If you have young children who are starting to hit that age where they want to play on the computer like you or like their older siblings, cousins or friends, then I’m sure you’re looking for safe, educational web pages that you can trust your child to be able to use with minimal help and enjoy. I went on a quest for the 5 most well known preschool game sites. These sites were mostly small portions of a website associated with something else for kids like toys or educational television. The 5 sites I’ll be talking about are : PBS Kids, Playskool, Lego, Nick Jr and Disney. Each separate site will get a rating based on how safe, educational, usable and fun they are for children. These ratings will be on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the absolute best.
PBS Kids has lots of street cred for being educational and wholesome. I remember my little brother spending hours playing the Curious George games. They also have a huge selection of games on their website, sorted by category. The games are very educational and are also very clear about when you’re wrong. For a kid, these games would be fun. I suggest giving them headphones though because everything is narrated since most younger children can’t read and that got annoying fast. The directions are very clear and almost always given out-loud for games designed for pre-readers or early readers. My one complaint is that all of the games are mixed together so its difficult to figure out which ones are for which age group without just playing. I also once accidentally ended up leaving PBS Kids and ending up in PBS Kids Go which is for slightly older kids. Not a huge problem since it was still PBS, but a problem none the less.
educational value: 8
Playskool Kids is a part of the Hasbro web site. The web site itself is pretty simple to navigate and most things are interactive to keep small children entertained. Anything that is a game is easily identifiable (and the voice over says its a game). The games themselves, though, have no educational value that I could find. All of them seem to just be advertisements for the various toys or board games that Hasbro sells in stores. This bothered me a lot. Other than that, there were no forums and no way of communicating with the other people playing so it was quite safe. It was also very clear how to navigate through the web site. The games sometimes lacked instructions, but most were pretty straight forward.
educational value: 0
When you think of early childhood toys and games, most people will think of Lego. I know that both my little brother and I both greatly enjoy Lego in all its forms. So when I decided to go look for some early childhood games to talk about, one of the first places I went was lego.com. I was not disappointed. They have a nice section of free online games for preschoolers. There are 8 games available in their preschool specific section. These games, like Legos themselves, are mostly puzzles or creative. Despite the fact that they have these free online games in a specific section for the younger crowd, that’s really about what they offer. Some of the games were so unintuitive that even as an adult I had trouble playing them. The one that I liked (Animal Bingo) was far too short, even for a small child. Winning in one move and having to press the play button again just isn’t fun. The only game that they offered that was what I was hoping to find was Creative Builder. This is like a Lego version of Tangrams with multiple play modes. Lego, you have failed me. With regards to the rest of the site, there is a message board available but the entire board is moderated by real people so nothing can be posted that they don’t deem to be appropriate for all audiences.
educational value: 4
Alright, this one blew my mind. I remember my little brother playing on noggin.com all of about 3 years ago. Its…completely different. First off, Noggin itself appears to be gone. Also, Nick Jr has an unintuitive interface that makes it very hard to find more than one of their games. Once I finally navigated my way to their games, I discovered that some of their games appear to be a premium service. They sort the games by category, age and show. They also keep the premium games more or less separate from the other games. When you find your way to the game that you want to play, they play an advertisement. Now, I don’t know about you, but I think enough advertising is already targeting kids as it is. Plus the premium games? Really? Does Nickelodeon really need more money that badly? There’s ads all over the page, a lot of them are pretty sketchy looking. The games themselves are quite good and very educational. But that doesn’t make up for the sheer amount of advertising on this web page.
educational value: 8
Disney is a childhood classic, the very definition of innocent fun and games to most people. That’s pretty much all their site had in the games section. It was mindless fun with little to no educational values. There were ads on the pages but there weren’t many of them. The games themselves were mostly short, arcade style games. They were fun, but not much else. I feel kind of let down. I sort of expected more from Disney, just because of the sheer number of childhood lessons I learned from their movies.
educational value: 0
I hope this helps you in your endeavors to spread gamerdom on the next generations!