Websites let your children explore career opportunities

You might think the hours your kids are spending on the web are a real waste of time, but not if they're playing around on sites that let them explore different career opportunities.

These days, they can get some pretty hands-on experience over the Internet.

Parker Williams is just 11 years old now, but she has some big dreams.

"Since I was five I wanted to be a super star," she said.

Her back-up plans include a couple options.

"A physical therapist, fashion designer, photographer," she said.

She's investigating those options online. A slew of new sites help. They're geared toward kids looking deeper into hobbies that could be careers. If your child can't physically shadow an expert in the field of their dreams, this is the next best thing, and may be better in some cases.

"Playing on these sites as opposed to the real world experience allows the kid to investigate areas that they are particularly interested in. They aren't being told what to do but they can figure out the things they love most about a particular interest," said Mary Heston with Wired Moms.

Heston says the sites use interactive tools to allow hands-on creativity. Her favorites include for the San RFansisco Symphony, where kids can make music, for creating buildings, to write their own book and for budding designers. That's one of Parker's favorites.

"I can design t-shirts, dresses, pants," said Parker.

"When we created fashionplaytes we really tried to emulate an experience of a real designer so we tried to bring in a pallet, a color choice pallet, and embellishments, very similar to what a designer would do in a real world," said Sarah McIlroy, creator of fashionplaytes.

Fashionplaytes even allows the option of buying what you've created. Tikatok lets you buy the books you've put together, too. Parker's mom sees the sites as valuable, safe places to play-and learn.

"You get some opportunities you may not have in real life. Not everyone is going to be able to go spend a day with a fashion designer, or go to a factory," said Liz Williams, Parker's mother.

Heston says if your children have an interest in a certain occupation, you can search for a site that peaks their professional interest. Just keep a couple things in mind.

"Who is funding the site? Look at the about us page to see what the catch is to the site. If they don't have that information I'd be very leery of the site," said Heston.

Once you feel comfortable, let them have fun going to work.

The sites we evaluated are free to play on, unless you decide to make a purchase. Heston says be cautious of sites that require any virtual purchases.