The Web offers thousands of fun, stimulating, interactive learning and entertainment destinations for kids. It can seem a scary place if you’re lost, though – for adults and children. So how do you find the best sites for your kids – the ones that are safe, and also fun? And how can you work out which ones they (not you) will actually enjoy?
Try our selection below. We’ve looked at sites aimed at kids from pre-school age through to those in their early teens, and found some great jokes, cartoons, games, Harry Potter gossip, Web design, search engines and homework help sites.
To see what kids really think of them, we’ve enlisted the help of a couple of young reviewers. Daniel Walrond, aged 13, rates our selection of cartoon and jokes sites. And Lili Cooper, aged 11, gives her verdict on the best places for girl talk and online advice.
Brilliant colours, cute sounds, funky picture icons and simple navigation should get the attention of pre-school kids here. They can clap and wiggle to the Tikkabilla Jive, help Tiny fix the Little Robots’ houses, and listen to Little Red Riding Hood -just by moving the mouse. The Tweenies at www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/tweenies and Teletubbies at www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/teletubbies also want to play.
Letterland’s pictogram characters – Eddy Elephant, Oscar Orange and friends-offer fun ways of learning how to read and write.
Bob the Builder
Time to develop those DIY skills by helping Bob tidy his tool shed and lit radiators in Wendy’s house. The simple layout and picture-based navigation on this site are great for kids, but it doesn’t explain to parents how their children can get the most out of the site.
Noddy, Wind in the Willows, Watership Dawn, Mozart the Musical Dragon and the Mr Men are all herein fantastic animated stories and games.
Thomas & friends
Thomas the Tank Engine fans can find their favourite character in the Engine Depot, play Snap, or give Percy a new coat of paint at this fun destination. The site is very text-heavy, but compensates by give in you the opportunity to design your own Thomas Web page.
The Playtime section of Nickelodeon’s junior website is packed with arc and music projects and animated stories for kids, and printable resources for parents. (heck out Dora’s 3D world, where the skies are blue and the birds are signing, and join heron a driving game or a pyramid adventure.
Try out the latest game pads at Kidstime
Follow super space girl Bumble-B into the F9-Kids space station and splat as many space moles as you can! This is an exciting animated site, full of Solar System facts.
Webmonkey for Kids Kids can learn to build their own websites with Webmonkey, which will take them through the basics of writing HTML and creating images in easy steps. There’s a series of simple but exciting projects to get them started. http://hotwired.lycos.com /webmonkey/kids
CBBC Cartoon Maker Write and direct your own episode of the UBOS cartoon, and send it your friends. www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc /cartoons/ubos
How do you distinguish the funny sites from the downright disgusting? Where are the best interactive cartoons? Where are the games that your kids will really en joy? And are they ‘suitable? Daniel gave us his opinions on some of the best sites we could find…
This offering from Comedy Central is Daniel’s favourite site, and he wanted us to mention it. However, it does contain adult content, and the jokes are rated from ‘squeaky clean’ to ‘racy’ for parental guidance. This might be a teenage boy’s paradise, but it’s probably not a parent’s favourite site.
“Some of the jokes are really Funny. They also do insults. But parents needn’t worry because you’re told how rude a joke is beforehand.”
The great cartoon shorts on this site feature The Chopper Bunch, Sugar Ray and Hong Kong Phooey in action. You can also play Meteor Mayhem and Swamp Fever, or download free ringtones, icons, screensavers and wallpaper.
“Cartoon Network has great games.”
There’s music, messageboards, movies and more here, and the games section’s great. We enjoyed testing ourselves against opponents from all over the planet in Cranial Crunch. 30 games, multi-player games, arcade games, sports games, brain games – there’s endless amusement here.
“Quite good, although you do need to log in to play the games.”
From Bounce Out, to Candy Cruncher, to Mah Jong Solitaire — there are masses of games in the Entertainment section of this site. The book and film reviews from Oinkle the pig and Grrbert the tiger are an added bonus.
