Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Jump Starting Jacob

I am not a fan of video games. My kids will likely never own a Wii (I just can't get my mind around simulated activities like bowling. Go bowling.), they think a playstation is their desk, and I have only let my older two get on the internet a handful of times. Yeah, I admire the Amish a little too much.

But the concept of a "video" game (it's for your PC) that enables your young one to garner skills while "playing?" It really appealed to me when I thought of my five and a half year-old, Jacob. He was late to talk, late for a lot of things, actually, and I liked the concept of Jump Starting anything.

He's currently in a kindergarten that doesn't focus a lot on academics, instead lasering in on things like self-confidence, art, music, and the creativity of the child. We love it, but it also kind of freaks us out a little. Because I like to push the envelope, I had the good people at Parent Bloggers Network send me the Jump Start for first grade. Sort of a litmus test to see how far behind we were.

After loading the game (time consuming, but not terribly so) I sat Jacob on my lap. I showed him how to maneuver the mouse and to my surprise he picked it up in a few minutes and we were off.

He was hooked from the get-go. When he saw his name on the computer screen (I plugged it in as a part of the loading process) and got to pick his character, he was entranced.

Within ten minutes he was collecting "jewels" in a math game that had him clicking on the area that had "more than eight" or "more than four" with ease. He navigated a ship through treacherous waters in an attempt to crash into icebergs that all had three, seven, nine, (you get the point, no?) objects on them, or the actual number itself.

After an initial struggle with the arrow keys on the keyboard, I was stunned to see the hand-eye coordination pick up each minute, and the grin on his face grow larger with each success. The game is really good about positive encouragement, and when he successfully completed a segment of the game, the voice telling him that he did a great job and that he had mastered a level was like an air pump: I watched his little chest puff out with pride.

Two items that are great about this prouct: if your child is struggling somewhat, the game paces itself to your child's progress. When Jacob took a while to master a concept, he never felt left behind or like he was slow. And when he got something right, the praise and encouragement from the game (and me, I should add) spurred him on to want to go to the next level.

I've heard that games are very expensive, but for only $19.95 you can jump start your own K, 1 or 2nd grade child.

I can't recommend this product enough. Want a free download? Go, now, and watch your kid do something productive in front of the computer.

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