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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

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                                      Katie Lemons

                                      Parenting Blogger and Full-Time Working Mom

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                                      Published on August 15, 2019

                                      15 Tips for an Overwhelmed Working Mom to Feel Better

                                      15 Tips for an Overwhelmed Working Mom to Feel Better

                                      As an overwhelmed working mom, you get a lot of intelligent ideas from magazines, friends and the internet about how to manage work, children, and a household.

                                      Unfortunately, you may still feel exhausted and insufficient at work and home despite the advice to organize, cook efficiently and pamper yourself .

                                      How great would it be to wake up tomorrow knowing that you can begin to feel better without all of those overwhelmed feelings?

                                      The sensation of feeling overwhelmed when you wear a lot of hats: mom, professional, household manager, partner, friend, etc. has its roots in reality. You are absolutely doing a lot of important jobs. But here’s the thing:

                                      If feeling overwhelmed has become your knee-jerk or chronic reaction, this emotion is now literally a part of you that needs your attention so that you can move forward more confidently.

                                      If helping yourself sounds too difficult, never fear. These tips come straight from therapy and neuroscience to hack into your nervous system. You will learn deeper ways to calm down and feel more confident about yourself, your life and your choices.

                                      1. Breathe and Notice What Your Body Feels like Inside and Out

                                      By using body-centered therapy techniques, you can better understand your overwhelmed feelings and offer accurate and practical help.

                                      As you’ll learn, when you feel stressed out, your thinking brain is not your best resource. In fact, simply thinking about and bolstering your efforts to “get rid” of overwhelmed feelings might actually make them worse.

                                      The first step to help when you feel overwhelmed is to simply slow down and breathe. This does not mean that you should suddenly take in huge gulps of air or breathe rapidly. That will send you into panic!

                                      Breathe normally and naturally. Make your breath comfortably slow, extending the exhale. Count 5 to 10 breaths.

                                      2. Get a Little Curious

                                      Ask yourself: How do I know I’m overwhelmed? Close your eyes or soften your gaze if you are able. Imagine shifting your awareness from your outside world and sending it into your body along with your breath.

                                      You might notice the signals right away. For example: My chest is tight, my heart is beating rapidly and there’s a sense of frustrated energy in my legs and arms. Or you might just hear some words like: I’m freaking out, failing or cannot do it!

                                      If it’s possible, get a little curious about this sensation. Consider that while it may be a big feeling, you probably have other parts of you that feel differently.

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                                      3. Offer Some Loving Care to Stressed-Out Parts of You

                                      Richard Schwartz, developer of Internal Family Systems Therapy defines our personalities as made up of sub-parts that interact within us. This explains why a “part” of you can feel one way and yet, you have another part that feels differently.[1]

                                      Gently acknowledging the part of you that feels overwhelmed and offering it some support and compassion (as you would a frightened child) can soothe your body and mind. “I’ve got you,” is a great mantra to breathe in when you’re overwhelmed.

                                      4. Get Smart About Your Wise Nervous System

                                      You may have heard of the “gut” brain or “body” brain. The science of Polyvagal Theory shows that the entire nervous system impacts how you think and feel – not just your thinking mind.

                                      In fact, did you know that your wise nervous system generally picks up information from your environment before your brain can interpret it?[2]

                                      When you feel overwhelmed, just one tiny cue of “danger” felt in your nervous system is often the unconscious trigger that tips you from busy but competent to feeling freaked out and exhausted.

                                      This cue could be as simple as a song on the radio that feels overly-stimulating, a child’s bad mood (even if it has nothing to do with you) or your spouse forgetting an unimportant errand.

                                      5. Remind Yourself That a Feeling Can Just Be a Feeling

                                      When you’re feeling agitated, your physical body is naturally on high alert. Any information or stimulation you receive at these times will feel overwhelming.

                                      This is not your fault, but it is helpful to understand that usually, when you feel like you’re not good enough, it is not objectively true. Your mind may just be creating a reason for the signals of danger coming from your body.

                                      Allow your body to feel without making a negative judgement about yourself or your life. This technique will help you break the cycle of feeling overwhelmed, then creating negative thought about the feeling resulting in overwhelming yourself even more.

                                      6. Learn Your Most Common Unconscious Responses to Stress

                                      Why is this important? When you feel stressed, you probably respond unconsciously in the same ways throughout your life.

                                      For some, too much stress will quickly create a numb, hopeless sensation. For others, the thought that life is just “too much” leads to bouts of panic or anger. Still, others might freeze completely, feeling highly anxious but not able to do much at all.

                                      From a biological perspective, all of these experiences are pretty normal. When you recognize that your body’s reactions are not faulty or foolish, it’s much easier to reassure yourself and move forward confidently.

                                      7. Exercise the Part of Your Nervous System That Provides Wellbeing and Social Connection

                                      Did you know that you can actually tone your ventral vagal nerve, the nerve responsible for feelings of safety and social connection?[3]

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                                      As often as you are able, allow yourself to linger on your favorite memories that invoke feelings of wellbeing, connection to loved ones, times of beauty in nature or your favorite memories of pets or places. Use all of your sense to really feel the experience in your body.

                                      By doing this, you’re activating and toning your ventral vagus nerve as you might tone your muscles. Make a kind of “body bookmark” of these purely content sensations to which you can return when stressed.

                                      This practice may feel silly, like an indulgence or even a fantasy. But it is supported by science and is important for you to create a strong and healthy response to stressors.

                                      8. Give Baby Parts a Break

                                      No part of you is trying to hurt you. But parts of us do feel extreme feelings and carry burdens from our past.

                                      For example, if you are feeling overworked in the present, it may activate parts of your personality that felt similarly earlier in life. Deep anger, fear, resentment or sadness provide a signal to you that something from your past could benefit from your attention.

