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Child’s play

As summer gets in full swing, it becomes ever harder to shoo the kids out of the air-conditioned house. Here are some ways to get them away from the TV, at least.

As summer hits its humid, happy stride, parents across the nation are left with that age-old question: what to do with the kids? Sure, you could talk yourself hoarse trying to scoot them outside, but it’s more likely that you could lure them away from the TV if computer time was promised. Toward that end, software developers have crafted some dandy summer time-killers for kids.

For the preschool set, there’s no need to always be immersed in the Dora the Explorer or Blue’s Clues worlds. Hoyle Kids’ Games computerizes classic kid games like Old Maid, Snakes & Ladders, Crazy 8s, and just about every other rainy day card game that was ever invented to keep mothers sane. The software also features new games that teach spatial skills, strategy, and musical education, and cloak that spiffy education in activities involving the Three Little Pigs and race cars. Priced at $17.99, the CD-ROM runs on Windows 95 and higher.

A curse has closed Captain’s Cove Amusement Park, but obviously, Nancy Drew is in no mood for such tomfoolery. Armed with modern-day crimefighting tools like a cell phone and a laptop, Her Interactive’s Nancy is more Buffy than Barbie. Nancy Drew: The Haunted Carousel is the latest in the company’s girl detective software series, which includes other supposedly ghost-infested buildings and scary scenarios. For Windows 98 and higher, the software is priced at $19.99, and is suggested for age 10 and up. Nancies, start your sleuthing.

Forget that “I Spy” is also a bad Eddie Murphy movie and a cool-edged TV show. Rather, think of it as the next program that your kids will be playing instead of letting you use the computer. Based on the “I Spy” books by Jean Marzollo, Scholastic’s series lets children aged 6 to 10 embark on adventures involving clues, hidden treasures, pirate maps, and complex riddles. Sure, it also teaches reading, classification, logic, and memory, but you don’t have to tell your kids that. For Windows 98 and up, priced at $19.99.

As kids get older, they get to hip to what you’re doing. They see the vegetables in the casserole, and they figure out that those cool “math games” are more math than game. Time to bring in the heavy artillery: the history games. Sierra Entertainment builds worlds so rich, your kids will never know they’re learning, until they can describe Egyptian embalming methods or list seven Chinese dynasties during dinner conversation. Pharaoh and Emperor are both priced at $19.99, run on Windows 98 or higher and are rated E for everyone.

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