We've got mountains of kids CDs.  We've thrown out even more.  So without further ado, here's what you should know.

So what if it's old?

Don't worry about it, if it supports at least Windows 3.1, it'll run on anything you can get at Computer Renaissance.  Newer will often just tick you off trying to get it to work with the latest sound board, etc.

So what if it's cheap?

That's the best!  I buy most titles for $10.  Kids don't care, and you can get more of them.  Beware of the "20 discs for $10" variety that tend to be packed with shareware.  You may find one or two gems, but there's a lot of chaff as well. 

Definitely stay away from the "2000 shareware games" packages.  These are a lot of work if you don't know what you're doing, and mostly old junk.

Reliable publishers

Broderbund's Living Books series

This all started with Just Grandma and Me and includes The Tortoise and the Hare, Sheila Rae, the Brave, and a bunch of others.  The older titles are often sold in two or three-packs for about $10 each.  Check Parsons Technology, which is an arm of Broderbund, for specials.  The Three for Me bundles are especially good.

These are explorable books, of a type that should be familiar to you by now.  They can read to a two-year-old, but by age three most kids will be clicking their way around.   English, Spanish, and others. 

Most will run on older systems.

Humongous Entertainment

Humongous started out with Putt Putt Joins the Parade, which endures as a favorite, as well as its sequels, Putt Putt Saves the Zoo and Putt Putt Goes to the Moon - not really all that educational, but a lot of fun, and they teach problem-solving, listening, and a few other skills.

Other kid adventures that hold up pretty well have been the Pajama Sam and Freddi Fish series.  All three tend to show up in the sale bins at OfficeMax. 

All are low-demand programs that will run OK on a late 486.


Edmark does hard-core learning stuff, that parents should love.  The kids like it too.  The House series (Bailey's Book House, Millie's Math House etc) are easily tailored to your child, and can get harder as time passes.  (You can change the on-screen keyboard from ABC to QWERTY, add Lower Case, etc.)

These are smart designs - you can set sound and challenge levels, all hidden from the kids.  Autoplay works well, so they just put in a disk and go.

Paramount / Novotrade

Busytown and How Things Work in Busytown.   (How can you go wrong with Richard Scarry?)
These are DOS-based but run fine under Win95  -  a little quirky, but if you set up the autoplay extender, they're great. 

Everything ties together in these - for example, the delivery truck game is dropping off wheat to the mill, to make flour that will later be used in
the bakery game. These are not sequential, but interlinked from scene to scene.

Free Software

Can't beat Paintbrush, which is probably part of Windows/Accessories at your Start button.  Also go to a search engine and check out the M.A.M.E. - Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator.  Play any '70s or early '80s arcade machine on your desk.   Geeky but cool.

Free Hardware

OfficeMax often has mice, gamepads for $9.99 less a $9.99 rebate.  Yes, you read that correctly.


There's a page for this, but get a Microsoft Easyball mouse.  Only one button, and a two-year-old can figure it out and sit on the floor with it in his lap.  Also there's no problem with the mouse sliding when he clicks.

Technical Nighmares

We had a heck of a time with the Curious George Comes Home, from HMI (Houghton Mifflin) - installation problems, sound problems, crashes etc.  HMI couldn't resolve them, either.