“Looks quite babyish, but has some surprisingly funny games.”
Lose yourself with the 101 Dalmatians, catch the bouncing penguins, play Pooh’s Honeypot Challenge, enjoy the online comics, and enter the snowboarding holiday competition.
“I couldn’t play the games because of all the Casino adverts.”
This is a ‘family’ jokes site, so think ‘knock Knock’ and ‘Doctor Doctor. The 12,177 jokes here are all scrupulously dean.
“Alame site. The occasional joke is a bit funny. But it’s quite disappointing considering there are over 10,000 jokes and riddles
Looking for something specific — planets, dinosaurs, fashion? Check out these search engines and portals.
Ask Jeeves Kids
Where do girls really like to hang out and chat? Lili gives us her opinion…
Neopets.com is home to a community of over 40 million virtual pet owners around the world. Create a free pet and take it travelling, or just chat and play games with other owners.
“This is where I spend most of my time online, looking after my neopets, playing games, trading stuff, building my own guild website and hanging out with my friends.”
The design looks amateur, but this is a fun site filled with reviews, opinion, advice, message boards and cool stuff–by chicks, for chicks.
“I really liked it–lots of fun, good to look at, it doesn’t try too hard and I liked the range of opinions and ideas.”
A Pig Latin translator, Truth or Dare, Agony Aunt Em, plenty of opportunities to write and chat, and cool electronic gadgets to buy. What more could a girl want from a website?
“I liked the overall style and the problem page, but the articles were dull.”
A girl’s world
This is a bustling message board for girls–it’s the place to come to read extracts from other girls, diaries, talk about your dreams, and submit your stories.
“Some of the activities were very worthy, like learning to be a babysitter. I liked it, but had a problem with the fact that you needed to pay for lots of the stuff.”
Sign up for your own personal Pink Planner, get creative in the Fan Art section, play pelmanism and read horoscopes. A fun site, although uncompromisingly pink.
“It took ages to load, and tried to put its own program on my computer, which was really irritating. A bit weird — not really my style, but I can see others might like it.”
What’s her face
There’s loads to do on this site–mix up the animated models, hair and clothes to invent new styles, make hair accessories out of chopsticks, create your own music video, or design a guy to have a crush on.
“A bit young for me, and too full of commercials for the dolls. if you like 5 Club 7 you’d probably go for it.”
The funky Zodiac girls will explain your star sign, assess your compatibility, read your magic fortune, and give you crush advice and fashion help. Or, you can dress them up and send them poems.
“OK for kids who like horoscopes. it was nice to see poems and letters from other kids.”
Revision guides and learning resources for kids from Key Stage 2 through to A Level.
Interactive help for six to 11 year-olds who want to pass their National Tests.
Email homework questions to the experts at Channel 4.
Produced and maintained by children, this site provides links to hundreds of useful learning resources.
Search by topic through this huge database of educational resources. W
Are you counting the days until Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix is released on 21st June or The Prisoner of Azkaban hits the cinemas in 2004? Share the anticipation…
The Official Harry Potter site
Enrol at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, make your own magical creature, challenge a friend at Quidditch, or chat to other Pottermaniacs at Platform 9 3/4.
Learn more about the books, take the Wizard Challenge, submit a portrait, and meet J. K. Rowling at this publisher’s website.
Harry Potter from Bloomsbury
Pre-order your copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix here, or just chat on the Tabula Epistolarum message board.
Hundreds of photos and movie stills, and the latest news from Harry Potter film locations.
Harry Potter Guide
An unofficial guide to the magical world of The Boy Who Lived–wordy, but created by a fan.
Hogwarts isn’t the only place to learn magic tricks…
Amaze your friends with Charlotte Bear’s impossible arm twist.
Annoy grown-ups by making a coin vanish or a hanky stand up.
Learn magic, and how to conjure up slimy (but edible) potions like Bile Brew.
Touch the magic lamp and convince your friends you have eleven fingers… w www.wizard.magicplace.com/magicland.htm