Summer’s coming, and if you’ve got a house full of kids it’s time to find some quality screen time for them.
Even pediatricians agree that a little bit of screen time each day is okay for kids.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children over 2 should be limited to 2 hours of “recreational screen time” per day. In our house, we try to limit recreational screen time to one hour per day, but because we homeschool our kids do a lot of educational work online. And they love it! Our kids race through their work so they can get to their computers.
Here are my picks for the best 10 educational web sites for kids:
1) Khan Academy
Every parent needs to know about Khan Academy. This entirely free website and not-for-profit organization is committed to “changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.” It’s incredibly easy to use, there are no ads, and it’s appropriate for any school-aged child.
There is a beautiful story about how this organization started, when a man wanted to help his cousin who was struggling with math. It’s now a global organization that is funded by donations from multiple big-names like The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Google.
Although Khan academy started as a math-learning site, you can now learn just about anything there. Your child starts with a tutorial and pre-test that designs a customized learning plan just for them. Kids are encouraged with reward “badges” when they complete work. Log in as a parent and start and account for your family. Kids can have individual usernames and passwords that all link to one parent’s email address. You can also just watch Khan Academy videos on YouTube without registering. There is no official Khan Academy app, but there are several people who have made apps using Khan Academy material. Oh, and grown-ups can use Khan Academy too!
Scratch is a free online tool designed by MIT to help kids learn programming. Kids design their own computer games, art, and applications, and then share them with the rest of the online community, so everyone else gets to try it! You child will get comments from real users about their game, and see how many people viewed their project. Most kids start by just playing other people’s games, and then looking at how they built the program. Before long your kids will be programming, too. Scratch is good for kids ages 7-adult. My son is long past me…
3) Google Earth (website and app)
Want your kids to learn geography and astronomy all on one site? Just let them go on Google Earth. There are no ads and it is free. My kids will spend several hours a day on Google Earth if I let them. “Mom, how come Red Square isn’t red?” my son asked the other day. You can zoom in and out on the Earth, and anything in the Milky Way. Through satellite imagery, maps, terrain, and 3D buildings our kids explore in detail all the points of interest of the whole world and space—the opportunities are limitless. My kids now educate me on dwarf planets and remote islands in Oceania.
4) Brainscape (website and app)
Brainscape is an online flashcard-based learning system that uses “an optimized version of spaced repetition” that they call “Confidence-Based Repetition.” They’ve used cognitive science to help maximize learning and retention. It’s free if you enter your own flashcards, or you can buy learning modules on just about any topic. Brainscape is especially effective for learning languages and memorizing facts. You can enter your flashcard content online and then use your mobile device to practice whenever you get a chance.
We use Brainscape for learning languages and it has really helped my kids more than traditional flashcards and drills, and they like doing it. I’m impressed with their customer service, especially for a free site. I had some trouble syncing my mobile app with the website, so I posted a note on their Facebook site. Someone answered my question in about a half hour!