Cute. Cute. Impossibly cute. Cute is definitely the operative word in the slickly designed Keroppi Day Hopper. But once you get past oohing and ahhing over roly-poly Keroppi you have to stop for a minute and ask yourself, "Do kids need a PIM?" I thought the answer was "No" until I took a look at Keroppi. As it turns out this isn't just a personal information manager, it's a journal-writing program hidden in a PIM's clothes. While I still don't think kids need their own computer calendar, I do think they need the type of writing encouragement that Keroppi provides. So if you're going to buy Keroppi, get it for the journal writing.
The main goal--and strongest element of the program--is to encourage personal expression. Instead of locking up a diary, children can keep a computerized recording of their thoughts and feelings, complete with coded password to keep out prying siblings' or parents' eyes. In addition to creating a safe environment for personal expression, Keroppi makes writing fun. Many words have specific sounds that accompany them when typed correctly (if you type "cow" you hear "Mooooo"), and kids can choose from several fun fonts.
There is no spell-checking option on Keroppi. Remember that this is supposed to be journal writing, after all, and isn't intended for public critique. It should be free flowing and uninhibited. Keep that in mind when you buy the product; if you expect a pint-size word processor you'll be a bit disappointed.
What makes this program a favorite? (And why did they include a calendar anyway?) Keroppi talks to you. In cartoon bubbles he asks the writer personal questions that incorporate information from the calendar so the users feel like Keroppi is a friend who knows their experiences and feelings. That's a really nice touch, one that couldn't be done without the calendar and one that I haven't seen in any other children's writing program. It gets a bit clunky sometimes, such as when children haven't entered enough information in the calendar and Keroppi has to come up with writing ideas on its own. Also, keep in mind that your child should have at least a second grade reading comprehension level to take advantage of this product.
Is this going to teach young children about time management? Maybe, maybe not. It depends a lot on how often your child uses the computer. Sure, kids will have fun planning school vacations, slumber parties and soccer practice, but will they really learn to check their calendars to see whether or not they have an assignment due the next day? And do you want t hem to? One of the pluses of being a kid is that you can be disorganized and a little dependent on other people to remind you to do things. Okay, so maybe the Puritan work ethic is being over-powered by New Age yuppie-kid syndrome but, yeesh, I would be scared to see a seven-year-old printing out a day planner.
If you're interested in seeing your child be more comfortable with personal expression, check out Keroppi. Don't confuse it with a word processor, though, and consider whether they'll use the calendar. If they won't input information in the calendar they probably won't use or enjoy the journal and you'll want to look elsewhere to call out the writing muse in your little genius.

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