Being a former teacher of 4th-8th graders, and having technology as an area of focus in my teaching, I always search to find good educational sites for my kids to utilize for their “computer time.” I look for how easy the site is to navigate, how interesting it is to my kids (and me), and what educational value it provides. Here are a few sites that I found to have these qualities:
1. Sesame Street (www.sesamestreet.org)
There are many cute games on this site that are fairly educational. Both my kids around age 3 loved the sorting game with Zoe. I was so amazed at their skills. I had no idea they could even sort by color, size, or shape. Both my kids also practiced their alphabet letters with Elmo. They loved pushing a letter on the keyboard and hearing Elmo say it, and then they would watch to see what picture would come up that starts with that letter. I would also choose a letter for them to find on the keyboard (added difficulty and skill). There are some games on here “just for fun” too. I would let them choose one to play with me, then I picked the rest.
2. IXL (www.ixl.com)
This site is fabulous for grades Pre-K through 8th. It focuses on math standards and has fun drills/games for kids to work on their math skills. I love that you first click on the grade level you want, and then you can choose the topic. It basically breaks the topics down into sections like a textbook, but with interactive ways to practice skills. As a teacher, I think this is fabulous and would use it in the classroom if I were still teaching (now a stay-at-home mom). Lastly, you can also click on the State you live in at the bottom of the page, and it will tell you how the site aligns with State math standards. Very cool! A+ for this site.
3. Magic Keys – Children’s Storybooks Online (http://www.magickeys.com/books/index.html)
This site has storybooks for kids to read online from young readers to older readers. The stories are cute and illustrated. I especially like the stories with the volume icon on the side of them. This shows that the story can be read to the kids. It’s nice for beginning readers because they can follow along and read the words with the reader. A good site to help improve reading skills, and keeping kids interested in reading (and actually learning about technology as well).
4. PBS Kids (http://pbskids.org/)
Some of the games on this site are not as educational as others, but you can find some cute games for rhyming, spelling, math skills, and even science content-related games. The Super Why games are fairly educational, and I really liked the measuring game under the Dinosaur Train games. Another nice thing about this site, is that it states the learning goals/curriculum areas of study across the top of the screen as you click on each game. Kids also like this site because they can connect with familiar characters that they see on TV.
5. Sheppard Software (http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/web_games.htm)
I found this site while searching for a good website for my daughter to practice her States. It has games for State recognition, State placement, States and Capitals, etc. This site is good for 1st grade on up! Adults can even revisit their knowledge of the States if they need some brushing up on their facts. The site is very basic (not too many bells and whistles), but it’s easy to use and highly educational. I’m sure we will be using it for years to come!
Obviously, I love the fact there is technology available as a tool for kids to use in their learning, but I also feel that it needs to be used appropriately. “Computer time” should be limited for kids (just like TV time), and it is most effective when kids are supervised by an adult. Parents can help kids use the sites correctly, monitor how well kids navigate through the sites, and even use the experience to aid in additional learning for their kids. “Computer time” can be used as a nice bonding time with kids, and as the kids become more familiar with their favorite parent-approved sites, some freedom can be given as kids use programs like skill drills to reinforce learning. Have fun! Use technology as a tool for learning, not a babysitter!
* What are your favorite sites for kids?