If you’ve been around little ones a decent amount of time over the past decade or so, there is a solid chance that you’ve heard of the Early Learning Academy, and maybe you even have some experience with it.

ABCmouse is one of the better-known subscription-based programs for kids ages 2-8 to learn reading, math, art, and more through a progressive system. When I first used it with our oldest daughter some years back, the ABCmouse curriculum was topped off around kindergarten. Since that time, Age of Learning — makers of ABCmouse — have added additional levels that take the platform up through second grade. That means that kids can use ABCmouse to prepare for third grade.

Our youngest is in second grade, so she’s at the upper end of the ABCmouse curriculum. Level nine focuses on skills commonly taught in the first half of second grade, while level 10 focuses on skills that are usually taught in the second half. As I’ve seen her breezing through the levels, my overall thought is that she would’ve enjoyed this more had we purchased it for her early on. I actually think that she’s not challenged enough by the second-grade lessons, but she’s been continuing along through the “Step-by-Step Learning Path” because she is motivated by the gamification factor.

The progressive system encourages the successful completion of each task by rewarding the student with virtual tickets that can be redeemed by “shopping” a virtual small town. Kids can pick out furniture, toys, and other accessories to fill out their room (which starts out really plain), and they learn a bit about money along the way. They might be able to buy the 80-ticket bed, but they’ll have to earn more tickets and save up if they’d like the 200-ticket Treehouse Bed and Slide.

ABCmouse has Star Wars

One of the biggest benefits to be added to ABCmouse since our first experience with it is a robust library packed with hundreds of great books. Pop culture brands are a great way to grab kids’ attention and last summer Age of Learning made a deal with Disney Publishing to bring in titles from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars. Like many popular reading apps, kids can simply flip through the digital pages to read new stories. If they love the book, they can add it to their virtual bookshelf. Our 7-year-old was recently checking out the Star Wars selection (pictured above). What can I say? The Force is strong with her!

The one criticism I have is that the lessons interface might seem a little dated and clunky depending on the device. ABCmouse is available for iOS and Android, and we’ve also used it on PC and our Amazon Fire Kids Edition tablets. From what I recall, the interface is very similar to what it was five or six years ago. Because older kids may have experience with apps that are a bit more visually advanced, they might be turned off by the simplicity of it. And when using a laptop without an external mouse, the trackpad can be tricky to navigate.

Overall, I see ABCmouse as a valuable system, but if you’re going to subscribe, you should do it while the kids are little. I believe that there is a lot of value to be had, but kids may enjoy it better if they start at the bottom and work their way up.

For older kids ages 8-13, Age of Learning’s new Adventure Academy is worth a look. That platform is a curriculum-based system designed by a team that has experience working behind-the-scenes on World of Warcraft, Batman: Arkham UnderworldDungeons and Dragons Online, and Game of Thrones Conquest.

About the author

James Zahn

James Zahn

James Zahn, AKA The Rock Father, is Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, a Senior Editor at The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider, and Editor of The Toy Report, The Toy Book‘s weekly industry newsletter. As a pop culture and toy industry expert, Zahn has appeared as a panelist and guest at events including Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) Wizard World Chicago, and the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Zahn has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment, retail, and publishing industries, and is frequently called upon to offer expert commentary for publications such as Forbes, Marketwatch, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, and more. James has appeared on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, was interviewed by Larry King and Anderson Cooper, and has been seen on Yahoo! Finance, CNN, CNBC, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, CBS, WGN, The CW, and more. Zahn joined the Adventure Media & Events family in 2016, initially serving as a member of the Parent Advisory Board after penning articles for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family, PBS KIDS, Sprout Parents (now Universal Kids), PopSugar, and Chicago Parent. He eventually joined the company full time as a Senior Editor and moved up the ranks to Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief.