Readers of Midwest Moms know that I don't usually review products here. But I will share something that our family has found to be really, truly spectacular. And I have to tell you, Jump Start is the real deal.
In our house, there is always a tug-of-war between my desire to use the computer for learning and my kids' desire to use it for pure, unadulterated fun. We negotiate. They protest. I cajole. I had accepted the dance around the learning/fun issue as a necessary part of high-tech life.
Then, in February, I was asked to beta-test the JumpStart website -- to really put it through its paces. We received software in the mail as well -- JumpStart 3D Virtual World: Quest for the Color Meister (2nd Grade level). Fortunately for me, I had a team of young minds (my sons) to help with the work.
They enjoyed every minute of it.
Here's what we found:
JumpStart World Online and JumpStart 2nd Grade are three-dimensional virtual play spaces for children. When kids log on, they can create an avatar, called a "Jumpee", to move around and play the games. Their Jumpee can run, dance, and best of all super-jump through JumpStart land.
There are discreet age-appropriate activity areas for children of all ages. StoryLand has activities for preschoolers; AdventureLand is for kids ages 4-8. There are adventures you can download to your home computer from the website and several levels of software available on CD.
The host of JumpStart World is a dog named Frankie. He gives instructions for players to complete tasks as they play. Sometimes they have to find something by moving their character around. Sometimes Frankie asks them to go into a Learning Center and play a learning game. The games teach skills of all kinds, from the most basic counting and alphabet and songs to telling time, working with money, rhyming, consonant and vowel sounds, addition, subtraction, sorting and pattern-recognition, and games that work on keyboarding and mouse-skills. The skill games are always part of the adventure, most often fitting the theme of the game.
When a child completes a learning game, he or she earns coins or gems that can be used in other parts of the game to buy the supplies needed to complete a task. The jobs Frankie and other characters give players are designed to teach lessons about being helpful, trying new things, or other character-building traits. Moving through the game brings a child closer to achieving the stated goal of the game -- JumpStart 1st grade teaches leadership, in the second grade program, children help to solve a mystery.
The games and the tasks are engaging and fun -- my boys were never bored and consistently challenged by both JumpStart World Online and the JumpStart software we used at home.
Now for my perspective.
Believe it or not, the JumpStart software offers a lot for parents. I loved that JumpStart gave me:
- Progress reports that outline skills my child has mastered while playing JumpStart.
- Announcements of new features or play zones for my children to explore the next time they play.
- An online "Fun for Parents" section that includes like the JumpStart Times (parenting articles and crafts), Parent Discussion Boards, and my favorite feature, the Parent Tips section filled with age-based math and reading activity ideas for me to do at home with my child.
There were so many things to like about this software, it's hard to list them all.
There were a few things we noticed, though, that are worth mentioning.
The 3D graphics require a computer that has a high-speed Internet connection and adequate memory. When using the online version of JumpStart, there are times when your child will have to wait for a game or activity to load. After using the software for a while, I found my guys didn't mind the wait so much, but at first I will admit they were frustrated. (Have I mentioned they also can be frustrated waiting for the toaster to pop? So keep it in perspective.) But be prepared, at first, to be patient.
Also, there are portions of the site that are only available with paid membership. If you want your child to advance past the games provided on the CD or the introductory games at JumpStart World Online, there is a cost of $7.99/month. That covers updated learning games, downloads and new "quests" for up to 3 children. In my opinion, the variety and quality of the activities can be worth the investment, which is much less expensive than shopping for new software. But, that decision is up to you -- if your child is happy with the free games offered, he or she can use that portion of the website indefinitely.
And now for the Giveaway:
I have spoken with the people at JumpStart and they have agreed to offer one of my readers a 3-month Free Membership to JumpStart.com . That means your child can play as many new games as they want and explore the entire World of JumpStart. (Imagine an entire summer of go-to learning activities your child will love to play... )
Who wouldn't love that??
If you'd like to give JumpStart a try for your preschooler, homeschooler, or elementary school student, tell me about it in the comment section!
I will draw a winner at random and announce it in 2 weeks, on April 3, 2009.
Be sure to leave me a way to contact you, in case you win!
I really hope you try and enjoy this terrific software. Good Luck!
(and be sure to leave a comment!)
- Midwest Mom