I remember a time in my life that as I closed my eyes to sleep, my brain reverberated with nursery rhymes, the alphabet song, and because I am a nerd and decided to teach my in-house kindergarten kid the periodic table song (yes, I see a psychologist couch in my child’s future), that one. When I was too exhausted to entertain a tiny being with incommensurate amounts of energy, I plonked my child in front of the computer (yes, I plead guilty) and opened a bunch of kids websites for her to navigate. I let her sing along with Boowa and Kwala, or explore the jungles with Dora, or learn science stuff with the Magic School Bus or navigate a few more kindergarten learning websites I had heard about from friends, family and google search. These were not only entertaining but were also educational websites that made learning so much fun.
The internet has exploded since then, and there is now no dearth of safe, informative, educational and entertaining sites for kids of all ages. While it is not a good idea to have the child spend too much time in front of a glowing screen, the digital domain is part of the child’s life now, and it may be unavoidable. In fact, research has shown that “early computer exposure before or during the preschool years is associated with development of preschool concepts and cognition among young children.” This means that there is now an additional responsibility for the parent/guardian to expose the child to good educational websites.
Here are some websites arranged in approximate order of age to which they cater, from toddler to older kids.
Lil’ Fingers Storybook: Toddlers love listening to stories, and if the stories come with big buttons and bright colours, so much more fun. The site also introduces the kid to reading, which, as is well known, is critical for brain development.
Leading to Reading: Designed for children ages 0-2 and 3-5, kids read, sing, play, and explore a variety of subjects and books, in English and Spanish.
PEEP and the Big Wide World: What is childhood without coloring activities? PEEP and the Big Wide World is a fun and interactive educational site for three- to five-year-olds with coloring pages, games, and offline activities for parents and kids.
Kindergarten and Preschool Games by Sheppard’s Software: The educational games are specifically designed with preschool and kindergarten children in mind. The games range in topics that include colors, shapes, numbers, and the alphabet.
The Kidz Page is packed with online coloring pages, jigsaw puzzlesm word games and special sets of activities and games for holidays.
Learning Games For Kids: Online learning games and songs for kids are fun, teach important skills for preschool and elementary school kids
KinderWeb Educational Games: Interactive games for young children, teach about money, colors, shapes and more that the child should know before embarking on the journey of kindergarten. I must admit, I paused at “money”!
Curious World: Meant for pre-preschool children, the site introduces the pre-schooler to math, reading readiness skills, and social skills.
ABC Activities: Helps the preschooler with alphabet recognition through a number of activities.
Learning Planet: With a variety of interactive games for young children, the kids learn to recognize the alphabet, gain math skills, and participate in word strategy games. A yearly subscription is required.
Starfall: An interactive site with online activities, books, and printable materials. Children can listen to interactive stories and play games to teach them beginning and ending sounds, as well as rhyming, word families, and sight words.
Agnitus: A paid site for a tablet-based learning experience for the little ones
Funbrain and Funbrain Junior: These sites mix educational content with games with interactive activities to foster the R’s of learning – reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. It also feature excerpts from popular books such as The Diary Of A Wimpy Kid.
Pigeon Presents! Starring Mo Willems’ Pigeon!: Children can play interactive games and meet Mo’s pigeon and other characters. The book guides also include posters and printable activities for children.
Mr. Nussbaum: Aimed at kids from preschool all the way to grade eight, the site provides games, and educational material in history, math, science, and much more.
Dance Mat Typing: “But my child does not know how to type”. Not true. Your child types better than you, but if you are unconvinced, Dance mat typing is an interactive site that teaches children how to type! Children can play typing games as they work their way from skill level 1 to level 4. The typing games are set to music and are appropriate for children of all ages.
ABC Mouse: A subscription-based comprehensive fun learning academy, infotaining children from kindergarten to grade 2, with animations, books, games puzzles, art and printables.
ABCYa: A site meant for children from kindergarten to grade 6, this site offers games in languages, arts, math, and more.
BrainPOP: A plucky robot and his friends teach kids about historical events, science and even the stock market. Stock market for kids. If that is not cool, what is?
Chillola.com, meant for elementary school kids, allow children from around the world to interact with one another and learn another language. Kids interact through sharing their works of art, poems, and more.
Funology: It is never too early to learn science. Even if you do not find the perverse joy in listening to your child lisp the hydrogen-helium-lithium song like some of us did, sites like funolgy can introduce the kid to fun scientific experiments.
Curious George: Curious George, the beloved monkey, will play along with the child through word puzzles, maze, math games and all that will keep the child entertained.
PBS Kids: This kids’ website allows the kindergarten child to interact with her favorite PBS characters (Clifford, Arthur, Sesame Street, etc). by playing interactive learning games. There is also information for parents about helping children learn at home, as well as transition to school.
Seussville: What’s childhood without some Dr. Seuss thrown in? Kids can learn about Dr. Seuss on his biography page and play games. There are also activity ideas for teachers and parents, and video clips of the colorful characters from Dr. Seuss stories.
Bubblesphere: The internet is rife with cute pictures of babies and toddlers squealing in delight at bubbles and the joy of bubbles continues. The bubblesphere site is full of recipes for making bubbles of all sizes and shapes.
Discovery Kids: Aimed at elementary school children, this site offers science-themed games and puzzles, as well as find answers to some of their most puzzling science questions, such as “Are bats really blind?” or “Why do we need trees?”
Sesame Street: Games, videos, playlists, and more based on the characters and shows on Sesame Street. Teachers can use this site to find video clips related to classroom topics and there are links for parents that provide a wealth of information.
Spatulatta: What is the best way to make a picky eater eat? Make him cook. This site teaches kids cooking basics and helps them try out new recipes built around certain types of meals and their favorite ingredients.
National Geographic for Kids: This is a site for elementary and middle school children and is organized by games, stories, videos, and activities about animals and countries around the world. This site is a great technology tie-in for science and social studies lessons.
For teachers and parents:
Kids Count 1234: A perfect resource for kindergarten teachers with ideas for activities and printable materials that can be used immediately in their classrooms.
Crayola: Yay, more coloring. Crayola.com also provides project ideas and printable materials for teachers. Featured on the site are coloring pages, craft ideas, games & fun, products and resources for parents and teachers. This site is perfect for parents and teachers of young children.
Little Giraffes: With monthly themes, ABC activities, story props, handprint calendar, math, book ideas, literacy, centers, word families, igloo, and sentence practice. Within each section are a number of ideas (including photographs) for kindergarten teachers. This sit is a must for early childhood educators!
Scholastic: Aimed at children of all ages, the site provides an incredible amount of information and activities for parents, children, and teachers. Children can also listen to interactive storybooks and
Kaboose: In addition to activities for children, including crafts, printable pages, and simple recipes, this site provides resources for parents and has special parent sections, including Parenting, Food, Crafts, and Just for Mom.
The above is a representative list of sites to start with. There are, of course a plethora of other sites you come up with using a judicious web search. There are online museums from all over the world, apps that help with math, science, and history, sites that trigger creativity in the child, age-appropriate videos for children and online libraries for children.
My kid is now a teenager, but I occasionally hear her hum the Boowa & Kwala song especially when caught in the inevitable crossfire between childhood and adulthood and I fall into nostalgia for that chubby child, clicking away at her mouse engrossed in the colors and sounds of the entertaining and educational website.
The sky is the limit now for resources for our children. How we use them makes all the difference and may indeed make a difference to their lives.