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Ten Great Web Sites for Young Children

The Internet offers many great resources-- and the preschool and early primary years are not too early to introduce kids to the Net. What's out there? How do people find it? This week, Education World offers ten well-designed sites that will make the classroom "an exciting and vibrant environment."

"Good teaching and the Internet forge a powerful combination for learning," Joyce L. Morris, Ed.D., writes. "More than any other tool, technology can do more to transform the classroom into an exciting and vibrant learning environment." Morris teaches technology at the University of Vermont.

Learning opportunities on the Internet seem endless. Young children may hunt for hidden letters and color them in, play interactive games or read interactive stories, submit original stories to other sites, and communicate with kids in classrooms around the world. The Web sites below are a small sampling of what the Internet can offer young kids. Any one of the sites might contribute to a lively and exhilarating learning environment.

Preschool Playground
For most children, the Sesame Street characters signal fun and learning. Preschool Playground's online activities foster reading, math, thinking, social skills, and health and safety. "These activities, based on the instructional goals of Sesame Street's 30th season, are designed for parents and children to enjoy together." Under Parents, click the Parents' Guide to Learning for tips on helping children interact with the activities and for books children might enjoy. The tips encourage online and offline exploration and learning.

Alphabet Activities and Playthings
Alphabet Activities and Playthings gives preschool children the opportunity to "play to learn" with characters from their favorite TV shows. Children learn the ABCs with poems that introduce new pairs of letters, hunt for hidden letters and color them in, and learn picture reading by choosing the correct picture to complete a sentence.

The interactive format of StoryPlace helps make it a site preschoolers will enjoy. Children learn beginning reading, counting, and coloring skills while participating in activities based on five themes: colors, teddy bears, crocodiles, animals, and monkeys. Each activity includes an interactive story, an online activity, a take-home activity, and a reading list for parents or teachers. The free Flash 4.0 plug-in delivers the stories and activities in multimedia and sound. Children will find navigation quick and easy. The site developers plan to include early elementary activities in 2000. StoryPlace is the Web site of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Birmingham Zoo
Kids can search this site for information about animals and their habitats, or they can download movies and pictures of more than 2,500 animal species. Children may play interactive games, complete online coloring pages, or ask questions of the zookeeper. The Animal Omnibus online database provides links to other animal information sites. The Birmingham Zoo was named an Education Index Top Site.

PBS Kids
PBS Kids is the online site where kids can interact with their favorite PBS characters. Geared for kids aged two to 12, the site offers various levels of interactivity. To meet the technological needs of all the viewers, the site is balanced between high-end games that require special plug-ins and simple html (hypertext markup language) games for almost every browser. "PBS Kids also encourages learning to continue after the computer is turned off by providing offline activities and suggestions for other creative play." PBS Kids has more than 1,400 lessons and activities developed by teachers for teachers. These materials cover the arts and literature, health and fitness, math, science and technology, and social studies.

The KidsPsych Web site is designed to help children develop cognitive-thinking and deductive-reasoning skills while they have fun. Those skills are taught by a series of activities for children aged one to five or six to nine. Each game has information about its objectives and refers parents or teachers to related research studies that may help them understand children's development and cognitive-thinking abilities. A link to Magination Press provides information on books written to help children deal with the problems of growing up.

The White House for Kids
Led by White House pets Socks and Buddy, the White House for Kids gives children basic information about the location and history of the White House, past presidents, and children who have lived in the White House. The site is crammed with facts. Kids may chuckle with Abraham Lincoln's son, Tad, who discovered how to make all the White house bells ring at the same time. Even little-known facts about the White House should interest children. Did you know the White House has 32 bathrooms, 412 doors, six floors, and two basements? A map locates other important buildings and monuments in Washington, D.C. The site may be more appropriate for second- or third-grade children, but younger children will benefit too.

Dino is all about dinosaurs, and much of the information is appropriate for primary-grade children. The site is devoted to information and news about dinosaurs of all sizes and shapes. Children view pictures of dinosaurs in the Dinosaur Art Gallery. (Kids are invited to send their drawings to the Web site for the kids' art page.) Twenty-three quizzes test students' knowledge of dinosaurs. Links to the University of California Museum of Paleontology at Berkeley, Dinosaur Cartoons, and dinosaur exhibits, plus a Discovering Dinosaurs video add to the value of this site. Don Lessem, the creator of Dino, is the host of the traveling dinosaur exhibits The Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and The Lost World.

Kids' Space
At this Web site, kids view artwork from children around the world and submit their own. In addition, children may read stories written by other kids, submit original stories, or listen to music composed and performed by children. Kids may also communicate with pen pals through e-mail. This site has generated an international following and has received more than 50 awards for excellence.

Wesley Sharpe, Ed.D.
Education World®
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Updated 08/04/2005