For several weeks now, Kennady has been enjoying a website called Always IceCream. And when I say "enjoying" what I really mean is that she is LOVING it! Always IceCream is a play and learn website designed for tween girls, full of learning activities, games, and socializing. The learning areas of Always Icecream include quizzes and learning activities in language arts, math, science, geography, history, music, art, foreign languages, computer skills and religious education. As girls complete the learning activities, they can earn rewards such as medals, virtual pets, and ice cream $coops (which are the virtual currency the site uses). The $coops can be used to play games and access other purely fun activities on the site. Online safety is a high priority, so parents can choose whether to allow the social features or not, and all the social content is moderated. If parents do allow it, girls can communicate with each other and interact by "babysitting" each other's virtual pets and buying artwork from each other.
When we first logged in, Kennady was greeted by the virtual guide Aki to the "awesome site for smart girls." She was able to create her own mini-me and choose a nickname for herself on the site. Then it was off to play educational games. She found the site very easy to navigate, and was excited about earning rewards for the educational games and then acquiring virtual pets and decorating her virtual home with artwork she made on the site and could "sell" from her virtual shop.
I set up a parent account, and was able to award $coops to Kennady for cleaning her room and for putting in extra time on her Math homework. And I was able to see what she'd been doing on the website - which quizzes and learning activities she'd completed, whether she'd communicated with other girls on the site, which educational videos she'd watched, and whether she'd done any artwork on the site. I could opt to have a weekly summary of all her activities emailed to me, and I was able to control which games and activities she could use on the site, and if I wanted to allow her to use the communication features. I felt very comfortable allowing her to interact with other girls on the site, knowing that everything was moderated, and that the content is blocked to internet search engines! As Kennady learned and earned, we also found that some of the games awarded fewer $coops once she'd mastered that activity. For instance, one educational quiz awarded 5 $coops for completing levels when she first started playing, but after she'd conquered that quiz, she could earn only 1 or 2 $coops. I loved this, because it curbed the tendency to keep doing the same quiz over and over just to stockpile virtual currency. Instead, she was more motivated to try other learning games.
Some of her favorite educational games were the Bible Verse game,
the Basic Anatomy quiz, and she also learned Geography and Math.
She spent the $coops she earned on virtual pets and caring for them in Pet World:
She created lots of furniture and artwork for her home in MiniWorld and her shop.
Kennady especially loved Pet World, and carefully budgeted her earned $coops so she could purchase the eggs (the pets 'hatch' from brightly colored eggs) and then take care of her virtual pets. She had lots of fun decorating her virtual house, and loved that she could make her own shop in MiniWorld and share the artwork she'd created with other girls.
What we liked best:
- everything was user-friendly and easy to navigate
- sweet, girly, fun graphics and age appropriate content - in other words, it's clearly meant for young girls and isn't encouraging them to act older than they are!
- excellent mix of educational activities and games that were purely for fun
- everything moderated and NO ADVERTISING!!! <--- I especially appreciated that, can you tell? 8-)
What we weren't crazy about:
- I have to admit that once Kennady had a decent balance in her $coops account, she spent a lot of time in the Mini World. I realized that I did have to remind her that I preferred she balanced her time between the scoops of laughter and the scoops of learning a little more evenly.
- She was easily distracted by the social features - the messages and Facebook-like updates about her friends. A gentle reminder from me that it wasn't necessary for her to read all of it or respond to every message was sometimes in order.
Overall, we LOVE this website - I was confident that Kennady was safe on the website and she wouldn't see anything inappropriate. The educational activities added to and reinforced what we are doing in school. Kennady enjoyed it so much that it has replaced any other online game sites for children that she has used before. When she is allowed computer time, she wants to play (and learn!) on Always Ice Cream! Even though the social features were sometimes a distraction, I even felt that those features were a safe introduction to online socializing so that a few years from now, when we might be ready to allow her to use Facebook or something similar, she will have had some practice with online interaction in a secure environment. Kennady will continue to use this site for as long as she wants to, and I encourage my friends to check it out for their daughters as well. I've been thinking that a membership might make a great Christmas or birthday gift for a young girl as well.
Want to scoop up some of this learning and fun for your daughter? Here's what you need to know:
Always Icecream is funded through modest membership fees, not through advertising. And they offer a money-back guarantee of your satisfaction. There are four levels of membership available. A monthly subscription is $4.99 (first month is only $0.99); a two-month membership is $9.98; an annual membership is $29.99; and a lifetime membership is $99.99. Visit the Parents section of the website for lots more information, and to try out a sampling of the activities at: http://parents.always-icecream.com/overview
Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog for more info and to read reviews from other Crew members.
Note: As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we were provided with a complimentary membership in exchange for our honest opinions.