Amanda - posted on 02/16/2010 ( 3 moms have responded )
The Internet is both my salvation as a parent and the bane of my existence. You can find anything, any opinion, any oddball group of people uniting to discuss their shared obsession. At the best of times, you can get some really great information, advice, support and ideas from the right website. Or you could waste 45 precious minutes playing a Space Invaders game you stumbled across ... or so I've heard.
If you're parenting an autistic child -- or any child for that matter -- there are plenty of sites out there dying to separate you from your hard-earned cash. Some of them are worth it and some aren't. However, there are some really great sites out there offering, for some altruistic reason, their goods for free. We love you. And here's the Broadfeet salute to some of our favorite sites with free stuff for parents and kids:
We credit Starfall with teaching Billy the alphabet. Designed for teachers and parents, the site has pre-reading and reading activities, including an animated alphabet that Billy loves! After you graduate past the alphabet, there are animated interactive stories that teach phonics, and well as games to promote reading skills. Downloadable coloring and worksheets accompany each level. Educational materials are also sold in the Starfall store, but there are plenty of free goodies to enjoy. Our favorite interactive stories are "Peg the Hen" and the "Car Race."
We're big Baby Bumblebee fans and have the complete set of DVDs and flashcards. To get to the free stuff on their website, though, click on FREE DOWNLOADABLES on the left-hand side of the screen. You can download books and flashcards, educational posters, handwriting practice sheets and more. The page is a bit of a mess so scroll through carefully to find all the options.
Speaking of mess, this wonderful site hasn't met a font it doesn't love. Design challenges aside, though, the content is awesome. There are a million easy craft ideas from masks for Mardi Gras to a "Litter Bug" for Earth Day. There is almost too much information here: songs and worksheets on music theory, books to print, homework help, games involving dinosaurs. It's like wandering through an online thrift shop where everything is organized according to the whim of the owner; but then, I like thrift shops and every time I go to this site, I find something new and delightful.
Puppets are a great rainy day activity, but when I'm sleep-deprived and not firing on all cylinders, making up interesting stories is a bit beyond me. Acting out Mommy and Daddy's last fight about the right way to organize the dishwasher is not really as compelling to the kids. PuppetResources.com has a searchable library of free scripts of classic and new stories (specify in the search whether you want religious or non-religious scripts). Kids don't really care whether you have an actual puppet theater or not (you can make one easily out of a big appliance box), but if you'd like a good one, Amazon has a selection such as the tabletop theater shown here.
Ever get halfway through singing a kids' song you thought you knew and realize that you don't know the words? Kididdles has the lyrics, midi files of the tune, and even sheet music for an impressive library of songs. There are also downloadable activity sheets to accompany favorites like "5 Little Ducks," "Three Blind Mice" and "Farmer in the Dell." Well-designed site that you have to join, but it's quick, easy and free to do so.
I was singing the praises of Audible.com to my Circle of Moms when one of them pointed me to this tres cool site where audio stories are FREE. Everything from fairy tales to bible stories to original stories by the creators is available to keep your tike entertained in the car or stroller or preoccupied in the doctor's office waiting room. New free stories are uploaded every week, and downloading is a simple as a right-click of your mouse.
This site can be a bit overwhelming, even though it's well-designed and organized, simply because of the volume of content. As the name suggests, it's about education from birth to returning to college and everything in between. We spend most of our time in the education.com/activity/preschool/ area, checking out the preschool-appropriate recipes, science projects (yes, science projects), games and crafts. Do you know how to play Jan-Ken-Pon (Japanese Rock Paper Scissors)? Have you ever hatched your own preying mantis? Me neither, but if we get the urge, Education.com has the instructions.
This site boasts 16,000 worksheets! In other words, every kid's nightmare and every exhausted teacher's 15 minutes of peace. But there are also Flash-based interactive storybooks, thematic teaching units based around various holidays and subjects, and free downloadable software that includes a Bingo game and several interactive math, phonics, geography and spelling programs. Warning: click on Funtime only if you aren't susceptible to waste time on bad versions of '80s video games.
I highly recommend a picture schedule for any preverbal child, whether autistic or normally developing. It helps them understand their day and teaches them to make choices, an important step in strong communication skills. We used a digital camera and took our own pictures (of lunch, bathtime, teeth brushing, etc.) and printed them out, but that can be very time-consuming. There are plenty of places online where you can buy starter icon packages, but this site has some great support tools for getting started with a picture schedule, providing a basic package of icons completely free.
Just hilarious videos. A teacher makes his own animated stories to teach lessons about owls, frogs, sharing, bullying, etc. My personal favorite is "A Few Facts About Owls."
Hope you find something you'll enjoy!
Blogging for Billy at www.AmandaBroadfoot.com