“Work smarter, not harder” is an annoying cliché that works for obvious reasons. In the same respect, it’s crucial for us to make sure we’re learning smarter too, especially when it comes to our kids.
Luckily, the Internet exists. And using online resources for learning is considered to be one of the best ways to prepare your kids for college, but picking the right websites that help children learn can be a real challenge.
After all, there are countless tools, platforms and websites that are being marketed to parents with the promise of turning your child into the next Sheldon Cooper (though some of us will settle for a functioning adult).
So if what you’re looking for includes top-notch websites that will make your kids smart enough to win college scholarships, then consider these awesome resources.
A word of caution: this website is addictive no matter what age you are. Learning is basically pointless when you don’t care about the material being fed to you, especially if you’re not being graded. Wonderopolis makes you forget learning was ever an ordeal by providing daily “wonders” through videos and easy-to-read stories. These wonders are real questions asked by real kids around the world, and they include interesting thoughts such as, “What Brings a Tear to Your Eye?” and, “How Do Mirrors Work?”
In some ways, learning how to spell better doesn’t make sense. You’re really just learning how to remember correct spelling, and it’s more about memorization and luck than acquiring a tangible skill. That’s why most websites that are geared toward spelling fall short. The kids aren’t really learning anything—they’re just memorizing. That’s why people love Miss Spell’s class, a facet of Dictionary.com. It’s a simple spelling test, but it doesn’t require you to actually spell anything. You go down a list of words and determine when something is spelled incorrectly. This allows children to learn better reading comprehension skills on top of basic spelling. There’s even an iPhone app you can download.
Since 2002, Starfall has been helping kids learn how to read and become better readers through fun and interactive exercises. You can choose which level of reading you’re at (basic alphabet, starting to read, having fun with reading, etc.) and even pick categories that match your interest. Like magic? You can select the magician category and play exercises that help you learn words and pronunciations that revolve around a magic show. It’s simple, targeted and effective at helping kids cultivate reading skills.
One of my fondest school memories is when we would watch National Geographic videos for what felt like hours. Even though I now realize that my teachers did this in order to take a break from dealing with insane children, I can’t help but hold National Geographic in a high regard for providing relevant and inspirational information via a kid-friendly format, and their website does this in spades. Nat Geo Kids uses tons of fun games, interesting videos, puzzles and cool photos to make the world feel like a smaller, exciting place.
If you’re just looking for a large collection and variety of fun games, then introduce your kids to Funbrain. This website is packed with games, comics, reading tools and more that are all geared toward being just as entertaining as they are useful for learning.
Not just a shopping cart for reading the Harry Potter ebooks, Pottermore evolves the Hogwarts universe by providing educational games and features that make the stories come alive. For the same reason that Harry Potter has created avid readers out of countless kids, Pottermore provides an online approach that makes reading fun for a new generation.
Sure, academics and schoolwork are important, but kids also need to learn how to cook properly and feed themselves too! Spatulatta is one of the best resources for teaching anyone to cook, not just kids, thanks to their ample guides and recipes geared toward beginners. In other words, it’s better than letting Pinterest teach your kids how to prepare a meal.
It may not have the most creative name in the world, but Help My Kid Learn is one of the best resources—period—for targeted learning according to age and skill level. The simplicity of its design makes it a breeze to navigate, and its large variety of lessons, topics and exercises makes this a one-stop site that will suit most of your child’s needs.
A lot of the websites we’ve talked about so far have been rooted in the basics of reading, math, spelling, etc. But kids also need to learn more of the advanced material they’re bound to struggle with as they get older, especially when it comes to science and even traffic rules. Make Me Genius is a great platform for this, providing multiple types of teaching exercises that range from videos and PowerPoints, to tests and easy-to-read articles.
Virtual field trips are great ways to capture the visual and experiential minds of our kids, and you have a lot of great trips to pick from if you search online. One of the best I have ever come across is Google Lit Trips, a completely free service that allows you to walk the shoes of famous literature characters in a virtual world. You’ll see what they saw in these awesome “trips,” ensuring a learning experience that actually sticks with your child.
One of the most visually arresting websites on this list, BrainPOP is a fantastic website for kids who learn at a fast pace. It’s rich with content that is image and video based, and pretty much every essential subject is covered. BrainPOP’s best feature is that it makes the experience very fun for kids, and the site is updated frequently, making sure that they come back for more.
What better way to help your child fall in love with learning websites than showing them one with all of their favorite characters? Scholastic books come alive on this website, where kids can play educational games based on Magic School Bus, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and other classic characters they already love.
Pora Ora is a free, 3D, virtual world that allows your child to build their own character and embark on an educational adventure (though they probably won’t realize they’re learning). Like a video game, children will be motivated to keep playing (and learning) as they explore this fun and engaging world.
Some of you have kids who are just waiting to let their creativity explode, as you can see from their love of coloring books and other art activities. But it’s also important to help kids harness the creativity of writing and design, which they can do on ReadWriteThink. Kids are encouraged to design their own newspapers, flyers, or even brochures with tools for writing and image placement. They’re not just learning how to write; they’re learning design and layout skills that can actually translate into a real career, making this a fantastic resource for future publishers.
Like Pottermore, Magic Tree House captures the fun of the famous books in an interactive and engaging website. Kids will play games that introduce them to new cultures and stories that actually make history and social studies a blast to learn.
Tagxedo is another great resource for helping kids learn both writing and design skills, as it allows them to create and save word clouds like the one below. If they have to memorize a speech or quote, they can also design a word cloud that will help them recall every single word, and there are tons of design options to make every cloud unique!
I don’t look back fondly on having to memorize multiplication tables, no matter how catchy the songs were. That’s why Learn Your Tables was created to provide a visual resource for helping kids learn even the trickiest equations. It also tests them on their tables to make sure they’ve got it down, thanks to an interactive “drag” system that they control.
One of the most unique features of Science Bob is how it helps kids tackle science fair projects. It teaches kids how to pick a great topic and use the scientific method to develop a project that will make sense and benefit their chances at winning big. The website also provides fun experiments and exercises that will teach kids how to research and think scientifically, even if their name isn’t Bob.
Useful for poetry and writing classes, Rhymes helps kids find new words that match even the trickiest phrases, introducing them to the advanced mechanics of creative writing. The website also generates citations based on its ample nursery rhymes, teaching kids how to use the internet without plagiarizing!
I saved the most relevant for last. The fact is that everyone (including children) uses search engines to gather information and answer questions these days. Sweet Search tackles the problem of unreliable (and countless) results by providing answers to your search query that are educational and geared toward students. There are over 35,000 websites on this search engine, and every single one has been approved to provide the most informational and accurate data that will truly benefit your kids.
Did I miss anything? Be sure to provide your own awesome recommendations for websites that help children learn in the comments below.
You may also want to read: 25 Killer Websites that Make You ClevererFeatured photo credit: Child disguised as a businessman using a laptop via Shutterstock