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Published on August 1, 2018

These 18 Smart Kids Apps Will Make You Rethink Learning and Education

These 18 Smart Kids Apps Will Make You Rethink Learning and Education

As our society is constantly shifting, screens have become a huge part of our daily lives. It has been widely publicized that screen time should be nonexistent or limited for younger kids, but for busy moms who need time to do things around the house or a much-deserved break, screens can be a lifesaver.

If you allow your kids to have screen time (many of us moms do) on an iPad or phone, why not choose an app that is both entertaining for your kids AND educational? It will keep your children’s attention while teaching them important cognitive skills.

What should you look for when deciding what app to introduce to your kids? Experts have analyzed existing research on educational interactional media for developing kids under the age of 8, and they formulated these five key criteria that you should keep in mind:[1]

  1. The activity must require active mental engagement. Aside from what the child’s hands are doing, gears in the child’s brain should be turning so that they are mentally interacting with the media: thinking, predicting, questioning, drawing connections, reflecting, etc.
  2. They must be able to focus on the learning experience without distractions in the app or in their learning environment.
  3. The children should be able to bridge the new knowledge they’re gaining to their existing knowledge and the wider world.
  4. The learning activity should involve social interaction, such as teacher feedback, class discussions or interactions among classmates.
  5. The activity should have clearly defined learning objectives that students or teachers can track and assess and that expand on past goals and build on previous learning. This concept is called scaffolding.

The following apps are great places to start. They are organized by age and cover a wide range of educational topics:

1. Shapes Toddler Preschool

    For younger kids who are ready to tackle shapes, colors, letters and more, this is a great resource to use. The layout is child-friendly and easy to figure out. There are over 30 categories to choose from, and the app uses puzzles, games and flashcards to make learning fun.

    Age: 2-5

    Price: Free

    Compatible: iOS, Android

    2. Disney Story Central

      This app offers a huge selection of books featuring your favorite Disney characters. Read-along narration is a great way to promote independent reading for your younger kids. The first four books are free! For additional books, you can purchase a monthly subscription or book tokens to expand your collection.

      Age: 2-9

      Price: Free, offers in-app purchases

      Compatible: iOS, Android

      3. Endless Alphabet

        This app uses colorful, friendly monsters to help your kids learn the alphabet and expand their vocabulary. For the more than 50 words available to learn, each one featuring an interactive puzzle and talking letters, plus short animations to explain the definition.

        Age: 3+

        Price: $8.99

        Compatible: iOS, Android

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        4. Reading Raven

          Reading is an important skill for your kids to master, and it can be challenging and frustrating for some kids. However, this app, with self-paced lessons and fun-filled adventures makes learning to read enjoyable and exciting. They will learn how to read in no time at all!

          Age: 3-7

          Price: $3.99

          Compatible: iOS, Android

          5. Habitat

            It is crucial that kids are made aware early on of the importance of doing things that positively affect our environment and the living things within it. In this game, players adopt a polar bear and work to keep their bear healthy and alive. By playing games and performing real world tasks, kids are able to understand how to take care of the environment while having fun.

            Age: 4+

            Price: Free

            Compatible: iOS, Android

            6. Elmo Loves 123s

              If your child obsessed with Sesame Street (especially Elmo), this app will be a sure hit. It will teach your child how to count from 1 to 20, simple addition and subtraction, and number tracing. Correct answers are rewarded with videos, puzzles, and coloring pages.

              Age: 5 and under

              Price: $4.99

              Compatible: iOS, Android

              7. Sight Words

                Using the classic game of hide and seek, your kids can learn read, write, and recognize up to 320 words. In the process, they will practice important cognitive skills such as visual memorization and active listening. As an additional resource, you can download printable sight word flash cards here.

                Age: 5 and under

                Price: $2.99

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                Compatible: iOS

                8. Kids Vocabulary, Grammar & Language

                  This is a great resource to help kids prepare for preschool and kindergarten. Using game-based learning in areas including vocabulary, listening comprehension and grammar, your kids will love using this app.

                  Age: 5 and under

                  Price: Free

                  Compatible: iOS

                  9. Fish School HD

                    Learning numbers, shapes, colors and letters is much more fun when using fish and other under the sea creatures. Songs and interactive features will keep your kids fascinated and eager to learn.

                    Age: 2-5

                    Price: Free

                    Compatible: iOS

                    10. ShipAntics: The Legend of the Kiki Beast

                      Jump aboard the ship with Amanda and Otto the Octopus and help them solve mysteries by completing educational puzzles and riddles. And if your kids are not in the mood to play, they can watch high quality cartoons using the Appisodes feature.

