A Walk Down Memory Lane – Tiny Planets Review

Product: Tiny Planets Website
Company: My Tiny Planets Ltd.
Price: Free to various pricing options explained in further detail below.
Ages: 4-12

Once upon a time, I was a very emotional new mother…..

Bing and Bong, Bing and Bong, Bing and Bong
There’s a tiny planet calling

Bing and Bong, Bing and Bong, Bing and Bong
Heroes of the Universe
Adventure every day, from their home in space

Bing and Bong, Bing and Bong, Bing and Bong
There’s a tiny planet calling
A new exciting day, and we’re on our way

-Tiny Planets Theme Song

There was a children’s television show that came on CBC that I would wait for every morning, eventhough my baby couldn’t be more than 3 or 4 months old and certainly wasn’t watching TV. I’d hold my wee baby in my arms and think of the wonderful adventures he would have exploring this beautiful tiny planet of ours and tears would come to my eyes, EVERYDAY. Well fast forward 7 1/2 years and my wee baby is an active and inquisitive boy who has a fascination with space. The Tiny Planets of his baby days has long been forgotten. The was some excitement among my TOS Homeschool Crew friends when we found out that we’d be reviewing Tiny Planets. I thought for sure that this was some amazing site about space exploration from the excitement around the review. Imagine my surprise when I realized that this was the Tiny Planets of my son’s baby days. Not at all what I was expecting but I did enjoy listen to the theme song, this time without the tears!

Tiny Planets is an online space where your child, ages preschool to twelve according to the developers, can go on adventures with two friendly aliens (I’ll admit to thinking they were some kind of funny arctic animal when I saw this show many moons ago), Bing and Bong. The website include 6 areas that your child can explore.

* On Tiny Planets TV you can watch any of the Tiny Planets television episodes. Each episode follows Bing and Bong as they explore an a area of children’s emotional development (fears, sadness, etc) or educational topic. A narrator gives you a brief overview of the episode and then Bing and Bong explore. These characters don’t speak besides in squeaks and mumbles but their facial expressions are vivid and your child will use logic and their imaginations to understand the concepts presented in each episode.

* My Tiny Planets is a new online community and virtual world that combines social elements (your kids have “friends” that they can engage with to a limited extent so things remain safe and anonymous), arcade style games and missions, along with other more educational activities to care for their own tiny planet with Bing and Bong.

*Tiny Planets Fun has games, worksheets, and coloring pages for your child to enjoy.

*Tiny Planets Books has a collection of interactive story books to enjoy with younger children.

* Tiny Planets Learning, probably of most interest to homeschoolers, has many lesson plans for educators. At the beginning of each lesson you are invited to watch an episode of Tiny Planets and will then use a science activity or other hands on activity to explore the concepts introduced in the episode.

* Tiny Planets Labs is an area where new features of the website are added (as My Tiny Planets Ltd, participate in other research projects in other to continue to bring new, quality material to your children).

Overall, I found that the layout of the Tiny Planets website to be confusing and not all that well laid out. When you go to sign up your child (cadet) you are not given the option to make up your own user name for the child. This presents a problem from the get go. Some of the names were bordering on inappropriate in my opinion and many certainly weren’t going to easy for my child to remember and/or spell. After flipping through 30 names or so we finally chose on that was appropriate. After this, we were able to go to the website. We first explored the books and TV area but were only able to view 1 or 2 of each, without purchasing keys (which you need a parent account for and which in my opinion were a bit expensive, more on the pricing in a bit). My son then took some time to explore the My Tiny Planets area. He seems to have had more success in this area than I have (despite trying several times, I still can’t quite figure it out, I think I’ll need some lessons from my 7 year old!) The arcade games in this section seem to be more of the classic shooter games (think Asteroids). Fun, but not terribly educational. I never did find the educational area of this part of the game and neither has Liam.

I was pleasantly surprised by the activities/experiments presented in the lesson plan section of the website. Each lesson begins with a synopsis of the episode of Tiny Planets that you will be exploring. Then you child is given an easy experiment or questions to answer. After this you are invited to watch the episode and will often be given other online activities/games or a worksheet to complete. This area seems to quite complete, however, to watch the episode of Tiny Planets you have to pay with keys.

* 10 keys $1.95 (about 20 cents per key)
* 25 keys $3.95 (about 16 cents per key)
* 85 keys $9.95 (about 12 cents per key)
* 250 keys $25.95 (about 10 cents per key)
* 600 keys $49.95 (about 8 cents per key)

Each episode costs 10 keys as lasts only about 4-5 minutes. Once your episodes are purchased, you have access to them forever. I, however, have a hard time justifying the purchase of TV programs that I have already seen previously for free on television. That being said, the activities can easily be used without the purchase of keys and the synopsis of the episodes are really quite complete. I’m really quite pleased with the learning activities provided and will likely use some of them for FREE with my children. However, the episodes are cute (really, I’ve always thought that the characters were some of the cutest on TV….though I like them a tad more when I believed they were mismatched polar bears!) and if you have extra money to spend they do add some to the learning experience and can be a bit of reward for doing the activities if you are into such things.

All in all, I found Tiny Planets to be somewhat perplexing but was happy with the lesson plan section of the website. Quite a bit of the content of the website needs to be purchased with keys with episodes and interactive books being 10 keys each. Areas of My Tiny Planet also need to be unlocked with keys (usually 3 or 5 for each thing). While buying keys 10 at a time seems a bit expensive, buying in bulk would help with that problem and it is my estimation, just an estimation, that one could unlock pretty much all the material on the website for 600 keys for $49.95 which is reasonable if you really love the characters and the material that they teach. While the developers of Tiny Planets say that this website is for children up to twelve years of age, I would think that most twelve year old would find the characters babyish and the material much to easy. My 7 year old son, found the site interesting but not particularly challenging. I cannot imagine him want to play with it a year or two from now. I would consider the website to be better suited to preschool/Kindergarten children. That being said, that characters are cute and engaging and I think the story lines very much appeal to the young children in the family as Bing and Bong explore topics that they often want/try to explore naturally. Children not yet reading will need a lot of help with this site as nothing is read to them so it is not a site that they can explore independently but it’s nice to site and explore with your little ones anyways.

As much of the website is available for FREE I invite you to check it out for yourself and see what you think!

**Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

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2 Responses to A Walk Down Memory Lane – Tiny Planets Review

  1. Thank you for taking the time to review our website. We really appreciate your honesty and have initiated many of the changes that you’ve suggested, especially when it comes to navigation. Starting in March you’ll find it sooo much easier to get everything done.

    We’ve also decided to focus our energy on the younger children, so we’ve included voice-overs and other helps for pre-readers. You can also find additional curriculum ideas on our blog at http://www.tinyplanetsblog.com which is chock full of science experiments, history and space facts.

    Thanks again!

  2. cheryl says:

    Hi. Just wanted to thank you again for reviewing the site. I wanted to let you know that on April 4th the new and improved site was launched. I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have, especially since some of the changes were made because of the Crew’s suggestions. You can check us out at http://www.tinyplanets.com. You can reach me at cheryl@mytinyplanets.com.

    Thanks!
    Cheryl

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