Pros: Cute animated characters enliven online games, and online and real-world activities are a hit.
Cons: Some content requires reading ability or adult assistance.
Bottom Line: Curiosityville is a great online learning tool for kids that addresses a range of topics.
A parent/teacher dashboard called the Learning Tree gives feedback on 10 core learning areas, and you can monitor how your kids are using the site and assess their progress. The Tree doesn't provide strategies for learning but does show parents and teachers how much time kids spend on different activities and which core skills they explore. The extensive parent/teacher area also hosts short articles on "the science of learning," which break down how little kids learn and give you ideas on how best to use the site with specific, real-world projects, based on each kid's Learning Tree assessment.
A personalized page for each kid offers suggestions with activities that will help "Build on," "Explore," and "Improve" their skills. Finally, teachers can control a time limit message that lets kids know when they've spent enough time on the site.
Editor's Note: Curiosityville is no longer available.
In Curiosityville's general information and exploration space, cute animated characters host themed areas that focus on different subjects. Pablo the frog is an artist, Ruby the cat is a teacher, Rosie the mouse is a scientist, and Joe the monkey is a musician as well as mayor of Curiosityville. A short animation introduces the area, and a cloud of stars indicates the places kids can click for play. Each area has several Flash-based games that incorporate a wide range of skills. An audio track gives instructions to pre-readers, but younger kids will need help the first few times they play.
Kids can click on their favorite character's Clubs page for fresh monthly content and additional activities. For instance, Olive's Cooking Club has monthly themed recipes that are appropriate for young chefs (and a grownup), such as cranberry sauce or tomato soup. Other clubs such as Rosie's Science Club and Joe's Nature Club provide activities that kids can do in the real world to build on the online experience.
Curiosityville is a great example of age-appropriate Web content for little kids. The easy-to-use, straightforward design is aimed at the preschool to early elementary set, providing a safe online play space. Each account supports and tracks up to three kids. Adults enter their names and ages, and the games, which incorporate different skill sets, adjust their levels according to age. Some games require an adult's assistance, such as Ruby's story chair, which includes the option for kids to write their own stories.
Kids earn awards for solving different puzzles correctly, giving them a way to keep track of their own progress. The Clubs page offers real-world activities that correspond to the skills kids learn in the games, such as nature hunts, art projects, and even social skills development.