Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Kind of Video Games That Make a Parent Happy Their Kids Are Begging To Play! Bonus: Jumpstart Giveaway!!

I couldn't resist when JumpStart contacted me in May about doing a review of their new online Jumpstart Virtual World, so I said I would love to do one.* You see, I have a pretty long history with their products, starting my first son CC on JumpStart Baby way back in 2000. We've gone through pretty much all the levels of the game, Toddlers, Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades (it goes through 6th grade, but my oldest is only 9 so we just haven't got there yet). The kids love playing them and I love that I can feel good about them playing video games and maybe even a little proud of them for spending the time to get through each of the levels.ª We have a general rule during the school year that the kids are allowed to play ONLY Jumpstart or Spongebob Typing on schooldays and then they can play their other favorites (Darn you, Mario and your entrancing little karts!) on the weekends.

Here's a little history of the company:
For more than 15 years, Knowledge Adventure has set the standard in kid’s software by creating the finest educational products for use in the home and the classroom. In addition to our CD games, we’ve launched a beta version of our first browser-based virtual world at, for kids 3-10 years old. Kids can create avatars called Jumpeez for themselves and explore magical worlds, discovering and unlocking games, videos, and storybooks that teach everything from math to reading. Over the next year, we will continue to add more features, portals and learning games to this site. I encourage you to check it out at
Cherie at Jumpstart set me up with a complimentary account a couple months ago so I could test it with my kids and then report back to you what we thought. I am pleased to report that my 9-year-old, CC, became obsessed with it from May 19th through the end of school (until it was displaced by summer vacation, camp and, uh, Spore). The 7-year-old, Destructo, was just getting his feet under him with it and loving it, when he left for summer camp. And the 3-year-old was, and still is, clamoring for it, but I just haven't made the time to sit and play with him, as he needs help. Poor little neglected third child! :( *Quickly followed by a massive eyeroll* as the Animal manages to make himself the center of attention almost all the time.

Once I got the kids set up in the account on the Jumpstart site (you add each child's name and age and then you select your name from the list when you want to play), CC was able to get himself logged in and out no problem and immediately started whipping through the online world and accumulating coins and stars. The Jumpee avatar that players are offered at the beginning of the game is disappointingly plain-jane until you realize that you can buy new accessories for it with the earned coins. CC quickly had his avatar outfitted in a green, punky haircut and some kind of cool outfit that he was yelling for me to come over and check out. CC's only complaint was about the load times, which didn't seem much longer than the load times for CD-ROM based games, to me, but did have an infuriating tendency to get hung up (always it seemed in bouts-- like, either you will have a totally problem-free session or you will have a session plagued with difficulty) and the only way to fix the hang-up is to start over. I will supply you with the caveat that I explained to my son: The game is still new and they seem to be adding to it all the time. We also are on a Mac platform, running it on Safari (Firefox isn't supported), and that could be the reason for any problems. (I love my Mac, but it can be a real pain when it comes to internet-based applications. Don't get me started on the vagaries of Google Docs on my Mac..... You've been warned.)

Destructo needed a bit more help navigating the virtual world and found himself literally running in circles a few times and needed Mom to extricate him and move him along to the right adventure area of the game. The Animal, just a toddler, needed complete parental involvement for the games and navigating the space.

There is a blog for parents that is pretty snazzy, I guess, with ideas for games, projects, and other kid/family-centric posts, as well as info on JumpStart. I can't say that I utilized it much, but I am a very different kind of mom now that I have three kids (let's call it the "Damage Control" stage) versus when I just had one.

All in all, I give the game a high-five. Pros: I liked that there seems to be a nice mix of purely "for fun" games and math and reading learning games, the kids loved playing it, they can play it anywhere there is a high-speed internet connection (no software to download or bring along), and I am love that soon they will be introducing an interactive feature that will allow kids to find their real-life friends in the game and play with them there (that should be really interesting.... An mmorpg** for the under-10 and toddler sets? Sweeeeeeeet.) Cons: Still seems to be under construction, download times, and needs some more challenging content for the older aged kids.

