We’re reviewing MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS from PandaParents! The idea of PandaParents is that it follows how children learn and does not promote screen-dependency. I worked with my kindergarten-aged daughter to read, watched, and then did the activities listed in the worksheets. It’s 20-30 minutes a day, 2-3 times per week. My kindergarten child is a squirrel, so we break things into about 10-minute increments.
A digital subscription is available now, but a physical subscription box is in the works for some time in December 2018.
I received three stories to review, which could easily be stretched out of six months if you took two months per story.
My stories were:
My daughter’s clear favorite was Mommy’s Baby.
The stories all have a LOT of interaction. All of these stories are done with a parent present and interacting with the child. This isn’t a program where parents leave their kids in front of a screen to “teach themselves,” and as a former elementary school teacher and current homeschool parent I strongly approve of any program that encourages parents to take responsibility for their child’s learning and to be part of it. I know that so many parents are busy and want something where they can just leave their child in front of a screen and have the screen do the teaching for them, but all of my years of experience tell me that children don’t learn to love learning if you do that. Technology can be great if it’s used correctly, and it’s got a place in our homeschool.
Children can learn confidence in reading through repetition and memorization, and these stories have that. My daughter is pretty good at memorizing picture books and she liked these a lot.
I was able to download the videos so we didn’t have to keep visiting the website and my daughter could find the video herself on a tablet after we’d watched it together. The sound quality varies, and the narrator in the Scotty Skunk story has an accent but he was still understandable. The story is supposed to teach the letter and sound of the letter, and usually I would expect someone with a flat accent (what sounds like “no accent” on American tv). The other videos I reviewed had what I would consider “no accent.”
The videos are silly, engaging, and cute, and my daughter liked them a lot. Mommy’s Baby was her clear favorite, probably just due to her love of that subject.
The worksheets cover basic Pre-K and K concepts and go with each story. You could get similar printables or worksheets from many sources, but these worksheets coordinate with the story and might encourage your child to return to the story. They also include creative ideas and comprehension discussion questions for the book. Each workbook is about 40-50 pages so we didn’t even get close to finishing them yet.
I received digital copies of the materials. Unfortunately, my color printer chose this time to decide that it would no longer print right in color – only in black and white. We looked at my computer screen for the sheets that needed to be in color and I printed the ones that could be done in black and white. The worksheets us a lot of different fonts. I don’t know what to think of the use of lots of different kinds of fonts mixed together. I read it to my daughter rather than having her read it, so I think it’s probably fine for exposing the child to lots of different types of fonts. I’m not sure, though, it could be confusing for a young child. My daughter noticed a few times but since we were together I just answered her questions about the letters. The worksheets also include math concepts like patterns, counting, and matching. There are things to cut out and glue, too.
Overall it’s a good idea, and much more developmentally appropriate than purely online preschool. I’m not sure how many parents will be willing to pay for a program like this when it’s easier to have the child watch free YouTube videos and do free printable worksheets, and the parent doesn’t have to be involved. Sadly, it seems like most parents don’t want to be involved – they just want to stick their child in front of a screen. In the US we’ve become so accustomed to education being “free” that parents balk at the idea of having to buy their child a $1 pack of crayons. Children are little for such a short while. Enjoy those special early years together. It’s so fun to see children enjoying books and activities, so do it together with them. My daughter and I laughed a lot together over these stories, and those are memories and experiences that shape her forever.