A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Nick Jr. Beyond the Backpack is designed to help kids prepare for preschool by working through activities designed to strengthen literacy, social/emotional skills, and knowledge of STEM subjects. Parents will have to take a short quiz based on their child's development and learning style before accessing the site's content and creating a customized game board and learning plan. However, they don't need to enter any personal information unless they want to save their child's learning plan. If they do, they'll need to provide an email address to log in for future sessions. Kids won't be exposed to a lot of ads or product placement unless they select the link to the online store that sells Nickelodeon-themed products.
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What's it about?
Beyond the Backpack's activities focus on preparing kids to start school. The content, described as a complement to Nick Jr.'s preschool-age programming, focuses on five areas: family engagement, health and wellness, literacy skills, social and emotional skills, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills. Parents provide input to get customized learning materials from the site, which has an advisory committee that includes organizations such as the Association of Children's Museums, Jumpstart, and Common Sense Media.
Is it any good?
NICK JR. BEYOND THE BACKPACK offers plenty of kid-centric activities -- featuring familiar characters kids may recognize -- but parents navigate the experience. After answering 15 questions about their child's development, parents get a learning plan and accompanying game board listing activities tailored to their child's educational needs. A read-along Dora the Explorer story book, for example, in the Social & Emotional section illustrates the importance of saying thank you. A printable passport activity can help kids learn their home addresses. Activities generally feature clear, detailed instructions, which are often read out loud and illustrated in brief videos.
For a site that essentially serves two audiences (children and adults), Beyond the Backpack has done an exceptionally good job of addressing both groups' needs. Parents and children can (and should) be experiencing the site together. Kids should enjoy the diverse activities, many of which are interactive. Plus, parents can easily tell, thanks to the learning plan and the information included with each exercise, which specific skills their child is practicing, ensuring that they get something worthwhile and educational out of their online time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about helping kids identify their favorite subjects. Does your child like to learn about animals, stories, or another topic? Research the topic together at your local library to find out more.
Beyond the Backpack gives kids virtual backpack stickers for completing tasks. Does your child struggle with chores or learning assignments? Create a chart together that illustrates progress and provides check marks, stickers, or other rewards for finishing things.
Talk about starting school, which can be an emotional experience for some children. Prepare your child by building excitement about what a typical day in kindergarten involves.
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