Picks and Pans Main: Junior

updated 06/18/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/18/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT


Bases Loaded II

An enduring and/or frustrating challenge, this one-or two-player Nintendo baseball game is a sequel to a simpler 1988 cartridge.

Fictitious players on 12 teams are rated on batting average, slugging and running speed (for position players) and earned run average, pitching speed and "curve ability" for pitchers. Ratings vary from game to game to provide for streaks and, the directions say, create a cycle "similar to a biorhythm." Standings can be kept.

Pitching is the easiest function. Rookies will log lots of strikeouts and errors, but those willing to play with pain—the ego wounds of being trounced—should catch on soon. (Jaleco, $49.95)

(Thad Novak, 10, adds: In RBI Baseball, another Nintendo game, you have guys you've heard of like Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs, not made-up names. But Bases Loaded II is just plain more realistic, though the passwords you need to keep the standings are a pain in the neck. I especially like the feature that lets you control where your swing goes when you're batting.)


Gerry Early Images

This 30-minute "video picture book" for infants won't replace good old-fashioned playtime with Mom and Dad. Created by Marshall Haith, an infant visual-development specialist at the University of Denver, its collage of images is aimed at stimulating Baby's ability to track moving objects and make connections between sights and sounds. The computer-generated Mr. Bobo hosts the tape, which opens with a square floating in a box. Then checkerboard patterns appear.

The best images are of a ring of balloons that look like candy wafers in a circle and of raindrops falling from a cloud into the water below, followed by a plunk sound.

The shapes are appealing, but expecting a baby to stay focused in front of a TV set for even five minutes may be asking too much.

Bo may know cool designs but he doesn't know babies. Leah Rose Abrahams saw the tape at 2 and 4 months, responding each time with an infant version of a critical pan, drooling and looking out the window at trees swaying in the breeze. (Gerry Baby Products, $19.95; 800-525-2472)

Baby's First Months: What Do We Do Now?

Expectant parents could profit from this how-to guide for everything from bathing a newborn to fingernail clipping. (Don't laugh. First time you try it, you'll feel like a surgeon with the shakes. The video advises cutting nails while Baby's asleep.)

The 42-minute tape, developed by a team of pediatricians from Florida, is heavily detailed. But knowing how to take an infant's temperature and what emergency items to keep handy (such as syrup of ipecac in case of poisoning) could help during those first tumultuous weeks. (New Parent Productions, $29.95; 800-621-2342)

Baby's First Workout: The Gerard Method

At times this comes close to bootie camp for babies. Patti Gerard Hannan, an ex-gymnast, takes infants from birth to a year old and teaches them how to play while developing age-appropriate skills. There's a "Touch and Grow" segment for newborns, where Hannan massages a baby with a feather and other objects. (She says the exercise may stimulate growth in low-birth-weight infants.) For a 7-to 9-month-old, "Four on the Floor" is intended to teach crawling from a sitting position.

Hannan advises limiting newborns' activities to 20 seconds, older tots' to a minute. She also points out that learning skills early will not necessarily make a child into a Mary Lou Retton or Joe Montana. "Sooner is not better; thorough is best," she says.

However resourceful Hannan's program is, a parent's own imagination may still be the best, most adaptable learning tool available. It's also free. (HPG Home Video, $29.95; 800-358-9100)

(L.R.A. was too cranky to do this stuff.)


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