If boring summer holidays are driving your children up the wall, switch on your PC
"Summer time, and the living is easy," sang Ella Fitzgerald. She would have sung it differently were she to be a mother today, with two kids Gen-X kids to take care of. After a school year packed with regular classes, tuitions, and hobby classes on everything from tap dance to Tai Chi, children suddenly find themselves caught in a vacuum called the summer holidays. "I'm borrrrreeeeddddd!" they shriek. And parents everywhere cringe in fear.
Until now, that is. More and more parents have begun to realise that the Internet may be the answer to a child's ennui. Fun Brain.com, for example, is about having fun while learning. It has sections for children, parents and teachers, with interesting quizzes, learning tools and games like 'Math Baseball' and 'Grammar Gorillas'. There are also sections on numbers, words, the universe and culture.
Berit's Best Sites for Children boasts one of the best (of course) listings, encompassing crafts, colouring and activities, information on nature and animals, as well as 'Serious Stuff' like the arts, environment and health. Children can also chat, make online pals in a safe environment, or suggest their favourite sites.
Then there's Crayola Creativity Central, which celebrates colour and creativity. It offers arts and crafts projects, activities and ideas. There are colouring books, activity pages, games as well as one of the largest children's art collections online. Cyberkids.com is another fun site with games and creative activities, comics, jokes and a special section on fun things to do in the holidays.
The more intellectually inclined can visit MysteryNet.com's kids' section for mysteries to solve, scary stories and magic tricks. How Stuff Works.com takes apart everything, from computers to automobiles. Originally founded as a site for the curious, it offers fascinating data on how things work and explains the world from the inside out.
Movies and books are no longer restricted to their respective media either. On The Magic School Bus.com, your children can download games and adventures of the adventurous. The most popular contemporary children's hero, Harry Potter also finds a home on the web, where kids can enrol at Hogwarts and be sorted by the sorting hat, prove their skill through Quidditch practice or go wand shopping.
Closer to home is the Pitara Kids Network. Pitara means a basket or treasure trove and the site emerged out of the belief that education is not an end in itself. It aims to help children become intelligent and sensitive, and incorporates seven channels that cover games, news, folk tales, poems, word games, art and craft activities, as well as an opinion poll and a space for children to express their views.
Indian parenting.com also has sections on learning and fun stuff, with facilities for kids to create their own e-cards. What's nice about this site is that the learning and tales sections comprise mostly India-related themes and information.
4 to 40.com, the brainchild of Manpreet Malik, sensitises children to their immediate socio-political-cultural-ecological surroundings. It includes in-depth sections on India, her stories and legends, along with interesting features that attempt to introduce children to their culture and heritage. There's also a lot of information on children's books in all major Indian languages including Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Oriya and even Urdu. My favourite section was the one on street games like Gilli Danda, Kabbadi, Latoo and Goli, with some I hadn't heard of before -- Ikri-Dukri and Oonch Neech Ka Papada.
One last stop -- the Tiger Information Centre, dedicated to providing information on the five subspecies of tigers left in the world today. The section for children includes information about tigers and their habitat, biology and behaviour, why tigers are endangered and what kids can do to help. It's interactive, informative and lots of fun. Perfect, for parents and offspring alike.