Features: Games, music, stories and resources related to characters such as Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse.
Amount of content: Several hours worth.
Power of computer required: Medium. Individual features work on an old laptop but switching between them can be slow going.
Target Age: Around 4 or 5.
Comments: Over the years, my children have been indoctrinated by constant advertising on CBeebies to go to the BBC website. I've printed out many, many pictures of Teletubbies to be coloured in. A lot of the online content for CBeebies/CBBC isn't that great, however - many of the games and features are lack-lustre or poorly devised. The pages are also hard to navigate, particularly for children too young to read. I have to be constantly on hand to get Sproglette (who's almost 5) to the right place, explain instructions and help her with tasks. I suppose it could be described as a bonding experience but it appears to be more down to a poor interface than a conscious plan to encourage parent-child quality time.
In comparison, the Playhouse Disney site is a revelation. After a few minutes getting Sproglette acclimatised to the layout, she was away. Everything can be controlled using the mouse, and running a pointer over menu options leads to them being read out. Instructions are also spoken and can be repeated with a click. I was only needed for occasional advice with some of the games and to work the printer.
That said, I had to work the printer a lot. Completing activities frequently leads to being rewarded with full-page pictures. Unless you have a vast supply of ink or toner you need to use up, you'll be wanting to set your printer to reduce the picture size. Even then, it would be worth implementing some kind of limit on how many sheets your child is allowed to print in a given session.
The only other issue we encountered was that because we don't get the channel itself, many of the featured characters were unfamiliar. I've never heard of Handy Manny or Jungle Junction, for instance. This didn't bother Sproglette, though, and she enjoyed all the activities. Thankfully, despite the whole thing essentially being an advert for premium-rate TV, she hasn't been clamouring for us to upgrade our cable package.
All in all, the site is robust and well-designed and has a good selection of material for older pre-schoolers. Younger children will need more help but they'll still have fun.
Conclusion: One to keep up your sleeve for when you really need a couple of hours of peace to get stuff done.