Seeing my son improve as a writer–and enjoy writing…These are the heart of my homeschool goals this year. So when Night Zookeeper approached me with their Online Language Arts Curriculum I was definitely intrigued…My little guy is 10. In a nutshell–he has very high verbal skills but initially struggled with reading. And now that we’ve got that major hurdle under his belt, it’s time to make a push for stronger writing skills. After 18 years of homeschooling, I’m totally sold on play-based, child-directed learning…And Night Zookeeper embraces those same ideals! It’s not always easy to make core subjects (especially writing and grammar) feel like play…So I was curious to see how this online platform encourages adventure, imagination, and confidence in young writers.
**FYI…Night Zookeeper provided me with a subscription to try their product, and they are sponsoring this post. As always–this post reflects my personal experiences and is 100% my opinion! I’m excited to share with you why we enjoy Night Zookeeper–and how I think it works best for homeschool families!
What is Night Zookeeper?
Night Zookeeper is an Online Language Arts Learning Game Platform for kids ages 6-12–with a heavy emphasis on writing skills.
Parents adjust the difficulty levels from a parent dashboard and are able to monitor progress and control privacy features. (We’ll talk more about that in a bit!)
Kids log in (with totally random and anonymous usernames) and work through engaging games, videos, activities and writing assignments that move them through the Night Zoo. Along the way they create creatures and continually discover new parts of the zoo.
The program covers a full language arts curriculum–but often is used as a supplemental tool (which is how I prefer to use it).
Let’s start by laying out all the Pros and Cons–and then dig into the details and logistics. (I’ve got lots of screenshots–so you can get a feel for the program.)
Night Zookeeper Pros…Lots to Love:
Very Safe and Private…
This is a really big deal for me…I don’t let my kids play on nearly any online platforms. (Unfortunately I had some bad experiences with my older kids when they were young. Suffice it to say I’m ultra cautious.)
I was worried the game play would require chat features…But nope! I was so pleased to find out that there are no chat rooms, no chat features, or any personal conversations.
In the parent control area, I’m able to decide who (if anyone) can see my kids’ work. I feel really confident and comfortable with the safe, positive environment that Night Zookeeper prioritizes.
I’m also thankful for the built-in anonymity…All of it put my mind at ease.
I love the read-aloud features! Nearly every piece of text has the ability to be read-aloud to your child!
Obviously this is huge for young students and developing readers. They can navigate the Night Zookeeper program independently–such a great confidence booster! BUT I also love it for kids who already read independently–they become stronger by seeing the text and hearing it read aloud. In addition–my kids were literally tickled pink when the computer read their own stories back to them–super motivating!
Wide Variety of Games, Stories, Videos, and Activities
Night Zookeeper does an excellent job of providing an open-ended learning “adventure.” Kids are truly exploring as they move through this new imaginary world! I’m amazed at all the choices–games (like Volcano Word Hop), Writing Adventures, Challenges, Drawing, and Video Lessons…Kids work through the activities as they create their own zoo and occasionally fight the evil “voids”.
Guided Writing Practice–Gentle and Creative
So how does the actual writing piece work? Night Zookeeper provides interesting stories and invites your child to participate with gentle prompts. An open ended question is asked–and then the beginning of the answer is often provided. Your child simply finishes it! (No wondering how to get started!) Ultimately this gives your child some beginning sentence structure–which is so much less intimidating than a blank screen! (And it’s a great model for answering questions in a complete sentence.) Sometimes my kids were instructed that they needed more words…
What I also found so helpful were the very targeted writing goals. Once your child begins working on a story or report–a few small goals are provided. For example:
1.Use 2 verbs.
2. Write 40 words.
3. Use the word “grumpy”.
This makes the writing so much more manageable and less stressful.
My kids are so excited to get feedback from someone other than me!
One of the most exciting features of the Night Zookeeper is tutor feedback! After your child submits a writing assignment, they receive personal feedback from a tutor.
Now don’t expect this to be detailed teaching! It’s very brief–but positive encouragement with a few constructive things for your child to work on or consider. My kids LOVE it!
