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Edutainment Sites Keep Youths Online for More

February 01, 2001|KAREN JONES | karen@kjnyc.com

Edutainment--the blending of education and entertainment--takes many forms on the Internet. KidsCom, Alfy and Clever Island present diverse, engaging content with enough extras and visual panache to keep kids logging on for more.

KidsCom

Up since 1995, KidsCom, at http://www.kidscom.com, is one of the oldest children's edutainment sites on the Web. That staying power is the result of an impressive array of well-packaged content that includes games and real-time chat.

Although many sites welcome feedback from children and parents, KidsCom encourages kids to voice their opinions about all aspects of their world via chat areas, message boards and the KidsCom Graffiti Wall. All chat areas and message boards are carefully monitored to ensure online safety.

KidsCom features five main sections, plus an area for parents and teachers. In Around the World, visitors explore terra firma or enter iPlanetarium to learn about the solar system. The Make New Friends section lets visitors send free e-greeting cards, access chat areas and make international friends, called KeyPals. With parental permission, kids can participate in KeyPals and e-mail children in more than 120 countries.

In Kids Talk About, children share jokes, talk about their favorite pets, write stories and learn about the latest toys and gadgets. The Just for Fun section sports a well-stocked roster of crowd pleasers--including Animals of the World, Hangman, Maze Madness and Riley's Monster Crunch.

KidsCom also offers an incentive program called KidsKash in which registered users can earn points by playing games or participating in designated activities. KidsKash points are saved to an online account and can be redeemed in the Loot Locker for trading cards, video games, safari hats, Pokemon gear, books, candy, T-shirts and even a goldfish bowl kit.

Alfy and Clever Island

Visual appeal might not be the most important aspect of children's Web sites, but the design is top-notch at both Alfy, at http://www.alfy.com, and sister site Clever Island, at http://www.cleverisland.com.

Alfy offers a welcoming environment from the first click onto the home page. Visitors enter Alfy Park, which has nine major attractions sure to keep even the most restless child engaged. An audio track provides quick explanations of visual icons as well as help with games and activities.

Kids can climb aboard the Brain Train, a letter and number game, or tune in to Music Mania, which allows them to play instruments and write their own songs. Or they can visit the Sports Arena for a variety of sports-themed games. There also is an arcade and a neat paint program called Create. The Cool Sites section offers a listing of other age-appropriate sites.

Alfy is free, but the site plans to offer only limited content updates this year. Instead, designers plan to concentrate on Clever Island, a subscription-based offshoot that incorporates the essence of Alfy with continually updated material.

Clever Island offers a personalized online edutainment service for children 3 to 8 at an annual subscription rate of $39.95. Content is updated twice a month, and parents can track their children's progress through the activities with a special reporting system.

Kids' Web Sites

KidsCom

http://www.kidscom.com

Games and real-time chat for kids

Alfy

http://www.alfy.com

Amusement-park-themed games

Clever Island

http://www.cleverisland.com

Subscription service with new material twice a month

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Karen Jones is a freelance writer specializing in children's interactive media.

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