Review by Erin Brereton, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2015

Nick Jr. Beyond the Backpack

Personalized help preps kids for preschool success

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Math
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Pre-K
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Teachers can tailor content to kids' needs, and concepts are reinforced through varied exercises.

Cons: More options for customization could better support personalized learning.

Bottom Line: Engaging activities and helpful pre-K preparation aimed at parents, but could still be useful for teachers.

Teachers can create a specialized lesson plan that centers on the site's activities -- if they're able to accurately answer the site's quiz questions that help determine what content is appropriate for a child. They'll need to at least try to answer all the quiz questions to gain access to the site's games and other exercises. You can't just scroll through items and choose the ones you'd like -- which is unfortunate, because it'd make the site more accessible to educators. However, the activities address a wide variety of social and emotional, literacy, and other skills, so even if your assessment is a bit off, kids should still benefit from using the site. In addition, if adults log in to access their account, kids can spend some self-guided time on the site, accessing activities through the site's gameboard and earning virtual rewards for participation.

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Nick Jr.'s Beyond the Backpack was primarily designed to offer learning-based activities for preschool-aged kids and their parents. The site's advisory committee that includes organizations like the Association of Children's Museums, Jumpstart, and Common Sense Media. After answering 15 questions about a child's development, you'll receive a learning plan and accompanying gameboard listing videos and other exercises, which are often interactive, that are tailored to the child's specific educational needs. Programming focuses on five areas: family engagement, health and wellness, literacy skills, social and emotional skills, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.

Activities model core skills for little ones: For example, a read-along Dora the Explorer storybook in the Social & Emotional section illustrates the importance of saying thank you. A printable passport activity can help kids learn their home address. Activities generally feature clear, detailed instructions, which are often read aloud and illustrated in brief videos to help kids understand. 

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The site wasn't really designed for teacher use; the questions, learning plan, accompanying toolkit, and other materials directly address parents, and educators who are working with two- to five-year-olds may have a hard time answering some of the questions that help customize the site's content. (And they need to answer at least some to access the site's activities.)

However, even if they can't fully tailor a learning plan to each child, each exercise includes information about the specific skills a child will be practicing -- so adults who work with preschool-age children could potentially use some of the diverse games, print-outs, and other activities to help kids prepare for kindergarten.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The site’s gameboard makes learning-based activities feel less academic. To encourage kids to participate, they're given virtual backpack stickers as a reward for completing activities.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Kids will learn about STEM subjects and other topics in interactive and printable activities. Adults will need to mark off which ones their child has completed, since the site doesn't automatically register activity progress.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

A packet of learning activities, tips, and reward certificates is available for parents and educators. Many advisor websites also contain additional resources.


Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
kristin p. , Early childhood provider
Early childhood provider
NYC DOE
New York, NY
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This program based on Nickelodeon Junior television shows offer a wide variety of interaction throughout different TV shows. This program would be any toddler's best friend. They offer a lot of skill builders and interaction geared for any level. Bright colors and big letters are great for any child. As a teacher this program would serve for kids with special needs as well as infants and toddlers to use as great skill builders. If you or someone who is interested in using this program I would highly suggest doing so it's great for both individual work as well as building language for students just entering school. Encouraging all children to learn and promoting academic success is important, and this program supports both.

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