When my kids ask to play video games (every other minute), I do my best to make sure that they play something with educational value, at least half of the time. Like many things in parenting (OK, most), this hasn't been as easy as I thought. My boys can sniff out an educational game like a dog can sniff out bacon, and much of the time, they're not biting.
I received the Web-based game JumpStart World First Grade for review, a perfect fit for my boys who are in kindergarten and 2nd grade. One afternoon over vacation, after they'd spent many mind-numbing hours playing at candystand.com and lego.com, I told them the only video game they could play was JumpStart World.
They'd played it once the previous week, and I expected some push back. But they were both pleased. Here is what they had to say after an afternoon of play:
John (6): "It is the best game, because you get the super stone, and I already earned the whole thing!"
Ben (7): "It's awesome. I like it cause it's different than any other game. You get to walk around and do different things."
JumpStart World begins by allowing the child to choose a character. Then he can follow the map to walk around the place and complete various activities. This set-up gives the game a sense of adventure, and by completing the tasks and earning pieces of a gemstone, the child feels he's accomplishing something.
The game keeps the child engaged, and suprisingly it keeps me engaged as well. After my boys play, JumpStart World emails me a progress report on each child, describing in detail what activities they have completed and what they will do next. I also receive "parent activity tips" tailored to each child. I like the ones I've received so far because they don't take much time to do and seem to have real educational value. For example, a tip I received for John suggested that, after reading John a story, I have him retell it to his grandparents in an email (with me typing). My desk is covered with child activity books that I never seem to use with my kids. I like the idea of getting these ideas in email to make sure that I will see them and be reminded to take a learning moment my kids.
The game we received came with two of the 12 first-grade adventures. If I want my kids to do the rest, I'll have to purchase one at a time for $8 or buy all 10 for $65. My boys completed the first adventure in about a week. I like the idea that they can progress at their own rate, and I am considering signing on for more adventures.
If you'd like more information, check out the JumpStart World Web site, and here's a link to JumpStart World First Grade on Amazon.