. To its credit, the idea behind Money Matters is to go beyond just the basic math and to teach kids (pre-K through third grade) the value of money.

Scat Like That: A Musical Word Odyssey Scat Like That: A Musical Word Odyssey
Ages: 4 - 12 yrs.
Rounder Records Corporation, $14.98 (CD)   

Tongue twisters, word-play, limericks, riddles: this effervescent new family album from veteran duo Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer is filled with join-in fun and, shh, education, too. Two farming, yodeling sisters teach vowels in "A-E-I-O and U." Can't remember the names of the states? Sing along with "50 States" to the tune of "Yankee Doodle Dandy." Visit MacDonald's farm and do the "Pig Latin Polka Dance," solve "A Riddle in the Middle" and learn to "Scat Like That."

Signing Time! Practice Time ABCs Signing Time! Practice Time ABCs
Ages: 4 & Up
Signing Time!, $14.99 (DVD)   

This DVD teaches the American Sign Language (ASL) alphabet in an entertaining manner appropriate for both children and adults. While most sign language DVDs teach common words, this video focuses entirely on the ASL alphabet. The presenter, Rachel Coleman, uses successful strategies to enhance learning including the use of repetition, multiple presentations of the signs in multiple formats and visual cues such as tape on her fingers to help the child see exactly where the fingers go for each sign.

Zingo! 1-2-3 Number Bingo Zingo! 1-2-3 Number Bingo
Ages: 4 & Up
ThinkFun Inc., $19.99

Zingo! is a number-matching game that helps youngsters learn to count, add, and recognize numerals -- all within the fun of a Bingo-like game. Each player (up to 6) selects one of the double-sided cards, keeping the green side (the easy side) face up. Each card has nine squares, each containing images of various groups of objects with the corresponding number printed below. Numbered tiles are stacked in the "Zingo! Zinger" and dispensed by one player who serves as the dealer. When a player sees a number tile that matches an image on his or her card, that player calls out the number, takes the tile, and covers the corresponding image on the card. The first player to cover all 9 squares on the card wins, and starts the next game as dealer.

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