                      Age: 6+

                      Price: Free

                      Compatible: iOS, Android

                      11. Plants by Tinybop

                        Learn about different ecosystems and how the flora and fauna interact with each other on our amazing planet. Explore interactive scenes that depict a grassland, desert, forest, and more. This app is also available in more than 50 languages!

                        Age: 6+

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                        Price: $1.99

                        Compatible: iOS

                        12. Fruity Fractions

                          Sliced fruit and vibrant animations are a great way to help your kids understand how to tackle fractions. As they embark on a jungle-themed journey to help the parrots to get more tasty tropical fruit to eat, they will have to solve fraction math problems to advance.

                          Age: 6+

                          Price: $2.99

                          Compatible: iOS

                          13. Math Evolve

                            Math is an area that many kids struggle with and hate spending time on. By utilizing an arcade game style approach, your kids will have no problem spending time honing their mathematics skills. This is an excellent way for them to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division through fun interactive game play.

                            Age: 6+

                            Price: $0.99

                            Compatible: iOS

                            14. Toca Lab: Elements

                              Is your child a budding scientist? This app introduces kids to the periodic table of elements, laboratory experiments and equipment, and so much more. Encourage your child to explore their scientific interests in a safe but engaging way!

                              Age: 6+

                              Price: $3.99

                              Compatible: iOS, Android

                              15. DragonBox Big Numbers

                                Your children will be put in charge of a world filled with creatures called Nooms. They can unlock new worlds, build houses, collect resources, and more through correctly completing math problems. This app can also teach your kids how to count in multiple languages.

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                                Age: 6-9

                                Price: $7.99

                                Compatible: iOS, Android

                                16. Tynker: Coding for Kids

                                  Tynker uses blocks to and easy to understand aids to help kids learn how to code, starting at a basic level. The app is free to download, but a subscription is needed in order to access the mobile courses, 350+ puzzle levels, 100+ guided tutorials, and more. This app is also compatible with toys such as Sphero, Lego WeDo2.0, and the Lux lighting systems.

                                  Age: 7+

                                  Price: Free

                                  Compatible: iOS, Android

                                  17. Operation Math

                                    Every kid has wondered what it might be like to be a secret agent and go on thrilling missions to save the world. Now they can, while learning important math skills along the way. With over 100 timed missions located all over the world, there your kids will love completing these missions and you will love the learning that happens along the way.

                                    Age: 7+

                                    Price: $2.99

                                    Compatible: iOS, Android

                                    18. Stack the States

                                      Learn the U.S. states, capitals, abbreviations, and more with this silly game. Using puzzle games, maps, and stacking, your kids can work towards collecting all 50 states and becoming an expert at U.S. geography.

                                      Age: 9-11

                                      Price: $2.99

                                      Compatible: iOS, Android

                                      Screens are not our enemy and do not have to be kept strictly off-limits for young developing minds. They are tools that should be utilized sparingly, but they can be extremely effective means for teaching our kids valuable skills. Look for apps that are well-made, user-friendly, and effective at teaching your kids while keeping them entertained.

                                      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                                      Reference

                                      More by this author

                                      Katie Lemons

                                      Parenting Blogger and Full-Time Working Mom

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                                      Published on November 30, 2018

                                      Signs of Postnatal Depression And What to Do When It Strikes

                                      Signs of Postnatal Depression And What to Do When It Strikes

                                      Postpartum depression (PPD) strikes about 15% of women around childbirth.[1] Moreover, this mood disorder is estimated to affect 1% to 26% of new fathers.[2] The causes of which are thought to be linked to hormonal changes, genetics, previous mental illness and the obvious change in circumstance.

                                      The stigma of mental health – with or without support from family members and health professionals – often deters women from seeking help for their PPD. In this article, I will show you 10 ways to begin overcoming PPD.

