I’m kind of an old-fashioned dad to my three children. I’d rather them play outdoors than indoors, and I want them to read books instead of watch TV.
But I do like to use smartphone and tablet apps, in moderation, for learning. My oldest son has learned quite a bit from educational apps, and I’m always looking out for new ones that can help him learn something else.
We’ve tried dozens of apps – deleting many of them – and we only keep ones that have education and fun at their core. Typically, we pay a dollar or two for them.
In this first part of a multi-part series, here are five that have stood out. All are available on iPhone and most on Android devices.
WordWorld. The popular PBS cartoon that teaches kids letters and spelling released an app when our son was around 3, and he loved it. He quickly learned to spell around a dozen animal names. Since then, the company behind the app has updated its app and released a companion one. I can’t vouch for the newer versions, but if they’re anything like the earlier version, they’re stellar.
Clifford’s BE BIG with Words. Based on the story and cartoon about Clifford the Big Red Dog, this app teaches children how to spell more than 100 three-letter words. The idea behind the game is simple: Children tell Jetta (one of the story’s characters) what to draw. On each page, they are given a choice from four letters on Jetta’s palette. Any choice will result in a correctly spelled word.
Presidents vs. Aliens. It has a quirky-sounding name, but don’t let that fool you. If you want your kids to learn the presidents, try it out. They’ll learn the names of the presidents, what each president looked like, and facts about each president, too. Don’t believe me? When my son was 4 he saw a picture of the pastor at our church and asked his mom, “Is that Richard Nixon?” Months later, he thought he had spotted George W. Bush at the mall.
Stack the States. There are several great geography apps, but this one may be at the top. Thanks to this app, our oldest son to this day sees objects – say, a slice of cheese – and will tell us, “That looks like California!” The app teaches children the shapes of states, their capitals, and more. There also is a companion app called Stack the Countries, but it has yet to catch on with him.
Brain Pop Jr. Even wanted your child to enjoy watching education cartoons – say, about the planets, the continents, math and technology? This is what you need. Each cartoon lasts less than five minutes and is aimed at children 6-8. For older children, there is simply “Brain Pop.” Brain Pop Jr. releases one free cartoon a week. You can pay $1.99 a month and get four cartoons a week (which we do) or pay $5.99 a month and get access to all the cartoons. You may not think some of the subjects are appropriate. I have seen only two cartoons I didn’t like, but overall, this app is worth it and quite educational.
Michael Foust is an editor and writer who blogs about parenting and fatherhood. He loves his family and also really likes popcorn. Interested in re-posting this in your publication or on your blog for free? Send me a message in the comments section below (the message won’t go public).
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