We were recently given the opportunity to test out an online game site designed to help 4-7 year olds develop reading skills. According to their site--
GoGo Kabongo develops cognitive skills that are essential to reading such as:
- Attention and Focus
- Memory Skills
By way of full disclosure, we don't encourage video or computer games in our family. My son is also just outside the age range for these games and a proficient reader. He did play some of the games but quickly tired of them so I played them myself. The site consists of a Tree-house home base and three habitats (purchased separately) each containing three activities or games. The games all have six levels of play. Each location has a alien host to let the child know what activities are available and how to play the games.
this is homebase and allows the children access to the rewards they've earned by playing skill games in the other habitats.
Avatar Maker: Unlike most games, your child will not be building an avatar that resembles them. These are all alien creatures with multiple eyes, tentacles, etc. The child chooses a head, torso, and feet. The creature will always have roller skates or be standing on a skateboard. You can change the avatar's appearance as often as you like.
Skateboard Park: Your child puts together a series of ramps and jumps (earned by playing other games) and then watches his avatar follow the course. Clicking the mouse causes the character to jump and avoid obstacles or reach other levels of the course.
Comic Book Maker: The child can choose from a series of colorful, space- themed backgrounds and apply "stickers" they've earned in other games anywhere on the page. Some stickers include captions and you can click the listen button to hear what they say. You may print out the the full-color image when you're finished. There is not an option to print out in black & white and allow the child to color it in themselves.
Your child can earn accessories to decorate the tree house after playing the skills games. The tree house also contains a map to give access to the three other habitats (assuming you've purchased them).
Photo Safari-- You child needs to take pictures of the animals hiding throughout the scene (they are only half-hiding, it's not difficult to find them). The challenge is they only have a limited number of pictures available --think back to the days of film cameras and only 24 exposures. When you capture the critter on film it will show a caption bubble where the creature asks for a specific object which can also be found in the scene. Clicking on that object will earn more picture opportunities.
Robo Bobo-- A colorful picture is displayed but you quickly notice it is not completed. A conveyor belt brings the missing pieces by and you must click on the piece and drag it to the correct place in the picture. There is no need to rotate the pieces and they will snap into place if you get them in the general area. If you miss a piece it will cycle around again.
Rocket Racer-- You mission is to guide a rocketship down a skate path and collect letters. The alien host will tell you the order in which to collect them. You need to avoid other letters and objects in your way. We could not get this game to run during several attempts. After the rules were explained we were just left on an empty path with no rocket or letters (Kabongo is still listed as a Beta product).
Desert Dash-- This game is similar to Rocket Racer above only now you are crossing the desert on a motorcycle and sidecar. Instead of telling you which letters to collect you must listen for a phonogram. This may be made by a single letter or a group of letters. I had a difficult time hearing these sounds clearly and couldn't find a way to get the sound repeated. There's no penalty for incorrect guesses so just drive over any letters you come across and you're bound to be right sooner or later.
Crazy Maze-- The object is to get a bouncing ball from one corner of the maze to the opposite corner and complete a simple word. You guide the ball by dragging the mouse in front of it. None of the mazes are difficult and any of the three letter choices will complete the word.
Design a Door -- The game begins by showing you a completed door and giving you time to study it. Look at the color and any stickers that may be attached to the door. When the study time is over you will have a blank door and you must recreate the sample by adding stickers in the correct locations and possibly repainting the door. The first level only involved adding one sticker.
Scuba Dude--Like Desert Dash and Rocket Racer but this time you will be searching for colored starfish and sea shells. The instructions say you must gather the objects in the correct order but in the levels I played I was never given more than one object to look for at a time. This may be tougher than it appears because you have to match color and shape and once your told what to look for, the object disappears and you must rely on your memory.
Critter Sizer- A conveyor belt travels by carrying a zoo full of animals. As each animal enters a window and its name is announced you must categorize it as "Big" or "Little." You can do this by clicking your mouse on the appropriately labeled button or using the up and down arrows on the keypad. This was the fastest moving game on the whole site in my opinion and the only one with a keyboard option.
Going Buggy--A scene appears on the upper right side of the screen. On the left side are one or more sentences describing the scene. You must place objects from the menu boxes into the appropriate places to make the scene match the sentences. The sentence are read aloud for non-readers and you can click on a button to hear them again if needed. Once you click on an insect or object four or five places within the scene are highlighted and you click on the appropriate one. In the beginning levels there may be several sentences but you only need to add on object, the others are already in place. My son played this game several times and often he was given the exact same scenerio so he tired of it quickly.
After each skill game the child is given a choce of three rewards--a section of skateboard track, a new comic book sticker, an object to decorate the treehouse. This was one area that seemed to have the most glitches. Often the boxes would be blank or the same reward would appear in more than one box. We played these games on a dial up system. There was a delay in loading each game--as long as 40 seconds, but we never had a game stop in progress.
Right now you can sign up and get two habitats for free--Laughter Lake and Galaxy Gardens. Twister Top is available for $4.95 per child for lifetime access. I'm not sure how much of a bargain that will turn out to be as I fear any child familiar with video games will find these very slow. You can read what others on the homeschool crew think of Go Go Kabongo by clicking here.