A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Umigo is a kooky, beautifully designed math and engineering game site that's geared toward younger kids. Kids create a personalized avatar but they don't use real names, and interaction is limited to showing off songs or vehicles they've created. Although there are lots of outstanding opportunities for learning, some kids may get hooked on saving UMI bucks to purchase parts for their vehicles, new instruments, or virtual decorations for their room. But they'll have to succeed at math games to feed their addictions. Also, Umigo's animations are wildly entertaining and will keep your kids laughing as they learn.
What's it about?
UMIGO is an interactive website for kids age 5 to 8. Animated buddies Bean, Dizzy, and Bit guide students through a series of activities and games that cover addition, shapes, music design, and basic engineering. Dig this: Funk legend Bootsy Collins masterminds the music, which features folks your kids may not recognize, but the catchy tunes will still make them smile.
Kids begin by making their own avatar. As they play Umigo games, they can earn UMI-Bucks that let them buy parts for their racing vehicle, clothes for their avatar, or decorate their virtual room. In the UMI-verse, kids can create music or listen to songs created by other players. In the Music Studio, you can create music by dragging and dropping different instruments, then clicking to adjust the tone. There are also lots of videos to watch, and a visit to the Fab Lab contains a few hands-on project ideas. Games like Mix & Fix seem pretty straightforward at first, but they have hidden depth. As players progress, levers from one side are locked down. Party Machine also increases in difficulty as kids improve: Once they've mastered basic shapes, kids get introduced to the different types of quadrilaterals.
Is it any good?
It's a lot of fun and a super-hip intro to STEM subjects. The games are great, but there's lots more to enjoy. The 4-minute video "A Cup Fills Up" includes a Western-themed cartoon starring a selection of cowboy cups, cartons, and jugs at a faceoff to determine which posse has more capacity. It's followed by a Schoolhouse Rock-ish song detailing volume and capacity. Delightful!
Umigo's biggest strengths are the Music Studio and the Garage. In both cases kids are developing engineering and math skills without ever knowing it. In Vehicle Maker, kids select from a variety of parts to build a vehicle. Options for wheels? A peppermint, a life preserver, and a rolled-up roly poly bug, for starters. They'll then test their design on different tracks to see how it fares, then modify it and try again. This wacky creativity sets Umigo apart from other sites teaching these subjects. Both the Garage and Music Studio encourage perseverance, letting kids keep trying new things as they work to meet a goal. Umigo has a lot of potential, but it's still a work in progress; there are some navigational improvements to be made, and even more games, videos, and other helpful resources will round out the site.
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