Saturday, February 20, 2010

Spot Games

Ayaan is allowed an hour's worth of TV time on weekends and school holidays. On school days, to compensate for the no-TV rule, he gets an hour’s worth of what he likes to call ‘Spot Games’, also known as games on the computer.

The origin of the name is as quirky as my little boy. When he was younger, he loved to watch ‘The Adventures of Spot’ on CBeebies. So naturally when we first logged on to the CBeebies website, he was most keen to play Spot Games. Alas, that was one character missing on the website. Undaunted by Spot's absence, the site was christened Spot Games by Ayaan and the name seems to have stuck and all computer games are now called Spot Games :)

Overall, I much prefer he spends time on online games (duly supervised, of course) than in front of the idiot box. For starters, these games are learning games and while some of the TV shows do try and build concepts into their stories as well, it is one-way communication after all. The online games are far more interactive and I have seen Ayaan learn a lot from them.

The other advantage is that over the past year, he has developed a huge comfort with computers. Once I have opened the browser, he is able to click on the bookmarks of the websites he frequents and find his favourite games, completely unassisted. Once my brother, trying to get out of wasting playing an hour’s worth of games with him, told him he didn’t know how to find said Spot Games. Ayaan very coolly told him, “Mamu, you have to go to Google and type CBeebies”!!!! What’s more, he can use the touchpad mouse on my laptop almost as well as I can, can slowly and painstakingly type out words and numbers in MSWord (even using the BackSpace key when he gets it wrong) and knows what and where the SpaceBar is. While I am in no hurry for him to become computer literate, I think there is no harm is starting early, especially since he’s having fun and learning at the same time.

Anyway, in her comment on my last post, Preeti wanted to know what websites Ayaan frequents. So here goes.

CBeebies

We started with CBeebies and that continues to be his favourite website. This probably has to do with the fact that most of the TV shows he watches are on CBeebies, so he is familiar with the characters. At the start, he mostly spent his time with the simple games and stories on Teletubbies and Fimbles, but now he has graduated to the more evolved games over at Kerwhizz, Alphablocks, Poetry Pie and Big and Small. There is also some cool drawing stuff over at Mister Maker and Get Squiggling.

Starfall

Starfall is a great site that helps to build reading skills. It’s also very simply designed - Ayaan can easily navigate it by himself. And though it is hard-core learning of the type he would do in school, it’s done in such a fun way that Ayaan hasn’t quite noticed that off-putting fact. At the last open house session, his teacher told us that he has one of the best vocabularies in class, and I do believe that this site (along with his love for being read to and the fact that English is our primary language at home unlike some of the other kids in his class) has something to do with it. It has also got him interested in trying to read simple words he comes across in books, signboards, etc even though they are not reading yet at school.

Kindersite

The people over at Kindersite have collated games from across different kids’ websites and provided a link to them so it has a pretty wide variety of games. But somehow Ayaan has never really taken to it, though he does pop over occasionally. I think it is because the site is not very well-designed for its given target audience. For starters, the icons are small and of poor image quality so it hard to get a sense of the games. And all the games are bundled together on one page with no attempt at classification (other than the Spanish games at the bottom – I shall tell you a funny story about that at the end) and for a 4-year old, it is hard to assimilate so much information and make a choice. Also, the links are sometimes outdated since the website of origin has removed the game or require an application that my computer does not have - which seriously tests Ayaan's virtually non-existent levels of patience.

In addition to this, there are two sites that have been recommended to me that we haven’t got around to checking out yet.

The Fisher Price website comes highly recommended by Manjima.

And Dottie recently sent across the link to IXL Math, which has skill-building math games for all ages.

If those of you reading this post happen to know of any other good websites for kids, do let me know and I will update the post.

And now for the Spanish story. One day, Ayaan clicked on one of the Spanish games on Kindersite, so I told him he wouldn’t be able to play those since they were in Spanish. Some days later, at the same open house meeting I mentioned above, his teacher also happened to say that her only complaint was that Ayaan scribbled a lot on his school book (the one in which they practise writing the alphabet). I came home and told Ayaan about this feedback and he goes - “But Mama, that is Spanish!” :D

Edited to add: Here are some more recommendations from the commenters:

Jigzone: This is a jigsaw puzzle site recommended by Sagarika. This is not technically a kiddie site but they do have 6-piece cuts that Ayaan is having fun cracking

Big Brainz: Recommended by LK for learning multiplication tables

Storyline Online: Recommended by K - it is an 'online streaming video streaming program featuring SAG (The Screen Actors Guild) members reading childrens books aloud'

PBS Kids: This site comes highly recommended by K, CeeKay and Cantaloupe's Amma

25 comments:

  1. Hi Ro!

    Thanks so much for ur post on kiddie websites.... much more detailed than I expected:) My daughter is brushing up on her computer skills (at her activity class) so I thought I could let her loose on my laptop:) Will definitely try these websites with her. Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am 24X7 online but i have to admit I never knew about these amazing sites for kids. I feel so thankful that you shared them with parents like me, thanks a ton.

    ReplyDelete
  3. There are so many amazing sites to help kids learn, but instead I have seen many children in my family being asked to sit in front of the idiot box and watch all the soaps with their grand parents/parents.

    I am going to pass on the list of sites here...fingers crossed that they shall benefit from them.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Have no kids n still think am the biggest one around :D ... have loved jigsaw puzzles as a kid.... it was the only time my mom found me glued to my chair... i find jigsaws a great stimulation for the mind and think it increases mental agility for kids... i love visiting www.jigzone.com ... let me know if u found it interesting....

