This was one of those reviews that my kids were really hoping that I would be able to participate in. After signing Matthew up for the free account, he realized that even though it was school related, he wanted to do the full version! He kept asking me every day whether I got onto the review group. Thankfully, we were chosen to review the site...and Matthew has been happily occupied! We even played it in China during some downtime in our hotel room. Talk about learning on the go!
If you are not homeschooling, this program may also be of interest to you, as it can serve as an educational supplement during the summer or for some just-for-fun educational learning during the school year.
Company Information: Zoo Whiz is a curriculum-based online program covering reading, language and math skills. Based in Australia, this company began as an answer to the demand for high-quality educational software. Zoo Whiz is their online offering, with the goal of providing high-quality online learning to children around the world.
Product Reviewed: I was given a Premium subscription to Zoo Whiz for one year for my family. Both my boys (age 4 and 11) used it. Three subject areas are covered: math, word skills and reading.
Math concepts include:
- Addition & subtraction
- Multiplication & division
- Fractions & decimals
- Chance, patterns
- Data & graphs
- Shape, space & geometry
- Letter tracking, matching, sorting and recognition
- Preparatory skills for very young readers and spellers
- Spelling patterns & rules, including phonics
- Prefixes & suffixes
- Synonyms & antonyms
- Homophones, homographs, homonyms
- Nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, connectives
- Regular and irregular verbs
- Word origins including idioms, clichés, metaphors, similes, etc
- Grammar conventions
- A carefully guided introduction to letters, phonics, spelling and more
- Systematically introduces and establishes sound – letter correspondences for all 44 phonemes
- Expands and develops writing and word skills, by covering spelling, grammar, punctuation and much more!
- Refines basic skills using enjoyable stimulus materials that copiously illustrate the richness and diversity of the English language
Price: Premium membership is $14.95 per year. This may be a promotional price.
Age Range: 5-15 years old, though my 4 year old was able to start at the beginning and do well.
Parental Preparation: I did have to create a user for my kids as well as a parent account to manage my student(s) progress. This involves creating a "zoologist" of their choosing. Pretty much all this involves is picking a character like one of these:
Parents can also assign activities for their children to do. If you'd like to do this, you would need to also create a separate free parent's account and link them to your kids' accounts. (However, if you are just wanting to play this for free, this step is not necessary.) At the time of this review, the ability to set my children's activities, a feature only available for premium subscribers, was not available yet. If after using the program, your kids find that the activities are too easy, you can also change the "age floor" to a higher level that is more appropriate and challenging.
How We Used It: After that, we pretty much explored and learned through playing around on the site. Basically, all the kids get 100 points simply for signing in for the day, so even if they have nothing in their "bank" they get a little to start with. As the children complete one of the over 17,000 activities, they earn points. In the free edition, kids have a maximum of 20 activities per day, with 10 points for each correct answer. In the premium edition, they have unlimited activities per day, with 20 points for each correct answer. These points are then collected to be used for "purchasing" animals for their zoo or for use in the arcade.
For Matthew, he was pretty much able to figure it out on his own. "Learn and Earn" is where kids can access their activities. When we only had the free version, we were limited to 20 activities per day but with the premium, we approached it differently. I had him complete at least 15 activities in each of the 3 sections (math, words, and reading). If he wanted to purchase a particular animal, he would do enough to be able to "buy" it, and then he would use the rest to play the arcade games. He especially enjoyed TetRow, a Tetris-like game (available in the free version) and Combo Conga (premium version only).
For Jonathan, I had to sit with him to read the directions, but he would move the mouse on his own and type in any needed responses using the keyboard. For him, it was less frustrating if we picked the animal he wanted to buy first in the "Biodome". This would tell us how many points he needed to earn. This also ended up being an opportunity for us to talk about what it means to buy something and how we need to work to earn the points we needed to purchase it. With that end goal in mind, we would complete activities until we reached the desired goal. Fortunately, he was interested in the lower-ticket animals so he was easily able to earn them in one sitting, about 20 minutes each day. I guess we'll talk about saving when he starts wanting those higher-priced animals!
Both of the boys enjoyed collecting animals the most and then reading about them afterwards (a perk only in the Premium version). With the free version, you are limited in the animals you can purchase and you can only spend 250 points per day. With the premium version, all the animals are available and you can save and buy or use as many points as you want each day.
What We Liked:
- The site is kid-friendly and appealing, as well as very easy to use and navigate. It didn't take long to figure out. If you need help, check out the introductory Getting Started video (the top one) on this page.
- The activities focus on one skill or concept at a time. They start out simple (Jonathan's) but Matthew's required him to use paper and pencil to solve.
- The ability to buy animals and play games motivated my kids to keep working through the activities. They were rewards they were willing to work for!
- Not only were they able to buy animals, with the premium version, we were also able to learn about them.
- Most of the reward games were educational as well. Some were just for fun, but with all the work they were doing, I didn't begrudge them a little fun.
- As the parent, I could adjust the activities to match their abilities. I am looking forward to being able to assign activities to my kids to work on.
- As I mentioned above, the fact that this program was online allowed us to use this program in China (whenever we had internet access).
- I enjoyed the Australian accents of the narrators!
What We Didn't Like:
- If you are a free member, you will find that you are interrupted with "ads" for the Premium program throughout your playing time. Obviously, this is not an issue in the Premium program.
- Not all the features are available yet on the Premium program.
A couple thoughts:
- Kids who play a lot of video games may find it a little too childish, but as we do not, this was not a problem for Matthew.
- If you are looking for a teaching program for say, grammar or math facts or reading, this may not be enough. As a supplement however, I think it will work well.
This was a wonderful program for Jonathan to practice basic skills and I anticipate using this as part of his preschool program, as far as he is able to go. When we get to new concepts that he hasn't learned yet, that will help me to know what I can teach next! Matthew was happy to reward himself with some Zoo Whiz activities at the end of his school day and it allowed him to practice skills while having some fun. For me, this fits the bill on the types of supplemental activities that I am looking for to enrich my children's education. Though they are not our core material, it gives the kids an opportunity to practice and use what they have been learning.
If you are an educator and this program sounds like something you'd be interested in, check out this page of videos to learn about how this program can benefit your school and this page to learn how to integrate home and school accounts.
Disclaimer: I was given a one-year premium subscription to Zoo Whiz for my family at no charge in exchange for my honest opinion. All thoughts are my own. Click the link below if you're interested in other reviews on this product.