                                      I know this may sound strange, but the next time you feel very overwhelmed, take a breath and notice if you feel like a child trying to do an adult’s job. If so, spend a moment calmly and compassionately reminding all of your inner child parts that you are indeed grown, capable and doing something appropriate.

                                      9. Address Critical Messages You Give Yourself

                                      What do you hear yourself saying to yourself when you feel overwhelmed? You may notice parts of you that sound critical or even cruel.

                                      Statements like “I’ll never catch up,” “Why do I try,” or “I can’t do anything right,” are very common to hear when you’re under stress. Believe it or not, these inner messages are likely misguided protective parts of your personality.

                                      These parts are normal and try to help you by “whipping you into shape” so you won’t fail, alerting you about scared feelings inside, or avoiding shock or disappointment by anticipating how others might criticize you.

                                      If it’s possible, acknowledge these parts as protective. Maybe express a bit of gratitude. Notice how the critical voices inside you, even though they likely mean well, cause exhaustion and even more stress.

                                      When you acknowledge these messages inside, letting them know they are part of you and you see their positive intention, the critical messages calm.

                                      10. Take Small Moments to Express Gratitude

                                      Everyone is talking about gratitude, I know. But there are good reasons for this trend.

                                      More and more studies about gratitude show valid connections between gratitude and lowered stress and mental health. A 2018 multi-university research study concluded that gratitude not only has direct effects on quality of life, but also has indirect effects through perceived stress and mental health.[4]

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                                      There are many reasons that gratitude impacts our nervous systems in positive ways, but the best way to discover this impact is to simply try it yourself.

                                      Take a minute each day to write down one to three things for which you feel grateful. These can be large or small, important or trivial, but they must be true. Make this a habit and watch your stress-relief grow.

                                      Or you can try some of these 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

                                      11. Play with Time

                                      In Gay Hendrick’s 2010 book The Big Leap, he talks about the concept of Einstein time vs. Newtonian time.

                                      Newtonian time is the clock time we all watch all day. Einstein time is more about what you make with your moments, realizing that your perception can slow or speed time up.

                                      For example, if you are spending time with someone you love and doing something you enjoy, time moves very quickly. Conversely, if you are doing a miserable job in uncomfortable weather, each second can feel like an eternity.

                                      The next time you feel stressed for time, take a slow breath and remind yourself that you make time. Time belongs to you. Then, enjoy the pace and do what you need to do. With practice, this little tool will become valuable for overcoming the mental pressure of time.

                                      12. Don’t Be Tricked by Perfection

                                      When you’re in the thick of raising children and working, sometimes nervous energy presents as perfectionism. In an effort to feel in control, you may make arbitrary but unreasonable goals for yourself that feel like they are necessary or true.

                                      Make a quick inventory of every job you are expecting of yourself and your family. Now question it all. What is really important and what is just preferable? What jobs can be left to someone else’s discretion, done well-enough by the children or dropped completely?

                                      Keep any jobs that give you joy and do them joyfully. Let go of jobs that feel like standards or expectations with little or no payoff. Save them for retirement if you like.

                                      13. Give Yourself Credit for Quality Time with Your Kids

                                      Think of the time you spend relaxing with and enjoying your children as a $100,000 per hour job. Very small amounts are still incredibly valuable.

                                      Showing your children that they are important is just as likely to happen in a ten-minute game of catch as in a whole day at the water park. A shared snack time, a book before bed, a half hour away from your phone to allow loving eye contact with your babes adds up to a lifetime of security and wonderful memories.

                                      Imagine your child someday saying, “Mom worked hard, but she always had time to hug me, to hear about my day, and to offer me guidance. I always knew that I mattered to her.”

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                                      14. Meditate for One Minute a Day

                                      Yes, you may do more. But if you can’t afford any more than one minute, go ahead and sit comfortably, breathe and be in your body for this time. It’s such a simple but powerful exercise and the kids can do it too.

                                      While you meditate, notice your loving heart. What does it need from you today — patience, compassion, creativity, caring, play? Remember to show up for yourself and you will show up for your work and your family as well.

                                      15. Guard and Celebrate Sleep

                                      From tinies to teens, there are many unavoidable reasons that kids interrupt your sleep.

                                      Here’s the thing: Unexpected sleeplessness due to childhood growth or illness is normal and not easy to control. If you are feeling overwhelmed, though, sleep is crucial.

                                      There are two things you can do to improve your mindset toward sleep so that you set yourself up for confidence rather than collapse.

                                      One, prioritize and protect your sleep time. If you tend to wait until the kids go to sleep to complete work or finally relax, that’s okay. But don’t let these activities cut into your sleep time.

                                      Given the choice between another load of laundry, Words With Friends, binge watching Game of Thrones or eight hours of sleep, consistently choose sleep.

                                      Two, appreciate and express gratitude for any sleep you get. Sometimes, it’s impossible to get seven or eight hours of sleep. However, allow yourself to enjoy any time when you are laying in a comfy space allowing your body to rest and repair.

                                      When you wake up saying “I didn’t get enough sleep last night,” you put your mind on alert that there is something lacking. This thinking alone can trigger feelings of overwhelm.

                                      Set your nervous system up for success by appreciating any amount of rest.

                                      Final Thoughts

                                      Life as a working mom is not an easy one. Overwhelmed feelings are natural and normal but, they can take over and cause chronic stress and dissatisfaction.

                                      Allow yourself just a few moments a day to reorganize your thoughts and feelings using the steps above. You’ll soon discover your calm and capable self.

                                      Take a lesson from your growing children: small changes create big results now and in the future.

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                                      Featured photo credit: Bruno Nascimento via unsplash.com

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