One Fun and Educational Reading Game Your Kids Will Actually Play

Family Matters on 11.04.11

Image: uKloo

With at least a dozen different learn-to-read products littering my shelves, I am practically a reading game guru. Unfortunately, at least half of them just sit there gathering dust because playing them feels like a blatantly eduational chore -- but there's a new game, uKloo (pronouced "you clue") that promises kids will learn new words and build reading skills without even knowing it. uKloo has won awards from Dr. Toy and Creative Child Magazine (among others) -- so I wanted to see if it was worth all the hype.

Our First Impressions

The game arrived (courtesy of Doreen Dotto, creator of uKloo) right as I was about to put my daughter to bed. We tore open the package and I quickly scanned the directions to set up our first game. Since my daughter is only five years old, we started with the level one cards (there are three levels included in the game).

I held the first clue card which read "Look in your shoe", and placed the second card in her shoe. The card in her shoe read "Look beside the T.V." I continued to place the three additional cards in the locations written on each, and then in the final hiding place I laid the "Surprise" card (along with a few chocolate chips). Then I then hung the picture helper -- a chart with words and images to help kids figure out the meanings of the words -- on my refrigerator and handed my daughter the first clue card. 

She was shrieking with delight as she ran from card to card, back and forth to the picture helper, figuring out words with minimal assistance from me. I was pretty impressed as I sat back and watched as she used the picture helper to read the clue cards. We played one more round and called it a night. As we walked upstairs to her room she asked if we could play uKloo every day. Even though I was pleased by her enthusiasm, I wrote it off as the initial excitement of playing the game (or maybe it was the chocolate chips).

My daughter has asked to play uKloo almost everyday since we first received it (more than two weeks ago). But I felt we needed to expand our testing pool, so last week I set up two different playdates and had the kids play the game while they were over. Instead of a chocolatey reward (I normally hate using food as a reward) I just told them we were playing a hide-and-go-seek game with a twist. The game was a hit with all the kids.

Why It Works

Most learn-to-read games and programs require children to sit still and pay attention, but uKloo keeps them moving. Dotto designed this game for her 7-year-old who was struggling to read -- and ending up in frustrated tears with more traditional methods. Sometimes necessity really is the mother of invention.

Teaching your child to read can be a long and difficult process and parents shouldn't underestimate the role they play. Kids who attend school need practice at home but may be tired of learning after a long day of sitting still-- which is why uKloo can be a valuable tool in sneaking more learning into your day. For me, as a homeschooler, the job of teaching my daughter to read falls solely on my shoulders and requires me to get creative in my teaching methods. I don't care how many awards a reading game wins: I just want to know if it works and if my child will enjoy it -- or if it will end up back on that dusty game shelf.

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