There are tons of fun and addictive sites for kids where they can create their characters and interact and play around and avoid creepy adults posing as kids. Luckily, most of them are linked to the parent’s email address so we can keep an eyeball on their activities. And for the most part they’re interactive cartoons.
I’ve been noticing lately some wonderful sites that don’t rely on games and visual overload to draw in kids, but rather appeal to their sense of creativity and intelligence.
The Night Zookeeper is delightful with a giant capital D. I was drawn in completely upon landing on their main page, but I was patient and waited until Fen got home from school to sign her up. I wanted to get her reaction to it, and she was as intrigued as I was.
This site is reminiscent of a wonderful picture book. The moment you click on, you are met with a friendly British voice, welcoming you to the Night Zoo, and promising a creative adventure:
“Together, we will answer the question: what do animals dream about?”
Love it. The feel is surreal and mysterious but playful. You listen to a story about the Night Zoo, then move onto the other areas where you can create your own Night Zoo animal and upload it, and then you click on different animals to see what your missions are. And get this- they are actual real-life activities, not lazy old computer tasks. Your children will need to get up and use their hands to make things.
Night Zookeeper is more than just a site- it’s a collaboration between a school teacher and a graphic designer/children’s book illustrator to bring a creative approach to learning into the classroom. They’ve visited many classrooms throughout the UK with great response from teachers and kids.
I’m thinking since I just wrote about them that they’ll probably come visit Chicago and present at my kid’s school next year. Don’t you think?
DIY.org is a refreshingly simple-to-use site co-founded by Zach Klein, who also co-founded Vimeo. It’s basically just a place to upload your kid’s artwork, but it includes some fun extras.
You start off the sign up process by choosing an animal to represent you, and then you pick a user name. You can make your own or “pull” a lever to generate one for you. We went through a few options before Fen chose the raccoon and one of the names they came up with. It lends a comforting sense of anonymity to your kids being online.
That’s it! That’s it. You upload creations to keep in your gallery. No buttons to ‘like’ or commenting or gathering followers and sending messages. You can invite family and friends to view and reward your artwork with stickers, but the simplicity of this site is incredible! Such restraint must have gone into designing it. There’s also a great app that corresponds with the site so you can shoot and upload art on the go.
I love that these sites encourage kids to create and reward them by letting them share their artwork online. That’s exciting for kids- and how can it not foster a sense of pride and excitement?