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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 May 24, 2019

                                      How to Raise a Confident Child with Grit

                                      How to Raise a Confident Child with Grit

                                      My husband and I facilitate a couple’s marriage and parenting group. Recently, the group discussed qualities, characteristics, and traits we wanted to see our children develop as they grow up. One term that came up that all parents seemed to upon agree as a highly valued trait was that of grit. The question from our group was:

                                      “Can grit be taught to our children?”

                                      The answer is, yes. Parents can help their child develop grit.

                                      What is grit? Dr. Angela Duckworth is the top researcher on this subject and wrote the book Grit. She defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long term goals”. This new buzz word is popular in the adult realm, but what about our developing children? What if we could help our children develop grit as young children.

                                      Grit is more crucial to success than IQ. Duckworth, through her research at Harvard, found that having grit was a better predictor for an individual’s success than IQ. This means having the smartest kid in the room doesn’t ensure any level of success in their future. They can be brilliant, but if they aren’t properly intrinsically motivated, they won’t be successful.

                                      Grit determines long term success. If a child can’t pick themselves up and try again after a failure, then how are they going to be able to do it as adult?

                                      What a gift it would be to our children to engage them in a manner that helps them recognize their passions, talents, and develop a persevere to purse their goals. Below are some tips on how to raise a confident child with grit.

                                      1. Encouragement is Key

                                      When a child wants to learn how to ride a bike, do they keep going after they fall down or do they quit after the first fall?

                                      If they aren’t encouraged to get up and try again, and instead are coddled and told they can try again some other day, then they are being taught to play it safe.

                                      Safe and coddled don’t exactly go hand-in-hand with building up grit. The child needs to be encouraged to try again. This can be a parent saying “you can do it, I believe in you” and “I know that even if you fall again you will try again and eventually you will get the hang of it”.

                                      Encouragement to keep trying so that they can build up perseverance is very helpful in building a child’s confidence. This confidence is what will help them strike out and try again.

                                      If they feel that they can’t do it or shouldn’t do it, then they won’t. The mind is a powerful thing. If a child believes that they can’t be successful in doing something, then they won’t be successful. Part of building that mentality of believing in themselves comes from encouragement from their parents, care givers, and teachers.

                                      Cheer Them On

                                      How many times have you heard a story of success that someone had in life that all began because someone believed in that person?

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                                      A coach, a mom, a teacher can have a huge impact by believing in the child’s ability to be successful and voicing that encouragement to them. Words are powerful. Use them to build up a child, by telling them that they can do it even if they have try again and again.

                                      Be their support system by being their cheerleader. Cheerleaders don’t just cheer when the team is winning. They cheer words of encouragement to keep the team going.

                                      The same goes with children. We need to cheer for their successes, but also cheer for them to keep going and fighting the fight when life gets tough!

                                      You Can’t Force Them

                                      Keep in mind that you can’t force a child to keep trying. They have to do it themselves.

                                      For example, when my daughter was learning to tie her shoes, it was a real struggle. She gave up. I couldn’t make her want to try to do it again. She had to take a break from the struggle for a few months and then try again.

                                      She was more successful the second time around, because she had matured and her fine motor skills had improved. It would have been ridiculous for me to force her to practice tying her shoes for the three or four months in between, with tears and arguing taking place.

                                      No, instead we took a break. She tried again later. Forcing her to learn something that she wasn’t ready to learn would have pit us against one another. That would have been a poor parenting move.

                                      There are boundaries that parents can set though in some cases. For example, if your child begins an activity and wants to quit mid-season because they are terrible at the sport, you have the opportunity to keep them in the sport through the end of the season to show them that quitting is not an option.

                                      Although they may not win another tennis match the rest of the season or win another swimming race all year long, finishing the commitment is important. It will help with the development of grit by teaching them to persevere through the defeat. It is character building.

                                      If your child is great at all things all the time, they will not develop grit. They need to try things that challenge them. When they aren’t the best at something, or for that matter, the worst, it creates an opportunity for them feel real struggle. Real struggle builds real character.

