Preschoolers love to learn and are so incredibly curious about the world around them. The internet can enhance this by offering games that make learning fun, and by letting them see people, animals, and things they might otherwise never get a chance to see. In the past couple of years, my now-five-year-old has been really engaged by these sites:
Okay, goofy confession time: I don't have cable and therefore don't watch television. But I still love the PBS Kids website, as does my son. The games section is excellent, full of tons of educational games – from reading and science to music and healthy eating – that your kids will love, even if they've never watched the original shows.
Starfall is a phonics-based learn-to-read site that, despite its somewhat cheesy animation style, is more than compelling enough for my son. More important, it actually works. The site starts with games oriented toward teaching younger preschoolers how to sound out the letters of the alphabet, then works up to progressive reading levels.
How Stuff Works
This site is a must-bookmark for every child going through the perpetual "why?" phase, and for every parent who wants to provide real non-dumbed-down answers. The content on this site isn't 100% kid-appropriate, so this is a site you'll want to navigate with your children, but that's fine. The information contained here will fascinate you as much as it will them, and you may be surprised at the complex concepts your kids are capable of absorbing. The collection of mini-documentary-style short videos is fantastic. (My son and I once spent an afternoon watching every video we could find about magnetism.)
You've probably already introduced your little one to the wonders of YouTube, but if you haven't, consider exploring this content-rich resource with them. Again, this site isn't always family-rated, so you'll want to be by their side, or consider creating a video playlist just for them. Some of the videos my husband and I have shown our boy: vintage Sesame Street, Rube Goldberg machines, lots and lots of animal videos, and this crazy animation featuring Ravel's "Bolero".
The photo equivalent of YouTube, Flickr lets you expose your kids to so many of the amazing wonders of the world. We do keyword searches based on whatever our current obsession is – spiders, native masks, cats, frogs, slime molds – and then click the "slideshow" option on the search results page. The resulting slideshow is always stunning and inspires us to learn more about the topic.
Do you have any favorite sites for kids? How do you and your preschooler use the internet? Please share in the comments!
(Image: Flickr member Fayes4Art, licensed for use under Creative Commons)