We decided to give Kaplan Kids Smart Track a try this summer to keep my 5 year old DD’s skills up. She will be starting Kindergarten in the fall. I think overall it is a good program. My DD loves to be on the computer, so this was right up her alley.
I feel that the Kaplan Kids program works hard to keep things fresh and interesting. She flew through the first assessment test and did get a little frustrated practicing things that she knows well. The second assessment was more difficult for her and she did start to get flustered about halfway through. However with a little encouragement I managed to keep redirecting her back to it. A little frustration is good, it is a matter of finding the balance. I can see that the assessments may be a bit stressful for some children, and it is important they understand that they are not expected to know everything they are presented with. The children must choose the best answer they can without a parents help. These assessments are truly the most difficult for the kids.
As with any learning tool, repetition, while important can be frustrating for children. Those that already know the material and those who struggle with it can get overwhelmed and not want to continue. Kaplan Kids handles this pretty well for all the practical materials (practice lessons) although the assessment portions can be a little more intense, especially when they are asking things the child has never seen.
I wish that it started out with a few games to set up momentum for the kids, however it jumps right into the assessment. Knowing that more games are coming may provide extra motivation for the kids to stick out the assessments. All in all, my daughter did not struggle very much and was able to cope pretty well. I think this will depend on the child to a very large extent. Right now she is a bit stuck on coin counting and I wish there was a way to skip it, go onto the next material, and then come back to it. For now we will focus on the reading portion, and then go back to maybe next week.
The Rewards Zone:
This section seems like it would work very well for an older child. There is a virtual room that the child can “buy” items with points earned from practice to place in the room. My daughter loves it, but I have to help her with it, I don’t think that the interface is the easiest for little ones.
There are also other things to do in the rewards section. Like spin a wheel to win things like entry into drawings for Target Cards and “plant a seed” which helps grow food for those in need. These options are fabulous for a slightly older child, but finding yourself trying to explain heady concepts like world hunger to a 5 year old is a bit exhausting. My DD just kept asking who exactly would be planting the seed, who would get to pick the vegetables and who was going to eat them, why didn’t she get to plant them because they were her seeds and don’t the neighbors just give food to their friends if they are hungry and……………… Yeah, well, these kinds of virtual rewards are difficult for younger children, and frankly a bit of a headache at least in my case. I found myself trying to explain world hunger, companies who plant things for people to eat, and conservation to a 5 year old with insatiable questions.
At this point in order to make it easier and more concrete, we decided together to keep her
points and not spend them until she reaches certain numbers. Instead, we set up specific goals for her (at 2000 points we would go to the green market and buy a bag of fresh fruit and vegetables and deliver them to the food pantry and at 5000 she would get a coveted toy she has been asking for). I will also help her spend some points on things for the virtual room (when she gets enough points) and spin the wheel once a day. This plan seemed to keep her much more motivated.
Real Time Skill Status:
The parents section is pretty useful. At first I was not sure how to read it but as I saw my child progress in her lessons, it began to make more sense. It shows you in green the percentage of the academic skill that she has mastered, and compares it to the first day she started (or whatever day you specify) so you have a reference of how far she has progressed Skills not yet mastered show in red and white means that she has not yet been introduced to the skill by Kaplan Kids. The nice thing is, it automatically moves up a grade when the child is ready. My daughter is working on some skills at the Kindergarten level and has just started on a few skills in the 1st grade level. This important to keep the material challenging, but not overwhelming. Clicking on Details will show the parent an even more detailed breakdown of where the child is working, and excelling.
Clicking on Details will show the parent an even more detailed breakdown of where the child is working, and excelling.
All in all, I think it is a very good program. In general, I think it would be best for older kids (at least 1st grade) although it is working very well for my almost Kindergartner. I would recommend it to my friends to try it. Leaning is an individual style and it is going to be different for every child, so while it may not work for every child, I think it will work for most. On the Kaplan Kids main website, they have a 1 week free trial, then it is $29 a month and you can cancel anytime.
Keeping Up With Kids did not receive any incentive or from Kaplan Kids to use this product.