Weird websites to keep kids’ minds busy in summer

A student studies geography using Exede satellite internet

Every year around this time, we read tons of stuff about how kids’ brains are going to turn to mush over the summer. The cure, we hear, is having them get online and play educational games, go to the library and read books or get involved with local activities that focus on learning things.

That’s all great, but depending on the age and disposition of your kid(s), it’s not always easy to get them to eat their peas when the lazy days of summer in front of the TV or gaming console beckon. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some slightly off-the-beaten-path websites we think will get young neurons firing by giving them some unusual things to learn about.

For younger kids

From how to make your standard-issue Mentos-and-Coke geysers and floating eggs to the wonders of quick-sand and fake-snot manufacturing, this Science Kids site has scads of experiments to fill up days of lazy summertime. The home page has paths toward all kinds of interesting science games, facts, projects and more.

Bored Panda is a fun site that features a great compilation of weird animals and other random stuff. We never get tired of exploring the zoological wonders of the world such as the dumbo octopus, pink fairy armadillo and the gerenuk, which looks like a cross between a kangaroo and a giraffe.

Kids love gross stuff, and Hostel World has a nice list of the 50 weirdest foods from around the world. They’ll be amazed by the thoroughly disgusting dish of Icelend called Hákarl. It’s rotting shark — delish! Or maybe they’d like to read about wasp crackers from Japan, which is just biscuits filled with, y’know, wasps. And you may never get them to go on a trip Down Under when they read about the Witchetty Grub of Australia, a staple for indigenous desert dwellers. The grub can be eaten raw or lightly cooked, making the insides the consistency of a scrambled egg. (Bucket please!)

A little girl pretends to be an astronaut while playing with a rocket ship toy.

For teens (& adults)

Atlas Obscura is one of our favorite websites to come out in the past few years. As the name suggests, the content comes from around the globe, with an emphasis on the curious and unusual. If Tom Waits edited an encyclopedia, this is what it’d look like. A recent glance at the site revealed stories about an enormous statue of Genghis Khan in Mongolia; tiny violins and the tiny musicians who play them; and a look at shipwreck hunters’ ongoing quest to find the Griffon, a French ship that went missing on Lake Michigan in 1679.

In a similar vibe is Roadside America, which focuses on odd attractions and other oddities unique to this country. Search by state, trending sights or just poke around on the site. We were reading recently about the Cathedral of Junk in Austin, Texas. The guy who built it has been adding to it since 1988, and he estimates it now contains more than 60 tons of junk. But it’s also art. Probably.

Also found on Roadside America: World’s Largest Ball of Paint, the Smallest Town in America, Bonnie and Clyde’s Death Car and the Oregon Vortex. This last refers to a place where tennis balls roll uphill and brooms stand on end — possibly due to a beam of “high velocity soft electrons.” Sounds about right.

Continuing our online road trip across the U.S., check out Abandoned America, a creepy site that bills itself as “an autopsy of the American Dream.” You can peruse photo galleries of everything from abandoned mental asylums, malls, homes, churches and lots more. The photos speak for themselves, and it’s fascinating to look at how time, weather, wildlife and other things contribute to the decline of everything from theaters and shopping malls to cathedrals, homes and factories. Time and decay: It happens to the best of us.

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