Babies may be born with a cellphone in hand these days, but there's a big advantage to the fact that most kids are comfortable with technology by the time they can crawl. It's certainly important to protect kids from the dangers of the Internet, but at the same time, a significant portion of our children's education takes place online.
Half of America's kids under 8 have access to a mobile device like a smartphone, an iPod, iPad or other tablet. And before you start railing about kids and screen time, it's not all bad. Computers augment learning in the classroom and at home. Here are some of our favorite educational sites for kids:
1. Hooda Math
Hooda Math is a free online math game site that includes over 700 free math games. Founded by a middle school math teacher, Hooda Math has math games for all ages, K through high school.
Spatulatta is a culinary site for kids that offers easy, kid-friendly recipes and basic kitchen info, such as metric conversion tables and the correct way to slice an onion.
3. Mommy Maleta
Maleta is the Spanish word for suitcase. If you’re looking for an outside-of-the-box, kid-friendly look at the big world we live in, Mommy Maleta is a great site to check out.
4. PBS Kids
PBS Kids probably needs no introduction. It’s a great website chock-full of fun and learning. Also check out PBS Parents for great tips and activities.
5. Fun Brain
A variety of math, reading and just-for-fun games. Most of Fun Brain's games are in an arcade-style format. Kids can also read excerpts from popular chapter books, such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
6. Brain Pop
Count yourself lucky if your school district or library system gives you login access to Brain Pop. Family plans are available for purchase, starting at around $9 a month. Brain Pop is divided into subject areas (e.g., math, science, social studies) and includes a special module for ESL students. Brain Pop Jr. is available for kids in grades K-3.
7. National Geographic Kids
National Geographic Kids has all kinds of cool facts and games. The section on animal sounds is amazing and the site has loads of videos.
8. ABC Mouse
ABC Mouse is full of online early-learning curriculum for ages 2-7. The subscription prices start at $8 a month, but they offer a free trial month.
Farfaria is an interactive reading app. Kids can explore a world of stories through an interactive map. Farfaria is Common Core-aligned and takes the guesswork out of finding the right reading level for your young reader.
10. Sesame Street
Geared toward younger children, Sesame Street’s website has video clips and games that teach letters, rhyming, animal sounds, colors and more.
11. Kidz Page
Kidz Page has more than 5,000 pages of learning games and activities. Online coloring pages, jigsaw puzzles and word games are just a few sections of this massive site. Each holiday also has its own section of activities and games.
12. How Stuff Works
Kids ask questions. How Stuff Works has answers. This site is organized by subject area: autos, culture, entertainment, science, money, technology and more. How Stuff Works also has games, quizzes and videos.
Next Up: TIME for Kids
13. TIME for Kids
If your child has questions about news or current events, TIME for Kids is a great resource. While not as interactive as some of the other sites on this list, it’s a great source for kids to learn about what’s going on in the world in a forum that’s geared toward children.
14. Google Earth
Google Earth can help teach geography and astronomy through satellite imagery, maps, terrain and 3-D buildings, allowing kids to explore any point of interest on the planet and in outer space. The site also has some cool videos. Google Earth is free to use but requires downloading a plugin to start exploring.
Scratch is a free online tool designed by MIT to help kids learn programming. Kids design their own computer games, art and apps and share them within an online community. Users get feedback from other users about what they build. Most kids start by playing other people’s games and then looking at how the programming is built.
ABCYa! is designed for grades K-5. It’s free, but you can upgrade to an ad-free version. This site is chock-full of numbers, letters, strategy games and more. They have a ton of word problems and practical math drills and a special section with holiday activities.
Starfall is a publicly supported website that offers phonics exercises for all ages. There’s also a paid subscription add-on that offers more phonics and reading as well as math exercises.
18. The Disney Channel
Although more of an entertainment website than an educational one, the Disney Channel does have a lot to offer in the way of learning. There is a great section on books and reading as well as some reading about behind-the-scenes and animation on the blog’s tab. Time on this website might be a great reward for hitting homework milestones or to entice a reluctant reader.
Kids.gov is the official kids' portal for the U.S. government. This site connects kids, parents and teachers to information and services on the web from government agencies, schools and educational organizations, all geared to the learning level and interest of kids. There's also a state-specific map kids can click on for more information about their state.
Just like it sounds, Coolmath-Games provides cool math games on the Internet, free of charge. Coolmath4Kids is their kid-friendly site for boys and girls, designed to make math fun, with math flashcards, brain benders, fraction and long division games, time tables and more.
Coolmath4Parents is a great resource for parents that contains information on how to handle homework as well as tips on how to get your child ready for school and how to set up reward charts. There are also links to some great online math games for kids of all ages, but for a parent who might be feeling a little intimidated by their child’s math homework, this site is gold.
Considered one of the more popular coding sites for kids, Tynker offers free intro courses with paid classes as a child advances. For the Minecraft-obsessed, Tynker is perfect -- kids can learn to program and build games, apps and even Minecraft mods.
While not technically a traditional educational site, Pinterest is a wealth of resources when it comes to fun ideas for crafts, science experiments and other DIY projects to try at home. In fact, for a summer or Christmas break where a child may have a little too much time on their hands, educational Pinterest projects can keep them engaged and out of your hair.
Online is a great place to learn with your child and have fun at the same time. With the level of tech savvy of today's kids, don't be too surprised if you find your kids teaching you a thing or two.
Originally published Dec. 2015. Updated July 2016.