Jumpstart.com Review

jumpstart.com

Jumpstart.com educational games world welcome page

The JumpStart.com educational game world is a 3D gaming environment that is specially designed to make math, reading and critical thinking fun.  That’s the claim from the Jumpstart.com website.  This review will examine how much this claim actually matches reality.

Jumpstart.com caters for kids between the age of 3 to 12, but really more for the ages 4 to 9 in my opinion.   It reminds me a lot of Club Penguin, but with more educational slant to it.  It is also in 3D perspective, making it a far more interactive environment than what Club Penguin offers.

Because it sports more sophisticated graphics, you will need to install a (free) runtime plugin into your internet browser. Registration itself is free and after installing the 3D engine you can launch the game and let your kids explore.

JumpStart.com Game Play

Inside the expansive world, players can design a character, decorate a house, adopt cuddly pets and play games with friends. As players complete learning games and other challenges at JumpStart, they earn coins and points that can be used personalize the world even more.

The JumpStart.com world consists of a huge amount of areas to explore:
Launch Pad, Fun Zone, Story Land, Uncle Milton’s Science Land, Arcade, Future Land, Adventure Land, Science Land, Poseidon’s Hangout, Movie Theater, Marine Land, Jumpy Creator, Buddy Booth, Enchanted Sanctuary, Speed Drome, Dune Buggies, Rides, Freefall Mountain, Ride Wash, Shipwreck Lagoon, Jumpstart Stadium, My Neighborhood, Amphitheater, Brain Training Arcade, JumpStart Threadz Shop and the Petz Shop.

Up to six kids are allowed per account who each can run, swim, dive, drive and fly through the colorful and pretty 3D lands that Jumpstart.com has to offer.

When you enter a new area or game, the game is quickly loaded into your browser, which usually takes between 2 and 10 seconds.

Jumpstart.com Evaluation

There is an awful lot to do and explore in Jumpstart.com. Even after many hours of play, we have not been able to explore everything. There are definitely enough activities to hold your child’s attention. In addition, players can interact with other players, because this is an online multiplayer environment.
You can make friends (buddies) and the conversations are controlled via a selection of phrases that can be said to one another.

There are plenty of beautiful sights to see. Many games involve keyboard/mouse skill to run, jump, shoot or drive in order to achieve objectives and collect coins. These coins can later be used for rewards such as different outfits, appearance, vehicles, pets and home decorations. You see, all players get their own house in which they can put furniture and collect rewards.

All this is great, and in my opinion much better than watching TV or some of the more mindless computer games out there.

Math Lessons in JumpStart.com

But what about the educational content, specifically math and language?

Reading and problem solving are easily tied into the games world. Math is present in less obvious, softer ways. For example in earning coins to be spent on items, time limited games and pure math games, such as the basketball shoot out, in which the player has to get math questions correctly answered before the basketballs drop to the floor. It is not the most intensive math workout, but math is there.

Kids earn coins for completing activities. The educational games earn slightly more coins than just playing entertainment games on jumpstart.com. However, after a while it became more and more just playtime (we had subscribed to jumpstart.com a few months at this point).

Strengths

  1. Very kid-friendly, inviting multi-player 3D environments.
  2. Variety – many different games to choose from, worlds to explore and new things to try./li>
  3. Safe – your kids will not encounter anything harmful, and the conversations between players can only contain stock phrases that are selected via a menuing system, so it’s impossible for kids to be rude to each other or reveal personal information.
  4. Personalized – kids can customize their player’s looks as well as adopt their own pets and decorate their very own homes.
  5. Rewards system – kids earn coins for playing games. The better they do, the more coins they earn. The coins earned can then be used to buy items their virtual self (avatar), pet or virtual home..

Weaknesses

  1. The map is so big, that it does not fit into the game window and needs to be scrolled. With so many different places on the map players may get lost. It is also difficult to work out what each place offers based on viewing the map.
  2. The educational content is somewhat weak and can easily be ignored by kids. I’d say for 1 hour of playtime you might get 10-15 minutes of math and spelling practice. Your mileage will vary, but that is what I have seen with our kids.
  3. For the full experience and to enjoy all the cool rewards and customizations, you need to become a paid member. (One paid membership covers multiple kids in your family.
  4. The ancient history world is simply a pretty looking running and jumping track made up of Greek/Roman and Egyptian motives. Kids don’t actually LEARN anything about history.

Child Test

Comments from our young evaluators:

  • This is cool! I get to fly on a broomstick!
  • I like the games they added for Halloween. They were fun.
  • Ooh, I wish I could adopt a dragon and get that car! (that was before we purchased the membership – membership is definitely worth it).
  • Look, I found the secret room! (the secret room is where players find ingredients to make magic potions which will l turn other players temporarily into frogs, rabbits, even hamburgers – a great favorite for our kids)
  • It’s kind of fun. There are lots of different places to explore. I didn’t find much I was learning.
  • It’s mainly for preschoolers.

Pricing

At the original time of writing (Feb 2011), the monthly subscription was US$7.99 per month. As of April 2012 the monthly subscription is $3.99 or $28.99 for a full year and covers up to six children.

Verdict

Covers: Problem solving, basic math, telling time, basic English, computer skills, hand-eye coordination, social interaction – making virtual friends, some science facts.
Age Group: 4-10
Effectiveness: 3 out of 5 (way more play than learning, but that’s the idea of this product – get kids to learn through playing.
Learning vs Fiddling: some of the racing games are a bit fiddly to control – it’s just not easy to steer a car with cursor keys…
Avoids Violence: 5 out of 5 – you get to turn your buddies into frogs and such, but everyone’s having a good chuckle, even the “frogs”. Well, ours certainly did.
Fun Factor: 4 out of 5 – appealing, very colourful world(s) with lots to explore and try. The main drawback is that the games don’t build up a larger storyline, but instead are scoped within themselves only. Also the voices can be annoying (not just to adults).
Medium: Played in your browser
Platforms: Windows and Mac (OSX 10.3.9 or later).
Price: $3.99 per month (as at Apr 2012) or FREE to try
Guarantee: No, but you can try for free for as long as you like with a slightly reduced feature set and massively reduced rewards to choose from.
Value for Money: 4 out of 5 – The entertainment value is great and the educational value is greater than similar game environments elsewhere on the web. Yes, your child will not become a math superstar playing Jumpstart.com. but at least he or she will learn SOMETHING while being thoroughly entertained.
Overall: 3.5 out of 5

Visit the Jumpstart.com website.

For some excellent games that really hone in on your child’s math skills, why not check out our recommended math games section?

Feedback

Have you been using Jumpstart.com, too? Please share your views and experiences below and help make this a valuable resource for people inquiring about Jumpstart.com for their own children.