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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

Are you familiar with JumpStart? The company, a brand owned by Knowledge Adventure, is well-known for their entertaining and interactive learning software. Reader Rabbit was a popular character around here several years ago, and the JumpStart PreSchool game was a big hit. Since the boys got older, the Math Blaster program was pretty handy in practicing math skills.

In 2009, JumpStart launched an online game called JumpStart 3D Online. We were approached to try the game out some time ago and the boys signed up to try it out. I’ve neglected to write the review for far too long (sorry JumpStart), but now is a great time to solve that problem.

When they started out JumpStart Online was pretty good, but it didn’t completely grab the boys’ attention. I noticed that they played briefly and then went back to a game they truly love that allows them to create their own environments and play cooperatively. I tried playing JumpStart but had difficulty with keeping a good connection. When I did manage to log in and get my character created, I was able to move around the environment well enough but couldn’t figure out how to get additional challenges after I’d completed the first one. The graphics were pretty good, but I didn’t see exactly where all the learning was going on.

In the year since they’ve been online I’ve seen dramatic improvements. For starters, the graphic interface now is super detailed and I agree that the claim “virtual world” is accurate. Take a look for yourself:

Pretty great, huh? We thought so.

The feature of the game that I find most attractive is the constant upgrading and improvement that goes on. Remember the How to Train a Dragon movie that came out last year? Yep. Kids playing JumpStart online were able to hatch and train their own dragons within the game. How cool is that? Even the 12 year olds found that interesting for a while. JumpStart is constantly working on ways to make the game new and fun for children. They keep up with seasonal events and holidays and tie popular media themes right into the game.

They also work hard to make it safe. The only chatting allowed is canned, and usernames are pre-generated. This means kids can’t share personal information within the game setting. Parental controls also help keep you abreast of your child’s online play.

Just as they’ve always been, the good folks at Jumpstart are all about creating fun learning experiences for kids. To that end, players can earn points and awards for completing their challenges.

Interested in trying out the game? There’s a free registration option available. If you want to join as a paying member, you can have access to the complete online world plus 4 downloadable games for up to 6 kids. Monthly, the cost is $7.99 but there are annual and lifetime options as well. Might be a great Christmas gift. Just sayin’.

Oh! And!! There’s an adult game that you can play via Facebook. It’s called Spa Adventure and you can hire and fire your FaceBook friends to work in your virtual spa. Sounds hilarious! By playing you can earn online coins for your kids to use in their own JumpStart game.

FTC Disclosure: JumpStart Online provided us with a free membership to try out the game. And we enjoyed it very much.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want educational games for their children.