As of Tuesday 5 January, England is once again under national lockdown with emergency measures to control the rapid spread of coronavirus.
With schools now closed, solidarity to any parents who are homeschooling and find themselves once again struggling to provide interesting, educational and absorbing things for their children to do, day after day.
Thankfully the internet exists and is one of the best places to look when it comes to educating your children at home.
There are thousands of websites all geared towards helping children of all ages to learn everything from Maths and languages to art, yoga and mindfulness.
We have rounded up the best websites for your children to learn from.
We chose sites which were easy to navigate, offered activities to do at home which supported the teaching, were interesting to parents, and would ensure young brains were fully engaged for at least 30 minutes or so.
Within our selection there are sites which cater to all ages and stages – including parents!
Some sites were dedicated to one discipline or topic, while others offer a broad spectrum of subjects.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
TEDEd: Free, TEDEd
We absolutely love this collection of educational video content byTedTalks. You’ve got a wealth of videos to watch – from a couple of minutes up to 20 minutes long, catering to all ages and covering all sorts of topics. Everything from “the hidden life of Rosa Parks” to “the bug that poops candy” and “how vaccines work”. Each video is marked with its length and what area of learning it relates to, from health to science and technology. While this is geared towards children, we bet parents and teachers will get just as much out of it. We are not ashamed to say we’ve been watching loads of these on our own outside of “school” hours.
Natural History Museum: Free, Natural History Museum
Just because they can’t visit in person, doesn’t mean children can’t still enjoy the benefits of this famous old museum. Take a virtual tour, letting David Attenborough guide you around the enormous Hintze Hall, getting a good look at Hope, the blue whale suspended from the museum’s ceiling, or simply digitally browse the library books.
There is also a range of downloadable activities and lesson plans available too, each helpfully labelled with the learning stage they apply to. We particularly enjoyed the Dino Directory which boasts images, facts and figures for some 300 dinosaurs. The “try this at home” section is wonderful too – especially as it teaches little ones, amongst other things, how to make a volcano.
BBC Bitesize: Free, BBC
Covering primary age all the way to 16-plus, BBC Bitesize is split into three categories – all children will have something to learn here. Whether you’ve got a teenager learning about the Spanish Armada or a young child exploring phonics – Bitesize has it covered. There are daily lessons for all ages from 9am in core subjects such as English and Maths – the content is supported by activities, videos and tests. Parents and carers, including those of SEN (special educational needs) children, can also find help.
Tate Kids: Free, Tate
We are totally thrilled by what Tate Kids has up its digital sleeves to help children learn about artists and the process of making all different types of art. Some of the world’s most famous artists are brought into focus under the “explore” tab, where you are asked “who is Salvador Dali?”, “who is Berthe Morisot?” and so on. The site offers click through options to pages on the life and works of a variety of different painters and sculptors. You can take a deep dive into different eras or styles of art – including pop art and impressionism or discover how different pieces of art might be grouped together.
The “make” tab talks you through making friendship bracelets, painting like JMW Turner or embarking on some experimental photography. While the “games and quizzes” section gives children the chance to challenge themselves and put themselves within an art context.
National Geographic classroom resources: Free, National Geographic
While travelling the world seems little more than a fantasy right now, National Geographic has provided a wealth of classroom resources which help keep children connected to and interested in little-known wonders from all over the globe. The collection of “at home” lessons suit all age groups and encompass topics such as ecology and social studies. More specific subjects, such as climate change and storytelling, have dedicated areas of the site designed for immersive exploration. As you’d expect, the photography is world class and makes using this space feel really special.
BrainPOP: £190, BrainPOP
This is an American website which might mean there are differences in curriculum or vocabulary, but generally, this is a brilliant space for children to enhance their education and learn new things. Each day is unique over at BrainPOP; there is a fresh topic to focus on each day, as well as the huge vault of information always on offer.
DK Find Out: Free, DK Find Out
We loved how easily and intuitively children could navigate this colourful learning hub. Covering 14 subjects including Maths and English, as well as space and sport. There’s plenty to get stuck into, but we think this is best suited for children who are already confident readers. Alternatively, this is a great resource for parents of younger children to explore together – you could get wonderfully lost here for hours, drinking in the history and heritage of the Incas or brushing up on the times tables. The images used are plentiful, bright and clear.
BookTrust: Free, BookTrust
The UK’s largest children’s reading charity is a hub of comfort, fun and security for families. Here bookworms will find reading recommendations, including “gentle books for troubled times”, and so much more.
There’s an entire section dedicated to what authors and illustrators are offering online for children – from illustration classes, read alongs and even “story starters” to encourage youngsters in their creative writing . There are quizzes, competitions and even book-based recipes to work on – as well as print out activities meaning there is something for all children to enjoy – even those who think they hate reading!
Fuse School: Free, Fuse School
The go-to for any fledgling scientists, Fuse School focuses on Maths, Chemistry, Biology and Physics. There are hundreds of videos created by teachers available here – all of which are short and concise, so as not to be overwhelming, which in turn encourages learning. From neuroscience to radiation, these are big topics condensed into powerful nuggets of meaning. Fuse School is a booster to main lessons and a brilliant way of revising. There’s even a social network, which means children can safely talk about their specialist topics or share queries with peers all over the globe.
Cosmic Kids: Free 14-day trial, Cosmic Kids
Making sure your children get their exercise is tough at the moment, especially for those with no outdoor space. Cosmic Kids offers yoga and mindfulness classes for children aged three and older. Lead by the friendly and enthusiastic Jaime, the videos are what she calls “active screen time, where we get up and move”. Jaime tells stories via yoga poses, including kids’ favourites like Frozen, Moana and the Harry Potter films – meaning that even reluctant yogis will find themselves enthralled!
We loved that Jaime has a variety of different yoga options – “zen den”, a series designed to help children keep calm and talk about their feelings or “brain breaks” for when kids need a quick pause from the books for a burst of exercise. What we loved most about Cosmic Kids is that it is honing children’s emotional intelligence and provides some much-needed balance from academics. It is free for the first two weeks, after which it’s £7.78 for a month or £50.56 for the year.
PhonicsPlay: £6 per year, PhonicsPlay
Free to visit and use for as long as coronavirus keeps children locked down, after which the subscription costs £6 per year, Phonics Play is, as the name suggests, a way for little ones to learn phonics in a fun, playful way. The games are brilliant – words and letters disguised in among plenty of colourful characters to keep things light. Games cater to different levels of ability so there is a sense of having things to work towards. We really appreciated the section for parents, many of whom either have no idea what phonics is, much less how to teach it to small children.
The verdict: Educational websites for kids
TEDEd gets our vote because of the scope for family learning. Of course, it helps that the subject matters offered are broad and the topics unusual and highly engaging. But, what we liked most was how each topic nicely tees up and there is plenty of post-video discussion.