Weekend leisure: A portal to other worlds

The kids can visit the moon or the Tate Britain art gallery in London during these winter school holidays without even leaving the house.

Google has a site where you can walk on the moon. Photo / Supplied
Google has a site where you can walk on the moon. Photo / Supplied

With the cold weather and the school holidays in mid-swing, sometimes the weather is going to force the kids inside and on to the computer. But screen-time can be good for them: there's a raft of fun, useful and educational online activities that will keep the kids entertained for hours.

Here are a selection to help beat the boredom, where kids to explore the world, travel through time, learn about the human body and build with their imaginations:

1. Go moon walking

With Google you can explore the moon's surface and trace the steps of the 1969 moon landing - with a narrated tour by Buzz Aldrin. Try it here. For more space exploration, check out Google Mars, which lets you zip around the planet's surface, with hi-res imagery from the Mars Rovers.

2. Explore the world in 3D

Google Earth lets you navigate the world in 3D, zooming in from space to anywhere in the world. Depending on their interests, kids can watch the changing rain forests over time; dive underwater to explore the tropical reefs, or shipwrecks and much more. Endless hours of exploration for free.

3. For the book worms

You can now read original texts with Google Books. Learning about evolution? Leaf through original copies of Darwin's 1859 Origin of Species online. Curious about the 1969 moon landings? The astronauts wrote up their experience in Life Magazine.

4. Turn your brain inside out

Optical illusions are a fun and entertaining way to explore the inner workings of the mind, and why our eyes and brain sometimes make "mistakes". Try out demos here.

5. World's first virtual art gallery

The recently launched Google Art Project enables you to explore some of the world's most acclaimed art museums and celebrated collections (from 17 of the world top art galleries and museums). Take a 360-degree tour of each museum, learn about the pieces and artists behind them, and curate your own online collection.

6. Create your own game show

Quiz the kids on conversions and quantities. How many kilometres are there in 10 miles? What time is it in Tokyo? Try to guess the right answer; then speak the question into Google Search on an iPhone or Android phone, and up pops the solution. (Also works with Google Search on your desktop.)

7. Reach for the stars

Identify constellations, planets, and galaxies simply by pointing an Android phone towards the night sky with Google Sky Map. It'll use the phone's motion sensors to line up your mobile map with what you're seeing in the sky (in real-time).

8. Go treasure hunting

"Geocaching" is a fun way to explore the physical world by using GPS (Global Positioning Satellites) to find co-ordinates where other "cachers" have hidden trinkets, notes, and other secret items. Bring something meaningful and drop it off when you find the treasure, so someone else can see what you've left there. Find the locations and learn more by visiting the website.

9. Help them build their dream skyscraper

Google Sketchup lets budding architects design sophisticated 3D structures - be it a concert hall, starship, or floating garden - without any real technical knowledge.

10. Learn about the human body

Get the kids excited and learning about science and the human anatomy with Google Body; an interactive 3D model of the human body that lets you view different layers of human anatomy, zoom in to see how different body parts work together, search for muscles, bones, organs and much more.

- NZ Herald

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