A Parent's Guide to Webkinz World
You may have heard of the Webkinz craze in the news, or from your child's friends, but it can be difficult to glean much solid information about it. The premise is simple enough: buy a stuffed toy, enter the code on its tag on the website, and you are granted access to a virtual world where you can interact with and control an online version of the plush animal. The tour on the site only tells you so much. Beyond that, it is hard to know just what you are getting you, or your child into. What sorts of games are available? How safe is the interaction that goes on between players? How do the activities on Webkinz World educate, as well as entertain, your child?
It is easy to see how Webkinz can provide hours of fun for the player, both on and off of the computer. Taking the stuffed-animal tea parties of our youth to a new level, your child's Webkinz can have social gatherings with other players in their very own room(s), decorated to his or her own taste from a number of themes and special items available for Webkinz' virtual currency, called KinzCash, on the site. Clothing and food are also "for sale" in the Webkinz W-Shop.
KinzCash is earned through a number of activities, such as daily "jobs" and games played in the Arcade or Tournament Arena in Webkinz World. Many of the games are familiar to us as adults-versions of Mahjong, Memory, Bejeweled and Battleships-as well as some games unique to Webkinz.
Webkinz has more educational value than it has widely been given credit for. Taking care of Webkinz' needs for food, exercise, and playtime teaches children responsibility. Saving allowance for Webkinz accessories offline, such as clothing, charms, and trading cards, is complimented by learning the skill of budgeting one's KinzCash online. Your child learns to earn currency for tasks to save up for items he or she can "purchase" in the W-Shop, as well as exclusive items in the Curio Shop.
Many of the games and jobs also teach valuable skills, such as problem-solving, hand-eye coordination, recognizing and remembering patterns, and matching skills. Quizzy's Corner offers players a chance to earn KinzCash for correctly answering age-appropriate knowledge and reasoning questions, which opens up new possibilities in the Employment Office for daily jobs. Typing skills are honed by jobs like Mrs. Birdy's assistant, and games like Lunch Letters.
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Children and the internet can make a bad combination, but Webkinz World takes many precautions to ensure your child's anonymity and safety. In the Parent's Area, you designate how much interaction you wish to be available to your child. No personal information is necessary to sign up, and none is shared between players. Chat during games and in the Clubhouse is limited to pre-formulated, appropriate phrases and words.
For the price of a plush toy, starting under $10, your child gets a full year of access to Webkinz World, with no additional fees or requirements. To renew, simply buy a new Webkinz and add it to your account, for another full year of play from that date! Good fun for good value, Webkinz is not only the latest craze-it's a smart choice for children of all ages on your Christmas list, one for which you're sure to get plenty of thanks, and they're sure to get plenty of usage!
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