There are so many different educational apps and programs available for kids today, that it can be hard to know which ones are actually worth exploring. One tool that has been great for our kids recently is ABCmouse. ABCmouse is a subscription-based, educational app and website for children ages 2 through 8 years.
We’re all spending a lot more time at home these days thanks to COVID-19. Juggling teaching our twin 4-year-old girls, work, and everyday chores has been interesting, to say the least. Prior to the current pandemic, they were both happily enrolled in a Montessori preschool program learning and interacting with classmates.
To be honest, we signed up for ABCmouse about a year ago. At the time our girls were 3 and would use it only if we sat with them, which I certainly didn’t mind. Even then, they would do an activity here or there for a few minutes and lose interest. We don’t pressure our girls to do work, but instead to try to find what interests them, and focus on those learning skills. Fast forward to today, and they are much more interested in the games and activities ABCMouse has to offer. They ask if they can do their “work” on the tablet (we’re not fancy enough to have ipads).
With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and school closed indefinitely, we wanted to continue their learning and consequently tried ABCMouse; needless to say, it did not disappoint; however, it does have some drawbacks.
The service is essentially a self-learning platform for kids ranging from 2 years to 7 years old. It has a monthly subscription pricing plan, but right now you can get a one-month trial FREE.
The service can be used both in conjunction with traditional school or to assist home-schooled students. The service typically comes with a pre-designed learning pathway that ensures your child masters specific skills as they move on and aren’t faced with new and daunting concepts unless they’re ready to take on the challenge. (It is important to note that a parent/guardian can alter the curriculum to suit the needs of the individual child better or to focus on weak spots in your child’s skill set.)
How to best use ABCMouse:
ABCMouse, in our opinion, is best used as a helping hand along with traditional preschool/school rather than a standalone replacement for schools. There are specific social skills that only can be developed via interaction with others their age.
The best way you can use ABCMouse to your advantage is by using it to replace your kid’s existing screen time on YouTube or other activities on smart-devices, you know for when you are stuck waiting over an hour in the exam room at your pediatrician’s office with two children with ear infections who are about to make you crazy if you do not distract them with something other than the scavenger hunt on the back of the door (not that I have any personal experience with this or anything). I was able to check out The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Visit the Zoo Interactive Environment and Big Bug and Little Bug (my son’s favorite). Here’s some information about the apps:
The Boy Who Cried Wolf: The ABCmouse.com Aesop’s Fables Series brings these classic tales to life with stunning illustrations, professional narration, and an easy-to-read font. Each fable includes Parent Tips, written in collaboration with child literacy experts, which offer specific suggestions of things to do and talk about with young readers to support their vocabulary development and comprehension.
Big Bug Little Bug: The ABCmouse.com Beginning Reader Series: Word Families introduces young learners to the joys of reading through stories that emphasize word families (groups of words with the same ending sound, such as hot, pot, and not). Each story in the Beginning Reader Series is told in an engaging rhyming format in which words from the featured word family appear frequently. Three reading modes are available with all ABCmouse.com’s interactive Beginning Reader Series books, as are Parent Tips, which are written in collaboration with child literacy experts, which offer specific suggestions of things to do and talk about with young readers to support the development of their ability to relate letters to the sounds that they represent (phonics).
Visit the Zoo Interactive Environment: ABCmouse.com Visit the Zoo Interactive Environment apps feature five popular zoo animals per set. Each animal comes to life with photo-realistic animations in its natural environment. Touching an animal brings up one of a series of interesting and educational facts about the animals— characteristics, anatomy, diet, etc. After visiting the exhibit, children can join the Zoo Guide for an interactive quiz relating to the information learned throughout their tour of the zoo.
Each app also has helpful parent tips so you can work through these with your children. I cannot tell you what a lifesaver these were in that totally hypothetical situation that was mentioned earlier.
Can ABCMouse be used independently?
Yes! One of the greatest things about ABCMouse is that it tries to replicate the classroom and make the entire experience an interactive one and encourages the user to explore different parts of the service. This mode (free-play) opens up the whole app/website for your kid, including the classroom/library/the zoo.
(We recommend this mode especially to kids who don’t need much structure and rather just need some extra time on their own.)
Is it tablet-friendly?
Definitely! It was the more user-friendly teaching assistant that we’ve tried out. The real experience for the service is really in Tablets. This doesn’t mean phones don’t work fine, it’s just that the large tablet screens can provide a much more immersive environment. This means you don’t need to dish out a couple of hundred dollars for an iPad when an ordinary Android tab is way more affordable and, therefore, the choice for most parents.
It is also free to download on the Google Play Store and AppStore for Apple.
How many devices can ABCMouse be used on?
This is a little complex as people confuse the number of profiles and the simultaneous sessions that can take place.
For $9.95 a month, you get the family plan. A family plan allows you three profiles which means, three children can use one account all with their separate teachers, recommendations, and learning trees. (The monthly fee is reduced further if you opt for the yearly subscription, which has a 49% off at this moment.)
While there is no official word on the limit of simultaneous sessions that ABCMouse supports, we have used up to two devices without running into any problems and don’t think a third device will be a problem.
We’re all guilty of handing our phones to the kids in restaurants or even the grocery stores, anything that keeps them occupied. In such situations, access to the internet isn’t necessarily a given, so the question arises – does the app support offline mode?
Well, the answer to this is both yes and no. While the primary application cannot work without internet access, they do offer a multitude of eight apps that are free of cost for subscribers. Seven out of these eight apps have offline access, which is more than enough to keep the children occupied.
Inside the Parent’s Portal
The parent portal or the parent section allows parents to continually track the progress of all of the profiles and even has a list of recommendations on what the next activities should be. One neat trick is being able to choose the holidays you celebrate and watching your virtual classroom celebrate alongside you.
You can also find account management and the tutorials inside the Parent Portal.
How does it fare in comparison to other such services?
One obvious con for ABCMouse is that it is a premium service, unlike its counterparts that are free to use. However, everything has a price. The competitors make money off the services by deploying advertisements and links outside the application itself. On the other hand, ABCMouse does not have this problem and is completely linked and ads free and rightfully so. We’re paying for it.
As for the content. It is much easier to navigate than its counterparts. Its competitors often take the lead when it comes to diversity of the content.
ABCMouse vs. Adventure Academy
ABCMouse is geared toward children ages 2-8 and has a more education-centered curriculum and experience that focuses more on a helping hand for traditional education. Adventure Academy was created for older children and uses the same ideology of using music and animation for learning but has a more relaxed approach to it and is centered as a game with an added advantage of being educational. The service has these games or missions that the kids embark on. These games include but are not limited to math quizzes, comprehensions, summaries, etc.
Tokens in ABCMouse
There are a few more things that make ABCMouse stand out. Firstly, it uses tickets, which are an in-game currency that you earn and can save to use later in the game. This teaches the kids a fundamental lesson in:
- Delayed Gratification
Each learning activity gives the child tickets once completed. These can be used to “purchase” fun things within the app (ex: more tunnels, cages and accessories for their virtual hamster cage). This not only allows them to feel a sense of accomplishment, it also encourages them to complete the educational activities.
Apart from that, along with being a full-fledged kindergarten online curriculum, it also has a lot of entertaining poems and videos to make sure that your kid has some fun along the way because, as they say, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.“ Point in focus being that the way things are, and for the benefits it provides, ABCMouse is definitely worth the money but take the free trial and try it for yourself.
Important: Please note that healthy interactions with others are an essential part of a child’s upbringing and that this app is no substitute for teachers or parental involvement.