'JumpStart World': A 'Second Life' for second graders

Kids in the 'JumpStart World' virtual summer camp earn hero shields and gems for participation in an array of educational games.

JumpStart World\'s educational software is ideal for summer learning.

Summertime conjures visions of endless outdoor activities, but what protects a kid's brain from melting in the day's heat? JumpStart World, 2nd Grade (there's also a kindergarten version) is one of CNET Download.com's many educational software programs to keep students' brains sharp over vacation.

From the beginning, JumpStart World reminds me of a Second Life for second graders--the download and installation are lengthy, and slurp up quite a bit of memory. Users begin by registering, choosing an avatar, and entering an interactive 3D world replete with an orienting tutorial. The main difference is that kids go on "hero" missions at their virtual summer camp, earning shields and gems--the in-game currency--for following instructions, doing good deeds, and mastering fun games.

A peek at JumpStart World\'s educational 3D universe

JumpStart World is so colorful that my regular display seemed dull by comparison. The in-game characters are interactive and graphically appealing, and the logic, math, and word games entertained and engaged me. Games come in various difficulty levels and there's enough to do to keep kids occupied throughout the summer. Parents can also lend a hand helping kids, customizing the world with holidays and photos, and accessing progress reports from the Parent's Center.

I'll be recommending that my 7-year-old niece and nephew take a look. It just might turn out that virtual summer camp is all the rage at their real-world summer camp...

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.