                                      Symptoms of Postnatal Depression

                                      Postnatal depression is defined as depressive disorder, beginning anytime within pregnancy up to the first year of the child’s life. The symptoms of post natal depression are the same as those of depression. In order to receive a diagnosis from the doctor, 5 symptoms must be shown over a two week period. The symptoms and criteria are:

                                      • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness, nearly every day, for most of the day or the observation of a depressed mood made by others
                                      • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
                                      • Weight loss or decreased appetite
                                      • Changes in sleep patterns
                                      • Feelings of restlessness
                                      • Loss of energy
                                      • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
                                      • Loss of concentration or increased indecisiveness
                                      • Recurrent thoughts of death, with or without plans of suicide
                                      • Lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities
                                      • Low libido
                                      • Fatigue, decreased energy and motivation
                                      • Poor self-care
                                      • Social withdrawal
                                      • Insomnia or excessive sleep
                                      • Diminished ability to make decisions and think clearly
                                      • Lack of concentration and poor memory
                                      • Fear that you can not care for the baby or fear of the baby
                                      • Worry about harming self, baby, or partner

                                      Should you, a friend or your partner be showing any of these signs, I recommend you to seek medical advice.

                                      Causes of Post Natal Depression

                                      It is worth noting here that there is a difference between what is commonly known as ‘The Baby Blues’ and post natal depression.

                                      Postpartum blues, commonly known as “baby blues,” is a transient postpartum mood disorder characterized by milder depressive symptoms than postpartum depression. This type of depression can occur in up to 80% of all mothers following delivery. The Baby Blues should clear within 14 days, if not it is likely an indicator of something more in depth.

                                      It is not known exactly what causes post natal depression, however there are some correlating factors. These factors have a close correlation and haven’t been shown to cause PPD:

                                      • Prenatal depression or anxiety
                                      • A personal or family history of depression
                                      • Moderate to severe premenstrual symptoms
                                      • Stressful life events experienced during pregnancy
                                      • Maternity blues
                                      • Birth-related psychological trauma
                                      • Birth-related physical trauma
                                      • Previous stillbirth or miscarriage
                                      • Formula-feeding rather than breast-feeding
                                      • Cigarette smoking
                                      • Low self-esteem
                                      • Childcare or life stress
                                      • Low social support
                                      • Poor marital relationship or single marital status
                                      • Low socioeconomic status
                                      • Infant temperament problems/colic
                                      • Unplanned/unwanted pregnancy
                                      • Elevated prolactin levels
                                      • Oxytocin depletion

                                      One of the strongest predictors of paternal PPD is having a partner who has PPD, with fathers developing PPD 50% of the time when their female partner has PPD. [3]

                                      Ways to Overcome Post Natal Depression

                                      1. Seek Medical Help

                                      As knowledge of PPD grows, more and more physicians are becoming aware of the indicators and risk factors. This means that health care providers are looking for signs as early as their first prenatal care visit.

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                                      If you are at risk, letting your provider know early in your pregnancy means that you’ll be given extra support and care throughout the process. It is best to seek treatment as soon as possible.

                                      If it’s detected late or not at all, the condition may worsen. Experts have also found that children can be affected by a parent’s untreated PPD. Such children may be more prone to sleep disturbances, impaired cognitive development, insecurity, and frequent temper tantrums.

                                      2. Therapy

                                      This is the first line of defence against post natal depression and will commonly be prescribed alongside medication. Around 90% of post natal depression cases in women are treated with a combination of the two treatments.

                                      You don’t need to do anything special to prepare. Your counselor will ask questions about your life, and it’s important you answer honestly. You won’t be judged for what you tell, and whatever you talk about will be just between the two of you. Your counselor will teach you how to look at some things differently, and how to change certain habits to help yourself feel better.

                                      Therapy is personalized for everyone, but women in counselling for postpartum depression often discuss topics including; who you’re feeling, your behaviour, your actions and your life. (If you need immediate support please call the San Diego Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240. The toll-free call is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.)

                                      3. Medication

                                      There have been a few studies of medications for treating PPD, however, the sample sizes were small, thus evidence is generally weak.

                                      Some evidence suggests that mothers with PPD will respond similarly to people with major depressive disorder. There is evidence which suggests that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are effective treatment for PPD.

                                      However, a recent study has found that adding sertraline, an SSRI, to psychotherapy does not appear to confer any additional benefit. Therefore, it is not completely clear which antidepressants are most effective for treatment of PPD.

                                      There are currently no antidepressants that are FDA approved for use during lactation. Most antidepressants are excreted in breast milk. However, there are limited studies showing the effects and safety of these antidepressants on breastfed babies.

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                                      4. Communication with Partner

                                      Don’t blame yourself, your partner, close friends or relatives. Life is tough at this time, and tiredness and irritability can lead to quarrels.

                                      ‘Having a go’ at your partner can weaken your relationship when it needs to be at its strongest. It can be a huge relief to talk to someone understanding.

