Tuesday, June 23, 2015

SmartKidz Media (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

The kids and I use videos a lot in our homeschooling. For them, being able to actually see what we are talking about really drives the point home.  We recently were given the opportunity to review the SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers by SmartKidz Media which is an educational library of videos, music, games and ebooks geared for children of all ages. 
Playing videos on Kindle Fire
Smartkidz Media Library is a subscription based streaming website that offers various safe and educational options without questionable advertisements.  The library is contained on your internet browser so there is no software or downloads necessary.  The website says that streaming is possible to the Roku using the Roku's internet browser but this option is only available for those who own a Roku with browser capability. Mine does not so this option wasn't available to me. However, I was able to stream the website to my television using the LG Smart TV's Internet App on my television with no problem and videos ran smoothly.  I was also able to use my Kindle Fire and my children's Nabi DreamTab tablet to play videos without any issues.
There are so many aspects to the Smartkidz Media library.  First, it is very much like a Kids Friendly version of Netflix with various movie options that can be streamed to whichever device your watching on.  The video options available are educations with many videos about animals, nature, culture (some tribal nudity), science and history.  Videos are geared towards various age groups so whether your child is a toddler or in middle school, there's something they would enjoy.  My two youngest really enjoyed the videos on Nature's Miniatures and How Did They Make That videos while my teenage daughter really enjoyed the Cultural videos and watched all of them in one setting.  Videos are relatively short, about 30 minutes or less, making them perfect for kids with shorter attention spans.  There's even videos for Health and Fitness that includes exercise videos.
There are many selections in the library for parents with younger children. The Baby Signs section offers videos that introduce parents to the Baby Signs  program, as well as videos and printable rewards in regards to Potty Training.  All of my children are beyond the baby years but these videos are well done and would be great for any parent with small children looking for advice on these topics. 
Another offering from the media library is their collection of Mighty Ebooks. The Ebooks library is grouped together both by age (2-4, 4-6, 6-8) as well as by topic (story songs, Aesop fables, Mother Goose, Bible stories).  These books are Flash animated Ebooks and play as videos.  The "Easy Learning 4 Special Needs" section also has many Ebook offerings which give the option of the video "Read to Me" format or as an Interactive format. These books are designed to run on any computer or device that can run Flash version 10.2 or higher.
One of our absolutely favorite parts of the Media Library was the Music and Fine arts area.  With various choices as far as Classical, Cultural, Jazz and Blues and Relaxation music selections, we spent many hours listening to the options available.  Ashleigh found an appreciation for Handel, Bizet and Mendelssohn while Garrett usually opted for Mozart and Beethoven and we usually had to take turns picking out what to listen to in the background while doing other studies.   There is also a Karaoke selection of Children's favorites located in the "Read Set Sing" section. 
Some of the Classical Selections available in the Music and Fine Arts area 
Also available are the "Quick Find Study Guides" which is basically a Cliff Notes on various subjects. From Mathematics, English, Science and History, these are great for looking up a particular fact or theory and getting a brief explanation without having to wade through other information to find it.
There is also a nice selection of Flash based games in the Fun Zone section of the website. While these games are extremely cute, there were some minor glitches to them. My daughter quickly became frustrated with the Dress Up Divas game, which is a virtual paper doll, because each try at placing a article of clothing resulted in a message of "Opps, that's not right" or "Almost". No matter how carefully she placed the item, it never would fit properly to avoid the reprimand.
With as much as the media library currently offers, it's apparent that Smartkidz Media is working to expand even further.  There are currently placeholders in various areas of the website that promise new content is coming soon. Topics such as Living Skills, videos on actions sports and history and study guides for accounting and foreign languages all seem to be in the works.
I would really like to see SmartKidz Media develop it's own Roku Channel rather than try to rely on users streaming using a browser or screen mirroring.  Hopefully their marketing team has already considered this and are working on it as it would make this wonderful library much more accessible to it's subscribers.  Overall, this is a wonderful collection of videos and other media that kids will enjoy and with new content being added, will continue to offer hours of entertainment that I can feel comfortable with them watching. As with any videos, it is recommended that you watch the video ahead of your children just to make sure you feel the material is age appropriate, however.
Smartkidz Media offers a 14 day free trial to allow parents to try the Media Library. If you choose to continue using the media library after the 14 day trial, membership is $10/month of $99/year. There is no contract nor any cancellation fees if you choose not to keep the service.  
Smartkidz Media can be found on social media at both Facebook and on Twitter. 
SmartKidz Media Review

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