Secret Builders is announcing today an online virtual world with educational games for children. This world lets kids create two-dimensional avatars, or virtual characters, and play about 30 different mini-games spread throughout the different territories of the site.
The company hopes to differentiate itself by weaving themes of creativity and cultural literacy into the games. Game sites for this demographic are popular right now, particularly since Disney bought Club Penguin last year for $700 million. The site is the inspiration of Umair Khan, who founded the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company in January 2007.
Khan was a math teacher before he went back to school at MIT, where he enjoyed associating with creative writers and literature majors. In this way, the site is built to reassure parents, who can take heart that their kids are learning something while goofing off on the site.
Membership is free now, but the site will introduce premium subscriptions over time and let members use real money to buy virtual goods. Khan said that the company is open to product placement and advertising, but in some circles targeting kids with ads is frowned upon.
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Any third party products, brands or trademarks listed above are the sole property of their respective owner.No affiliation or endorsement is intended or implied. In doing so, it joins a bunch of rivals going after the kids online game market, from Zookazoo to Club Penguin. The games are entertaining but don’t necessarily stand out from other Flash-based online sites for kids.
Kids can stumble upon art, science and math facts built into the site’s images and games. He became an entrepreneur, but after he got married and raised three kids, he decided to focus on ways to promote creativity for children. It’s not clear to me that a site like this one, without a big investor or mothership, is going to stand out. Still, the site has created joint activities with Art in Action, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, WildPlanet Toy Company and StoneSoup Magazine.
And the art style isn’t anything special for those who have toyed with Webkinz or Neopets.
President” contest, in which players submit a photo and extended caption addressed to president-elect Barack Obama about an issue important to them.
The idea is to make literature and other educational topics come alive through virtual worlds.

That will certainly slow down communication as the site grows, but it’s a pretty solid way to filter out inappropriate material. It’s good that Secret Builders is trying to shoot for something that parents will prefer over sites that have no educational value.
The Flash-based site includes popular art and writing contests, a kids magazine and room-building tools.
Arianna Huffington (her avatar, to the left) has agreed to publish the winning submission on The Huffington Post on President’s Day. After a couple of months of testing, the site has 5,000 members in 27 countries — all through word of mouth. The first time your kid hears about King Lear might be through a cartoon character in Secret Builders, Khan said. But it could be hard to convince anyone to pay for it when there are so many free sites out there.
They may not know it, but they will be painting over a famous piece by a well-known artist. Another direct competitor coming soon is Knowledge Adventure, which is making a kids online world based on its educational game brand.

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