One subject most kids enjoy learning about is animals. Picture books with animal characters are firm favorites with the younger crowd, and non-fiction books about animals are popular with curious older kids. Kids also love to observe animals, in real life visits to the zoo perhaps, or via some of the well-made documentaries available. Children with access to companion animals learn lots about the special joy such animals bring to our lives.
There are a number of fascinating websites devoted to helping us learn about animals. Here are some you might like to explore with your kids.
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Children and adults alike can't help grinning delightedly when they see baby animals. Help your kids explore this website, devoted to the newest, cutest baby animals from the world's accredited zoos and aquariums. It's a great place to play conversation games like choosing the cutest one or deciding on a fantasy pet. It might also make a good jumping-off point for research on animals or a school project. If your child can't get enough of baby animals, there's My Encyclopedia of Baby Animals, a squeal-worthy guide to the most adorable animals around.
National Geographic and National Geographic Kids
Both sites offer stacks of resources on animals, including videos. Young children will benefit from your help with some of the heavier reading, and there'll be lots of opportunities for you to discuss what you learn. Kids also will be mesmerized with the wild animals in 101 Animal Secrets and LEGO Nonfiction: Big Book of Animals, which burst with gorgeous photographs.
Australia's ABC Splash
This is a rabbithole of a website where we can easily lose track of time! As well as lots of general educational resources, including videos, interactive games and digi-books, it offers helpful materials on animals like this one on Remarkable Animal and Plant Life Cycles. Discover the animals native to the vast continent of Australia with A True Book: Australia and Oceania.
Walking With Dinosaurs
Despite being better suited for older children, young dinosaur fans will still adore looking at the images and videos about dinosaurs on this BBC site. Moms and dads can help youngsters read some of the fascinating fact sheets seen by clicking on images. Hungry for more? Young readers will gobble up the full-bleed photos and fun facts in Fly Guy Presents: Dinosaurs, while older readers (grades 3 and up) will revel in the "terrifying truths" revealed about the giant reptiles who ruled the skies, land and sea in The Science of Dinosaurs series.
World Wildlife Fund
As well as discovering more about endangered species and the important work the WWF does, this website has lots of great educational materials about animals. Check out tabs like Species, browse the excellent close-up images, and find the answers to questions like Why Are Sloths Slow? To learn more about the precious animals protected by the WWF, read the A True Book: The Most Endangered series, which features educational books on gorillas, big cat species, polar bears, and more.
I wrote about ARKive back in 2010, and it's still one of my favorite web spaces. Again, children will get more from this site if their parents spend time discussing and sharing it with them. You can browse by topics, species, habitats, and more, but make sure to check out the education section. I love that it has materials suitable even for 5- to 7-year-olds, with children encouraged to learn through activities like making animal masks. For more creative activities, try our animal-related Klutz kits — your creative child can make animal paper lanterns and miniature animal plushies.
If some of the websites above seem a little too serious for your kids, help them visit Kids Planet. As well as finding some excellent fact sheets, here they can play animal-themed games, like Who Am I, where they need to identify animal sounds. For another lighthearted approach to learning about animals, try the What If You Had Animal... series, which teaches kids fun facts about animals as they try to imagine what it would be like to have a shark's teeth or a porcupine's quills.
Switch Zoo is another site where the learning is slightly disguised by fun! Children can play animal games, create their own wacky new animals, even solve jigsaw puzzles. Can't you just imagine the fun kids will have making a unique animal and imagining its diet, its habitat, and its special features? For even more educational fun, try The Magic School Bus Back in Time with the Dinosaurs Science Kit — your child can mold fossils, build a dinosaur replica, and more, all while learning!
Sharing websites like these with our kids is a wonderful way to demonstrate safe online behavior, as well as our own enthusiasm for learning. Follow up with a visit to your local library or zoo to extend the experience. Searching publisher websites will bring an amazing array of animal-themed bookish goodness, where you're sure to find resources just right for your children.