Especially during the pandemic, you might have considered online educational programs and asked yourself: “Is ABCmouse worthwhile?” While there are other alternatives on the market, we have been happy with our ABCmouse subscription for two years now. We don’t use it regularly; my son goes to bed with two books every night (one in English, one in German), and at least two times per week, we do the Learning Path from ABCmouse instead (or in addition, haha, because he mostly gets what he wants, and of course, he tries to push bedtime as far back as possible!).
So What is ABCmouse all about?
You pay a monthly (or annual) subscription for an elaborate system of online education suitable for homeschooling your child in addition to the regular teaching material. Where we live now, in Germany, homeschooling is illegal and was just used during the pandemic when we went into a lockdown and the kindergartens and schools were closed. But we purchased our subscription before Corona even started, in early 2020, and used it as supplementary material because Lyons Cub was in his Montessori kindergarten during the days (which are notably against the use of technology and focus on learning with wooden toys and outside in the fresh air).
This way, my son got to play with his computer (he has a small Chromebook) under my supervision, and I could be absolutely sure he was learning something and not just watching YouTube videos (he does love to watch real tornadoes, hurricanes, and volcanoes on YouTube, and he learns a lot about the earth and natural disasters this way. He also likes to watch “Ryan’s World” and a girl’s channel, the “Assistant“, or “Genevieve’s Playhouse“). Some of these channels just show him how kids play with toys, and then he wants all those toys, of course (face palm).
But ABCmouse has so many educational materials that he can choose from math games (his favorite) over books being read-aloud, songs being sung, coloring exercises, popping bubbles with certain letters inside, and puzzles. The latter don’t work very well, though (the only weakness I have noticed so far); most of the time, when he touches a puzzle piece with the cursor, it moves itself into its place without him needing to do it, which is just not right. There are a few more advanced puzzles where he has to insert the puzzle pieces where they belong, and this is how it should be. The drawing exercises are nice; he gets to choose a color from a prism or suggested colors and has to fill in or trace figures and letters. You can save those and create puzzles out of your child’s artwork, and then your kid can do a puzzle of his/her own picture. That’s cool!
So What is the Learning Path?
The Learning Path itself shows different landscapes (volcanoes, undersea world, jungle, desert, space, etc.) where the avatar of your child, which you create in the beginning, is moving from one bubble to the next, solving a task each time to advance. Your child can click on the “about” button to learn about each respective landscape (for example, what animals live in the tropical rain forest, etc.). Each of the yellow bubbles has a task pop up. Every time your child has fulfilled a task, he/she earns three tickets and moves to the next bubble, from the left of the screen to the right. Lyons Cub loves getting those tickets so much that when he played bowling with grandma and won, he shouted: “Now, I get three tickets!” She had no clue what he meant 😉
If your child liked an exercise a lot, you can make it a “favorite” and save it among your favorites to use it again and again. Also, your child can repeat a favorite task several times and get 3 tickets for it (only if you overdo it, the system will give you a warning that now, there won’t be any more tickets for this exercise!). For the tickets, your child can buy toys for his/her room or equipment for his/her animals. When one Learning Path is finished, the next landscape is shown and a new path begins. Every time your child is on one Learning Path, you can see the progress by means of a yellow school bus that moves from the left to the right side of the screen. (We don’t have yellow school buses in Germany, but my son knows what they mean.)
There are three gift packages on the Learning Path, and when your child’s avatar reaches those, he/she can choose a gift from a series of pictures (for example, a tube for his/her hamster cage, or a decoration for his/her room) and wins 20 tickets in addition. Every time your child finishes one activity, a voice says, “Continue on the step-by-step learning path!” My son says this now, too!
The Learning Path is split up into a toddler time followed by ten levels. The following video will explain what is included with the ABCmouse Learning Path:
So What is the “About Me” Section?
In the “About Me” section, your child can choose where to go next. Lyons Cub loves his hamster most: He has five hamster mazes that he has bought with his tickets, filled with tubing and cages and about ten hamsters, which he regularly feeds and gives water to. He also likes his pet park, where he has two cats, a chick, a dragon, a frog, and some other critters, which he has to feed, water, scrub and wash, play ball with (each of them plays with a blue rubber ball!), and do an educational task with to keep them happy. Each animal in the pet park has either a green smiley face at the bottom, or an orange smiley face, or a red frown face. The green one appears when the animal has been cared for twice and is totally happy. The yellow one appears when the animal has been fed and watered and played with once, and the red face appears when the animal has been neglected, because your child hasn’t logged into his/her pet park for days and forgot to feed and water the animal 😉
By the way, your child can tickle the animals with the cursor. They will giggle and chuckle and purr and smile, and the dragon will puff a little flame. My son was so thrilled when he detected this feature!
Then, there is “My Room,” where Lyons Cub puts all the gifts he has won that are accessories or furniture items or toys. He has a treehouse bunk bed, windows, shelves, toys, plants, clocks, etc. He also doesn’t have just his own room, he also purchased a moon landscape, a gym, a rain forest, and some other landscapes with his tickets. He loves to decorate all his different rooms with items he has won or bought! And he absolutely likes to click on the button, “Go shopping,” when he has amassed enough tickets!
