Digital nanny: let the iPad do the hard work for you with these stimulating sites for kids.

Few things about parenting are more controversial these days than the concept of screen time. Obviously, nobody in their right mind would advocate that we bring up a generation of sedentary sloths who live, glued to a screen, on crisps and Coke. On the other hand, new research shows that barely any of a young person’s satisfaction in life can be explained by the time they spend online.

A group of Oxford scientists has found that the effects of screen time on happiness are “tiny – arguably trivial”.

Professor Andrew Przybyliski, who led the study, says that: “97.5 per cent of a young person’s life satisfaction across a year is nothing to do with whether they use more or less social media… When people are talking about ‘screen time’, we are talking about statistically noisy nonsense.”

We believe that time spent on any sort of computer should be limited and that it should be woven into a child’s day alongside valuable physical and other activities. But, come on, it really is OK to let them loose on the iPad once in a while.

Here, we have found eight great websites with which to divert your kids when needs must.

CBEEBIES


www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies



It’s games galore on this extremely perky children’s platform. Its gorgeous, clear and upbeat design is outstanding. Inspired – and often educational – games, songs and quizzes from your kids’ favourite CBEEBIES shows (Peter Rabbit, Swashbuckle, Danger Mouse – it’s all there) make this a safe and happy entry point to life online.

MINECRAFT


www.minecraft.net



Set in worlds of wide open terrain – of vast pastures, icy mountains, swamps and more – Minecraft is a game about placing blocks and going on adventures filled with secrets, wonders and peril. The 10-year-old game may be addictive (it hit the news in April 2019, when a man who’d been playing one continuous Minecraft game for five years was finally “killed”). But it teaches excellent lessons in problem-solving, creativity and self-direction, too.

MATHLETICS


mathletics.com



This wildly popular maths learning tool teaches millions of children not only to improve their skills but actually to like mathematics. Interactive, engaging and confidence-building, this is one site on which you will not mind them lingering. It must be doing something right, as several schools now use it to complement their classroom maths.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS


www.natgeokids.com



This lively site is so brilliant, they won’t even notice how educational it is. The website’s mission? “To get kids excited about their world.” Fabulous facts, compelling quizzes and phenomenal photography make it a treasure trove of a resource for boys and girls from six to 13. A really interesting website to brighten up the rainiest of days.

BEANO


www.beano.com



Side-splitting jokes, sketches, games and quizzes make this a very popular destination for kids aged six and over. For a comic that was first published in 1938 to evolve 80 years later into a leading digital entertainment platform is no mean feat. Menacing mischief clearly never goes out of fashion. Explaining the site’s raison d’etre, Emma Scott, CEO of Beano Studios, told the Telegraph:

“This is about extending the character and spirit of Beano… If you give the Beano to kids now, they’re as passionate about it as we ever were, but their social habits have changed. They don’t go to the corner shops in the same way we did, they don’t get pocket money in the same way we did. Kids today live quite solitary indoor lives. 80 per cent of kids in our target audience of seven-to-10-year-olds have access to iPads.”

STARDOLL


www.stardoll.com



Inspired by her childhood passion for paper dolls, Liisa Wrang, from Finland, created Stardoll as a virtual gaming site for people who love fame, fashion and friendship. She says: “Most sites are focused on violence and competitiveness. I wanted to create a positive online environment for young girls who are interested in fashion.” At Stardoll – where regular membership is free – you create your own doll, or choose a celebrity doll, and dress it up in countless cool styles. You can also decorate a fantasy home for your doll. Then you can invite your virtual friends to visit. A nice start to socialising online.

HORRIBLE HISTORIES


horrible-histories.co.uk



The Gory Games section of the Horrible Histories website is a total hit. Just as Terry Deary’s excellent series of books and the award-winning TV shows have before it, these games – called things like Putrid Pirate Battleships, Mummy Madness and Knight Invaders – beautifully bring to life key periods of history. Careful: our research shows us that the historical knowledge of your average Horrible Histories fan is a lot stronger than that of his rusty parents.

TATE KIDS


www.tate.org.uk/kids



Read the stories behind your favourite artists, learn how to paint like Turner or draw a fairy tale, take the Sensational Surrealism Quiz… Older kids will lose themselves for as long as you’ll let them in this innovative website from Tate, which is dedicated to immersing young people in the rich world of art. The site is so well conceived, and so attractive to the children it targets, that you wish that other museums would follow suit.


If you liked reading this, then you might like:

A-Z of Websites for 2019
My Web with Charlotte-Anne Fidler
Cool Clothes for Active Boys

June 2019

By Becky Ladenburg



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