The best child education sites

Dr Kristen Widdowson offers her pick of the learning websites aimed at younger children.

The best sites let children have fun while they’re learning (Photograph: iStock)
The best sites let children have fun while they’re learning (Photograph: iStock)

My sons (four and two) will very soon understand and navigate IT systems much better than I can. I am good with computers. I can make stats programs work and have built a website. They, however, will be better.

When our eldest was an only child, we logged into the preschool BBC website, CBeebies. He particularly liked playing the games. Eventually, he could use the laptop instinctively and loaded up new games intuitively and independently.

This led to several thoughts: let's block one-click shopping and back up our photos, and how can I make this a nourishing activity?

Best for preschoolers

We worked through numerous websites. I dislike the sites that are glorified adverts. Several have only basic games such as hangman and picture reconstruction. I enjoy doing puzzles and jigsaws with our sons and cannot see the benefit of doing this online. But here is my pick of what we have found to be the best sites for preschoolers.

There are many educational sites, which provide an excellent introduction to phonics and letter recognition. They are all categorised into key stages and have attached tweets, blogs and parent chat forums.

bbc.co.uk/cbeebies is hard to beat. It's not especially educational, but that can be a good thing. The games are lovely and often have a choice of levels. Keyboard options are easily accessible for the little one who has yet to figure out the tracker pad if you have no mouse.

readingeggs.co.uk captivated our son. Each chapter is called a lesson but, crucially, more than other sites, they felt like games to him. The site's 'playroom' is aimed at three- to four-year-olds and there are different steps for children up to 13 years old.

Early lessons start with individual letters, their sounds and shapes. Various activities introduce words beginning with that letter and each lesson ends with a storybook reviewing the letter. Word families, such as words ending in 'ad', are introduced later.

You have to pay for a subscription, but there is a free trial to see if it's right for your child first (see box).

READER OFFER

Reading Eggs is offering GP readers an extended free trial. You can receive a five-week trial, as opposed to the usual two. To claim this, register at readingeggs.co.uk and add the code UKF24DCT. The code expires on 31 March 2013.

oxfordowl.co.uk is a more serious, though friendly, site designed to support adults teaching children to read with many free e-books and a useful tabulated phonics illustration.

edplace.com is another educational resource for parents, offering a science section in addition to the standard English and maths. Again, you need to pay for a subscription, and various options are available.

EducationCity.com was bought by my son's school. As well as the phonics games, this site is also geared towards lessons about citizenship and understanding the role one has in one's family, society and the world. Given that we are all doctors with a social conscience, the psychology here interests me.

I have also stumbled across many apps for children, but comparing these would need a separate review.

  • Dr Widdowson is a GP in Birmingham

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