There are so many sites on the web, it's hard to know where you should and shouldn't let your kids go. Allowing your children to surf the Internet can be nerve-racking, especially when simply clicking on a seemingly innocent link can lead to an array of problems: a mass of pop-up windows, spam, viruses, and worst of all, exposure of your little ones to inappropriate material.
Fear no more -- here is a list of 10 sites that are not only kid-friendly, but kid-cool, too. They are full of interactive games, activities and projects that will keep your children busy for hours. Many of them are award-winning, and even educational, (but shh, don't tell the kids.)
* Please note: parents should still be aware of where their kids are surfing, and they may even want to check out the sites with their kids the first time they visit to make sure the content is appropriate.
1. Story Place - The Children's Digital Library
Visit this award-winning site with your kids for some interactive online reading. Featuring original stories divided into two library categories, pre-school and elementary, all of the stories also offer a related educational activity for the kids to do after reading or listening to the story. There are also activities for parents and reading lists filled with recommendations for similar books your child may want to read.
Bonus: Don't forget to check Story Place's sister site, Book Hive for more online reading adventures.
Do you have a young budding artist in your midst? This website is described as a "unique approach to the traditional art class." This interactive site introduces children to Doodle, a 3-D animated art teacher, and his pals who give basic art lessons. There are simple drawing lessons, doodle and paint pads, as well as an online art gallery for displaying masterpieces.
UpToTen.com is a website created for kids (up to the age of 10, as you may have guessed) by two parents who were inspired to create a kid-friendly website when their daughter was born so that she could enjoy it as she grew up. The interactive site has over 700 educational games and activities so your kids are sure to find something they will love. With this website in your browser's favourites or bookmarks section "I'm bored" will be a complaint of the past.
Note: This site encourages parents to get involved in their kids surfing by opening an account (absolutely free, no obligations) that gives more information about the site and its content, as well as subscribing them to the UpToTen.com newsletter.
4. Kaboose: Kids Domain
This is one-stop web entertainment for kids ranging in age from pre-school to pre-teen. Kaboose's Kids Domain is divided into two age categories, one called Funschool for kids in preschool and elementary school and another called Zeeks for kids aged 9-14. Funschool features everything from puzzles, board- and arcade games to educational activities that will keep your kids learning and having a blast in the process. Zeeks also offers a great selection of games, plus celebrity gossip and moderated messages boards so that your teen can get involved in a safe online community.
Note: Parents can visit Kaboose.ca for family resources and fun.
5. CBC Kids
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation boasts a website for kids of all ages. Check out the preschool page for five fun games, plus contests and information about your toddlers' favourite CBC programs. For kids in elementary school levels visit the after school page for unique educational games such as Yard Trix, an interactive skateboarding game, and Spy Net: Lockdown, a game that will have your child breaking codes, tracking satellites, and dodging lasers to protect Net HQ.
6. Kids World
This is an information site for your school age children. They will get the 411 on all of the current events and issues that are relevant to them -- from sports and entertainment to health and style. Site highlights not to be missed are: the Brain Candy channel featuring cool science news and facts, book reviews, road trip advice and an arts section. Also worth a click or two is the Me channel devoted to helping your child to look, feel and be their best.
7. Creating Music
Get your child to make beautiful music with this online composition site. Fun for kids of all ages, actually fun for adults of all ages too, CreatingMusic.com offers activities and games that teach visitors about music and how it's made. The site is completely interactive and allows visitors to compose their own instrumental music on the Musical Sketch Pad or with a Rhythm Band. It also teaches kids how shapes can change musical contours and it features fun games with sound. This is great for kids who aspire to be musicians, and even those who don't.
8. Canadian Geographic Kids
Summer vacation doesn't mean your kids should stop learning. Clicking around CG Kids is a great way to disguise learning over the summer break. Your kids can find out interesting and weird facts about Canada, check out cool maps and get the lowdown on upcoming episodes CG Kids'. They can also share stories and pictures of their summer adventures with other CG Kids across Canada in the Interactive channel.
Note: Parents may want to add the Homework Help channel to their favourites or book marks, as this is a great resource for children studying geography.
Funology's motto is "the science of having fun" -- and that's just what your kids will have when they visit this site. While clicking and exploring channels such as Brain Drains (quizzes, brainteasers, optical illusions and more) and The Laboratory (at-home science experiments) your children are sure to find an activity or game to keep them busy. Kids can also share their favourite recipes in The Kitchen and jokes in the Tummy Ticklers channel. They also won't want to miss the Abracadabra channel filled with magic tricks to wow family and friends.
10. Canadian Living Kids' Crafts
Keeping little hands occupied is easy with the Canadian Living kids' crafts channel. You'll find projects and crafts for every age and every season. And if you run out of room on your fridge and mantel for all of those works of art, check out these links for some unique ideas for preserving your child's creations: Cup and saucer and Making a doll out of a cartoon.