Leander also likes the feature of “My Aquarium” and has purchased a clown fish, a yellow angel fish, and won several decorations, such as shells, caves, etc. He feeds his fish regularly and cleans the algae from the glass wall like in a real aquarium (which we had in Clarksville, so he knows about that). When your child hasn’t visited the aquarium for a while, its wall will be full of nasty algae. But don’t worry, the fish never die, even if your kid forgets to feed them for ages!!
So Where is Lyons Cub Right Now?
We finished Toddler Time when he was two years old.
"Toddler Time is designed for children ages 18–36 months who are not yet ready to learn on ABCmouse independently, but who will enjoy listening to songs, seeing and hearing simple read-along books, picture books, and animations, and doing simple puzzles, games, and coloring activities with adult help."
We finished preschool, level 1 when he was 3.5 years old.
"Preschool, Level 1 is designed for children ages 2–3 who are beginning to learn about the alphabet and numbers. The games, puzzles, and art activities in Preschool are generally simpler than in higher levels."
We started with preschool, level 2 shortly before his 4th birthday. He is now doing everything mostly by himself and rarely asks for help, but he’s always sitting on my lap when we work on the Learning Path.
"Preschool, Level 2 should follow Preschool, Level 1. The games, puzzles, and art activities are slightly more difficult than in Level 1, but still suitable for young children."
The levels go up to second grade, so we have quite a long stretch ahead of us.
(Source: What is included with each learning path level, ABCmouse customer support)
So What kind of Stats Can You See as a Parent?
There is a student and a parent login, and in the parent login, you can print out your child’s certificates (like Lyons Cub’s 1st Level Certificate above) and do assessments with your child. You can see what kind of tasks he/she has done, and you can see an overview of how many tasks per category (Puzzles Completed, Books Read, Songs Played, Games Played, and Art Completions) your child has completed. I think this is very helpful for me as a parent; I can see my son’s progress over time.
So Why do we like ABCmouse?
First of all, we got a big discount on the subscription when we started it.
Also, it is fun and educational, and a good way to integrate meaningful electronics in my child’s education (and he craves that, especially when he watches his older cousins play Minecraft and Hay Day (farming simulator)).
Then, I absolutely like the drawings. They are done with great care. Just look at the kelp forest; so much detail! This program is simply beautiful.
My son loves the games most. He does mazes where a penguin has to swim through a labyrinth to catch fish at the goal, all the while following a certain number, such as 17. He loves the three hens (a fat one, a thin one, and an ordinary one) that look funny and lay a certain number of eggs, which fall through strange tubing to land in the hay, and he has to count them and then click on the button out of a choice of buttons with the correct number on it. Lyons Cub also loves to pop bubbles with letters in them, and he gets faster and faster at it.
My son also likes the three caterpillars, of which he gets to choose one to be his pet, and this caterpillar crawls over a branch and eats a certain number of leaves. Leander learns that if the caterpillar has eaten seven out of nine leaves, two are left over, and he needs to click on the number 2. At the same time, he sees the equation on top of the screen: 9-7=2. Although he has never done written subtractions like these before, he can see them and understands them already.
There are some absolutely cute exercises among the games, for example an ant eater, and my son has to click on the black ants that run by it, so its long tongue comes out and it slurps them up loudly and looks really happy. However, the ant eater doesn’t like red ants, and if you click on one of those by mistake (or just for fun!), the ant eater looks really disgusted and says something like, “eww.” This is hilarious, and Lyons Cub clicks on the red ants just to see the ant eater’s reaction 😉
So What can ABCmouse not Replace?
You as a mother!
Of course, I would never replace our nightly book-reading or story-telling time with any electronic educational toy, not even ABCmouse, but in addition to what we already do, I have to say ABCmouse has greatly enhanced my son’s vocabulary and math skills. Since he is surrounded by German speakers now and only lived in the United States for the first two years of his life, it is important for me that he hears English being spoken and sung. In addition, since I am German, I don’t know many American children’s songs, like “Wheel on the Bus” and “Twelve Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed,” etc. I learn them with him and then can sing them to him and with him.
We will continue it until the Learning Path stops after second grade. There is so much to discover! It also saves me some money for buying English language books, because it has a nice library with a good selection of books in different reading levels.
In addition to ABCmouse, we use Lyons Cub’s Toniebox and Tonies, onto which books in German and English are spoken (or, we record our own stories and books he likes onto his Creative Tonies). If you don’t know what Tonies are, you absolutely need to check them out. They were developed in Germany in 2016 but are now available in the U.S., too.
Thus, we read a lot together in person, we listen to Tonies and record them ourselves, and we do the Learning Path from ABCmouse. In kindergarten, he learns from the other (German) kids and his teachers, so I hope that all of this together makes for a well-rounded preschool education. (It’s certainly more than I had in the 1970s, haha.)
So What is the Downside of ABCmouse?
Lyons Cub now wants a REAL hamster!!!