Preschool and kindergarten learning was a few years ago for our family but I am still often asked about programs that are out there. PandaParents is one of those. This company send me three months, or “courses”, in PDF version of their program MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS.
PandaParents has a few basic ideas that guide their creation of materials. The company wants to promote learning that helps complex brain function. They focus on reading, writing, and STEM activities and building fine motor skills. They do this while working to decrease screen dependent learning and minimize rote memorization.
MESSYLearning is not about creating an area that looks like a tornado has gone through (though it might if your preschooler is anything like mine were at learning times at that age!). Rather MESSY is an acronym.
M – mixed subjects, integrated learning
E – engaging activities
S – simple steps
S – smart designs with creative learning
Y – Yeah! a new way to promote preschool STEM learning
Each course of the program has a book, a video, and a workbook. I received PDFs of each of these for three courses: A Jolly Jingling Journey, Mommy’s Baby, and Scotty Skunk Hears a Scary Sound.
A Jolly Jingling Journey – This is the story of Davy and his pets as they travel to the North Pole in search of Santa. After finding Santa, they have to find the reindeer. The story highlights words that begin with the letter J. Each page of the eBook and video have the words of the story at the bottom. There are several sentences per page, which is a bit much and a small font for this age group. Some of the concepts and ideas covered include:
- letter J
- seek and find/matching
- science of moving in snow and ice
This story has two videos. The first one focuses on the letter J. It is about 10 minutes. The second is the story to go along with the book. It is mostly the story being read, showing the storybook page and a few animations along the way. It is really quite long for this age at just over 38 minutes.
The workbook to go along with this is about 40 pages and is full color. It includes activities for
- story recall
- order, sequences
- animals and their tracks
- feelings and emotions
- and much, much more.
Mommy’s Baby – In this story, it is bedtime for Amanda. She doesn’t want to go to sleep but mommy goes through a story with her. The story is made up of the question “Are you mommy’s little ___________________?” and the answer, “I am your little __________________.” At the end of the story there are some “extra credit” questions that have the reader looking for how many of something can be found, looking for shapes, or answering a question about the story. The pages are nice and bright, with a large font that is easy to read and for the preschool student to see. There are just a few words on each page.
The video for Mommy’s Baby is right about the perfect length at around 5 minutes. It goes through the story and shows the pages of the storybook while reading it out loud.
The workbook for Mommy’s Baby is about 40 pages and is full color. The activities cover letters P, T, X, and B. It covers memory, tracing, patterns, and feelings. In science it talks about living vs non-living and all different kinds of animal tails and their uses. There is some matching, big/small comparisons, and shapes.
Scotty Skunk Hears a Scary Sound – Scotty Skunk is awoken from his winter sleep when spring arrives by a sound. What sound? The baby birds so he decides he must find a quiet place for his home. As he finds each new home, a new sound startles him and a new season finds him in a new place. This story teaches the letter S and touches on seasons, emotions, and transportation (train, tractor, sailboat, firetruck, etc.). It has bright pages with several sentences per page, written across the bottom of the page.
The video for Scotty Skunk is pretty long at about 32 minutes. It has some introductory material, like introducing the children and going to a classroom, that is about half the video before getting to the story.
The workbook is a 51 page file in full color. It covers
- S and H
- number sequence
- story sequences
- letter mazes
- animal homes/habitats
There are also some crafts in this workbook such as making a sailboat, painting, and creating a home for Scotty.
This is a bright, whimsical program. It covers a lot of material and has had a lot of thought put into each piece of the program. The integration of various concepts and subject areas helps students transfer information better and learn problem solving. Creating a book, video, and workbook also ties in a few of the different styles of learning. Adding in some physical movement activities would be fantastic.
I think this will appeal to many preschoolers but I feel much of the activity is too easy for kindergartners. At least in the way it is presented here. My girls were all beyond this material by the time they were 5 so I feel like this is a good preschool program but it would definitely bear looking at to see if it would fit your 5 or older student.
Also, consider whether this style of animation is right for your child. I had my girls look at it with me to get their thoughts on the animations and drawings since they help care for preschoolers on a weekly basis. I asked them whether they thought the children they work with would enjoy these. They felt like most of the children would not care for it; they felt the videos were silly and wouldn’t keep the kids’ attention. They thought some of the characters were somewhat scary to look at with their lopsided and unmatched eyes.
The workbooks are my biggest hangup with this program. I would not be able to justify printing these workbooks at a office place and we only have black-and-white here at the house. Many of these activities would not work as a black-and-white. Also, I would have to purchase sticker paper for some of the activities or make it work with a cut-and-paste approach. If I chose to print the workbook. But if I didn’t, I would need to do these at a computer screen which brings me to my next concern.
One of the big parts of PandaParents is wanting to get kids away from screens. As the program was presented to me, at this point, it does not do that. The book is a PDF, the video is online, and because I would not be able to print large parts of the workbook, I would need to do some of the activities with the child at a screen. This program would definitely work better as a physical product, rather than an online/downloadable program. I understand that is in the works.
There is much to be admired in this program and I think it fits a need. The themed story, video, and workbook is a great combo.
Some of the Homeschool Review Crew families had kids in the right age for this program and used it with them. Definitely go check out what they and their kids thought of PandaParents.