Learning Fun for Kids Online

Home school and after school, kids online can access some great sites and games that are both educational and fun. This site reviews and links to the best, and also discusses some parenting articles and homework sites of interest to parents.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cardboard Medieval Castle - Free Software

More on castles! In the Middles Ages, a castle served as fortress, a residence for nobility and as a means of preserving the rigid social hierarchy of the times.

Make your own model medieval castle -- a learning activity that teaches about history, feudalism and life in the Middle Ages -- with free educational software at YourChildLearns.com. It's got towers, a gatehouse and a keep. You'll understand how an army lay siege to a castle, how a castle was defended, or what it might be like to live in a castle (though this varied by who you were).

Materials and Tools You'll Need: Scissors, tape or glue, markers or crayons, paper, a PC with printer and Build a Medieval Castle free software.

Extra Materials that Would be Helpful: a large piece of paper or cardboard or several sheets of paper fastened together to go underneath the castle; paper clips to hold parts together during construction; toothpicks and colored paper to make pennants to put on the towers; index cards.

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posted by Stephanie @ Tuesday, March 31, 2009   0 comments links to this post

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Castles for Kids on the Web

It took 10 years to get the Hoernersburg (a mighty Lego castle) built--and it's still being worked on.

You can take a guided tour of this soaring make-believe castle and nearby medieval Lego town, building by building and room by room, and discover some interesting facts about the Middle Ages while you're there.

You can even learn how to build your own Lego castle by following the very detailed plans on the How To page at the site, created by a homeschooling family.


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posted by Stephanie @ Sunday, March 29, 2009   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Playing With Stocks

Wally The Stock Ticker Game isn't so much a game as it is a simple way to learn about stocks. By clicking on the name of the stock from a drop down menu, you can find out the company's symbol, its current price, the daily highs and lows, and so on. Each of these facts is prefaced by a short explanation of why you should know this information, and asks how you think you would use it.

When I clicked on Today's Low for KO (that's the stock symbol for Coca Cola), it read

Your stock in Coca Cola went down to $43.82 for a little while today. Does that get you worried?

It shouldn't. People trade stock all day long. It goes up and down and at the end of the day, it takes a rest for the night.
This could be a fun introduction to paper investing.



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posted by Stephanie @ Thursday, March 26, 2009   0 comments links to this post

Monday, March 23, 2009

How to Make Your Own Paper - Kid Friendly Instructions

I just found great instructions on how to make your own paper -- and in this one, you don't need a food processor or even a blender or an iron either. A whisk and a rolling pin will suffice.

Too many of the other recipes call for the use of machines to blend and a hot iron to remove excess water from the pulp, which I don't think is child-friendly enough to really be able to just let the kids "own" this project.

Anyway, the instructions are in PDF format at EcoKidsOnline, which basically tell you to:

  • Tear scrap paper into tiny pieces and soak in a bucket of hot water for 30 minutes.
  • Take a handful of the soaked paper out at a time and whisk until it is a creamy pulp. Add a small amount of vegetable scraps or dye for color (or even leaves for added texture).
  • Pour a inch of water into a pan (in which pan you've already fitted a screen). Pour one cup of the blended pulp onto the screen, and spread evenly.
  • Lift screen out with pulp on top; let water drain.
  • Lay pulp-covered screen face down on a cloth (tea towel) or in between some newspaper. Lift the screen away, leaving the paper pulp on the cloth. Cover with another cloth. Use a rolling pin to flatten and press out excess moisture.
  • Let dry for at least 24 hours.
  • Use.

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posted by Stephanie @ Monday, March 23, 2009   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, March 21, 2009

FAQ Kids - a fun place to visit for answers

FAQ Kids is the site that gives Answers to Questions Kids Ask (and some adults ask too).

Questions like:

  • Why is the ocean blue? (no one knows)

and

  • How many oceans are there in the world? (one)

and

  • How can you tell whether a number is divisible by another number (leaving no remainder) without actually doing the division? (you can't -- okay, I lied, you can but it's too long to put here)

and

  • Why are there dimples on a golf ball? (it goes farther than a smooth ball)


It's a site where you can read some facts, learn a little and have some fun -- I don't particularly like the off-topic advertising they have at FAQ Kids or the pop-ups (which I've got blocked), but I still think the site is worth a visit.


