Monday, September 13, 2010

Big Universe

imageIn the past I’ve turned down offers to review educational websites; I just don’t like the idea of helping my 3 or 4 year old develop a computer addiction (like mom, heh).  I hear things from other parents, thinking they are praising a particular site, that make me cringe… things like “my 5 year old wants to be on the computer first thing in the morning!”, or “I can’t pry him away from this awesome site – he loves it!”.

This just rubs me the wrong way, and I’m not sure I can even explain why.  Call me crazy, but interaction with a real human being and having a 3-dimensional learning experience, are standards for me when it comes to educating very small children.  And as for learning computer skills – well, don’t get me started.  Even if it is something that will benefit them in the future, technology changes so quickly that whatever skills they learn today may be very well be obsolete by the time they have any real need of them. 

Ahem. But I digress.

When Big Universe contacted me my initial reaction was to say no, as I have in the past to other “educational” websites.  However, I took a look at the site first and, you know what?  It’s not bad.  It’s books, and books are good!  It’s jam-packed full of books to read together.  I can see how it would be a fun way for a beginning reader to practice their reading.  But it’s also great for just browsing and reading books together with a smaller child.  It’s searchable by age, reading level, publisher (I was happy to see Sylvan Dell and Zoobooks!), and categories.  You can choose to read math books, science books, social studies, language arts; there’s fiction, non-fiction, poetry… I could go on and on. 

You can even write books to share with others on Big Universe.   

I like the set up of the site;  I’ve found it easy to maneuver and find what I am looking for.  I also really like the layout of the books as we read them – the pictures are crisp, and it’s really as if we are reading the book itself.  It’s easy to save books to my virtual bookshelf, and I like this feature since I can browse and scan the books first and then have them easily accessible to read with M later.

Many of the books have “quizzes” to go along with them.  These are made up of basic reading comprehension questions and are a help in determining how much M is ready for.  He understands much more than I imagined and is easily comprehending books for much older children (just some shameless mama bragging). 

Check out Big Universe when you get the chance.  It  has a lot going for it and is a great (supplemental!) way to get and keep children interested in reading.

I was given a free 6 month membership to in return for writing a review.  This review reflects my honest opinion of the website.


  1. I totally understand your hesitancy toward computer use by your kids. My husband and I both felt very strongly about having no TV until age 2, and we actually don't even own a TV now. But with the computer, I am a bit more conflicted. My son goes through phases. Lately he would much rather play a game with me or work on activity books than look at the computer, but we had days/weeks where I had shown him a new computer game, and he would really want to be on the computer often during the day. The way I think of it is that I have a very obsessive, go-go-go personality when I get into a hobby. When I started quilting, I wanted to do it all the time. When I start a book, I want to read all night until I finish it. When I started blogging, well, we probably all know how that goes. So I don't agree with limiting computer time to, say, 1/2 hour per day, cut and dry. I like to follow his enthusiasm for learning and new experiences. I do think computer time, like TV, can easily become a crutch for parents, and that it is rarely educational UNLESS parents do it side by side with a child (which I try to do, but sometimes I need to take a bath or eat dinner). Just my two cents. I'll take a look at the site you reviewed!

  2. Good to hear. I've been asked to review it too, and I haven't had the time to sit down and do that. I'm with you, most of the educational sites I get asked to review I don't. The only other one I've done is Jump Start, and that was because I was familiar with the product. And for all I like it, I still don't let them play it as much as they'd like to. Like you said no need to create game addicts.

  3. I feel exactly as you do Nicole. In fact my kids are probably 'behind' with their computer skills because they rarely get on.

  4. Totally understand your opinion about computer programs for kids! I think the same! This site does sound good - too bad that it is not for me as my kids read only in German ...

  5. Thanks for sharing...more books is always a hit with us!

  6. We love books so I might have to check this out.
    But I too struggle with the computer thing. My daughter is only 2 1/2 but one of her favorite things to do is to look at pictures of family on the computer. She doesn't know how to work it so we have to sit with her and change the image but she is fascinated by the computer. I try to encourage all of her interests but so far this one I am just leaving alone.

  7. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about computer for young kids. In my house we enforce the limits on all forms of electronic entertainment. I think that too much of it is not good for kids. That said, however, good programs and websites combine visual, auditory and physical (manipulating objects by moving the mouse) forms of learning into one - that's what multimedia is all about. BigUniverse sounds interesting, but that's where I prefer actual books and real discussions. I rather like computer for math :)

  8. oo this sounds really neat. I am with you.. I have let Sammy have 15 mins on the computer every other day. Since we are both IT people we are both always on the computer and he wants to be like us :-P However, it can easily become an addiction and limit his creativity.

  9. It is tough sometimes deciding on how much and which media young kids should be exposed to.

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