When it comes to helping your child to learn, there are a lot of resources available on the web in varying degrees of quality. So, living in this age and time we can’t complain about not having enough resources to nurture our kids’ interests. On the contrary sometimes the sheer number of choices available may overwhelm us.
So below I am sharing a few quality resources which I am personally using with my (recently turned to) six years old, at moment, almost daily. He is not much interested in reading or arts or crafts (at least not for now) but loves numbers and scientific facts, so these are the topics which make up the bulk of this list.
BrainPOP Jr is a site where you can find tons of animated educational videos for kids. Annie and Mobi (the friendly robot) take you through a tour of everything from rain forests to graphic organisers. This is Umar’s go to site when he spends free time on computer while I get some work done. It’s a paid subscription based website but totally worth it.
The Kid Should See This is a collection of 4,300+ kid friendly videos curated by a mom with the help of her two kids. It’s a free resource and you will find videos on a wide variety of topics nurturing curiosity in kids while exposing them to various different themes and topics.
These books are for you, not for your kids. (Although some newer books are for kids too). I love their books. They give ideas to create rich, multi-sensory experiences for kids early on. Their books teach you (not your kids) to take mathematics beyond arithmetic. It will help you raise kids who are able to see, if not love, the beauty of maths. Rather than struggling to become human calculators they will become aspiring problem solvers. For example watch how 5 year olds can learn Calculus. These books make you realise why playing with algebraic and calculus concepts—rather than doing arithmetic drills—may be a better way to introduce children to maths
Everyday the folks at Bedtime Math send you a daily prompt on topics varying from astronauts to dinosaurs. Most of the daily prompts include either an image or a video, few fun facts, followed by a few easy maths question for different age groups. We often take the activity further by watching more videos/reading books on the topic of the day. And we turn the simple arithmetic questions into more detailed maths discussions where I try to give him a glimpse to the bigger picture of mathematics. We also make our own activities which are not about arithmetic. Things like seeing patterns and looking at the same problem from lots of different perspectives. You can either download their free app or subscribe to a daily newsletter via email.
Kids can learn computer science without a computer using these multi-sensory activities from CS unplugged. With the recent “coding for all” movement, we have seen a rapid increase in people trying to teach kids “coding” but computer science is not just coding. Computer science is a set of tools which prepares one to solve problems. Sometimes I feel like coding is to computer science what arithmetic is to mathematics. At least in the amount of emphasise put on them for young learners. But these activities are some of the best I have found teaching real computer science. I do need to alter some of the activities to make them more suitable for his age and level of understanding.
There are a ton of free coding apps and websites for young learners but a few we are using are Scratch Jr, which is a version of Scratch, especially developed for younger learners. Code.org, Code-a-pillar, Lightbot, Tynker etc. Since he can’t read yet so we have so far stuck with the ones that have pre-reader options.
A whole lot of Science web sites
You can find some of our favourites listed here.
Logic and problem solving apps
I download a bunch of apps on Umar’s tablet/phone. However, I do not invest too much in the paid apps and often use the free or lite versions as Umar tends to get bored of them rather quickly. But I only download apps which are interactive and challenging, rather than singing silly songs to him or providing passive entertainment. Currently his favourite one is Inventioneers.
To keep a balance between digital and analogue, we play lots of non-digital games too. Like this treasure hunt. But we hardly buy toys as he is not too keen on playing with toys. But he likes to make his own toys and this website has a pretty good collection of ideas.
Umar loves his electricity kit. But after making lots of circuits with bulbs and buzzers he is getting a bit tired of it. So we played a bit with an Arduino which was lying around. For those of you who don’t know, Arduino is a small micro-controller and you can make very cool stuff using it. Umar enjoys playing with Arduino, but the drawback is that he can only do the electronics part, while I have to program the Arduino for him. Micro:bit (another micro-controller) is programmable through drag and drop programming languages like Microsoft MakeCode and Scratch. So I am planning to get him one. He also has his own programmable cap 😎
Alphabet cards (both English and Arabic letters), cut and glued on a fridge magnet make for an excellent activity. He keeps making words and even silly non-words with them. Once he can read some simple words I will throw in some common verbs, silly adjectives and nouns so he can make his own stories. I want to buy something like this but shipping cost to South Africa is rather scary. 😬
Updated: YouTube has created Learn@Home, a website offering learning resources and content for families, spotlighting content on topics such as math, science, history and arts from popular learning channels. It has different sections for different aged kids. YouTube is already a big part of our learning journey and having a list of educational channels is really handy.
If you find this list helpful feel free to share it. You can also follow Umar’s unschooling journey on Instagram by following the hashtag #unschoolingumar.