Kidz Mouse. (mouse device) (evaluation)
by Peter Scisco
Anyone who has introduced a preschooler to the world of computing soon discovers several rules. First, little kids don't need an introduction to computers. Their agile minds immediately grasp cause and effect, and they are soon encamped permanently in front of the PC, happily tapping keys while watching letters appear on the screen. The second thing a computer-using parent learns is to forbid drinks and snacks in the home office. Third, you soon realize that using a mouse with a PC isn't imprinted from birth; it's a skill that requires practice, coordination, and a complex appreciation for manipulating images.
Using a mouse also requires the right kind of tool. Logitech delivers it in the form of the Kidz Mouse, a pint-size device shaped much more like its namesake than the bars of soap we grownups insist on calling mice. The Kidz Mouse is smaller than the standard-issue device, allowing small hands to better hold and control the pointer. The physical design of the mouse calls for a raised back and a pointed front (thus the mouse shape) with the tail (cord) issuing from the back and clipped to run alongside the mouse and then out toward the front (nose).
My four-year-old, who learned his mousing on a Microsoft model and then switched gamely to a three-button MouseMan, adapted quickly to the new device. I did notice that the shape of the mouse--its high back is reminiscent of the shape of a real mouse--encouraged him to use his thumb to click the left mouse button. Somewhat older children, with hands just a bit bigger, will probably be able to use the correct fingering.
The mouse driver deserves special mention because here, too, Logitech has made special efforts to make the Kidz Mouse easy to install and use. The installation procedure puts the mouse driver in a directory called KIDZ (or you can select your own name--just don't put it in the same directory as your present mouse). An option called Kids Support turns the two-button Kidz Mouse into a one-button mouse. Not only does this eliminate unnecessary complexity, but it makes the mouse equally effective for right- and left-handed kids. Interestingly, I found that the Kidz Mouse worked fine using my standard Logitech MouseMan driver.
Only a single caveat is worth mentioning here, and that is that you need two free serial ports if you plan to activate the Kidz Mouse and a regular mouse simultaneously. The driver software will support dual mice, but you'll only be able to use a single button on either mouse when they operate together. My solution is to connect the Kidz Mouse before I head off to work in the morning and then reconnect my MouseMan when I sit down for work late at night. If you're not comfortable with letting your kids have access to the back of your PC, Logitech offers a serial cord extension.
As an added bonus, the Kidz Mouse comes bundled with The Dinosaur Discovery kit from First Byte software. This excellent program guarantees that your kids won't be able to keep their hands off the Kidz Mouse.