With a few mouse clicks and some help from Mom or Dad, visitors to www.poissonrouge.com explore the site through images-no navigation bars or extra windows here. In fact, there's very little text. Together, parents and kids as young as 14 months explore the site by selecting items from a playroom-click on the piano keys to create music, the paintbrush to color-in simple illustrations, or the building blocks to play basic number games. Preschoolers can enjoy the site with very little supervision as they learn to use the mouse.
Although the domain name is French, you don't need to be multilingual to use Poisson Rouge. Most of the activities are image-based, and what little text that does appear, such as information for parents about the site, is in both English and French. Alphabet activities are offered in both English and French.
This easy-to-navigate site requires Flash 5.0 software, which you can download free through a link on the site.
Up to 10
If your children know how to use a computer and navigate websites, but you're not comfortable letting them surf unsupervised, www.uptoten.com is a great transitional site. Kids learn puzzle-solving and coordination through games and stories geared to their own age-levels. Boowa the dog and Kwala the koala star in activities for kids up to 6; kids 6 to 10 can solve jigsaw puzzles and mazes, compete in car races, and play coordination games.
A free user account is not required, but signing up for one gives your kids access to gifts and additional games (with no ads!), while you receive newsletters and educational tips.
The teen-tech language may give you a headache, but the acronyms, abbreviations, and creative spellings deliver positive messages to your 'tween daughters. "4 gurlz who r going places," www.call4ally.com is a multimedia site for girls 8-14. Visitors follow Ally and her dog Thunder, both animated characters, on their international adventures.
For a one-stop, all-ages location, check out www.kaboose.com. A free network of three sites, Kaboose contains kids and 'tweens activities, parenting advice, and family projects. Funschool offers educational activities for ages 3-11, Zeeks reaches 9-14-year-olds with games and entertainment info, and Kids Domain serves as a family resource.
From the main page, you can access reviews of DVDs, books, toys, and video games or read about vacation destinations. There are also family activities and crafts organized under topics like "Back to School," where your family can learn how to make locker magnets, personalize a lunchbox, or decorate pencils.
Whether you're reading about party planning or discussing cooking for kids with other parents on the message boards, Kaboose.com will give you ideas to bring your family together.