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fun activities and educational games
Exploratorium. The physical Exploratorium is housed inside San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts and was founded by Dr. Frank Oppenheimer; the web version sprawls over 18,000 pages and hundreds of scientific subjects. A kid could get (wonderfully) lost without every having to leave her desk.
Starfall. This site is all about helping kids learn to read, with everything from the ABC basics to Chinese fables and Greek mythology for those who already know their way around a book by themselves. Its phonics foundation helps kids learn how to recognize sounds and eventually figure out words on their own.
The Kidz Page. A portal to a plethora of games, coloring pages, puzzles and more. The free games are in two categories, educational and "regular," but to be honest, the educational onesare far more interesting. Math puzzles, baby-face Sudoku (with faces instead of numbers), word searches, and "spot-the-difference" games are challenging and fun for youger kids. www.thekidzpage.com
Funbrain. Kids learn most easily when they’re playing, which is one reason why Funbrain is popular with parents and teachers alike. The teacher’s page directs you to practical things like flash cards and curriculum guides, but parents who are looking to give their children a more casual learning experience can head right on over to the free games section.
Nick Jr. It may seem strange to think of TV's Nick Jr. as educational, but there's more to learning than reading, writing, and arithmatic. The games here sharpen language recognition, hand-eye coordination, sorting and organizational concepts, and puzzle- and problem-solving skills using characters and ideas your preschoolers probably recognize.
Kids Know It. This site allows kids to explore a number of subjects, from human biology to spelling to astronomy; there's also a database of free, downloadable songs in MP3 format to help kids reinforce what the kids are learning. The site's animal database is a great virtual trip to the zoo!
Zula Patrol. This site seems more game-oriented than educational, but don’t be fooled — there’s some serious learning going on here. The science and astronomy-focused program is geared towards kids from Pre-K to 2nd grade.
PBSkids. Tying in to Public Broadcasting classics like “Sesame Street” and “Arthur” as well as newer educational programs like “Word Girl” and “Super Why,” PBSkids.org offers games that are so much fun, little kids won’t even notice they’re learning.
Scholastic. There so much here that it's hard to know where to start. Scholastic has compiled an amazing teacher's resource that parents can also use for free, with subjects and lessons geared for everyone from pre-kindergarteners all the way through 12th graders. Browse by grade and subject, and be sure to check out the red-starred offerings.