                                      By spending time with your partner doing activities that you both enjoy, like going for a walk, can really help. This change of state, from moving location, can significantly elevate mood whilst providing ‘neutral ground’ in which to open up communication.

                                      Be honest with your partner and show ways in which they can support you best through this time, even if it’s just talking or letting you have time to go take a shower.

                                      5. Self Care and Rest

                                      Don’t try to be ‘superwoman’. Try to do less and make sure that you don’t get over-tired. It’s common that women are the experts at ‘being busy’ and ‘doing it all’.

                                      Rest whilst the baby is sleeping, and really take time to prioritise yourself. Throughout life, if you’re constantly giving out energy, you will be left feeling unbalanced. It’s important to become aware of one’s energy and making sure to give yourself energy first, before giving out is imperative.

                                      Your body has just been through the trauma of the birth, which is very stressful. It therefore needs time to recover so taking time to yourself is important. Things as simple as a cup of tea, or shower or listening to music will really help.

                                      6. Supplementation (especially DHA)

                                      St John’s Wort is a herbal remedy available from chemists. There is evidence that it is effective in mild to moderate depression. It seems to work in much the same way as some antidepressants, but some people find that it has fewer side-effects.

                                      One problem is that St John’s Wort can interfere with the way other medications work. If you are taking other medication, you should discuss it with your doctor. This is very important if you are taking the oral contraceptive pill. St John’s Wort might stop your pill working. This can lead to an unplanned pregnancy.

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                                      It is also worth noting that fish oil (containing DHA) is being shown to correlate with lower instances of PPD. DHA consumption during pregnancy — at levels that are reasonably attained from foods — has the potential to decrease symptoms of postpartum depression,” conclude study researchers led by Michelle Price Judge, PhD, RD, a faculty member at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing.

                                      7. Movement

                                      Before starting any exercise program, you should consult with your doctor and find a fully qualified pre and post natal specialist. That being said, there is plenty of movement that can be done prior to ‘hitting the gym’, such as walking.

                                      Not only does being outside positively benefit you by getting some fresh air and vitamin D. The same is said for your baby, who will likely sleep better once they’ve been outside. Exercise gets your endorphins going, which helps alleviate depression symptoms, It can also get you focused on something for yourself. In an analysis of data from 1996 to 2016, researchers discovered that moms who stayed physically active after birth experienced fewer depressive symptoms.[4] In contrast, one study found women who led a more sedentary lifestyle were, in general, more likely to experience postpartum depression in the first place. [5]

                                      The type of workout doesn’t matter much. Yoga for pregnant women, stretching, and cardio are essentially equal in terms of making you feel better.

                                      8. Socializing and Support Groups

                                      Do go to local groups for new mothers or postnatal support groups. Your health visitor can tell you about groups in your area. You may not feel like going to these groups if your are depressed.

                                      See if someone can go with you. You may find the support of other new mothers helpful. You may find some women who feel the same way as you do.

                                      9. Accept Help

                                      Some cultures believe that the symptoms of postpartum depression or similar illnesses can be avoided through protective rituals in the period after birth. Chinese women participate in a ritual that is known as “doing the month” (confinement) in which they spend the first 30 days after giving birth resting in bed, while the mother or mother-in-law takes care of domestic duties and childcare.

                                      Whilst this may seem extreme, it’s worth noting that being able to accept help from your friends, partner and family can be extremely beneficial.

                                      10. Avoid Smoking, Drink and Drugs

                                      Which may seem common sense, however you may be tempted by the short term ‘fix’.

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                                      Don’t use alcohol or drugs. They may make you feel better for a short time, but it doesn’t last. Alcohol and drugs can make depression worse. They are also bad for your physical health.

                                      Final Thoughts

                                      Most women will get better without any treatment within 3 to 6 months. One in four mothers with PND are still depressed when their child is one-year-old. However, this can mean a lot of suffering.

                                      PND can spoil the experience of new motherhood. It can strain your relationship with your baby and partner. You may not look after your baby, or yourself, as well as you would when you are well.

                                      PND can affect your child’s development and behaviour even after the depression has ended. So the shorter it lasts, the better.

                                      Sometimes there is an obvious reason for PND, but not always. You may feel distressed, or guilty for feeling like this, as you expected to be happy about having a baby. However, PND can happen to anyone and it is not your fault.

                                      It’s never too late to seek help. Even if you have been depressed for a while, you can get better. The help you need depends on how severe your illness is. Mild PND can be helped by increased support from family and friends.

                                      Featured photo credit: Derek Thomson via unsplash.com

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