Let's Play! 20+ Sites for Young Learners

Part of the Cool Sites series

Sometimes, the teachers of young learners get a bad reputation for playing all day in their classes. Let me tell you a secret. Any great teacher of young learners is definitely playing a lot in and out of the classroom! Play is an important part of development. Children are motivated by learning through play and learn a lot through playing such as:

  • problem solving
  • completing a small task before a larger task
  • pacing
  • following instructions
  • collaborating
  • developing skills to accomplish tasks

Play and Video Games

Many more lessons are learned by today’s digital games which have the social component to them. Try checking out the Playstations, Wii, and other game consoles. Many have ways for children worldwide to communicate and play with/against each other. Children are motivated to accomplish tasks and learn skills. They can continue the challenge until they accomplish it. Some get so obsessive they will spend all night trying to achieve the task so they can advanced to the next level! If it’s too tough the kids will research online forums, ask others experienced in the game, and apply what they learned into accomplishing the task. What I have described should be what learning in schools should look like. Below are some websites to find games for young learners to develop skills and learn English! I add these by theme to my class wiki, English Storytime, and encourage the parents to help the children play the games and monitor them. The children love playing these games and entering these virtual worlds! Some of the websites are games but do offer English adventures for children where they get a chance to have fun learning English! These websites are definitely preferable to children sitting in class completing worksheets.

9 Digital Sites that Make English Fun for YLs

Kindersite– The Kindersite spearheaded by Joel Josephson (@acerview54) has 1000s of educational and fun content specifically designed for preschool, kindergartens, elementary, primary schools and special needs students. Register for free for full featured access, but it’s not required. The age level and themes are listed next to each game! Interactive stories, games, and activities are included. I get many of the games we play in class for my 4 to 10 year-old English language learners from this website!

ELT Digital Play– This blog lists reviews various games, describes their value and how to play them. I love the pictures shown and the kind of games they find which have children complete tasks and advance to different levels! These games are the kind children love to play and aren’t just simple tasks. Once again a great place I find treasures for my class wiki! Graham Stanley (@grahamstanley) and Kyle Mawer (@kylemawer). You can follow their Twitter account to be updated, @eltdigitalplay.

Pumkin English– Love this virtual world for children to learn English through cute characters accomplishing tasks and winning points! In addition, the site has 100 lessons and over 750 learning activities that help children practice pronunciation, listening, reading, and writing skills. Teachers have free accounts and there are free trial periods for parents. Children learn English through videos, games, songs, puzzles and quizzes. Parents are given daily reports of the child’s learning. Children can explore 5 virtual worlds and have over 100 animals join them along the way. There is also a foundation that is going to be set-up for kids who can not afford to play outside of school. You can follow their Twitter account to be updated, @pumkinenglish. Sometimes I play the games myself for fun!

Brainnook– a free online virtual world for kids to develop math and english skills with children worldwide. This site is in Beta so parents and children feel free to explore for free!

English Story Time Wiki– In my class wiki, you’ll find several activities, videos, fingerplays, and chants listed by theme.

Nick Jr– A free website that has several developmental games for children based on popular children’s shows. My 4 to 6 year-olds’ favorite game comes from this site, Wonder Pets Save the Baby Dinosaur!

English Attack– Adolescents and teens learn English through games, videos, news, music, and more. Paul Maglione (@paulmaglione) runs this website. Test the beta for free! I recently saw his presentation at TESOL France and the website looks really fantastic for older children and teenagers.

Webkins– Children buy these characters and get a code to enter the virtual world. It’s not made for English language learners but motivates children to speak English with millions of kids worldwide. Children really enjoy this virtual world.

Learn English Kids– Has several interactive stories, games, and printables for children of all ages!

YL Curriculum Resources

I remember when I first began teaching young learners how difficult it was to find great material. For this reason, I’d like to recommend you check out these 3 great sites for YL resources. Not all are free and nope they didn’t pay me to write this for them. Just appreciate their great materials for YLs.

Potato Pals– Accompanying this cute book series of potato pal adventures are Youtube videos, a Facebook community, drawing contests, a blog of their adventures, and more! All children’s books should have these elements to involve their communities. I really enjoy how the Potato Pals has children worldwide submit drawings and features them on a slideshow. It makes children feel special when the characters they read about communicate with them. The Potato Pals series is unique and forward thinking on how they involve kids through social media. Imagine a child sending their favorite character a drawing then looking on the website to see that drawing published. Children are on Facebook these days. At least my 12 year-old niece is and I can only imagine the joy she feels when befriended by a character she loves! The Potato Pals series is uniquely different than any other children’s series I’ve encountered for English language learners.

English Raven– I have previously written about English Raven’s games, lessons, flash cards and more! You pay what you want to have access to 1000s of materials and ideas! For one YL curriculum I paid megabucks so this is an absolutely bargain in my opinion. You get access to some great videos of Jason Renshaw playing the games with his very cute children 🙂 Here’s just one of Jason’s great ideas to create a live reader for children starring them!

Cullen’s ABCs– This free video curriculum has so many creative ideas, finger plays, chants, and songs for young learners. I watched so many of Cullen’s videos to figure out how to engage my learners to learn the language. This free program really saved me when I began teaching 2 year-olds English and I share her videos with my parents to help them play the fingerplays at home with their children! Cullen has a free online pre-school for children and an iPhone app of 5 felt-board stories. Below is one great example of her free videos!

Young Learner Blogs

Here are some great blogs that often share YL lessons and ideas. I always find some fun ideas! Check them out and subscribe in one click with this bundle! These include the blogs by Digital ELTplay and English Raven above!

Early EFL
Teaching Village
Reflections of a Teacher and Learner
Sabrina’s Weblog
Esra’s Englishous Blog
Carol Read’s ABC of Teaching Children
For English Teachers – Angoltanároknak
Ozge Karaoglu’s Blog
So This is English
Picture Books in ELT
What is the amount of time you’re playing in your YL classes? By the end of the day you should be exhausted and in great shape from all the movement. Try increasing the amount of play in your YL classes for at least one week. Try having very few worksheet activities that week if possible and reflect on the difference.

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10 thoughts on “Let's Play! 20+ Sites for Young Learners

  1. Thanks for this great post Shelly – another one I’ll be passing on to my fellow teachers to get them using web2.0 resources more!
    And thanks for the blog mention. 😉

  2. Great list of sites! Thanks so much for putting this together. When I host an afterschool enrichment class with 4 or 5 yr olds I love to use PBS Kids Island ( http://pbskids.org/island/ ). The students love working through the activities and earning points to virtually buy things for their treehouse. The parents love the report that tells what skills their child has been working on too. All free!

  3. Shelly, thanks so much for the mention. It really is an honour to make it onto your blog among such illustrious names.

  4. Melissa,
    Thank you so much for contributing to this list of resources! We will have to check this treasure out! 🙂

  5. Hi Shelly,
    I just stumbled on your post from a link from a visitor over at my blog. Thanks for the kind mention and for the tips!

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