Adorable Online Community for the Kiddies

I was browsing through my most recent issue of Wired Magazine this week when I noticed an article about a new online community for kids. It’s sounded so cute, I had to go check it out for myself. And, I’m glad I did — it’s simply adorable!

I figured with us on the road in a little over a year, that a nice safe online place to socialize with people at or near her own age would be a real asset for Alex. So I checked it out. The place is called Club Penguin (www.ClubPenguin.com) and even if you don’t have little ones, you probably want to check this one out. I got hooked myself for awhile — and I’m not really an online gamer type.

The gist is that each person is a penguin. There is a free mode and a paid mode. The free mode is fun, but it hooked me quickly into paying the $5.95 monthly fee to give the full-featured version a twirl. I showed it to my daughter (who is nine) and my son (who is almost 17) and they both immediately wanted their own little penguins.

There are mini-games inside that allow your penguin to earn coins. These coins are used to buy clothing, accessories, backgrounds, furniture to decorate your own little igloo, and even little furballs (which remind me of tribbles from the old Star Trek) that your penguin can keep as pets.

You are limited on what you can buy as a free player, and some of the expansions include making your house bigger. I now have a month to determine if this is something we are going to want to do. The kids are loving it, and I’m getting pretty good at making virtual pizzas (that game/job pays more than the others I’ve found). I also fish.

There are two modes — a super safe mode, where the kids can only select from a word list to communicate with one another and a free chat mode, where you can talk to others openly. There are many safety features for the younger set and this is one place I would feel fine leaving Alex to play unsupervised. I think it’s a great idea, and only wish that some of the games were math, science, learning to type games and the like.

Earning points to decorate your virtual playhouse-igloo is something that will keep you online and playing — especially when people (penguins) stop by and comment about how barren your house is — and when you go to theirs, you see why — what with the disco dance floors, split level igloo, full stereo, plasma screen television, pets and toys and a full kitchen and dining room.

I had to sling alot of pizza tonight to buy my purple couch, my pets stuff, a candle, a clock and a fireplace. ALOT of pizza! But, now my igloo is “respectable” and cute, and my penguin has a couple skin colors and the traditional top-hat, cane and bow-tie. Isn’t it funny how even in the virtual world there is a level of expectation?

It’s addictive. You should try it.

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