Too hot to head outside and with the new term approaching, kid-friendly websites can provide hours of entertainment and, importantly, familiarise little ones with the computer and the world of the Internet. If you think your tot is too tiny for technology, then think again. We found sites designed to entertain nippers as young as nine months, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly toddlers become au fait with using a mouse.
There are hundreds of good websites out there, but after some serious surfing, we’ve picked a handful of our favourites to amuse your budding IT gurus.
Ideal for: Babies and toddlers.
The lowdown: This site bills itself as ‘a whole lotta fun for the itty bitty ones’ and we’re inclined to agree. It’s a perfect introduction to the world of computers for babies (the creator designed it for his nine-month-old!) Hit – or ideally tap – any key and the games commence with vivid and very simple graphics that introduce babies to colours, sounds, shapes and, when they’re ready, letters and numbers.
We love: The colourful animated kneebouncer characters such as Horatio the Happy Hippo.
Like this? Log onto... www.fisher-price.com/us. The infant games are really cute.
Ideal for: Six-year-olds and under.
The lowdown: Endless activities, stories, games and songs can be found on this BBC website. Kids will interact with some of their favourite television characters – like helping Bob the Builder create a playground in the Play Games section; or listening to a Charlie and Lola story in the Story section. In the Make and Colour area there are loads of crafty activities with step-by-step instructions – we’re big fans of the coconut heads – and realms of printouts for crazy colouring. However, some of the stories and all of the Watch and Listen section are inaccessible from the UAE because BBC iplayer is not available in this region – but that’s not such a bad thing because it stops the site becoming a glorified television.
We love: The Big & Small game. Make a racket with a tuba, violin and clarinet.
Like this? Log onto... www2.disney.co.uk/DisneyChannel/playhouse. Full of Disney magic, making learning fun.
Ideal for: Preschoolers to 13-year-olds.
The lowdown: Jam-packed with puzzles such as spot the difference, word searches, hangman and noughts and crosses. Games are categorised by age with toddler games developing mouse control and focusing on matching pairs and colour recognition. Obviously, puzzles become more advanced for older children, and we Time Out-ers were blown up several times during wordbomb hangman.
We love: The pixie painting section. Kids can make as much online mess as they like with a great selection of bright colours and different sized virtual brushes. Their creation can then be posted on-line so family and friends back home can admire the finished masterpiece.
The lowdown: The venue for this virtual playground is a snow-covered island where kids create their own penguins, dress them up, play games, explore the South Pole and chat to other penguins in childrens’ first introduction to social networking. Be warned though, it’s a real time stealer and parents will have to limit screen time because it’s so addictive.
We love: The fabulously colourful graphics. Plus, it’s safe with lots of parental control features.
Like this? Log onto... www.dinosawus.com. More simple and geared towards younger users.
Ideal for: Budding architects ages seven to 11 years.
The lowdown: Take inspiration from Dubai and create your own virtual city. Start with the roads, then the buildings, add roofs – perhaps a roof garden, a pyramid or a helipad – don’t forget the pavements and then bring it to life with people and cars. Architects can choose to create a medieval town, snowy scenes or a modern futuristic city. Perhaps the inspiration for many of Dubai’s buildings started right here on this site, which encourages attention to detail, creativity and design.
We love: That architects can send their creation as an ecard.
Like this? Log onto... www.stardoll.com A great one for ‘tweenage’ girls.
If you’re worried about what your child may be exposed to when surfing the Internet then use a browser designed specifically for children, such as KidZui. This browser (like Google, only for kids) gives children aged from three to 12 access to more than two million parent- and teacher-approved websites, pictures, games and videos. It’s free, easy to download, and is worth it if only for the peace of mind you get from knowing your child is safe online.
Log onto www.kidzui.com.