I’m a pretty tech savvy person and I enjoy learning opportunities that can incorporate computer use into our homeschool activities. I also like when the time spent at the computer, can have some educational value. The past couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to explore and use Jump Start’s new online Virtual World with my nine-year-old and two granddaughters, ages 3 & 4.
My first confession has to be that as tech savvy as I may be, virtual world video games are usually not my cup of tea. Before sharing this fun site with my favorite small people, I logged on and browsed around by myself. I quickly learned that I needed a guide. – lol – After a cursory circle of the game map, I honestly had convinced myself that maybe this wasn’t going to be as great as I had first anticipated. For me personally, there was so much going on that I was overwhelmed. Having already created characters for each of the girls, I decided to go ahead and call my nine-year-old to see what she thought. She slid into the chair beside me and within minutes, had taken over my laptop. She was screaming through the virtual world, visiting ant farms and answering science trivia questions.
She adopted an “egg”, which she promptly painted pink and purple and later hatched into a dragon (I think), in a place called “The Enchanted Sanctuary”. She absolutely adores JumpStart.com and finds something new to do each time she visits.
Main Street is the starting point for all the adventures. Exploring there will take you to gateways and doors leading to a variety of fun and educational experiences.
At first glance, I was afraid this was just another video game, but as I spent time watching our daughter roam through the various points of interest in the game, I realized there is a great deal of educational value packed into all the fun. JumpStart.com definitely helps to fine tune small motor skills, as well as eye-hand coordination. Every activity requires patience, strategy and even some analytical thinking to complete the puzzles or quests. I was simply amazed at the speed with which the girls’ minds adapted to each new challenge and they began whirring through the game. It was impressive because I know with great certainty, that this middle-aged brain, in concert with my less than nimble fingers, could never wrap around some of the motor skills they handled with ease.
I say “they” because I also turned my four-year-old granddaughter loose in “Storyland”. She has had the opportunity to “visit” there several times, now and becomes so engrossed in the activities that even after an hour or more of play, cries when it is time to log off. She has the opportunity to practice letter and number recognition and practice other educational skills, all while playing her way through the fun virtual world. As with my daughter, she finds something new to do with each visit and can’t wait until the next time she can play.
JumpStart.com continues to grow and add new areas, too. Currently, there are tons of Valentine themed options: rides like a heart-themed skateboard, hippity hop bounce ball or a magic carpet or the new swan ride in the Love-ly Swan Ride Fun Zone. Your puzzle lovers will like the challenge of the new Box of Chocolates Maze. There is no doubt in my mind that the site will continue to grow and add even more challenges, over time. Seasonal options continue to pop up and as one is about to “close”, so the new one can open, the Jump Start blog makes the announcement, as well as there being notices posted in the game world. (The blog is a great place for parents to learn more about JumpStart.com and get any updates about new activities, plus tips on learning and using technology to support education.)
As with any online, virtual world, parents will want to participate and know how their children are interacting with the game. Get involved and watch your child learn in exciting new ways. It’s an amazing and wonderful thing, but they still need you to be a part of it. They have the opportunity to interact with other kids in this game. That option has to be set up, in order to use it, and of course, you will want to know who they are learning with. Kids collect coins and stars as rewards for completing challenges and puzzle levels. We haven’t personally done too much with them, yet, but I understand they can be “spent” in the various shops scattered throughout Jump Start’s virtual world. Your students can also win ribbons and trophies for their achievements in the game. You can also connect JumpStart.com with your Facebook account to be automatically updated about what your kids are doing and achieving in their virtual world fun.
I have watched both girls learn various skills and information in the subjects of math, reading, language arts and grammar skills, science and history while being so engrossed in a game that they hardly realized they were learning. They learn computer skills, art and critical thinking. I witnessed the use of fine motor skills and strengthening of eye-hand coordination. I also got to watch them have tremendous fun while doing it. As with the Jump Start software and programs that our family has been pleased to use, previously, Jump Start’s new virtual world has educational AND entertainment value. For kids who are so in tune with the technological advances of our modern day, it’s a most logical way to learn. JumpStart.com will definitely be put to regular use in our household.
You can go, right now, and join JumpStart.com, so your family can start enjoying the great learning fun. When you do, you will set things up in the Parent’s Area. You have your own password to enter there. It’s where you will add kids to your account and create individual passwords for them. It’s also where you will decide whether or not to allow them to interact with other kids in the virtual world and if so, to create their “buddy list”, the only people they will be able to interact with. When you sign up for a membership, it includes access to JumpStart.com, Learning Adventure’s other virtual world, MathBlaster.com AND four downloadable games to play right on your own computer. You can try it out and explore JumpStart.com for free, but to use all the areas, levels and other worlds, you’ll need a membership. The membership is good for up to six kids and you can decide if you want to take part month-to-month (only $7.99/mo), annually ($74.99/yr) or the best value, a lifetime membership ($149.99).
One Busy-at-Home reader is going to receive THREE FREE MONTHS for their own family, due to the generosity of the great folks at Knowledge Adventure!
You must be 18 or older and a resident of the U.S. to win. Mandatory Entry must be completed for any other entries to count. Winner will be selected at random from all verified entries, using random.org. Deadline to enter is midnight (CST), Sunday, February 27, 2011.
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Disclosure: I was provided with a JumpStart membership at no cost by Knowledge Adventure in order to test the products’ abilities and give my own personal opinions on it. The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but were not influenced by the company or the free product provided.