Friday, March 26, 2010

Cherub Rock

I have a small(ish) child. He's five and he has a large, blonde head. Here is a haiku that I wrote about him a while back, and have coincidentally turned into a small typography art piece in our kitchen:

Little yellow head
which was once swan white with fuzz
How long until brown? 

Now this little flaxen dude soaks up information nuggets like a sea sponge (which did you know regenerate from their broken off-pieces?) so I try to steer his small shoulders towards the educational but entertaining (and genuinely) and away from the insipid. The reasons are diverse. Mainly I want him to learn something while he's playing, and also I don't want to be annoyed by Sponge Bob's maniacal giggle or the pew pew sounds that emanate from the Star Wars website (although in bleak moments I have succumbed and allowed him to click around there, within five minutes he's frustrated - kind of how I felt when the remastered Episodes 4-6 came out). Although, the Star Wars site does have a few good memory games and a killer Sound Board activity for your budding movie sound engineer.

So how do I, as the heavily eyeliner-ed, peacock feather adorned caregiver of the century, help my son have quality computer time in his (dwindling fast) preschool  years? Well, honestly I learned everything I ever wanted to know from a library. During my time in a Children's Library I learned of, found, shared, heard, and had kids bounce in their tiny chairs and raise their hands to show me a collection of fantastic and satisfying sites, cool enough to spend a bit, but not saccharine enough to cause a temper tantrum when computer time is over. Here is the short list that Xander cycles through, and I do add more and will add more here as I find them. We of course try others, which I will add to the database Small People at the left,

The National Gallery of Art's NGA Kids site: This is my favorite. Chock full of interactive art that goes way beyond playing around with Microsoft Paint. Xander has learned about the Dutch Masters, the surrealists, American folk art, and his creativity has gone through the roof from these easy to navigate activities. It's even fun for adults, no joke. In fact, most big museums have good websites for children, some are for elementary to middle school ages, but there's usually something of value for all ages. If your child is older they might enjoy the American Museum of Natural History's wordy activities. Mine's just a bit young for them, seeing as he can only read a few words.

CBeeBees: The BBC Kid's website is full of show-related activities. Some are shows that have made the jump across the pond to the states, such as Charlie and Lola. Playhouse Disney has some Charlie and Lola activities, too - but in our opinion they're not as good. The Butterfly Gallery and  Germ Counting games teach and art and math respectively and when you poke around the site you'll find Shaun the Sheep games, as well as Fireman Sam, and a bunch of others you've never heard of because you're American.

Playmobil Fun & Action:  Playmobil is a recent, all encompassing obsession of my son's lately. He plays with his sets for hours, combining them into clashing of  Romans, Pirates, Dinosaurs, Swat Teams, Giant Squid world, a twisted, dangerous place that I would never step foot into willingly. The website actually has some good activities and little films, as well as the massive collection of clickable products for sale, so  your kid can keep on dreaming of more Playmobil and harass you to buy things.

The ALA - Great Web Sites for Kids: The American Library Association has compiled a beautiful list of the best sites to steer kids to (and for older kids to click through). The presentation is a bit dry, but the content, oh the content! In the coming weeks we're going to test a bunch of these out and post our favorites here in the shiny, pretty, gossamer database that is Dano Gold.

Your local library: Your local library system is most likely to have a whole Kids page chock full of suggestions, book reviews by children, Tumble Books, activities, reference databases for homework help, and links to good and safe websites. My favorite (the system I worked for) is featured on the hyperlink. Libraries, I xoxo you.

Those are just the three most common ones we pop over to these days, in the coming days I'm going to build the database to the left, but these are some of the lesser known ones that provide a bit of educational entertainment without parental annoyance. Enjoy!

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