Kids log on for a fun holiday

By Danielle Wright

Danielle Wright goes online to find the best websites for bad weather days over the holidays.

Exploring the vast collection of useful, entertaining information online will keep the kids absorbed on a rainy school holiday. Photo / Thinkstock
Exploring the vast collection of useful, entertaining information online will keep the kids absorbed on a rainy school holiday. Photo / Thinkstock

Sometimes holidays can be more scheduled than school terms; everyone enjoys a day at home every now and then. Instead of using the computer as a babysitter, search for sites you and the kids will enjoy. Here are some ideas:

Armchair travelling

* See the world's most famous cultural and heritage sites at Google Street View gallery page. Watch people going about their day outside landmarks such as The Louvre and Big Ben, or take a close look at the Swiss Alps or the Amazon.

* Head inside the great museums of the world, such as New York's Museum of Modern Art and Tate Britain, to view great masterpieces without setting foot outside your door, with Google Art Project.

* Leave the Earth for a while and explore Google Moon to see what the astronauts saw on their 1969 moon landing, with a narrated tour by Apollo 11's Buzz Aldrin.

Or take a look at Google Mars for antique maps showing how our knowledge of Mars has changed over time.

* Stargaze with Sky Map by pointing an Android phone towards the night sky. It will help you pick out Venus, Orion and other major markers. Notice how we see star formations reversed from what people in the Northern Hemisphere see. So, from New Zealand, Orion has his feet in the air, whereas in the Northern Hemisphere he is the right way up.

By the book

* If you love the I Spy range of books, Scholastic has some online games to test even the best set of eyes - I'm still looking for that darn crayon in the library game. There are also I Spy Puzzles and I Spy Bingo.

* Encourage your child's thirst for knowledge with Wonderopolis from the National Center for Family Literacy (US). Each day a new question is posed, such as: "Why do bridges freeze before roads?" and the answer is given, along with videos, experiments such as freezing oil and water and the salty ice experiment. If you have nothing to do, this website will give you ideas for at least a couple of hours.

Art appreciation

* Join an online art project such as Dear Photograph. Here, you find an old photograph and hold it up in shot for a modern photograph to blend the past and present images.

* Make music with Barbie on a keyboard in fashionable pastel colours online; see the game room at New York Philharmonic's Kidzone; or take a Carnegie Hall Listening Adventure.

These days there is a website for every topic, from drawing a Jackson Pollock painting to learning eco-friendliness (disney.go.com/projectgreen or kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids). If your child likes exploring, tour the world online; if they love to draw, hop on to websites from the world's best galleries and artists; if science is their thing, the options, from sites revealing the depths of the ocean to outer space, are limitless.

Online safety

If you're not watching over them, make sure the kids are safe online by setting up filters such as Google SafeSearch, as well as researching Family Safety Centre or visiting Net Safe for Hector's World, a cyber safety initiative aimed to teach children 2-9 about safe online practices and digital citizenship.

Mobile phones also have filter settings and restrictions that can be switched on and off, such as allowing only movies rated G to be viewed and only "clean" music and podcasts.

- Herald on Sunday

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