Friday, December 17, 2010

Adventures in Space - New TOS Review!

Are your children interested in space? Are you looking for a kid-friendly and safe online environment that also is educational? Then you might want to check out Tiny Planets. As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was part of the review team for this website.

To be perfectly honest I am still trying to figure this site out (I am just not that into games especially those online and it takes me a long time to figure them out completely.) However, my eldest says she loves this site and requests it regularly. But I'll do my best at explaining the site to you and then you can check it out for yourself.

The Product:
Tiny Planets is a website that helps children (ages 4-12) learn about space and educate them on how to take care of our own planet, Earth, while p[laying with these two animated characters, Bing and Bong. There are 6 main areas of the site:
Home - which is your main headquarters. It give you access to all the other 'planets' on Tiny Planets.
Learn - Is full of worksheets for preschoolers helping them to learn their letters and numbers. It also has 65 lesson plans that you can use for a full curriculum for 3 - 5 year olds.
Labs - Is your games area. There are many different games to choose from ~ about 30 or so ~ that all have some scientific value. Some of their names include lava rescue, planet core challenge, and turbo fish.
Fun - This area is self explanatory, I think. It's a place where your younger children can watch these cute little "wordless" episodes.
TV - This basically has more episodes and shows which ones are in "your TV" section. You can buy episodes with keys (I'll explain about those in a minute) and then once you buy them, you get to keep them forever.
Books - This last area has mini books that can be read to younger children and older children could just read them to themselves.
MTP - is My Tiny Planets.  This is where your child can design and build their own planet by playing games and exploring.

Now earlier I had told you about "keys." The keys are not necessary since there is a LOT of stuff on this site that is completely free. But you will need keys in order to purchase additional books, videos or planetary assets. The keys range in price and start out at about $0.20 per key (when you buy 10 keys) down to $0.08 per key (when you purchase 600 keys). I've included the key pricing below:
10 keys $1.95
25 keys $3.95
85 keys $9.95
250 keys $25.95
600 keys $49.95

Once you purchase one of these items they are then yours forever. So if you go and buy a book it will be placed into "My Books" and will be accessible whenever you log in to your account. You will have to have a parent account as well as a cadet name in order to make any purchase.

Our Experience:

Arianna has really enjoyed using this site (even though mom hasn't fully gotten the hang of some things) and has asked to go and play it on many occasions. She told me her favorite part is the Flying Couch that Bing and Bong ride around in in outer space. She also enjoyed some of the games and the videos. Some of the games she had trouble with, but that could be due to not being able to control the 'piece' well (whether that be a person or a spaceship, or whatever.)

Audrie really likes the characters. After the Christmas holidays I plan on spending some more time with her on the site so she can also explore the Tiny Planet world. I know that the videos will be one of her favorite parts.

My Thoughts:
The TV episodes have sounds, but not real words. Bing and Bong and the other characters use expression and a variety of sounds to convey the message. Also, there is no sound for the books. This does not work well for pre-readers. Even though the graphics are wonderfully (and have an award for them) I think having some way to have the books read to younger children would be a great upgrade.

I think overall this is a cute website that is safe for children. When you sign up your child is assigned a cadet name which is randomly generated which protects your child's identity. Then while reading a book or video you do not have to worry about your child accessing improper material on the website. Tiny Planets is an ad-free designed website that allows younger children to freely explore without accidentally coming upon something you would not approve.

So why don't you go and check out what other parents had to say about Tiny Planets Or better yet, check out Tiny Planets for yourself.

*** I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of money for any of my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences with the products and services that I receive.***

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