If you would like to try out the JumpStart Virtual World for free, I have ONE 3-month membership to give away. The membership is normally $7.99 a month, and allows access to thousands of more games and lessons. Those with a membership will also be able to download numerous full-retail games through our website.

For a chance to win, all you need to do is leave a comment telling me if you let your kids play video games and, if so, what kind of time limits do you set? Do you set a time limit if the game is educational vs. purely entertainment? Do you even make a distinction between the two?

Or, you could just tell me that you really want to give it a whirl because it sounds cool. :)

If you want another chance to win, you can tweet the giveaway with this (No more than two tweets per day, please! And please let me know in the comments that you tweeted, one comment per tweet.):
Pssst! Want to feel good about your kid playing on the computer all day?Win a pass to @JumpStart Virtual World here:
Follow my blog for another entry and leave a comment telling me you did.
Subscribe to my feed for another entry and leave a comment telling me you did.

I'll pick one winner at random on Tuesday, July 28th. I should be recovered from BlogHer by then, right?

You have lots of chances to win and, as we hit the dog days of summer when our kids are really starting to make us crazy, you'd be nuts to miss out on something to keep your kids outta your hair. (In my not so humble opinion.;) Thanks and good luck!

Jumpee Builder
The Jumpee Builder
Adventure Land - Jet Pack 1
A reading game in the Adventureland World

Lost Island - Lost Shores 2
Another section of the virtual world called Lost Island.

P.S. You may have noticed that I don't do many reviews on this blog. It's not that I don't like getting free stuff or driving more traffic to the site by hosting giveaways. It's just not my angle on this whole blog-thing and I frankly don't have enough time in the day to handle doing them more than once in a blue moon.

That said: If someone sends me an email and asks me to review something that I am pretty positive I know I will love? Or, better yet, something I believe in. Well, yeah, duh, of course I'll review it! I'm not stewpid, after all, and (like most people I know) I love free stuff! And if a company is willing to have someone who calls herself the Bitchin' Wife do product reviews for their children's game?? Well, who am I to turn down such an opportunity?

*Even though this was about the point in time that I was losing my mind trying to pack our house, school was coming to an end, and life was overall pretty chaotic.

ªNot that I wasn't incredibly proud of my son when he completed Guitar Hero, got 5-Stars on multiple songs, or won Super Mario Galaxy. I was! But even a diehard video game lover like me is not immune to all the people looking down their noses at video games as brain-wasting-dreck (uh, people like my husband) and can appreciate that JumpStart has educational qualities that make it more socially-redeeming.

**mmorpg=massive multi-player online role-playing game

FYI: If you want your kids to play, regardless of whether or not you win, you can go to the JumpStart website to purchase month-long memberships for $7.99, or you can purchase membership game cards for various lengths of time at Toys'R'us, Best Buy, and other retail sites (where they actually cost a dollar less per month than they do on the website).


  1. I already follow and subscribe, but I don't know what I'd do with a video game.

  2. Gil has always played on Leap Frog, growing up. :) Another which would make any parent happy their child wants to play a "video game"...

  3. I have always purchased the JumpStart software for my kids because I wanted them to be learning things while they were on the computer, and they've enjoyed them without realizing I was pushing the learning on them. I have loved their products so much that, over the years, we've purchased their toy brands and educational DVDs, too.

    My youngest son still plays them more than my oldest, who believes he's far too cool and all roads should lead to Nintendo DS (which he doesn't own, but a boy can dream, I suppose). I do try to budget their computer time, even if it is a learning game they're playing, and I definitely do when they are playing something for entertainment on the PS. Mommy can only take so much of hearing pixelated WWE wrestlers and their theme music before she goes a wee bit off the charts!

    (oh, and I subscribe to your feed!)

  4. I LOVE JumpStart! My kids have run through nearly all of their games starting with the preschool adventures. I was flabbergasted when they would beg to play educational games! JumpStart Virtual World is super cool with great graphics! The personalized characters are awesome. My girls, now 7 & 10, love it. They especially like the pet adoption center! (So clearly I don't want to win this one...I'm just backin' you up on how completely COOL this giveaway is!) Good luck all!

  5. My daughter LOVED the JumpStart math games!

  6. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



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