Now that my kids are back in school full time (fingers crossed it lasts, knock on wood, wish on a shooting star), I am more comfortable with extending their post-school screen time. And TBH, even if they were still Zooming it up at home, I would still give the go-ahead for them to spend time on any of these online resources for kids. I have vetted each one thoroughly, and love the content and education they provide.
As a parent, would you know how to teach your children how to write? I honestly don’t remember writing being FUN when I was younger (no disrespect to my teachers). I remember writing about very uninteresting topics and not really understanding why I received the grade I did.
Night Zookeeper is an online platform that helps kids hone their writing skills in an interactive and enjoyable way. It is unlike anything I have seen, and my kids TRULY love spending time on it. I even posted on social this past weekend about how they refused to come to dinner because they were working on their stories. I receive dozens of collaboration opportunities each week for my kids, and this one is in my top 5 ever.
The website is based around a series of “magical storybooks” where kids are encouraged to create their own characters and stories. It is filled with games that increase vocabulary and improve spelling, puzzles, and challenges that improve grammar and sentence structure, and creative story prompts that help pull the ideas out and put them on the screen. Kids draw their own characters on the screen, which are used throughout their stories.
Here is the best part: There are live educators online helping your children with their writing. They receive instant feedback, both from the Night Zookeeper “characters” as well as the team of NZK educators. Here is a sample:
Also, their stories have the possibility of being published!
Night Zookeeper runs Star Writing contests where they issue a topic or challenge for participants. The staff then chooses their top picks to be published in a book or on the website. It is incredible for kids to see where writing can take them, and that it can be an actual profession as opposed to something that is a chore. I honestly never thought about becoming a professional writer and I wish I had!
This is truly the best educational resource I have found online for kids. It is designed for children age 6-12, and costs $12.99/month with options to pre-pay for a discount. I have a special link that gives you 50% off the yearly subscription! In my opinion, it is 100% worth the price. The recommendation is to have your children use Night Zookeeper for at least 30 minutes/week, and you have a parent dashboard where you can see what your kids have been working on.
Happy Camper Live
Raise your hand if your child missed out on summer camp this past summer! Mine usually attends a week-long camp on Torch Lake in Michigan, and their days are full of crafts, games, and, well, connection! I am a crafty mom, scanning Pinterest for possible projects, but I have more #failedit than #nailedit moments.
Happy Camper Live is one of those online resources for kids that put a smile on both the parents and kids’ faces! It contains a well-curated library of activities, how-to videos, and live streaming of actual camp counselors helping kids participate in activities. What I love is that this is a safe space- there aren’t any pop-ups, ads, or links that lead kids to another random location on the Internet. (YouTube freaks me out a bit in this way). Kids can post videos of themselves singing, dancing or doing special talents to the “Campfire” and share with other kids (videos are monitored).
Also, my kids used to have after school clubs that our school offered. My son took woodworking and break dancing, and my daughter was so excited to participate in dance this year. Unfortunately, those clubs aren’t being offered anymore due to COVID, but I checked out Happy Camper Live and they have a lot of the same concepts that the clubs offered! This is a great way to offer after school programming for your kiddo, and test the waters to see what they might be interested in. For example, my daughter wanted to participate in a cheerleading club this year. Happy Camper Live has a “Cheerleading Camp” section that gives her a taste of what it is like! There are also study breaks that can be used for at-home learning.
Sign up here– they have monthly options as well as a yearly option at a discount. There are also some free activities that you can access without signing up for a membership!
The Kids Table
Here is how dinner goes in my house. I make a meal that is well-balanced and healthy. My kids poke at it, complain, and ask for snacks. SERIOUSLY. Does anyone else deal with this?
I was asked to review The Kids Table this past summer, and my kids and I even hosted an online cooking class with our backyard herbs and bounty from strawberry picking. The first class was a little tough because my kids needed ALL THE HELP, but after just two classes I could see their confidence and skills start to soar.
We made Deep Dish Pizza Cupcakes for one class, and my children ate every single crumb of that meal for dinner without complaint. They were thrilled to made something from scratch (yes, dough, AND sauce from scratch!) and personalize it to their own tastes. They thought it was so cool to go into the backyard, pick basil from our herb garden, and mix it into a tomato mixture. They have only ever seen sauce come from a jar, so this was a revelation.
The Kids Table recipes all include REAL FOOD. You know, the stuff that grows in the ground or is picked off trees? The recipes are vegetarian-based but you can add any meat you prefer. It would make a wonderful birthday party for older kids as well- give each kid a basket of ingredients to use at home and Zoom everyone in! I also sent the idea to my friend who hosts a Girl Scout Troop- she was looking for winter activities that kids could all do from home to earn badges.
Here is a listing of their virtual classes, and here is a link to their party page! They are also doing in-person events if you live in Chicago (located in Wicker Park).
Art for Kids Hub
Last week, my daughter drew a unicorn that looked totally professional for a 6-year old. I almost didn’t believe that she drew it, I thought it might have been traced, thinking that she was an absolute artistic genius if it wasn’t. She then showed me Art for Kids Hub that she found on YouTube Kids (and apparently this site is so great that many drawings turn out this well or better…so she isn’t an artistic genius that I know of). This channel is an excellent resource for budding artists, even if they have zero experience in drawing. The site is run by a husband and wife couple and their four kids, and they upload new lessons daily. The drawings range from preschool-level (bananas) to highly detailed (intricate dragons), so there is something for everyone.
You can access their lessons for free through traditional YouTube, YouTube Kids, www.artforkidshub.com, but all of these sites contain ads. If you want to go ad-free, you can pay to subscribe to www.artforkidshub.tv for $5.99/month.
GiGis Playhouse- GiGis At Home
The GiGis Playhouse Mission is: “To change the way the world views Down syndrome and to send a global message of acceptance for all.” Due to COVID, they were forced to suspend all programming and cancel dozens of events. The team at GiGis Playhouse kicked off GiGis at Home within days, allowing the 25,000 families who depend upon GiGis programming to have online resources for kids for therapeutic and educational programming. This video gives you a glimpse into how valuable this online resource for kids is: (grab the tissues)
In addition to programming for children, they also offer resources for adults. Much of their funding came from in-person events, so they are asking anyone who is able to donate at www.steptoaccept.org.
Also, my friend Syd has a series of cooking videos she made on YouTube called “Cooking with Syd.” We met at Cheley Family Camp last year- she is a fabulous young woman with a great sense of humor. Here is a video of her “Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge,” which makes a perfect holiday gift:
I just showed my parents the Libby app, and they were blown away. Hopefully, your library supports this resource because it can be a game-changer when it comes to checking out books.
Although my kids and I still love to head to the physical library and search for our favorites, trying to scour the house for them all to return can get extremely frustrating. With the Libby App, you can have access to ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines by simply having a local library card. There are no late fees or fines- books are simply unavailable on your device after your borrowing period has ended.
If your child likes to listen to audiobooks before bed, the app even has a sleep timer that will shut off the story after a certain amount of time. And obviously, this isn’t JUST for kids. This is one of the online resources for kids that adults can use as well. I use this regularly! I constantly put holds on popular books instead of purchasing them.
Cheers to finding online resources for kids that are both educational and entertaining (and don’t have background music that drives you bonkers)!
Diclosure: Some of these links in the post may contain affiliate links, which means I make a small commission if you purchase. My opinion is honest and my own as always.