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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

PandaParents Review

We were asked to review MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS from PandaParents recently. My youngest is past the suggested age range for this program. She is in first grade, but does 2nd-4th grade work. Keep that in mind as you consider if this would work for younger children!

This program has three parts - stories and videos, workbooks, and art projects. You can purchase a subscription and receive a "course" each month, or you can purchase individual courses. Each course has a different theme and introduces various letters as well as math, science, and behavior topics.

We received digital versions for three courses, but PandaParents plans to have print books and workbooks available in December. Since we have the digital version, my daughter and I used my tablet to read the books and watch the videos. We received:
  • A Jolly Jingling Journey - a story about a boy who dreams he can fly to the North Pole. Then he helps Santa get ready for Christmas.
  • Mommy's Baby - a story about a mother and a young child at bedtime
  • Scotty Skunk Hears a Scary Sound - a story about a skunk who is trying to find a home in a quiet location.
The child is not expected to read the book. It should be read to them, or the child can watch the video instead. The books are full color and highlight a letter sound. These would be helpful for a young child learning to pick out initial sounds. But in the Scotty Skunk book, the word "shaking" was included with the "s" words. Sh is a different phonogram and that would be confusing to a beginning reader.

There are words on many of the book pages that are emphasized. Some seem to be intended to enhance a young child's vocabulary. Not all of the words are like that though; one book highlights the words jet, jubilant, journey, jump, join, jingle, jaguar, joyful, and a few more. The end of the books have some "extra credit" questions that encourage the child to search the book for certain images.

Since the stories are long, there are a lot of worksheet pages to go along with it. The vendor intends an entire unit to be used for a month. That would allow you to spread the work out and not overwhelm preschoolers. The stories were fun to read, but still felt long and drawn out. My daughter has an excellent memory and can retain and understand information from passages far above her reading level, so she did fine with the comprehension activities for these books. But I can see other children or younger children getting lost in the amount of information.

The videos are available on Vimeo and can be downloaded. You must first access them with a password which is given to you when you receive access to a course. We downloaded them and added them to an Album on Vimeo so they were easy to find.

The videos vary quite a bit in length. The shortest one we received was five minutes, but the longest was thirty-eight minutes. I'd rather read the printed book with my child, that's a long video and a LOT of screen time for a preschooler. The videos and books didn't always match up, there was a word here or there that wasn't what was spoken. But these are early editions and perhaps the company is still refining.

One thing my daughter and I noticed about the videos is there are some voices that sound altered so it makes it hard to understand what they are saying. For a child trying to learn to read from the words shown, that makes it difficult. Other voices are mispronouncing words, which is cute when it's your child, but confusing when it's a teaching product.

The workbooks are cute. They have a lot of color pages so it's not cost effective to print them myself. I'd be thrilled to use the print versions though. The first couple of pages are meant to be sticker pages. If you print these at home you can have your child practice scissor skills and glue them where they belong instead. The worksheets are full of various activities like comprehension, sequencing, coloring, tracing, counting, beginning letter writing, patterns, sorting, shapes, and so much more.

My daughter had the most fun with the workbooks, which we used digitally on a tablet, and printed. She liked cutting out the sticker pages and coloring the images. Many of the pages were very simple for her but I can see a three or four year old enjoying these. They would be better used by younger siblings who want their own school work while Mom is busy helping older children. I think if I had a young preschooler I'd prefer the printed stories and workbooks and forgo the videos, though it may work well 'as is' for other families.

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