Great Websites for Kids – App Inventor and More!

Kids using touch screen computerThe 2014 Great Websites for Kids Committee recently announced the final selections for 2014! Looking for some fun and educational sites to share with your children? Try some of the links below! And be sure to check out Great Websites for Kids frequently – a different website is highlighted every week.

App Inventor
This site was designed to help beginners program mobile apps for android. The site offers tutorials with step-by-step directions, an online book and a “course-in-a-box.” is a site designed to support the learning and teaching of computer coding. It features Hour of Code, a special program designed to teach beginners how to code. Through well thought out tutorials people of all ages can learn Scratch, Hopscotch and Java programming languages. Continue reading

Websites We Love: Lego Quest Kids

Lego Quest is a non-competitive, creative building challenge for LEGO loving kids and their families. What started among a few family friends grew like wildfire to include 800 kids in over 20 countries, and you will quickly see why.

Sample Quest: Monochromatic color scheme.

Pick a color, any color, and use only that color of LEGO.

Build anything. The sky is the limit. A structure, a sculpture, functional, non-functional – anything at all, but you can only use one color!

Now see what kids around the world created. Continue reading

Websites We Love: myHistro

Logo for myHistro website“Tell me a story.” This is a frequent request in my house. And of course, we have teetering piles and overflowing baskets shelves of neatly alphabetized picture and chapter books from which to choose. Snuggling up on the couch and sharing the latest adventure of Bink and Gollie or young wizard Harry Potter is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening. But sometimes I encourage my kids to tell me a story. Being able to describe events and settings in narrative form is an important skill, and websites like myHistro add a visual and interactive element to storytelling.

myHistro lets you create stories displayed on maps. Kids in grades 4 and older can use text, video and pictures to create a dynamic timeline, practicing telling when, why and where events happened. Embed each piece of a story in the location where it took place. I can imagine a fourth grader, working on a famous Missourian presentation, showing the various states in which Daniel Boone lived, explored, worked and finally settled, from his birth place in Pennsylvania to his final resting place in Missouri. You could create an “all about me” project, with various parts of your kid’s story attached to the places she lived or was visiting when they happened. Browse on over to myHistro to check out the timelines others have made, describing everything from the history of libraries to the landmark cases of the Supreme Court, and get your kiddos inspired to create place-based stories of their own!

Websites We Love: Age of the Dinosaurs and Dino Dictionary

Dinosaur Dictionary logoDinosaur A-Z” is a favorite bedtime read in my house, and by the time I get to Zephyrosaurus, I’m totally winging the pronunciation. That’s one reason why I appreciate the Dino Dictionary website: when you click on a dino’s name, it plays an audio file of the correct pronunciation. For the budding paleontologist in your family, there are descriptions of the more than 300 known dinosaurs, discussion of the latest theories in dinosaur research, dinosaur clip art and links to other resources for learning more facts and finding out where you can visit dinosaur bones in person! (Missourians can head to the St. Louis Science Center, where admission is free and prehistoric exhibits are always on display.)

And because we can’t recommend just one online home for dinosaur facts, we also suggest Age of the Dinosaurs from the BBC. This comprehensive site covers the rise and fall of dinosaurs and sea monsters and includes simple games for young fossil hunters and science buffs.

This season of Summer Reading is a perfect time to “dig into reading” about dinosaurs online!

Websites We Love:

chesskidI learned to play chess as an adult. Really. Last year. I am still a work in progress. Before I knew how to play chess, I didn’t think it would be a fun game to play, but I should have known better. I am a very analytic thinker. I like solving puzzles and looking ahead to see where things will end up, and this is why I think chess is a fun game. I wish that I had learned to play chess a LONG time ago! I now look at everything through a strategic lens, as if I am playing chess all of the time. Developing these analytic thinking skills is just one benefit of playing chess. Some studies* suggest that kids who play chess have better problem-solving abilities and higher reading and math scores. provides a fun way for you to learn or help your child to learn chess. The website has you choose a playful username, such as “AlabasterWolf,” “FlatCobra” or “SlimyWing.” If these aren’t to your liking, you can create your own. You also get to choose from a variety of avatars. Here is the cool part: as a parent, you create your own username and password to link to your child’s account so that you can monitor his or her online activity, friendships and more. You can even play against your kid!  You can play fast chess, slow chess or tournaments. There are tools that your child can use to learn how to play. One drawback: there are a limited number of features available with a “basic” free membership. The website gives you the option to “upgrade” (as a parent) for a fee. It gives your kid the option to “tell your parent you want to upgrade,” which can be kind of annoying.

Want real-life practice playing chess? Join us in Ashland on March 26 from 1-3 p.m. for Checkmate.  All skill levels and ages welcome.

*Mitchell, Deborah. 2006. “CHESS Is Child’s Play.” Mothering no. 139: 68. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed March 7, 2013)