                                      2. Get Them out of Their Comfort Zone

                                      My daughter wanted to try cheerleading this past fall. She has never done this activity in the past, nor is she particularly coordinated (sorry sweetie). For that matter, she couldn’t even do a cartwheel when cheer season began.

                                      However, we signed up because she was so excited to become a cheerleader. I signed up to coach because there was a need for more cheer coaches. We were all-in at that point.

                                      Once the season began, I quickly realized that cheerleading was far outside my daughter’s comfort zone. The idea of cheerleading was great in her mind. The reality of memorizing cheers and learning physical skills that were hard for her made the experience a struggle. She wanted to quit. I said to her “no, you were the one who wanted to do this, so we finish what we started.” I had to say this more than once. I don’t think anyone on the squad knew this was the case, because she kept at it.

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                                      She kept practicing those cheers every evening. It did not come naturally to her at first, so it was uncomfortable. She always seemed to be half a beat behind the other cheerleaders, which made it very awkward and uncomfortable for her. However, letting her know that quitting mid-season was not an option made her try harder. She wanted to learn the cheers so she wouldn’t stand out on the squad as the girl who didn’t know what she is doing.

                                      By the end of the season, she became a decent cheerleader. Not the best, but she was no longer half a beat behind the rest. She learned skills that were hard for her to conquer. Now that she felt success in achieving something that was uncomfortable and hard for her. She knows she has it in her to do that in other areas of life.

                                      That is why it’s ok for us as parents to let our kids feel the struggle and be uncomfortable. If they don’t experience it when they are young, they will as adults, but they won’t be equipped with the perseverance and inner-strength built from years of working hard through smaller struggles as they grew up.

                                      Allowing our children to struggle helps them build that skill of perseverance, so that they have the grit to achieve hard things in life that they really desire to accomplish.

                                      3. Allow Them To Fail

                                      Your child will fail at things in life. Let them. Do not swoop in and rescue your child from their personal failures. If they don’t fail, then they don’t have the opportunity to pick themselves up and try again.

                                      If I had pulled my daughter from cheerleader once I realized that it was going to be a real struggle, she wouldn’t have experienced failure and struggle. Letting her have this small failure in life taught her lessons that can’t be taught in a classroom. She learned about the power she has within herself to try harder, to practice in order to make change happen, and to push through it even when you feel like giving up because it is embarrassing.

                                      Failure is embarrassing. Learning to handle embarrassment is taking on a fear. When kids learn to do this at a young age, it is practice for adult life. They will experience failure as an adult. They will be better equipped to handle life’s disappointments and failures if they have learned to handle the fear of embarrassment and failure when they are young.

                                      Practice builds up the skill. Processing and handling fear, embarrassment, and failure are skills.

                                      If I had pulled my daughter from cheer and allowed her to quit, I would have taken from her the opportunity to learn how to process and handle the embarrassment and failure she was experiencing at each practice and games. She learned to keep trying and that practicing the skills would lessen the embarrassment and feelings of failure.

                                      Learning the value of practice and how to preserve through the fear and failure are priceless lessons. We may want to rescue our children because we want them to be successful at the things that they do, but how will they be successful in this competitive world as adults if they are provided with only opportunities in which they succeed?

                                      Failure is needed to learn to thrive. Success in adulthood does not come easy to children who are protected from failure because they haven’t built up the ability to persevere.

                                      Perseverance comes when they have learned time and time again how to take the fear of embarrassment and failure head on and practice to get better.

                                      4. Teach Them to Try Again

                                      Encourage your child to try again. Don’t let them quit on the first try.

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                                      Life is hard. If we quit the first time we tried at things, we would never amount to anything in life. We need to teach our children that trying again is simply part of life.

                                      Help them to give it a go by providing encouragement and support. Offer to practice with them, provide them with tutoring or coaching if necessary — whatever it takes to get them back on the proverbial horse and trying again.

