A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Magic Tree House is the official website of the book series of the same name. Reward codes, which can be used to unlock special content on the site, are paired with some for-purchase items, such as books, in-store displays, and ads. Kids must enter a parent's email address to register for the site, and parents receive a notification message. Kids also can register a friend's information as a reading buddy, but there's no chat or user interaction. The site also says it doesn't sell any personal information.
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What's it about?
The MAGIC TREE HOUSE website, designed for kids age 6 to 12, is based on the series of books of the same name, which have been published since 1992 and are New York Times-ranked bestsellers. Kids join brother-and-sister duo Jack and Annie on adventures to various countries and mythical lands, helping people along the way. They can earn Mission Medallions and other online rewards, fill up reading passports after they complete passages, play games, and watch videos about how to use the site.
Is it any good?
This official site of the book series provides some interesting elements: fairly impressive graphics, narration, and a number of other helpful, engaging items. Magic Tree House's rewards and the passport stamps kids get for completing activities also can help encourage them to read and to focus on comprehending what they're reading. But reading the full Magic Tree House series -- or, at least, the many on-site excerpts -- before accessing all the site's activities seems like it would greatly improve the experience. Kids can often try twice to answer book-related quiz questions, which can help with learning, but many of their responses may be complete guesses.
Some parents may be uncomfortable with the not-always-subtle promotional push for the book series; the games seem to center on their content, and "buy" buttons accompany each book portion featured on the site. But the site offers some solid educational value, including puzzles that will help sharpen kids' critical-thinking skills and increase their exposure to historical and geographical topics -- which may, for some families, outweigh the pressure kids might feel to buy the entire series of books.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about advertising and how it affects perception. Do websites that promote items, such as the Magic Tree House book series, make your child feel obligated to buy things?
Talk about adventures and journeys. Since the two main characters of the book series go on lots of trips and adventures around the world, are there places you would like to go? Why should you always be with an adult when you're traveling outside the house as a kid?
- Subjects: Language & Reading: following directions, reading, reading comprehension
Social Studies: geography, history
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: logic, solving puzzles, thinking critically
Self-Direction: personal growth, work to achieve goals
- Genre: Educational
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Pricing structure: Free
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