With so much information online and so many websites featuring games for kids, it's tough to figure out which games are worthy of our children's computer time. The sheer volume of offerings can be confusing and difficult to wade through, but here are some tips to find games that will be both entertaining and educational for kids.
- Television networks that feature children's programming will usually have a website that contains a section devoted to interactive features for kids. Search online for your local television station and see if they offer anything like this.
- Likewise, most TV shows have their own websites. Some shows' sites are combined with those under the same network, like Nick Jr. and PBS. Many of these can be very educational, with special sections for both children and parents.
- Major toy manufacturers also have websites with interactive games. Check out Fisher Price and Mega Bloks for examples of these.
- Magazines and books that are marketed towards the younger set will usually have websites that offer games, contests, articles, and even fun project and craft ideas. The site address will be printed in the publication, or you can find them with a simple Internet search.
- Good educational game websites will feature a wide variety of games that teach different skill sets. Your child should be learning mouse and computer skills, while also working with spelling, reading, math, typing, or simple concepts like patterns, colors, and letters.
- Make sure that the games you choose for your child are age-appropriate. If the games are too easy, your child will get bored quickly. If they're too difficult, your child will become frustrated.
- Use NetNanny or other software that will make sure your children won't inadvertently travel to sites that aren't appropriate for them. If you can, stay with your child while he is using the computer.
- Check out the sites that you want your child to experience when he's not around first. That way you can control where he goes and what activities he'll have access to before sitting down to play. Some sites use pop-up windows and lots of advertising that will be attractive or confusing for young or inexperienced children, so make sure that you choose a place where your child is free to click on things and explore.
- If a website requires registration before you have access to the games, never use your child's full name, age, address, etc. Sign up under your own name and with your own e-mail account.
- If your child is old enough to type and spell things like his name and age, then make sure you sit down and discuss the importance of Internet safety before you let him loose online. Children should never give out their full name, age, address, or phone number to anyone online.
- Bookmark all of the websites that you find that your child enjoys in a special folder so that you both can find them easily when you want to return.
Soon your child will have a wide variety of games and activities that she loves to visit again and again. Add new sites and games as you find them to make sure there is always something new to learn from and explore.