                                      Break it Down

                                      Sometimes failure occurs because they are trying something all at one time and they haven’t mastered the smaller components.

                                      For example, a math student isn’t going to jump into calculus as their first high school math course. No, of course not. They build on their skills. They begin with basic math, then algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and pre-calculus to then they get to the calculus level.

                                      If they are thrown into the deep end by taking on calculus before the foundation of their math skills are built, they will fail.

                                      Help your child try again by breaking down what it is they are trying to achieve.

                                      Going back to my cheer example… my daughter was not the best at learning the cheers when we began. It then dawned on me that we needed to break down each cheer phrase by phrase. Once we learned the phrase and movements that went with it, we could then learn the next one. Once these were learned, we could combine the phrases, practice them together, and then try to move to learn the next phrase in the cheer. It was a tedious process, but it worked.

                                      Not all skills come easy for kids. Helping them learn the skill of breaking things down into manageable tasks is another way we teach them about grit. They are learning to build skills by persisting, practicing, and building upon previous experience, knowledge, and skills.

                                      Grit is put into practice in childhood when they learn how to break down large tasks into smaller achievable tasks in order to build toward a greater goal.

                                      5. Let Them Find Their Passion

                                      Your child may be a wonderful pianist. However, if they aren’t passionate about the skill, then they likely won’t be happy or fulfilled in becoming a concert pianist.

                                      It’s great to help your child discover their talents, but also let them discover what they are passionate about in life.

                                      True success will come because they are passionate about the activity, not because they are the best. The best usually become that way because they are passionate first. Therefore, let your child experience a variety of activities and interests so that they can discover what they love to do.

                                      6. Praise Their Efforts, Not the Outcome

                                      Praising their efforts keeps them motivated and trying. If you focus on outcome, then when they fail, they will become defeated and discouraged.

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                                      Focusing on the fact that they tried hard and pointing out specific ways that they did well in terms of effort will support them in trying again. When you make a habit of focusing on outcome, then failures are avoided at all costs, including taking risks.

                                      Risks are needed in order to become successful. Therefore, make a habit of praising their efforts, even when the outcome is not what they had hoped and tried for, because eventually, if they keep trying their efforts will result in success.

                                      7. Be a Model of Grit

                                      If you are a parent or a caregiver for a child, then you are a model to that child. Children naturally look up to the adults in their life that are closest to them, especially their parents. They will look at your ability to persevere and achieve. Your grit will show.

                                      Your children are watching. They may not know the term grit, but they will learn about working hard, not giving up, trying again after failure, and all that grit entails from your actions.

                                      How you handle life is being watched by your children. You can work on your own grit by reading Angela Duckworth’s book Grit .

                                      Develop a Growth Mindset

                                      Helping your child develop a growth mindset is also helpful to your child in their development of grit. Dr. Dweck, author of Growth Mindset and researcher at Stanford, developed a theory of fixed versus growth mindset.

                                      Basically, what it means is that if you have a fixed mindset, you will fear failure and easily give up. Someone with a growth mindset believes that their talents, skills, and abilities can be improved with hard work and learning. Parents and caregivers can help with the development of a growth mindset.

                                        Some of the ways that a growth mindset can be developed include:

                                        • Teaching your child how the brain works: neuron connections, right brain versus left brain.
                                        • Teach them to set goals.
                                        • Teach them to have a “can do” attitude.
                                        • Teach them to develop a strategy when they want to achieve something.
                                        • Teach them that mistakes are an opportunity to learn.
                                        • Teach them that failure is a normal part of life.
                                        • Teach them about self talk: Self Talk Determines Your Success

                                        There are a great deal of activities and materials online for helping your child develop a growth mindset including these resources below (each site contains at least some free content):

                                        The Bottom Line

                                        Grit is not just for adults, it is something we can help our children develop. Grit is more critical to success than IQ, so we should be helping our children develop this quality early in life.

                                        As a parent, being a model of grit, is one of the first ways to help our children become “gritty”.

                                        Featured photo credit: Gabriela Braga via unsplash.com

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