From the moment they were invented, children have loved video games. From the crude games of my childhood (“Pong”, anyone?) to today’s fully immersive online gaming experiences, video games have been a source of joy for children – and, at times, a source of concern for their parents. Adults wonder about the educational value (Or lack therof) that gaming offers, and in the case of multiplayer games, how safe they are. That’s why I was so intrigued to learn about Animal Jam, an online gaming experience created in partnership with National Geographic to be enriching, fun, and most of all, secure for its young players.
In the Animal Jam world, kids can create their own custom character, from bunnies to penguins to tigers. Once they’ve created their avatar, they can navigate the online world and complete adventure quests, adopting pets and creating dens along the way. During their missions, children will collect real-world facts in their “Journey Books” and have a chance to talk to real scientists through the game, such as marine biologist Tierney Thys and herpetologist Dr. Brady Barr. What a perfect way to capitalize on a child’s love of animals and gaming as a learning experience!
Of course, there is a social element to Animal Jam as well; children can talk to their friends via the game, with parental controls on all chat settings and full transparency for adults to monitor their child’s activity in the game. Animal Jam also regularly produces content regarding online safety and appropriate conduct, which is another helpful learning experience for its players. The game is totally free to play; and if you want to give your gamer more options, there are memberships available which unlock more characters and options; a portion of every membership fee goes to National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative.
And when you’re ready to log off, you can take the fun offline by checking out the free, fun activity sheets available on the Animal Jam Academy page. After seeing all the clever fun at the Academy, I felt inspired to create my own Animal Jam themed craft activity!
This is a simple, fun 3D exploration for children that will get them seeking out shapes around the house in order to create a sticker of their favorite Animal Jam character. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Foamies Multicolor Sticky Back Foam Sheets
- Felt tip pen
- Household items for tracing shapes: Spoons, glasses, wrenches, etc.
The idea here is that you’ll encourage your child to pick an animal to create, then look around your house for objects which they can trace onto foam to replicate their shape. We chose a tiger and used a large spoon, wrench, and pliers as our guides:
This will get your child thinking about shapes and how they relate all around us, making this a fun little scavenger hunt as well as a craft! We used this large spoon to trace an oval shape similar to the face of the adorable tiger from Animal Jam.
The shape of the crescent wrench worked great for the ears!
The space in the pliers made a great nose.
Using the outline of the scissor handle, we created a pair of eyes.
Each of these foam sheets has a sticker backing, so you can layer multiple colors on top of each other without having to use glue.
Use a felt tip pen to add any finishing touches, such as a smile – which you can also trace using your spoon! – then cut out the shape from the sheet.
And hey presto! Your sticker is ready. Simply peel off the backing and place on any surface that could use decorating!
For more educational activities both online and off, be sure to visit Academy.AnimalJam.com.
What projects have you been doing with your children this summer?