Last year our KS1 department began teaching about 'castles' - a new topic which they'd never covered before. As usual, I set out on the search to find relevant websites on the topic for the children to use to carry out independent research with on our laptops. Even with a few helpful suggestions from Twitter however, the majority of the sites I came across, in my opinion, were just completely inappropriate for 5-7 year olds - being much more aimed at older pupils who are likely very confident in scanning long paragraphs of text to pick out key facts and able to move about quite complicated navigation systems with ease.
After getting a bit frustrated, I decided that the only way to get a site which would meet the requirements of a young child user would be if I were to build one myself. A weekend of researching and programming later and the Infant Encyclopedia was born. It contained several illustrated pages of information about the history of castles suitable for our infants, including: text in a large size, highlighted key words and an option for them to press a button to have the whole page read out to them (something which I think is especially important for emergent readers). Additionally, I also ensured that the navigation was simple for them to perform - either by clicking on colourful icons or by using a basic key word search tool.
After a few initial trials with it in school I soon went on to add a variety of interactive and multimedia elements to help enhance and liven up the content further, including links to: on-screen activities I made using 2DIY, videos from the BBC Learning Clips gallery and a few Google Streetview panormas.
Following the success of the castles topic, I then realised the potential that the site could have if other topics were covered by it in a similar way. Many hours of work later over a period of about six months and the site now contains information and activities on 20 different topics, all presented in a way that is easily accessible for young children.
Now I am more than happy to continue adding to the site as I can clearly see the uses it has in infant classrooms, but as my only experiences of using it are with the children in my school, I would really appreciate it if you were to write a comment below to let me know what your experiences of using it are and in what ways you think it could be improved (the contents pages for each topic is one part which I still think could be made easier to use, for instance). I would genuinely value your feedback on this as I don't want to waste my own free time working on something which people think has flaws - I look forward to reading your comments!