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Fun (and free) online learning for your child

Children using devices to learn at home

After months of home-learning, sitting down to another week of remote school work can be a struggle for some children. Even more so when the sun is shining and the temptation of YouTube is just a click away.

But there are many brilliant learning apps and websites that can offer a productive break from regular school work – through play, exploration and creativity.

Here are six of Parent Zone’s favourite free online resources to keep young minds active and engaged – plus extra sites and apps to support your child’s core curriculum work from Nursery to Year 10.

Tour the museums of the world

Lockdown or not, your child can access more than 2,000 museum collections for free in the Google Arts & Culture app (iOS, Android). Wander around the British Museum as if you were there, or browse curated collections from the Guggenheim Bilbao. The app covers all interests, from exploring street art in New York to touring the Melbourne Cricket Ground. For pure escapism, it also offers stunning Google Map views from atop international landmarks such as the Taj Mahal and St Paul’s Cathedral.

Be a back garden conservationist

Wildeverse (iOS, Android) is an augmented reality game that transforms your back garden or local park into the jungles of Asia and Africa. Discover great apes in virtual trees above your head, and help them to thrive in their environment. Children learn not only about natural habitats, but also about the importance of conservation. It’s one for extended repeat play, as gamers complete a series of mini-missions to help their new orangutan and gorilla friends find food and shelter.

Take a trip to Mars

Spaceplace by NASA takes children 6+ into orbit with a range of free games, activities and crafts. It’s much more than a science site, with activities focused on English, maths and art. Explore the surface of Mars, practise your grammar by writing a silly space story or simply discover why the sky is blue. NASA also offers a free app – featuring videos, stories and live streaming – for older explorers who want to see the galaxy and beyond.

Create a lockdown comic diary

MakeBeliefs Comix helps children write comic strips, with simple design and editing tools. You can choose from a range of pictures and story prompts to help you tell your own story. The site has a special pandemic diary section that also helps children express their emotions through lockdown. It’s a highly accessible site, with 13 languages and support for SEND children. It also offers a family section with many creative activities to do together.

Build your own app or website

If your child loves spending time online, you can challenge them to build their own website or app. RaspberryPi has free coding activities for all ages, from beginner to more advanced projects. You can make e-birthday cards and build websites from scratch, as well as join weekly live code-alongs. Partner programme CoderDojo also offers free projects on computing – such as learning HTML or creating apps.

Go on a science scavenger hunt

The Science Museum’s Treasure Hunters app (iOS and Android) challenges 1-4 players to take on a scavenging battle at home. Players compete to find and photograph household items, prompted by rounds of challenges (‘something waterproof’, ‘something using electricity’, ‘something you would tell your friends about’…). Good fun for ages 5-10 to think about the properties of the everyday items around them. The Science Museum website also hosts a range of brain-testing games, including the immersive Total Darkness about a power cut blackout.

More online learning from Reception to Year 10

For Nursery & Reception

  • The Bafta-winning Alphablocks app (iOS and Android) has engaging phonics basics for Nursery to Reception ages, while the Numberblocks app (iOS and Android) covers foundation maths.
  • Teach Your Monster To Read helps early years development of foundation phonics and literacy by, yes, literally teaching a pet monster to read.

KS1 (Years 1-3), KS2 (Years 4-6) and KS3 (Years 7-10)

  • BBC Bitesize has an extensive range of games, lessons and activities for Years 1 to 10, around all core school subjects.
  • Mathsframe and Spellingframe offer platform and skill games to support the KS2 maths and literacy curriculum. You can also buy app game bundles for iOS and Android.
  • Digiworld teaches children from KS1 upwards to be better digital citizens, while Interland helps KS2 students to learn about online safety and wellbeing through simple games.
  • Wow Science collates the best science/STEM games online for mixed ages, with a selection of free and paid apps.

Main image: nadezhda1906/stock.adobe.com


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