PBS has launched a site that’s currently in beta, called PBS Kids Play. It’s geared for children ages 3 to 6. There are educational games and activities to teach math, science, literacy and language development.
The site won’t have ads (although there will be messages from sponsors) but will make money with a subscription-based model.
The site will have a pre-school and kindergarten curriculum and feature popular PBS characters including Curious George and Bob the Builder. You can sign up for a free trial though it’s unclear how long the trial lasts. A subscription will cost $9.95 a month, or $79 a year. There won’t be chat or interaction between kids.
They have progress reports, and thankfully, parents can limit how long children can access the site.
PBS Kids Play joins other sites aimed at kids. They replace the educational CDs that you can get in the mail. Disney has a site called Playhouse Disney Preschool Time Online that you can get free for seven days, after that it’s $10 a month or $50 a year. Another site is called JumpStart World and it’s priced by the download.
Update: I recently got an email from Ben Grimley, who is the senior director of PBS Interactive. He assured me that PBS KIDS PLAY! does not have sponsorship messages or ads. The site launched on March 18, 2008.