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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this vibrant virtual world is designed to replicate the sense of wonder and excitement the creator felt as a child visiting the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. About as close to perfection as an online experience for preteens can be, Wonder Rotunda is safe, fun and highly educational. Eric and Diane Garfinkel, founders of the company Back to Basics Toys, used their own worldwide travel experiences and input from their four children, ages 9 to 23, to develop the colorful animated adventures and fascinating background facts. (Did you know that the fifth type of tastebud is called umami and located in the center of the tongue?) This closed site is not free, but there are no ads.
Is it any good?
It’s a little slow to load in places, but overall Wonder Rotunda is gorgeous to look at and easy to use. This virtual theme park does a nice job of using exciting avatar-driven rides and experiences to inspire kids to learn more about the world around them. Kids will have fun zooming down into the colorful park map, entering various buildings and rides, and feeding their avatar from the food booths. The cartoon narrator, Mr. Wonder, explains things on a grade schooler’s level; for instance, “urine, also known as pee.” Throughout each adventure, kids can pause the program to read a few paragraphs on topics they’ve just encountered. For instance, as their submarine whizzes through the human digestive tract a la Fantastic Voyage, kids can stop to learn more about the taste buds and salivary glands.
The best thing about Wonder Rotunda is the rich variety of interactive adventures, which cover topics as diverse as tropical rainforests, African wildlife, marine life, money and business, American government, nutrition, classical music, and social causes.
Online interaction: Kids have to create an avatar in order to use the site. They have the option of creating a companion avatar as well, to walk alongside them, and they can see other avatars milling around the park, waving, smiling and waiting in line. However, to keep the site safe and focused on learning, all avatars are scene dressing only, to create a parklike atmosphere. Kids can't communicate or interact with each other in any way -- there are no chat, talk bubble, message board or commenting tools.
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For kids who love playing and learning online
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.