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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Web Sites for Younger Children

"Can I use the computer?"

You might be surprised to hear that question from a preschooler or kindergartner. But with computers as much of household life as the television and the telephone, it should come as no surprise that young children want a turn on the keyboard as well. And just as there is plenty online to amuse adults, there also is ample content aimed at the 3-8 age bracket.

TV online

Your child might get his first taste of the Internet through a familiar source. Arthur, Clifford and other public television favorites congregate at PBSKids.org, offering games, music and downloadable activities. The interface is cheerful and simple enough for preschoolers to navigate (with some help). Likewise, you can join Dora and the Wonder Pets in online fun at NickJr.com. Video storybooks, online games and streaming "radio," with those catchy tunes from favorite shows, are among the highlights. At the Disney Channel's site, click on the Playhouse Disney tab to find age-appropriate activities and entertainment. All three sites include sections for parents, with tips and resources for making the most of each site's offerings. The granddaddy of children's television, "Sesame Street," calls Sesame Workshop home; there you'll find videos, podcasts and games featuring the "Sesame Street," "Sagwa" and "Dragontales" characters.

Story time

Some of your child's favorite books have online counterparts. Dr. Seuss fans can visit Seussville, a colorful collection of click-and-play games, downloadable treats and other surprises, for preschoolers up through tweeners (plus grown-up stuff as well). The site is optimized for high- and low-bandwidth users, so dial-up visitors can enjoy the site as well. Early-reader favorite Little Critter is on the Web too, with storybooks, sing-alongs, animation and a comprehensive bibliography. The Berenstain Bears also reside in cyberspace. The mouse-over home page would seem to be simple for younger children to use, but the navigation bar offers a more direct way to find activities, videos and links to e-mail the book's characters.

Need a change of pace for storytime? Storyline Online features Screen Actors Guild members like Bradley Whitford ("The West Wing") and Tia and Tamera Mowry ("Sister, Sister," "Twitches") reading children's books aloud. The titles and the format of the site may be more appropriate for school-age children.

Let's get arty

While many child-focused sites offer coloring and other creative options, the Museum of Modern Art's site stands out for providing a child-friendly interactive guide to its exhibits. Games, video and other features provide an accessible intro to world-renowned artists and their work. Want more hands-on fare? Check out Crayola's site; there are plenty of coloring pages (natch) and craft ideas.

More resources

Check out Yahoo Kids (formerly Yahooligans) for a clearinghouse of online entertainment for youngsters. You'll find content for a range of ages, from preschool to teen. Linkopedia offers a selective list of age-appropriate sites, ranging from early learning to animals to arts and crafts. KidsClick offers a search directory of a wide range of topics; most links on this librarian-generated list are geared toward older kids, but parents of tots may find some valuable links. Your local library also may maintain a list of child-friendly sites.

Children's browsers also are great resources for age-appropriate sites. The recently released KidZui offers a great selection of popular and educational sites across age ranges; it also has features for pre-reading youngsters. (Another plus: It runs on both Windows and Mac platforms.) Other kids' browsers include KidRocket and My Kids Browser.

Other fun sites:

Club Penguin: Part of the Disney family of sites, it offers activities and community features. School-age kids will appreciate this best.
EverythingGirl: Portal for Barbie, Polly Pocket, Pixel Chix and other girls' attractions. Pre-readers will enjoy the games with mom or big sis.
National Geographic Kids: Targeted at older school kids, but with games and learning features that the younger set will enjoy (with some assistance).
Webkins: Companion site for the popular plush toys.
Thomas the Tank Engine: Visit the Island of Sodor and have fun with Thomas and the other engines.
Noggin: Another TV site (affiliated with Nick Jr.), it proclaims itself "like preschool on TV" (and presumably online). It's nominated for a 2008 Webby award for best television website.

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