One of my concerns with my kids home for the summer was how much time they’d end up spending in front of the television or computer.
During the school year we don’t worry about it too much; at my son’s Montessori preschool there are no TVs or computers for the kids, so he was getting lots of “screen free” time, and at my daughter’s kindergarten she was on the computer most days, but mostly for educational things and in short blocks of time.
On Saturdays, though, getting to watch cartoons in the morning is a treat, and they love hanging out in front of the TV in their pajamas. While everyone needs a good pajama day every now and then, I don’t want that to be how they spent their entire summer.
So we’re playing around with how to limit screen time. Besides making sure they get plenty of time outside and that they have plenty of other interesting projects to work on, there will be times when some computer time is a good idea; if nothing else, there will be times when I just need them to be occupied for a while so I can get something done myself!
I’ve been looking for some great primary-level websites that I feel comfortable letting them use on their own, that give them chances to practice math, reading or other skills, and that they will think are fun.
My favorites so far:
Is there any list of recommended primary websites that doesn’t include Starfall? This site is focused on beginning reading skills, with stories like “Zac the Rat” that emphasize certain vowel and letter sounds. There are also some games that are just fun, like decorating a snowman or a jack-o’lantern, and that also provide opportunities to sound out and read words. We have several of the related apps on a tablet, which my daughter, especially, has enjoyed.
2) PBS Kids
My kids learned how to use a mouse because of the PBS Kids website, when they were about 2 and 3 (see picture above). There’s such a variety of activities on this site, including reading with “Super Why,” problem-solving with “Curious George” and science with “Sid the Science Kid” and “Dinosaur Train.” Back then, there were some games they could play on their own and others I’d help them with. Now, they can easily and happily explore and play on the site on their own.
Switcheroo Zoo is a site we’ll most likely use together, as there’s some great written information they aren’t yet able to read independently. My daughter, who loves animals and wants to be a scientist, will love the “Make New Animals” section. The graphics are great, and she’ll have a lot of fun exploring all the differences between the heads and legs and tails of different animals. We’ll also try the related app.
For my artsy crafty six-year-old, the Crayola website has a “Crafts” section with pictures are short descriptions of thousands of craft ideas. Clicking on a picture leads to more directions and more information. She can even save “Favorites.” This will be a great place to spark some creative project ideas on days when she’s wanting to try something new. I like that the crafts are organized by age, which makes it easier to find things she can do more independently.
For my 5-year-old, the Lego website has already been a source of inspiration this summer. There are videos and games for when he just wants something fun, and there is a Digital Designer and Galleries where he can create and share his own designs. I especially like the monthly challenges that each include directions for some new design he can build using his own Legos.