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Thursday, January 21, 2010

10 Great Websites for Young Children

I have recently found myself scouring for new and innovative indoor, quiet activities with which to occupy my children. We have barely left the house in the past nearly three weeks due to some logistics, some fairly cold winter weather, and now a stomach bug trickling through the house. Things 2 and 3 are the final victims of its wrath and have been at home this week, leaving my kids-in-house-activities creativity kind of tapped.

We've done puzzles. We've read fourteen thousand books. Twice. We've played board games. We've played endless tournaments of Gobblet (the best game EVER). We've done crafts. Built forts. Constructed tunnels. Watched movies. Played Wii. Played Leapster.

Learned how to levitate.

Okay, you got me on that one.

As the boys get older they are becoming more and more interested in the computer. Thing 1 is nearly six now and Thing 2 is four. I don't mind them spending a little bit of time online as long as what they are doing is somewhat educational.

Before letting them haphazardly schlep their way around the world wide web, I wanted to do some research on friendly, fun, and safe children's websites. I've compiled a list of sites that I have personally been to and have used with either Thing 1 or Thing 2. Here, in no particular order, are our top ten:

1.StarFall - this is a fabulous learning website for kids ages 3-6. It teaches basic reading skills through the learning of phonics and letter recognition, and Thing 2 just loves it. He spent at least an hour doing it today! It is fun, easy to navigate, colourful, bright, and has fun rhymes and music.

2. CBC Kids - needs no introduction. If you have kids and you live in Canada, then you have undoubtedly sat through an enjoyable morning with Patti and her clan, watching children's favourites like Busytown Mysteries, SuperWhy, the Doodlebops and Lunar Jim. The site is set up well and is neat and tidy - and there is an entire Preschool section with games and activities for the younger crowd. Thing 1 adores the games on the main site - they offer snowboarding, BMX biking, hockey and tobogganing. Fun for any age (literally, I sneak on there myself sometimes!).

3. PBS Kids
- another fun and educational site for children. There are loads of games to choose from, mostly in the preschool category, all based on popular children's show characters - Caillou, Clifford, Curious George, etc. There are lots of pictures and shapes to click on for pre-readers . . . this really helped Thing 2 before he started school. (And now he is starting to read - yay!)

4. Treehouse TV - very similar to the PBS kids site, and with some of the same TV characters. Thing 2 really loves this site, and so did Thing 1 for a couple years, but I have a few concerns. It is fairly jumbled on the home page and it is often really difficult to sift through the pages and pages of games to find what you want. It is almost overwhelming. The kids end up calling me in, frustrated, to find the game they want. Some of the Dora and Diego games are pretty cool, but they also hog a lot of computer resource too. They are ridiculously slow to load. I even had the laptop crash once. A simpler, more streamlined site would make Treehouse a little more appealing and user-friendly in my books.

5. Sesame Street - a great site for kids who are really into the Sesame Street characters. For some reason, mine are not. But the pages are very well set up - there is a "Muppets" section where you can click on any of your favourite SS dudes and VOILA - you're introduced to everything you've ever wanted to know about Elmo, including videos, games and a personal playlist!

6. Crayola - the makers of crayons, markers, and paint found in every kid's craft bin have put together an in depth and fabulous web site. I have always loved this site and often take ideas for crafts I do with the children from there. There is a "Fun and Games" section that is pretty neat - lots of colouring activities and some decent games for kids. I recommend the "Spouting Trout".

7. Nick Jr - this is like the twin sister of the Treehouse site - the American version. It is very similar except it is not as slow to load, and it is much easier to click on and choose games you want to play. There is even a great section that will take you right to the top five games. And you know Dora is right at the top of that list, right?

8. Learning Planet - this site is definitely for the older crowd (5+). It is a wonderful place to access interactive learning tools, activities and games - there is a lot of free stuff but for more detailed pages you need to become a member. And pay. There is an area for students, and one for teachers. The Alphabet Action and Monster Crossing games are two my boys enjoy - Monster Crossing takes a bit of addition and some reading skills, so I always sit and do it with them.

9. Fun With Spot - a fun and exciting experience if your children are Spot lovers like mine are! There are clean and easy to read tabs and labels all over this site. My kids particularly love to "Create a Spot Story" where they can build their own adventure and follow through their own story. The games are easy point and click activities with bright colours and music - and I'd say this is for younger kids but literally all three of mine enjoy this one!

10. Lego Club - Thing 1 has been a Lego Club member for some time now and also subscribes to the FREE magazine. He truly adores this site and would spend hours on it . . . if I let him. Thing 2 has more difficulty navigating the site and getting to the games - icons and labels are much smaller and more detailed, so this is probably a site for the 5 and over crowd. The boys love watching video clips of their favourite Lego adventures and even seeing some mega Lego constructions taking place. Just be careful your wee one doesn't click on the "Shop" icon if you step away from the computer for a moment!

If you are familiar with any other children's websites that you would like to recommend, I'd love to hear from you!

* I am not associated with or paid by any of these web sites. This is simply a list I composed on my own, based on my own opinions.


Wikki Stix – Crafts & Educational Tools for Kids said...

Great idea. Thanks for the useful post.

C! said...

Ohhh Shannon I'm so excited to have Gordon try out StarFall! That looks like something he's going to love, I'm going to introduce it after his nap today. THANK YOU! (and I downloaded the printables, so he can color and trace the letters too)

Rebecca said...

I'll have to show my son some of the other sites you mentioned! (we alerady like Nick Jr, Treehouse and CBC Kids)

We've been playing the Kids CBC Wonderworld trial and he really LOVES it

Anonymous said...

This is great! My 3yo is really showing an interest in computers too. Until recently I wasn't in favour of any computer time, but have since decided that computers are real life. They will be a big part of his life, so I've stopped holding him back. We've started to let him explore Sesame Street, Playhousr Disney and Treehouse. You've suggested some others that I think will be lots of fun to try out. Thanks :-)

BeachMama said...

Love these sites! We already go to quite a few, but the Crayola one and the Starfall one look really great. Thanks for sharing them.

p.s. although we are only on day 2 of houseboundness we are already running out of fun things to do that aren't on tv ;)

Finola said...

I like many of the sites you have listed. Another one our girls liked when they were small was though I see they are looking for money now, which is something new.

I also have to say I find the Webkinz and Build-a-Bear sites quite good, though there is a definitely marketing angle here which I understand is not for everyone.

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AK Alter Ego said...

You must try it is the favorite for my two of the same age. Miss you!!

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