Best Free Online Learning Games for Kids
Fun, Free Educational Websites for Kids
My kids have loved playing online from the time they were able to manipulate the mouse. I've always nudged them toward sites with educational content because I like to think the kids are getting more out of their digital playtime than just development of peripheral things like problem solving and motor skills.
And they certainly have. From early phonics to science, we've found some great sites. Here are my kids' favorite places to play online.
Photo by moare, on morguefile.com.
Jumpstart Online Virtual World - For kids ages 3 to 10
When I first became aware of the JumpStart brand, we bought their educational pc games for my eldest daughter. They were some of the most fun and best quality computer games we found for preschoolers. A few years later, they expanded that line to include a safe online multiplayer world for kids. We had to try it.
In this 3D world kids can create their own avatar, explore, play educational games, watch videos, find treasure, do quests, play with and care for pets, and interact with Frankie and the other characters they may already know from JumpStart's educational software.
Jumpstart is constantly adding new content as well as holiday themed fun, keeping things fresh and seasonal.
Part of the world is free, and part of it takes a monthly fee or yearly membership to access. If your kids are like mine, they'll love the free areas and put getting access to the rest of the world at the top of their wishlist.
I bought them a yearly membership for one of their Christmas gifts a couple of years ago, and it was everything they (and I) had hoped. So last year, after their initial year ran out, I took advantage of Jumpstart's great lifetime membership deal. The website has held strong as one of their favorite places to play online.
Like many membership educational sites, Jumpstart gives us progress reports that show what our kids are learning or attempting to learn. Another great membership bonus is the ability to download several full JumpStart games your kids can play on your computer.
JumpStart Online Virtual World Screenshot GalleryClick thumbnail to view full-size
Disney Junior - (Formerly: Disney Preschool)
Disney Junior has fun learning games featuring characters our kids know and love from the Disney Junior block of television programming (formerly Playhouse Disney) and the movies.
Kids love to play with their favorite characters in the settings of their favorite shows, and Disney doesn't disappoint with these fun computer games.
FunBrain - Games for Kindergarten to Eighth Grade
FunBrain offers a wide variety of games with a site focus on having fun while learning. I've found games focusing on academic skills here that many other sites don't have, like fractions and grammar, but all in a fun way. My kids love to learn here.
Kaboose Funschool - Games for Preschool through 6th Grade
Another site that deliberately puts the FUN in learning is Funschool. For preschoolers they have animal games and other early learning games with cute animation and brightly colored graphics.
For older kids, their games cover language, art, math, geography, and more.
National Geographic Kids - Games for kids ages 6 to 14
Nick Jr. - Games for Preschoolers, Ages 2 to 6
Nick Jr games feature well known Noggin/Nick Jr characters like Kai-Lan, Dora, Diego, Backyardigans, and Max & Ruby. Just click the games & activities tab to see their selection.
There are videos, crafts, printables, and a parents area with recipes and articles, as well.
PBSKids - Preschoolers to age 12
PBSKids.org has games, stories, coloring pages, and video clips from the educational children's shows shown on PBS. You can find fun online games featuring Curious George, Clifford, Between the Lions, Sesame Street, WordWorld, Cyberchase, and more, all free to play.
Scholastic - Preschoolers on up
Scholastic offers free online I-Spy, Magic School Bus, Clifford the Big Red Dog, WordGirl, Maya and Miguel, and other games. They also have printables and lesson plans for teachers and homeschoolers, science experiments, and other activities.
All our old friends from Sesame Street appear in learning games and videos here. It's a good place for a preschooler to disappear into for a while, with the wealth of games and videos available.
My youngest son, at three-years-old, is not as computer savvy as his siblings, but he can still manage this website on his own. He loves hanging out with his Sesame Street pals.
Parents can find advice articles on parenting topics, printables, and other fun stuff at the parents section.
Starfall - For Beginning Readers
Starfall is a great site for teaching kids phonics, or helping beginning readers strengthen their skills.
My eldest, now eleven, used it in her preschool days, and now her little brothers are using it, too. In fact, I recently noticed one of my boys' teachers used a printout from Starfall as part of her classroom curriculum.