Thursday, March 8, 2012

Online Preschool Games

We've been trying out some online fun stuff lately, mostly for my younger two, though my 6-year-old has been enjoying them just as much. First, I went ahead and subscribed for the year to More Starfall, which is an extension of the free Starfall website. For $35/year, you get a lot more math, and some additional phonics and books and nursery rhymes and other neat things, for up to 3 simultaneous users.

The kids have loved it! My 4-year-old was doing all the addition games, and she absolutely loved the geometry - shapes and symmetry and puzzles. I have discovered that she really has a good eye for geometrical design.  And my 3-year-old has been equally fascinated by the site (he has just recently - finally - made the connection that the mouse controls the cursor on the screen, so he is so eager to try out everything he can on the computer now). In fact, the other day he started running around the house counting to 6 over and over again at the top of his lungs! This is my boy who, though I suspect he has known many of his letters and numbers for a year now, has refused to recite them to me out loud. And my 6-year-old also has found things to challenge her on the site.

So More Starfall is definitely a success.

We also signed up for a 1-month free trial for ABCMouse. This is mostly for preschoolers, as my 6-year-old finds even the highest level a little too easy. She still likes playing it though, as do the other 2. What they mostly like, though, is spending their tickets and playing with their hamsters. The way ABCMouse works is that for each activity the student completes, they get a certain amount of tickets, which they can then use to go shopping. The more tickets they have, the better things they can get (yes, just like real money). I think my kids aren't too enthused about many of the activities, but they really like spending their tickets. The songs in the music activities are too long for their attention spans, usually. They do like the puzzles and the coloring activities, but they are a bit repetitive. Most of the time, I find my 4-year-old sitting there staring at her hamsters as they roam through her extensive collection of tubes and cages. She has "bought" more tubes than she has room for on the screen, but she keeps buying more! They also try to con me into doing activities for them, to earn them more tickets for a particular item.

One of the issues I have with the program is that the kids can switch users too easily, and they end up playing as their brother or sister without permission, messing up their sequence of activities. Also, they can change their own level, instead of staying on the path for their age and ability. I've even gotten 2 emails trying to confirm I wanted to change my password since somehow, one of the kids ended up trying to sign in as me!

So I probably won't continue using ABCMouse after the trial period. I think the kids learn more on Starfall, and they've stopped using that since they prefer playing with their hamsters! What I wish is that I could find a similar hamster game (for free, preferably, or else for just a 1-time price) that lets them try out different cage configurations without all the tickets. Then that could be their reward after a certain amount of time playing Starfall or doing other school work!

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