We’re big fans of Night Zookeeper, a series of apps designed to inspire kids to read, draw, and create stories about animals. We first wrote about them last year, when their Teleporting Torch app came out. A few months afterwards, we also reviewed their spin-off app Story Pairs.
Recently, the developer contacted us about their website relaunch. More than just a facelift, the new website introduces a virtual community where parents can sign up their kids to receive drawing missions.
It’s an ambitious project that aims to get kids to become content creators instead of consumers. We spent some time exploring the site, completing missions and experiencing the program first-hand, and we can tell you it’s been great thus far.
Defend the Zoo
To enroll in the web app, you must first register your email address as parents. You’ll receive a welcome email, which contains a link to create your child’s profile. From here on, your child can take over to create their Night Zookeeper avatar, username, and password.
The backstory in Night Zookeeper is that the evil Lord of Nulth has declared a war on creativity and imagination. Your child’s task is to protect the zoo by drawing magical animals and items as prompted by the site, as well as completing tactical mini games. Some example prompts include “How does one draw the wind?” or “Can you draw me a badminton racket?”
Using the provided drawing tools, your child create their drawing on screen. Or, if they prefer, they can draw on paper and have it scanned in using a camera. The website is accessible on computers and tablets, so if you’re using the latter you can opt to use a stylus.
Once finished, the drawing will be submitted to the Midnight Market, where it can be seen and collected by other Zookeepers from around the world. In turn, your child can collect drawings from other kids in exchange for “orbs”, which is the game’s currency.
Although we say currency, there’s no need to worry about kids spending real money though. Orbs are collected by completing missions and sending drawings to parents, which happen safely through the site’s internal system.
The imaginative world of Night Zookeeper is currently divided into five regions, with more planned to come. Unlocking each region requires orbs, so the more your child draws the better. A neat feature in each region is an audio book that uses your child’s drawings in the story.
Parents Need to Know
Night Zookeeper is open for kids everywhere. You don’t need to pay to play, but if you become a Fan Club member you’ll get unlimited access to the website, a Fan Club pack in the mail, and weekly downloadable educational activities.
There are currently two membership options: you can pay £5 a month, or £27 for permanent access. The latter comes with a free t-shirt.
Oh, and take note: it’s one price regardless how many kids you sign up. So you can use the website with two or twenty kids, and it’s still £5 (or £27, depending on which membership option you choose).
One thing the developer stresses on is the safety of the platform. There is no chat, no ads, and no in-app purchases. Content is moderated by the developer team, and all drawing submissions are checked before they appear in the Midnight Market. Kids also can’t send their drawings to anyone other than their parents.
Things I Like
The new Night Zookeeper website provides a vast virtual world where kids can let their creativity loose. Compared to the iOS app, the website offers more activities and as a result, can entertain kids for longer periods of time. It is also accessible to kids anywhere without restricting them to a specific platform.
In terms of usability, the website is responsive and well-thought-out. Websites can be tricky because there are so many things you can do that break the flow, but Night Zookeeper does it right. Progress is always saved — you can close the site while doing a mission, and your drawing will be there when you come back.
Another example is the drawing tools, which are optimized for web usage. Filling in a large area can be difficult with a mouse, so there’s a shape tool that will help you get the job done.
Finally, the nicest thing about Night Zookeeper is how parents are included in the entire process. When kids send you their drawings, they get orbs. This creates a win-win situation: you’ll be able to monitor (and share) your child’s progress, and they’ll be happy to receive awards for their efforts.
Night Zookeeper presents a safe virtual community where kids can play, draw, and create stories. Dozens of creative prompts inspire imagination while improving literacy and problem-solving skills. Access to the website is free, but a Fan Club membership gets you weekly downloadable activities to extend your child’s creative experience off screen.
You can check out the Night Zookeeper website here.
Membership to the site was provided for our honest review.