Georgia Caudle - you've won!
With two children in preschool and one in kindergarten, I am a huge fan of tools that will help them learn to read. I am especially fond of programs that utilize technology, because my kids feel like they are playing a game while they are learning. We have used other learning programs in the past and they have really increased my kids’ knowledge, especially in terms of letter recognition and sounds. I think this program will be very successful in increasing their understanding. I would even venture to say that this program will get my kindergartner reading simple words as quickly as his class time.
There are many things I like about the Smarty Ants system. The graphics are well done, and the figures look almost 3-D. The kids get to customize their ant, and there are several incentives for kids to continue learning. The system is very individualized, and the first step is that the game recognizes your child’s learning level to cater the lessons specifically to them. All of the games are heavy on letter sounds, which I think it is big plus. There is not a lot of fluff in this game: it is VERY educational. And yet my kids found it engaging and fun. In between each lesson, the child has the opportunity to use tokens they have earned in exchange for new options as they customize their own ant.
As much as I love the individualized nature of the game, for my family it is also the greatest drawback. I have three kids who would benefit from a reading system, and yet they are all at very different levels. Once my eldest had set up the game for himself, there was no way to go back and simplify the lessons so that my younger kids could play. My daughter was disappointed that since her brother set up the profile, that she had no option to choose a girl avatar and the corresponding clothes, which is a pretty big feature of the game. I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to add another user, because I know I can’t be the only mom with multiple kids who would be interested in playing. Finally, I found a note in the FAQ’s stating that additional users had to set up their own account, with a separate email (and a separate subscription fee, I’m assuming). Having to have an adult log in and out for each child feels like a major hassle for me.
We also got to review the Phonics Pup. As a stand-alone toy, the Phonics Pup is great. It’s ultimately a talking robot, and the designers did a great job making an automated toy still look cuddly and cute. My daughter adored the dog and sat watching it sing and talk for a very long time. I found the dog’s interaction with the computer to be a bit disappointed. I had assumed it would interact while the child plays, but really the dog does not function while the Smarty Ants program is running. An adult can program the dog to download songs from the website that correspond with the child’s learning level, but the dog does not sing or talk in conjunction with the game. I think the dog is a great toy on it’s own, but parents buying the subscriptin along with the dog may be disappointed to find that they are not that connected, beyond both being great learning tools.
I would recommend both the Phonics Pup and the Smarty Ants system to parents. I think they would make great Christmas gifts and I think they stand out as some of the better learning tools on the market. I would issue a heavy warning to parents of multiples that the system may spark some frustration with your kids when only one can really use the system at their own level.
Here is a short video of my kids playing with the Phonics Pup and Smartyants system:
To learn more about SmartyAnts, visit their website. You can also purchase the Phonic Pup and a subscription at Amazon.com.
Win it: Want to win a $100 gift card, a SmartyAnts Phonics Learning Pup and one-year subscription? Leave me a comment below with your favorite aspect of the system. US residents only. No duplicate comments. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
d) Follow this link (links to http://goo.gl/OhrZ5 ) and provide your email address and your response to the sweepstakes prompt
e) Sweepstakes ends at 5 PM PST on December 17, 2010
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.