My 3-year-old son loves to sit at the family computer and watch videos of garbage trucks on YouTube. You would be amazed at the number of people who take the time to film garbage trucks coming down the street and collecting trash. You would be even more amazed at my son's ability to sit, slack-jawed, watching videos of these trucks.
I would like his computer time to be slightly more… engaging. Call me crazy. I think kids and computers can be a great match, but I want the interaction to be valuable. I'm looking for more than just entertainment -- I want learning.
WiggleTime.com seeks to provide just that. The site strives to deliver education through entertainment. The games kids can play involve cognitive, physical and social elements to help preschoolers learn a variety of skills. And the site also has resources that let parents learn about child development -- and monitor their own kids' progress.
When my daughter was 6 years old, I thought that by having the computer in the kitchen, I'd covered my online safety needs. I really believed that. Right up until the moment she asked me what our mailing address was.
"Excuse me?" I asked, and stared at the screen in horror, as she was somehow filling out a form on a retail store website. "Weren't you playing games at [a kids' network site]?"
"I clicked on this box," she said, and showed me the ad. I could feel my blood boil, and it still infuriates me now, two years later. So I'm delighted that WiggleTime.com is completely free of advertisements. My kids can't accidentally leave the site and find themselves roaming the entire Web.
It creates the opportunity for today's parents to introduce their children to the Internet without the risk of them communicating with strangers and getting bombarded with advertisements.
Another fantastic feature of the WiggleTime site is that the games are designed to be played in stages that get more challenging as kids learn. So instead of their outgrowing the games, the games grow with them -- similar to the way you can unlock new challenges on the Wii as your skills improve.
And because kids love motivation -- generally in the form of prizes -- they earn virtual toys to keep and play with for each game they complete.
You can register and play for free. But a $6 monthly fee lets you create an account for up to four kids with access to premium features, such as a monthly parent report that tells you what your child has been up to on the site and what skills she's gained. You'll also find message boards and special offers on merchandise and Wiggles tickets.
Yes, that's right, Wiggles tickets. In case you hadn't heard, the Wiggles are touring the country this summer.
In the meantime, if your kids need their Wiggles fix, check out WiggleTime.com, and let us know what you think in the comments below.
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