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posted by Stephanie @ Saturday, March 21, 2009   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Book-Based Map Scramble and Other Fun with Word Games

All the word games at KidsReads.com are based on kids' favorite books.

Have you read The Royal Diaries? The settings are in different countries around the world. In this word scramble, you unscramble the names of the places where each princess lived and match them to the numbers from the map.

What about Lemony Snicket? You can play lots of games like:
• Quiz Yourself on the Series of Unfortunate Events
• Baby Babble Crossword Puzzle
• Act Like Violet: Devise an Invention
• Match Count Olaf With Each of His Disguises
• Find Count Olaf: Uncode the Secret Message
• Draw Your Own Book

There's the Nancy Drew World Scramble and Cleopatra's Pyramid word game (the latter based on the book Cleopatra VII, Daughter of the Nile).

One of my daughters will have nothing to do with word puzzles; the other enjoys them. Sometimes the subject matter will entice the child who's not all that interested.

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posted by Stephanie @ Wednesday, March 18, 2009   0 comments links to this post

Monday, March 16, 2009

African Slave Trade - Close Up and Personal

From DidUKnow.com, read the stories of four slaves taken in 1780 by European traders. Each is written simply, from the perspective of the child or young person kidnapped into slavery.

Underlined words have explanations in pop-up boxes (The Igbo people, we learn, were from southern Nigeria ruled by village councils instead of a central king or chief, and heavily preyed on during the 18th century by British slave traders.)

Parents - read this first to see if the subject matter is too upsetting for your kids. It's very well done.

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posted by Stephanie @ Monday, March 16, 2009   0 comments links to this post

Sunday, March 15, 2009

All About the Legends of St. Patrick's Day - and Some Crafts Too!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!There's an ebook called About Saint Patrick and Saint Patrick's Day. It's free to download and print out (although you'll have to joint the site where the book is hosted (scridb.com), which is also free.

It's a nice review of the holiday, compiled from information found from all over, and put into one small package with longer historical text interspersed with kid-friendly snippets (like did you know there's a tradition that schoolmates pinch those who don't wear green to school on St. Paddy's day?). I won't tell my kids about that one!

After you read about the Blarney Stone, why not make one yourself? All you need is a stone and some paint, and you've got a paperweight memory of time well spent with your child.

If you're looking for more activities, Education World has lots of ideas, like making leprechaun traps (with paths of gold dust) and leprechaun planters with hair. You can also see how to easily make handprint rainbows from construction paper -- and this can be something for the whole family to do or just a bunch of wee friends.

I'm off to make green Jell-O now (we ate all the rainbow cups already)!

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posted by Stephanie @ Sunday, March 15, 2009   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Kid-Friendly Kid-Safe E-Mail

Set up kid-friendly e-mail at the child-oriented AOL web portal called KOL or a webmail service called ZooBuh. Kim Komando takes you through the various offers out there, and how to manage them, in her detailed Komando Kids Family Section article. Gmail and Hotmail accounts have features whereby parents can monitor the emails received and have options you can select to automatically delete spam mail so young eyes don't have to read the filth.

Kim also talks about desktop email programs and walks you through one of the more popular ones called Outlook.

If you've got kids who have got email accounts, this article's worth your time.


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posted by Stephanie @ Saturday, March 14, 2009   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Playing With Water and Magnets

Kids like to get wet - but since this is virtual, you don't have to worry about wiping up puddles!

At The Magnet Game, you squirt water at magnets to find out that water is actually attracted and pushed away by them. It seemed a bit pointless to me at first (then again, I get in over my head pretty fast) -- but as you move the two "magnets" around (one that repels the water and one that attracts it), it's become pretty addictive, and pretty fascinating.

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posted by Stephanie @ Wednesday, March 11, 2009   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Math is Mental - Really!

The article below, adapted from Kenneth Williams' original, gives pointers on how to help your children develop an interest in math -- so that math becomes a fun subject (and even one they can get good mark in) rather than a subject to fear or dread. You don't even have to be a math teacher to help!

Here are 5 ways to get your kids excited about math and get them actually looking forward to the next math class:

Inspire them

Because they just don't see the point of math, many children don't enjoy the subject. Unlike art or reading, all those symbols and numbers don't seem to mean anything. What you need to do is show them how important math is in the real world.