Here’s an example of my child’s writing and the feedback from a tutor, Night Zookeeper Niki:
I wasn’t expecting this benefit…but my kids are growing their computer skills! We play Night Zookeeper on our family laptop–and my kids don’t have a lot of experience with it…It’s been a great opportunity for them to practice typing and controlling the mouse! The online drawing tool is a big hit–my kids love seeing their creations come to life!
More Than Just Writing–So Many Language Arts Skills
Night Zookeeper covers: reading comprehension, listening skills, spelling, writing, grammar, vocabulary, and typing!
Some of these skills are specifically taught, while others are practiced in context of the games.
The graphics, sound, stories, game experience, characters, etc…All of it is done very well.
My readers can check out Night Zookeeper for 7-day FREE trial and
Here’s my link to learn more details & sign up! (No coupon or codes are required!)
Cons…(More Like Things to Be Aware of)
Requires Typing Skills (and my kiddos have none)
To really be able to work through Night Zookeeper independently–your child will need to having some typing skills. My 10 year is a strong reader–but not an independent writer, and he needs me to type a lot of his work.
And as for my twin first grade girls–I am absolutely doing the typing and writing!
However–this HAS provided new motivation to learn typing!
High Level of Difficulty
Personally I think the grade level skill expectations of the game are VERY high!
I needed to come down several grade levels for all my kids–and that’s even with me doing most of the typing for them. I simply feel like subject matter and vocabulary are beyond “typical” grade level expectations.
Thankfully–you can easily change your child’s grade level in the parent controls! (And your child doesn’t need to know what level you set it at–it’s totally private in the parent page.)
Now this won’t bother some of you two bits…But it’s worth noting that the Night Zookeeper was developed in the UK–and has a decidedly British flair!
My own kids adore English accents. (Who doesn’t?)
(In fact, my twins have a wonderfully weird habit of talking like Hermione Granger from Harry Potter…all.the.time)
Beyond the English accent, your kids will encounter a few cultural differences in terminology. For example, a flashlight is a key part of the game–and called a torch.
In general, none of the language/culture differences should cause your kiddos trouble–just something to be aware of.
How to Use Night Zookeeper in Your Homeschool:
How I recommend using Night Zookeeper–and WHO might benefit MOST…
A great supplement to any language arts program!
So instead of doing the regularly scheduled spelling, grammar, typing, writing–this is a great way to mix things! Night Zookeeper days will make “school” feel like play!
Night Zookeeper suggests that kids work in the program at least twice a week–and that fits perfectly into our homeschool!
I asked my son if he’d be okay doing Night Zookeeper for “school” a couple days each week–and his answer was a very quick, “YES!!”
If you’re an Unschooler–this may be a perfect match!
If you have older children (or a Mother’s Helper or even Grandma)–Night Zookeeper is a very simple activity they can do with your child.
It’s almost impossible for other people (especially an older kid) to jump in and teach most of my other homeschool curriculum! But because this simply requires playing the game together and acting as “scribe”–it’s the perfect activity for someone else to help your child with!
Easy Way for Dad to be Involved!
Dad can also jump in and just start playing–zero prep necessary!
Perfect for Winter/Christmas Break & Summer Break
Gifted Kids Will THRIVE
If you have a gifted child–the one who just can’t get enough. The one you’re always trying to challenge…The one who loves reading and writing…This program will totally engage them!
For Independent Work–the program is best for upper elementary kids.
My first-grade twins love spending time playing the games with me (and they really love making the computer pictures)–but this is not a program they can use independently.
Even my ten year old–he can work independently…But because he’s a struggling writer, he needs my assistance. He’s just on the edge of independence…
If your kids can write independently and type well–they will be able to enjoy the program without much help.
And FYI–Night Zookeeper also offers an Adventure Book Series and Publishing Opportunities!
Give Night Zookeeper a Try…
I’m so delighted that Night Zookeeper is offering my readers 50% OFF (and a 7 day free-trial)–Here’s my link if you missed it above!
might just be the simple and fun activity to get your kids more excited about writing!
(And get you through the long homeschool winter!) It will definitely add some playful, creativity to your homeschool day!
Please let me know if you have any questions!
I’m cheering you on always!
P.S. If you’re looking for extra help with reading practice–get extra tips in my post: How to Help Your Struggling Reader.