This is a followup to part one of The Toddler Test, where I discussed the setup, configuration, and games I had installed on an old PC running Ubuntu for my 3 and 4 year old kids to use. It has now been roughly a month since the computer was handed over to my kids, and the results have been so far been very positive.
As I expected, my son latched on to Tux Paint and GCompris right away, since he was already familiar to them. I found out where Tux Paint keeps their stamps, and was able to make face-stamps of him and his sister, which has provided a ridiculous amount of entertainment for him. Tux Paint even lets him mirror, flip, and scale the stamp images, something he found out about all by himself. He has also taken a liking to some of the games in Childsplay, particularly a spelling came similar to Pac-man. He enjoys playing the windows-based Blues Clues game, which runs on wine without any problems, and it has become one of his favorites. I also found Ri-Li, another open-source game from Ubuntu's repositories, where you have to navigate a wooden train (like the Thomas set he has in his room) around it's tracks picking up train cars. To my surprise, he even found a game in Tux Math that he understands and likes to play. Lesson #1: never underestimate a 4 year old, or open-source games.
My daughter is still a little young to understand how to play most of the games, and her 3 year old's attention span naturally limits how much she plays even with the ones she can. She likes her My Little Pony's coloring game, and will sometimes play with Tux Paint. I've found that the mouse-skill games in GCompris were a big help for teaching her how the mouse works without causing frustration. She especially likes the connect-the-dots game.
Since their computer time is monitored and restricted (they have a back yard, they should play in it!), I found that their new game station spends more time than not sitting around unused. After about a week, I decided to do something about that. So I plugged in our USB storage drive and loaded it up with our collection of MP3s (all legally purchased, of course), and started up RhythmBox. But not so fast, I had forgotten that Ubuntu doesn't ship with the patented MP3 codecs. Annoying yes, but I do understand the reasons. Nonetheless, I had to once again disconnect the computer and move it over to my network switch (I will eventually run a connection out to the living room for it). Again connecting to it over VNC, I took the easy route and just launched RhythmBox again, since it will automatically download and install the necessary codecs. And it was a good thing too, because it turns out we had some non-MP3 files that needed their own codecs (whatever iTunes uses probably), which were again automatically downloaded and installed. After getting it back into the living room, I configured RhythmBox into full screen mode with visualizations, and my music jukebox was complete (well almost, it could use a remote control, but that's a project for another day). Now I'm thinking about putting a spare DVD drive in this so I can load movies onto it for the kids to watch, and maybe even a game pad so I can play some of the many Linux games I read about in recent 42 free games for Linux articles on Slashdot. Lesson #2: never underestimate the utility of a Linux box in your living room.
Now my neighbor, who has a 4 year old boy and 7 year old girl, has asked me to salvage an old PC someone gave them, and turn it into something their kids can play games on. I plan on writing a sequel to The Toddler Test when that happens.