    P.S: I love your blog and yes loads of kisses to Ayan and the little heart feet girly :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow...these kids are really smart...my son is not even 2 and he can find his way around the iphone...he can go to the pic gallery and browse and go to the ipod feature and play the song!

    but thanks for the links ..esp the math one...am bookmarking it for later use..
    love to the lil ones!

    ReplyDelete
  6. [Preeti/ Swapna] You're most welcome. :)

    [Chox] :)

    {Aathira] This would definitely be time better spent than soaps!

    [Sagarika] I used to be a BIG jigzone addict before the kids happened. I didn't realise they also had 6-piece cuts. Thanks for the link - let's see if I can get Ayaan interested.

    [Munchkin] iPhones are hugely kid-friendly. Ayaan was like that with mine too, before I lost it. There are a lot of kid-friendly Apps that you can download too.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Ro...this is Lavanya.

    This is AWESOME information. I think Ayaan and Aryan (mine) are about the same age. The resources you mentioned seem womderful. I will definitely check them out.

    Something that Aryan LOVES is called Timez Attack. It's a great way for kids to learn multiplication tables fighting dragons, ogres and robots! http://www.bigbrainz.com/

    In case you try this out for Ayaan, let me know how it goes!

    ReplyDelete
  8. how do u train them not to pull out laptop keys???

    ReplyDelete
  9. Rahul spends some time at kiddie sites with Vicky, I think. Or least they watch dinosaurs eating up people now and then.

    No doubt it's all educational. *tries to hide the deep skepticism*

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is very useful info - btw, when did Ayaan start comp games? Mine is a bit impatient with the mouse though. I would also like a more positive occupation other than the idiot box.. Thanks for this list!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Anonymous10:05 pm

    I agree computer time much usefull than t.v

    http://www.storylineonline.net/
    www.pbskids.org

    K.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I see the anonymous commenter K already gave you the name of the website I came to write about: pbskids.org. I am a hugs fan of their television programming and their website.

    At the risk of being pelted with stones, sticks and stilettos I will say one thing. In the past 3 or so years I have realized that kids also need the mindnumbing entertainment provided by the idiot box. I mean, they need some non-learning, chill time too. Balanced, of course, with learning and physical/ outdoor play. And unstructured playtime as well. They really do work hard at school (and even at home).

    Even though learning through play is great, why push learning all the time? Why not allow them some time just to watch some dumb cartoon on the buddhu baksa where they are not expected to learn anything? Believe me I used to be of the same opinion but now I am beginning to question my previous stance on the stupid tv programs.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi GettingThereNow,
    In response to ur comment would say that while I broadly agree that they could do with TV time, I am a great believer in parent approved programming. My li'l girl is allowed her daily dose of tv, but only fm the progs i approve of (big thumbs up to tata sky+ here). Absolutely no Hindi/regional soaps and music channels are a BIG no-no. Even fm the toon channels, I am very selective as to what she watches. Though this happy state of affairs [for me:)] may not last long, I aim to keep it going for as long as I can... Computer time is right now an additional treat.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Preeti, I agree about the parent approved programming. My 11 year old knows to look at the rating of a program before watching it. Even the ones that are rated for her age have to be approved by me or my husband. What I meant was, I don't mind if she watches a silly program that has no, or very little, learning value.

    We try to put a cap on all media time. So she has to balance between her time at the computer, the TV, the Wii or the DS. Currently, with her school workload, it comes to less than an hour a day.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh, and the age-appropriateness is why I am a big fan of public television programming here. I wish we had such a concept in Indian television media.

    ReplyDelete
  16. [Lavanya/ K] Thanks for the links

    [Itchy] Well, you start by losing the G on your laptop... :)

    [Sue] :)

    [Uma] I can't remember exactly but I think it was around three and a half

    [Ceekay] Well, I don't entirely disagree but for me, TV is the last resort. Plus Ayaan does not see the websites as work - for him they are fun - that he begs for and will do anything at the threat of being denied. And on a regular school day, we truly don't feel the need for the TV. But on weekends he does watch.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Anonymous11:09 am

    Hi Rohini, My son is 19 and your post took me back to when he was Ayaan's age. Those were not quite the days of kiddie websites on the internet but educational CDs were big and my son loved playing/learning on them. As a result he was reading/spelling well before his class. As a reuslt when they did start (very basic) reading in school he would become phenomenally bored and fall asleep!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Award for u http://mindfull-meanderings.blogspot.com/2010/03/some-awards-for-me-and-you.html

    ReplyDelete
  19. Starfalls and pbskids ... are quite popular in our house.

    Some of the PBS programs I think are really entertaining for kids .... sometimes there is something for adults like me too... Berenstein Bears for example. What a happy family they make.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Lol at Ayaan's Spanish !

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hey couldn't find your email address so am letting you know here.. am tagging you at http://endowed-with-metis.blogspot.com/2010/03/blog-for-international-womens-day.html
    please oblige me ... thanks :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. [Anon] I think Ayaan just shows off because his teacher tells us that he has one of the best vocabularies in class... :)

    [Mindful] Thanks. Will hop across to check it out :)

    [CA] Thanks. Definitely adding the PBS link to the post

    [Eve's Lungs] :)

    {Sagarika] Hey - hopping across to check it out right now...

    ReplyDelete
  23. I agree about tv being the last resort - same way for us. Well, as long as they don't think it is work :P

    And HMPH!!! You didn't notice that I suggested pbskids.org too? Double hmph!!

    ReplyDelete
  24. http://itchingtowriteblogs.blogspot.com/2010/03/me-creative.html
    award for u

    ReplyDelete