Webkinz is the latest online craze for kids. As a father of two young children, I know my way around this fascinating new virtual world, and it is very impressive. In fact, I’m also the proud owner of a virtual Webkinz gorilla named, quite unoriginally, Kong.
The world of Webkinz has been designed for users aged 6-13+ (or, well, almost 40) and includes content for all ages and levels of computer skill within that range. The general idea is you adopt a pet, which has a real world stuffed animal companion, and introduce him or her to the Webkinz online world. You start out with one simple room, a couple of toys, and some Webkinz dollars. Then, and often, you find new and exciting ways to collect, earn, or win more dollars to upgrade your Webkinz space.
You can expand your Webkinz world with new rooms, yards, furniture, clothing, food, and toys. You can arrange the rooms how you like, move furniture, and make real changes to the environment your Webkinz lives in. Kong has a pirate ship room, but I’d rather not admit how much fun it was collecting all the pirate themed pieces. My kids have fantastic Webkinz environments; with ice rooms and fully stalked kitchens, backyards with slides and pools the animals can play on, and a host of funky clothing and accessories. They play safe and they love the games, even the ones that may be subtlety teaching them something.
The Webkinz world was clearly designed to reach the widest possible audience within its suggested age range. Although some of the Webkinz games and jobs (yes, your Webkinz can have a job to earn Webkinz dollars) may be difficult for younger users, there are plenty of opportunities and games for younger audiences to enjoy the site on their own orwith the support of an adult. Younger users can also enjoy all of the non-game methods of making Webkinz dollars, including the Wheel of WOW, Wishing Well and the Care Award. There is even a special 5-6 year old question section in Quizzy’s Question Corner, which includes over 1000 age appropriate, curriculum-based questions that make Webkinz dollars faster than any of the games.
Is Webkinz World safe? Yes. The Internet can be an unsafe place, and this is why as a parent I really appreciate efforts like Webkinz. The Webkinz world includes what is in my opinion the safest possible chat system available for kids. Webkinz chat is constructed so users can’t type in whatever they want. Nothing inappropriate can be said, and there is no way to exchange any personal information. Only people you know will have your username, which is needed in order to add someone to your Friends list. Finally, you can always decline another’s offer to join their Friends list, or delete them at any time.
In my personal experience, Webkinz World is a great place to learn and play. Children can learn lots of fun facts at Quizzy’s. The questions at Quizzy’s are age-appropriate, and most are educationally based. There are also several arcade games that promote learning, such as: Booger Gets an A that promotes addition skills, Lunch Letters that helps children to learn how to type and spell, Quizzy’s Word Challenge that aids in spelling, and Operation Gumball that encourages children to think logically. Also, Webkinz Newz and the W Tales encourage reading and the many contests encourage writing, creativity, and problem-solving. What else? My kids are learning about money in Webkinz World; by earning KinzCash, they learn how to save and spend money. My oldest child recently saved up for a new swimming pool that she added to a backyard space in her virtual world. Now her Webkinz can virtually go for a swim. Webkinz World also helps to teach children about responsibility, caring for a pet, and getting along with others. Best of all, no Webkinz pets can die. Webkinz pets can get sick, but they cannot die. Have fun.