For example, tell them stories about the great engineering feats throughout history. Without mathematics and mathematicians, the Great Pyramids of Egypt would have long ago crumbled into dust and the Hoover Dam (as thick as two footballs fields lying end-to-end, and on top of which 20,000 cars a day drive) would never have been built. As for space travel? Please! We'd still asking: Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me.

Get practical

Get the kids involved in some real world math away from the classroom. Find something your child is interested in and relate it to math in some way.

For example, do they like baseball? Terrific. During a game, ask them how many points the losing team has to score to beat the other one. And how many games do they need to win before they have enough points to win the league?

If they enjoy helping around the home then let them do the "clever stuff". Ask them to work out the sizes for pieces of wood (or construction paper) you're going to cut. Get them to measure out the ingredients whenever you're about to bake something.

When you're in a store, ask your kids to add up the prices and keep a running total while you shop. See if they can calculate how much change you should expect at the checkout -- and if they get the answer right, maybe a small reward would be in order here!

Take life "step-by-step"

Success in math -- as in life -- is largely about breaking big projects down into manageable, bite-sized pieces.

Many kids feel overwhelmed when they see a list of math questions, and it's at this point they may decide that math is "boring" or "hard". Show them the magic of taking one question at a time, and breaking it into tiny steps that make it easy.

Remind them that they didn't always know that 2 + 2 = 4. Back in the "old days", when the kids were just babies, 2 + 2 seemed like higher mathematics!

Encourage creativity

Kids sometimes become mentally "stuck" on a topic because they're only looking at it in one way. Perhaps they need to step outside the box and see it from a different angle. This isn't only a math-related skill, of course. Showing them the beauty of alternative viewpoints and helping them to see situations from other people's perspectives are skills that will help your children throughout their lives.

Get them into the habit of exploring different ways of solving any problem. Even something simple tasks like tidying up a room can have several possible "solutions" or ways of approaching it. Crosswords and lateral thinking puzzles are good for this kind of flexible thinking.

Certainly when it comes to math, use drawings and/or manipulatives to present concepts in ways that are literally hands on.

Be positive

Eliminate negative statements like "math is hard" (even if you think so yourself). Explain that everyone has the innate ability to do math and that solving math problems isn't so different from solving other kinds of problems in life -- math is just a skill learned over time, one "block" of learning on top of the last.

By encouraging your children to accomplish even in areas they find difficult, you will give them the gift of confidence when they do succeed. By teaching them persistence and the belief that there's always a solution to every problem (as long as they keep trying and don't give up), you'll give them hope together with concrete strategies for accomplishing life goals.

And keep it light! Remember, we all perform better when we enjoy what we do, and getting kids interested in math is the real key to success.

Now who said your kids couldn't do math?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I recommend the ebook Fun With Figures as a great math resource. It shows anyone -- whatever their math ability or grade level -- the easy way to do mental math.

Visit the site today and find out what you didn't learn in the math class.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


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posted by Stephanie @ Wednesday, March 04, 2009   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Anyone Wanne Be An FBI Agent?

The FBI Youth Page (for grades 6 -12) is really well done and quite varied -- you can go through an investigation file in the U.S. or by choosing a case from one of the FBI's international Legal Attache offices (located in 52 different countries around the world).

The Day in the Life section has videos in addition to text, and the link to FBI Working Dogs gives overviews of the jobs these animals do (from drug detection to search and rescue), with photos of the dogs and chatty write-ups.

Unfortunately, the games section isn't very interesting -- but overall, it's a good site to explore.


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posted by Stephanie @ Tuesday, March 03, 2009   0 comments links to this post

Monday, March 02, 2009

Dr. Suess, I presume?

Theodore Geisel, or Dr. Seuss, would have been 105 today (March 2, 2009). In his honor, let's all go over to The Seussville Playground and have a little fun with Click-and-Play Games based on his famous characters and book titles:

  • The Grinch Grow Your Heart Game
  • The Lorax Sticker Game
  • Catch a Thing
  • Oh, the Places You'll Go!
  • Sam-I-Am Says
  • One Fish Two Fish Concentration
  • Fox In Socks Matching Game
My eldest is performing in Seussical The Musical, and has chosen Dr. Seuss as her subject of a biographical book report. We're pretty much knee-deep in Horton Hears a Who too.


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posted by Stephanie @ Monday, March 02, 2009   0 comments links to this post