Thanks to the "grotty weather", we've had a special request for a list of fun, safe, educational and entertaining websites for kids, so here it is... Have a look at our favourites, and please leave a comment below if we've left out a website your kids love!
Kids National Geographic
What a superb site. Aside from the feel good factor of letting your kids loose on a site where they can learn about the planet and the world's cultures, the site is really well thought out and is great fun. There are online games like Kung Fu Trash Master, interactive adventures, "stump your parents" quizzes, and some really cool videos like Snail Zombies. They also have plenty of ideas for "fun science" activities, and a special section where kids can make Hallowe'en e-cards.
Okay, so it's a little bit American in content and style, but Nick Jr is a safe environment for kids to play games, watch videos with their favourite TV characters, and there are also plenty of ideas for cooking together and crafts. They're running a 7-day free trial at the moment for their premium online educational service, Boost, focusing on maths, literacy, computer skills, creativity and Spanish for preschoolers.
We can't say enough about the Sesame Street website and the work of the Sesame Workshop. If you love the classic educational show for preschoolers, you'll love this site, with silly songs, videos, and your favourite TV clips, and fun games like Make a Monster. The big picture-led buttons along the top and the audio-instructions make it really easy for your little one to navigate the site by themselves, and they can even browse content by their favourite muppet (the girls always seem to pick Abby Cadabby!). There is a special section for toddlers, a rare and very welcome find on the web.
The award-winning Club Penguin is a safe and engaging virtual world for children aged about 6 to 14. Kids choose a penguin avatar, and then can play games and interact with other kids (penguins) on the site using some stripped-back social networking. Online activity and chat between penguins is constantly monitored by sophisticated technology and real staff, so your kids are in safe hands.
Moshi Monsters is one of the fastest growing sites in the world, with a child adopting a monster every second. Last we checked there were 27 million children using the site, and with good reason. We've written a pretty thorough review here, but in brief, it's a fun and stimulating virtual world for your child to explore in his or her customised monster guise. There are challenging games and puzzles, and they've even been credited by school teachers as being an excellent educational site. As with Club Penguin, they take your child's safety seriously, so all of the content is moderated in real time.
This website is all about creativity, and is a lovely site for kids of all ages. There's a huge range of printable colouring pages, including some 'design your own' colouring pages. As you'd expect there's a nifty little section where kids can colour online. We also like the "idea generator" with ideas for stuff to do around the house - you click on the material you want to work with (e.g. paper, plastic containers, ribbon, etc) and out pop some craft ideas.
No surprises here - just high quality entertaining, educational games for preschoolers from the BBC, an organisation you know and trust. Kids can watch some of their favourite cBeebies clips, and find out more about their favourite presenters. We really like the Storytime section , featuring a mix and match of stories the kids can listen to on their own (like Charlie and Lola), and some to be read aloud by mum or dad.
A brilliantly simple idea. Kids love being read to, and reading to each other, and Smories allows them to do just that. The website is essentially a collection of videos of children reading their favourite stories aloud. You can help them find something appropriate for their age, or else just let them click on the wall of photos and hear some great stories at random. It's an international site, with stories read aloud in French, German and other languages, so also a great option for bilingual families.
NASA Kids Club
This cool website is definitely best suited to school age children, with tricky but entertaining space-related games and puzzles. If your kids are looking for a challenge, they can try out some of the space quizzes, or for a bit of fun they can find out their age or weight on different planets. We're also loving this low key Buzz Lightyear game - great for getting those little brains revved up.
This is essentially YouTube for children. The team at Kideos carefully screen each and every video before categorising it and adding it to the site, so you can be sure there won't be any nasty surprises either in the "related videos" or in the clips themselves... which means that you can relax and let the kids surf the site to their heart's content. It's not just full of Disney stuff (though the Disney clips are great) - you'll find everything from classic Muppets to the Evian Rollerbabies.
Note - at the time of writing the site was down for a bit of maintenance. But do bookmark it and try it another time - it's worth coming back to.
If you've got older kids and are looking for some good gaming websites, you can also try Miniclip and GirlsGoGames, but just be warned they don't make the same promises in terms of age-approriate contents, so do help them navigate the site and find games you think are appropriate for them.
Enjoy! If you love our list, please tell your friends, and by all means add your favourites below too.