Friday, December 17, 2010

Tiny Planets for Tiny People

MTP2 

What is Tiny Planets?  It is an online community for ages 4-12 featuring two lovable characters named Bing and Bong. Bing is kind of a friendly abominable snowman-ish type guy and Bong is his faithful companion, a dog-like creature with six legs. They travel through outer space on a souped up plush hide-a-bed sofa with nifty controllers hidden in the armrests (I had a friend in college with a couch like this, only there were cup holders and an 8 track player hidden under there instead…this couch is much more awesome…does that factoid really date me, or what? lol!)

Parents create Cadet accounts for their children which allows the kids access to the Tiny Planets Universe. The children meet Bing and Bong as they traveling the universe and learn lessons from them about being kind, using manners, and how to handle emotions like fear. They also learn academic skills like making patterns, about weather and the seasons, and discover other scientific areas through activities, movies, and reading. There is a lot to do in this universe of Tiny Planets.

One of the first things your child will want to do is to set up his or her own planet for a homebase and get a space ship so they can travel. As you care for your planet, you can watch it grow, and earn awards as it develops. Basic (free) accounts allow for certain options in Tiny Planets. In order to access other options, you have to buy KEYS. These KEYS will not only allow access to more stuff for decorating your planet or outfitting your spacecraft, but they can also enable your child to unlock short movies and animated books .

What do you do on Tiny Planets?

  • Set up and care for your own planet. Watch it grow and win awards! My kids loved this part.
  • Cruise the universe in search of missions. Complete missions and earn points. My Three Amigos thought the missions were fun.
  • Play mini-games while cruising the universe.
  • Watch Tiny Planets TV…This contains learning videos starring Bing and Bong, co-created by Children’s Television Workshop and endorsed by Montessouri schools.
  • Read animated books starring Bing and Bong
  • Check out Tiny Planets Fun where you can print puzzles, color, play games, and read comics.
  • Explore Tiny Planets Labs where new content is being developed and tested

What does Tiny Planets cost? The basic site is free. This includes the most essential elements, games, and activity pages. To access the over sixty short movies and the approximately twenty books, plus to add the “really cool stuff” (Ladybug’s words, not mine) to your planet and ship, you have to purchase KEYS. The cost is as follows: 10 keys $1.95, 25 keys $3.95, 85 keys $9.95, 250 keys $25.95, 600 keys $49.95. Movies and books cost about ten KEYS each. Once keys are used to purchase something, those items are yours to keep. The movie will stay active in your account for as long as your account remains open.

What we liked about Tiny Planets:

  • The site had good graphics and animation. It was not at all outdated (though it might strike you as somewhat retro, at least it did me). It was very colorful and interesting.
  • There is a lot of free content. Yes, the movies and books all cost KEYs (well, there is one of each free, I think), but a lot of the planetary stuff and games are free.
  • The site is ad free. Kids cannot accidentally click on something and wind up somewhere bad, so it is pretty safe.mtp
  • I LOVED the plush flying sofa. It was cool and very funny. The Three Amigos liked Bing and Bong. They don’t say much, but you can tell they are nice and that they are good friends. Bong takes good care of Bing. The little kids were always excited if they’d cruise by a planet and run into Bing and Bong.
  • Tex thought the links to the experiments were cool. He likes Supercharged Science, and Aurora Lipper of SS hosted the experiments we looked at.
  • The Three Amigos liked building a planet, watching the movies, and playing the games. They enjoyed the site much more once it was completely unlocked and they had some KEYS to try out.
  • On the Fun TV page, they have about 65 short movies for your kids to watch. Each one teaches a lesson. We thought the movies were sweet and appealing to young ones (Firefly, age 3) and older ones (Ladybug, age 7) alike. There is no dialogue within the movies, so kids have to pay attention to capture the plot. An added bonus to that is you don’t have to worry about inappropriate word choices. The characters do make cute noises, though.
  • All the characters we saw were pretty nice. I didn’t see any meanness in what I viewed. That is a plus to me.
  • Some videos taught lessons concerning academic skills such as sorting or patterns, while others taught lessons about character, such as generosity and how to help. They were silly, but not rudely so…it was nice to not have to worry that they’d show my kids something I’d disapprove of.
  • At Bing’s Corner, there are about thirty video games for your child to play of varying levels of difficulty.
  • At Bong’s Corner, there are colorful activity sheets your children can access and print up. There are comics to download, detailed coloring pages, puzzle/activity sheets (we liked the Shape Up page about tangrams best), and even posters to print up.
  • There is a Parent Section which offers 65 activity pages and lesson plans for the parent whose kids really like Bing and Bong and want to try to incorporate that enjoyment into their learning experience. HERE is an example of one set of lesson plans.
  • The site is currently under development, so more content is coming soon. It is a cute site and has possibilities for the right people.

