Education Home Help 4. Science: Celebrate learning about science the easy way

IF YOU thought science was just a load of old ticker tape and test tubes, you'll be just as fascinated by today's range of scientific software as your kids.

Whether it's Big Bangs or biology, newts or Newton, multimedia packages offer a level of animation and explanation that can make even the most complex concepts intelligible to even young children.

Some titles take a broad sweep. Mad about Science (Dorling Kindersley, ages 7-11, pounds 19.99 each) is particularly comprehensive. The three discs - "Energy & Forces", "Life and Matter" - let children test out their theories in on-screen experiments without blowing up the kitchen. Each topic has a test section and clear, concise explanations, with printable experiment sheets as final rewards.

However, there were mixed feelings about The Magic School Bus titles (Microsoft, 6-10, pounds 24.99 each). Using a bus to explore the inside of the earth, our bodies, or the solar system seems like a good idea, but I found the information on offer either too complex or too scant. Eight-year-old Joshua, on the other hand, pronounced it "very funny, with very good games too." Perhaps more for its levity than its learning.

Physics need no longer be a bore with Science (Europress, 9-11, pounds 9.99). Its realistic and satisfying experiments, exploring the basic concepts behind forces, magnetism and electricity, give a hands-on feel and a rare chance to absorb the principles intuitively. Despite being well below the recommended age range, Flan, aged six, loved it: "I really like trying to guess what it's going to do and then seeing what it does."

Another economical title that exceeds expectations is Jump Ahead Discovery Tree (Knowledge Adventure Value, 4-8, pounds 9.99), which lets kids do just what it says - discover the world around them by exploring this tree of knowledge. Lots of animations and explanations by real children - although the lip-syncing was a bit dodgy. Covers much primary science, including animals, our bodies, geology, astronomy, and food and nutrition.

Machines are a popular area for multimedia titles. Know Your Stuff: Inventors (Ten Out of Ten, all ages, pounds 4.99) is an economical way of utterly humiliating yourself in front of your children. After my initial test, the software announced solemnly: "Your status is mediocre." I was crushed: I thought I'd done rather well. Still, you can redeem yourself by taking a tutorial to iron out your mistakes, or read up more information on inventors and inventions in the library.

But it's Dorling Kindersley who must make other publishers sit down and weep. David Macaulay's The New Way Things Work (7+, pounds 29.99) should be mandatory in schools. Packed with information on scientific principles, history, inventions and inventors, it's hugely entertaining with witty illustrations and the wonderfully ironic "Mammoth Movies". Good on the nuts and bolts, but never loses track of the more humorous, human side of it all.

And for afters, there's Pinball Science (9-14, pounds 24.99) - the same whacky Macaulay mammoth format, but giving correct answers on the science questions lets you build and play some of the quirkiest pinball machines since The Who's Tommy.

Human biology can be a bore - ask any medical student - but My Amazing Human Body (Dorling Kindersley, 6-10, pounds 28) is amusing and informative. Reassemble a disjointed skeleton or scrutinise body parts by measuring, turning, prodding, even X-raying them. There are wonderful animations of a skeleton bathing or dancing, as you try and get him through the day without starving, dehydrating or exhausting himself. Older children can graduate on to The Ultimate 3D Skeleton (Dorling Kindersley, 11-16, pounds 29.99), for a more detailed tour around all "dem bones".

However, in the delightful 3-D Body Adventure (Knowledge Adventure Value, 7-16, pounds 9.99) you can go one further; actually viewing the body through 3-D glasses, making it look eerily substantial, or doing your own CAT scan and examining yourself in cross-section. Best of all, however, is a shift in the disc's "ER", where you can theoretically heal the sick and injured. I was every patient's worst nightmare, a lunatic let loose in casualty to attend to their needs: everyone died on me. Joshua, however, was a natural. "I loved finding people's tumours and zapping them," he said proudly.

Astronomy is also something of a lode-star for software publishers. Red Shift (Dorling Kindersley,12+, pounds 29.99) is the most awe-inspiring. Crammed with statistics, films, photographs, and illustrations, this state-of- the-art title brings you updates from the Big Bang to the end of time. Budding Patrick Moores can establish the position of over one million stars, planets and other celestial objects from 4,700BC to 8,000 years into the future, or use the sky diary to find out exactly what to point their telescope at in the sky tonight.

But for physics and astronomy buffs everywhere, Essential Knowledge 1 (Marshall Media, 14+, pounds 29.99) offers the ultimate package of four sophisticated discs that take you from the infinitely large to the immensely small: "The Universe", everything from quarks to the farther reaches of the cosmos; "The Planets", who's who in the solar system; Einstein, everyone's favourite grey-haired boffin; and A Brief History of Time, a multimedia romp round Stephen Hawking's best seller. Fascinating stuff, but definitely not for the woolly-minded.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Sport
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Opilio Recruitment: Product Owner

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Opilio Recruitment: Product Development Manager

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Recruitment Genius: Qualified Nursery Practitioner - Sevenoaks

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Room Leader - Nursery

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas