12 Fun Kids' Websites for Play and Learning
Let the kids surf soundly on these awesomely academic sites!
Your child is online already, so why not choose kids' websites that make entertainment educational? There are plenty of sites out there that are great for kids -- you just have to point them in the right direction. Matt Bergman, M.Ed., technology educator, dad and creator of the Learn Lead Grow blog, agrees, noting that technology provides children with customized learning experiences and valuable problem-solving experiences.
If you're wondering what websites pack the most educational punch, fan the flames of fun, help with homework or are the safest when surfing, check out these ideas!
"Teachers and parents should opt for academic gaming that fosters higher order thinking skills, such as games centered around planning, reasoning, problem solving and critical thinking, rather than specific content," suggests Alison Amato, elementary computer teacher and creator of the blog Technology Kidz. And when it comes to virtual world sites, the Federal Trade Commission suggests choosing ones that are specifically intended for children.
- Club Penguin
It's a virtual penguin-filled world that's just for kids. Not only can your kids have fun interacting with other penguin fans in their own crazy cool world, but the site features online safety tips for kids! This particular site requires a subscription to play, but there are plenty of free options out there.
Your child creates a "Poptropican" who travels through the virtual world. The free levels of this online game require problem-solving and critical thinking to master.
- Moshi Monsters.
Adopt a monster (the friendly kind), socialize with virtual friends and solve puzzles in the free community. Like Poptropica, it's free to play, but there's also a paid option.
- YouTube Kids
Yeah, the cats on YouTube are cute, but adult content abounds. Instead of standing over your grade schooler's shoulder as she flicks on videos, let her browse on YouTube Kids, which offers a safe, child-friendly online experience. With top kids' shows and tutorials geared towards children, YouTube Kids lets her view and you feel safe.
For Help With Homework
If you're looking for kids' websites that help with just about any school assignment, check out this one by the U.S. General Services Administration. From history and government to science, this website provides "Learn Stuff" links to every content area imaginable.
- Fact Monster
Your student can get help in geography, history, language arts, math, science and social studies, along with studying tips.
For Math Help
Keep an eye out for sites that incorporate video. "The power of websites to offer video instruction on particular topics can be very useful, especially if you're trying to help your child with some math homework, let's say, and don't know how they're doing it in the new math kind of way," suggests Sarah Vander Schaaff, author behind the blog The Educated Mom.
- Scholastic Study Jams!
Amato suggests visiting Common Sense Media for good website picks. "They provide an excellent online database where parents can search websites by name and read reviews on their overall quality, learning content and age-appropriateness." Ranked by Common Sense Media as one of the top educational helper sites for kids, Study Jams! has a math section that features number lines, whole numbers, expanded notation, integers and place value content. Each "Jam" has a cartoon video, key vocabulary and a "Test Yourself" section.
- Figure This!
From the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, this kids' website helps children enjoy math at home through "challenges." Look for notes on how each math concept is used in the real world, problems, solutions, related questions, resources and fun facts.
For Literacy Learning
- Storyline Online
The Screen Actors Guild Foundation presents this video-based site. Famous actors make equally famous children's books come to life through read-out-louds. Some of the famous faces (and voices) include Jane Kaczmarek, Haylie Duff and James Earl Jones!
From the ABCs to real reading, this site features interactive activities and games that foster literacy learning in a completely creative way.
For Artsy Kids
- NGA Kids
This is the National Gallery of Art's kids' zone. Your child can use "Brushster" to make abstract art (with a full-color palette, special effects and 40 different virtual brushes), decorate a 17th-century Dutch dollhouse and design animated portraits.
- Tate Kids
Skip across the pond to London's Tate Museum's Art Lab. Your child can create, play games and help restore virtual paintings.
Vander Schaaf suggests that parents check websites often. "Websites, unlike workbooks or even some apps, can change almost daily, so you can't assume that just because you've vetted it that it's the same content you looked at before." This helps to ensure safe surfing!
Want more ideas? Try these 7 Online Games for Developmental Growth.
Erica Loop is a mom, parenting writer and educator with an MS in child development. When she's not teaching, she's busy creating kids' activities for her blog Mini Monets and Mommies.
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