Monday, August 31, 2009

Jumpstart Virtual World

The kind people at Knowledge Adventure recently offered me a free membership, and asked me to try out and review JumpStart's 3D Virtual World for kids. I have used JumpStart products in the past, both as a teacher and a parent, and always have been impressed with their games, which reinforce and teach skills that children are learning at school, yet are fun to play. From their website: "JumpStart is an award-winning adventure-based 3D virtual world that is super-personalized, wildly imaginative and really fun, but don't let that fool you - it also teaches math, reading, and critical thinking skills so kids get a real jump start in life."

My girls have never been big computer or video game users, so I was curious to see how they would like the JumpStart website. We've owned a few of the popular gaming systems, yet they just don't ask to play any of them that often. They'd much prefer to play with their toys. However, after spending just a few minutes on JumpStart, they were hooked.

Boo played first and loved that she could create her own "Jumpee," (avatar) character, picking out everything from hair color to clothing and choosing a name. She spent quite a long time doing this, wanting her Jumpee to look just like herself. Instead of going off and doing something else, her older sister Kiki was right there next to her watching, and helping her as she needed it.

After Boo created her Jumpee, she immediately went off exploring. There are many areas to explore, including two virtual worlds, "Storyland" (ages 3-5) and "Adventureland" (ages 6-8). I started Boo off in Storyland, even though she is 6, since this was her first time playing. She doesn't play computer games that often and I wanted her to feel comfortable and get used to the game first before having more challenging activities thrown at her. I like the ease of navigation in this software. In Storyland, for example, the child can just use the mouse instead of navigating a keyboard to find her way around.

Kiki started off in Adventureland first, and had no problems at all figuring it out. Like Storyland, the child is first prompted to create a Jumpee character. Since it is geared towards older children, the challenges are a bit harder, and the keyboard and mouse are both needed to navigate the world. There is also more reading involved, and of course the learning games are a bit harder.

I really like the way JumpStart caters to different age groups. Storyland is very simple for kids to explore, yet challenging enough to keep their interest. I also like that they get oral instructions and can ask for help, just by clicking on a question mark symbol in the corner of the screen, as frequently as they need it. They also have tasks to complete and are rewarded with stars when they complete a task. When they finish one of the many learning games within their "land," they are rewarded with coins, which in turn they can spend on virtual clothing and objects for their Jumpee.

I also like that as the child completes tasks or "missions" the game gets a little harder, and keeps the child's interest. Because it is online, the game continues to change and be fun for kids to play, unlike CD games which often come to an end after a child completes all of the tasks.

The fun is just beginning, as JumpStart creators are continuing to add more to the site, including "Futureland," which will be geared toward kids in 3rd through 5th grade, and "Marineland," an extension of Adventureland. They also recently launched a multi-player feature, which allows the Jumpees to interact with each other and chat for even more fun. Because real names are never used, and the chat is "canned" (children pick from a menu of phrases, such as "Hello, how are you today?") this keeps the conversation safe and secure for your little ones. With all of these features to explore, I know my girls will never be bored again on a rainy day!

The wonderful people at have offered to give away a free 3-month membership (value of $24) to one lucky reader. Membership includes access into a members-only area, software downloads, and more!

To enter, go to and check out the free areas in the virtual world, and then come back here and leave a comment telling me what you/your child liked about it. You can also earn additional entries by tweeting about this contest/post using the hashtag #momexperience with a link to this post.

Contest is open to US residents, and ends at 11:59 EST Sunday, September 13, 2009. The winner will be contacted via email (so be sure to leave me a valid email address) within two days of the contest end. Good luck!

As of 9/14/09***This contest is now closed***

CONGRATS to DesignHERmomma for winning my first ever giveaway! Thanks to everyone who participated!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Our Fair Adventure

We have had children now for 8 1/2 years, yet we have never bothered to try to take them to the Indiana State Fair. When they were younger, I figured they wouldn't enjoy the heat and the crowds enough to take them. Stupid thinking on my part really, since the admission for kids 5 and younger is free.

Well, now they are old enough that they know about the fair, want to go to the fair, etc. Boo, especially, LOVES pigs and knows there are some to be found at the fair, so of course she wanted to go and I figured, why not? However, mother nature had other plans in mind for us, since the best weekend for us to go it was 90 degrees with about 87 percent humidity. Needless to say, the pool definitely won out when it came time to plan that weekend's activities.

Weekdays are not a great option either, since school has started already. Yeah, you heard me right, school started here August 11. Seriously. Who is the brain child that thought early August would be a great time to start school, when it is 90+ degrees out? I could write a whole blog post about that since it annoys me so much. Anywhooo. . . so we can't go during the week very easily now that the girls are back in school. However, since the local paper decided to be nice and publish free fair coupons this week, I figured we could go for a few hours after school one day.

Yesterday after school got out, we ate an early dinner and headed to the fair. I knew taking my pig obsessed daughter Boo to see the pig races was a must. We had enough time to explore some of the kid activities before the races started at 7:00. We saw people starting to gather about 6:40 so we found our way to a seat, just in time for it to start sprinkling. No big deal, right? After all, what are a few little sprinkles? Well, those sprinkles quickly turned into a torrential downpour and we had to abandon our front row seats to find shelter.

Boo of course was freaking out because she 1). hates storms and is terrified of thunder 2.) the weather was raining on her "pig parade" and she was afraid the races would be canceled. Mother nature decided to play nice this time, and the rain passed through quickly, just in time for the pig races to start. To say Boo was ecstatic is an understatement. That child was so happy she was speechless, and that NEVER happens.

The girls did enjoy the fair but I felt like we didn't have enough time to truly explore all it has to offer. We did see some of the kids stuff and of course toured the animal barns, but we only saw about half of what was there. And even though I enjoyed seeing the smiles on their faces, I was reminded I am not really a state fair kind of gal. So many people I know LOVE the fair with the animals, music, rides and greasy fried foods (chocolate covered bacon? Seriously?!). Me? Notsomuch. But I know for the girls' sake, we will be going back next year.

The girls "planting" their garden

Boo picks her potatoes

This tomato looks good

Not quite like the apple orchards we went to when I was a kid

Is this really where milk comes from?

Look what we earned from all of our work!

Proud of her purchase

"Why do you need a picture of me holding Froot Loops?"

Front and center for the pig races! (note the dark sky behind her)

Mother Nature's surprise



Kiki's favorite - bunnies!