Some areas we thought could use improvement:

  • I had trouble staying logged in when playing games. This is a problem if you have a younger child who keeps needing help logging in. I even found it annoying and I can log myself in! Maybe I was doing something wrong. I am not sure.
  • Some of the games were pretty hard. The instructions are written, so if you are a pre-reader, you have to have help. Some of them moved too quickly or were difficult to maneuver. There were a few we really liked, but if games are what you are here after, you should try them and see if your child can manage them before you decide to invest.
  • The site is somewhat difficult to navigate until you get used to it. It could be I am too old to figure it out, or maybe they are still working on streamlining it.
  • To get the most out of the site, you have to buy full access and pay for KEYS. The videos and books cost about 10 keys each, and there are about twenty books and about sixty five movies. At roughly two dollars per book or movie (each movie is under five minutes running time, at least the ones we saw were), that seems a bit steep to me.
  • All printed material is written out, not read a loud, so for the age level of 4 and up to work, it means that pre-readers need help. The younger ones will probably like the content, though, so if their brother or sister has some sort of game they like playing online, perhaps they could earn time to play it by supervising their sibling’s play on My Tiny Planets. I would hope that the company would eventually add a “Listen to the Story” or “Have the Story Read to Me” option. The site is under development, so perhaps that is coming soon.
  • I think the age range of up to 12 might be a bit off, too. Tex was NOT at all interested in playing on the site. He was rolling on the floor, grimacing when I asked if he’d PLEASE just try it out with the kids for a while (it reminded him of Barney meets Big Bird meets a Teletubby, none of which we particularly enjoy). He did it because I asked him to, but other than the experiments, he did not find anything up his alley. Maybe other kids of an older age would like it, though.

Who would Tiny Planets be good for?

  • Preschoolers who have an older sibling or parent who wants to play with them in an online environment.
  • Readers, probably (my opinion) ages 6-10, who want to be able to play in an online environment (like their brother or sister) that is safe.
  • A mom who needs something diverting for a computer-proficient child to play while she works with other children. This would be safe, is fairly sweet, and is not educationally intense, so kids would not mind being told to play for a set amount of time.
  • A child who needs something entertaining to do at Grandma’s house while waiting to be picked up after school.
  • Space-oriented kids who like the idea of an online learning environment, with some interesting science thrown in here and there.
  • A special needs older child who wants to have an online learning environment like his or her siblings, but you need something they can handle that is ultra-safe. This would work for that.

I did not see anything offensive about this online community. We are not big on online gaming (ie. the kind that you have to pay for and/or the kind that allows players to communicate with each other), but this seemed to have effective safeguards in place.For someone who is into that sort of thing, this might be a good choice, especially for the younger members of the family.

The Three Amigos enjoyed building their planets and exploring the Tiny Planets Universe during this review a whole lot. They used teamwork to figure things out and had a good time playing. “Exploration” of the Tiny Planets Universe kept them busy several times when I needed to get work done or was unwell.

If you would like to read other reviews about this product, go HERE.

Blessings,

Heather

**I received a free membership to this site for the purposes of providing an honest review here on my blog. What you read here are OUR experiences with this product. Your experiences and impressions will likely be different, based on your likes, dislikes, and beliefs. I hope this review is useful to you. If you have questions regarding my experiences with this product, please feel free to contact me.

2 comments:

Cheryl Henderson said...

Heather, thank you so much for taking the time to review our website. We take your opinions seriously, so you'll be pleased to know that we have lowered the age (4-8) and have added voiceovers as well as simplified the navigation and game play for the little ones.

The "pen" is truly a mighty instrument! Oh, and please thank Tex for his sacrifices that made your review possible. :-)

Cheryl said...

Hi. Just wanted to thank you again for reviewing the site. I wanted to let you know that on April 4th the new and improved site was launched. I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have, especially since some of the changes were made because of the Crew's suggestions. You can check us out at www.tinyplanets.com. You can reach me at cheryl@mytinyplanets.com.

Thanks!
Cheryl

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...