Educational virtual worlds combine kids' learning activities, imagination, and a whole lot of fun, not just for your child, but for you, too!
Virtual money, sports, the environment, and a dash of good old chore planning get us off to a great start.
Many virtual worlds have educational elements of course.
Maybe your child will take responsibility for a virtual pet - and plenty of these sites use virtual money.
The following websites focus on specific learning goals and skills, and often have parent or teacher sections providing more ideas and activities.
Here's my screenshot from the free App based on the virtual characters! It's great fun - kids can make their own cartoon creatures - here's the one we've just created on our iPod :)
The App is called Tinka Maker - available for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.
And the website? Well, it tells us we can "Help keep the world clean!" and offers an attractive format for kids 6 and up. Kids take on the role of a little creature called a Tinka, and they are encouraged to make stuff offline and upload their images to their digital scrapbook. There's plenty to do online - the usual games and quests, and there's a lot of info on the site for parents explaining how it all works.
Sign up for free to play from the Home Page. Learn how to move your character around and feed it, collect coins, add stuff to your bag... and get playing!
For girls and boys from 6 years up to around 11, this new site really is pretty good. Nothing too annoying, hardly any personal details needed, all you need to do is register your child and add your email address. Want to see a bit of the action? Here's a song!
Once you're signed in, Petra guides you to your room, show you your travel journal, and explain everything you need to know. Travel around her planet - we got the choice of going to Jordan, Sami Land, Sri Lanka, or Senegal, so we headed off to the frosty north, and met all kinds of interesting characters, played games, collected a couple of animal cards to add to our wonderful journal, and started a quest!
Nicely produced, plenty of help, simple and kid friendly.
This is a fantastic site for parents and kids of 6 to 11 (and teachers too, who can create their own teacher account and download their app, yay!) This world concentrates on math and English, all rolled into a virtual world of fast, creative, attractive learning.
Your child can play for free - paid members get access to more content, and I can see that with this site, that looks like a highly attractive option.
Quite honestly, there is so much great info for you there to read and find out exactly how this might suit your child - I suggest you head off now and take a look!
The SecretBuilders virtual world is aimed at kids from 5 to 14 years of age, and offers a wide variety of activities, including action, puzzle, and multiplayer games, fun quests, contests, clubs, fascinating facts - and plenty of learning opportunities as your kids play their way around!
The site lives up to its claim as a "fun virtual world where kids live, learn and play" - there really is a lot for children to do here. Younger ones will enjoy creating their character, exploring the Enchanted Woods, Haunted Valley, Magic Bazaar or Treasure Island, and playing the great quality games. Older children can also read clues and attempt the Quests, interact with famous people from history, or get involved with the charity and fundraising element within the world, called One For All, by answering questions about math, geography or English, for example.
Kids can earn virtual money, called Shills, by completing various activities, and can then buy items for their home or pets - or purchase spells! They'll also enjoy reading the Crooked Pencil magazine - and contributing their own writing - a really great feature.
Start off by registering your child's account. Then register your parent's account, and link it to your child's account details. Once you're logged into the parent's control panel, you can control how your child plays and set chat safety levels. Choose between standard safe chat or ultimate safe chat. The ultimate option lets your child use and see only predetermined phrases, emoticons and actions - so for little kids, this is the option I'd recommend.
"Have fun, make friends, learn about money" - so starts the homepage of MinyanLand, aimed at kids grades three to five. Meet Hoofy the Bull and Boo the Bear, and learn all about earning money, as well as saving and spending it. There's a focus on charitable giving, as well as a Virtual Allowance feature available.
Kids start out with a healthy bank balance, and then it's up to them whether to spend at the Mall or earn more money by playing games. Looks an interesting concept.
This site's for kids from 6 to 9 years of age, and as the name tells you, it's all about teaching kids how to take care of the world we live in. There's a teacher's guide as well as a family guide to the site, where your kids can learn about what's really in a bag of trash, or how to have an eco-friendly birthday bash!
Eeko stands for Environmental Education for Kids Online! And kids will enjoy creating and helping their own EekoCreature, as well as spending time in their EekoHouse.
Your kids can find out about ecosystems, the effects of pollution, and what they can do to help improve our environment. Plants, animals, land, sea, sky - all in all, a super site for curious kids.
For kids four to fourteen, Handipoints' Handiland is a really cool idea. It's free, too!
What's it about? Well - with the help of Handiland, your child is encouraged to lend a hand - in the real world, that is! If your child completes a set of planned chores, they get points and rewards. And it's all done with a sense of fun and achievement.
The site aims to help parents raise their kids to be happy, healthy, and smart. Plan your daily or weekly chore chart, for just one child or all of your kids. You're guided on how to set up a weekly allowance program, check your kids' progress, teach your children how to take responsibility. And there's a parents' forum too! Nice.
And the virtual world bit? Parents go to the parents' portal. Kids log into Handitown - and get to interact with their chore chart, go on cool Missions with their customized CoolCat - and hopefully succeed in their quest to become happier, healthier, and smarter!
To get started, create your own parent's Handipoints account. Create your child's/children's cats. Then move onto the tutorial and create your child's chore list from a list of tasks.
We've chosen some very simple personal chores:
That's more than enough to get started with for my son!
Oh, there are fun chores on offer too! Play Duck, Duck, Goose, or play hide and seek or peekaboo! And there are healthy tasks or smart tasks to choose from - dance around the room, or sing your ABCs. What could be more sensible?
The "demerits" section features minus points for arguing with your sister or coloring on the walls :)