When I was a kid, the closest thing I did to learning during summer vacation, was create an erector set machine to get my baseball back from the other side of the fence. Or was that the movie ‘The Sandlot’ (2 minutes and 10 seconds in). Either way, back then things were different. Kids played outside from early in the morning until the sun went down. There were no cellphones, iPads, or internet. But today, kids social lives revolve around the internet. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children 8-18 spend 7 1/2 hours a day in front of one form of media. An even crazier stat, Kaiser also found that these kids have found a way to cram in a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes of media content into those 7 ½ hours. So either this new generation of kids have found a way to expand the amount of hours in a day or they are heavily relying on media.
So what is a parent to do with a child whose face is buried into their laptop, tablet or phone all summer long? Make them use these educational apps for a couple of hours a day so the internet doesn’t completely destroy their brains! Also, make them go outside! Play, get dirty, and be kids!
Preschoolers – 1st Grade
The Cat in The Hat – Dr. Suess – (3.99) The Cat in The Hat is an application for younger (and young at heart) children who are learning how to read. This iPad only app is an interactive learn-to-read version of the classic Dr. Suess book. This app features three ways to read, that are not only fun and interactive but educational for new readers. The” Read to Me” features allows children to listen to the narrated story while the words highlighted as its read. “Read it Myself” allows children who already have reading down to read it the traditional way. “Auto Play” will play the book like a movie, automatically reading and turning pages. Great for younger beginners!
Sight Words by Little Speller – (Free) At first glance this app didn’t look like more than a spelling bee for children. But once diving further into the app, we see that it is much more than that! Sight Words (also known as the Dolch List) are the most important part on learning how to read. 220 words make the Dolch List. These are the most common words of the English language and are easiest learned by sight. But that is not what makes this app great for learning to spell. The app is fully customizable. Parents can add their own lists of words, take pictures of items and place the picture with its corresponding word to make it easier for children to associate, and oarents can also put their own voice into the app so children can practically learn how to read from their parents.
Leafsnap – (Free) Leafsnap is an app that not only will teach your children something new, but also allows them to be outside. Do you remember outside? It’s where the internet is slower and you don’t need a flash for your iPhone camera. Leafsnap is the first in a series of electronic field guides being developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. This free mobile app uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves. Pretty awesome if you ask me!
Rocket Math – (0.99) I’m pretty sure there was a game similar to this when I was in elementary school but you loaded it on your computer with a huge floppy disk, started it up with a DOS command and the screen wasn’t in color. With Rocket Math, you control a rocket ship that is cruising threw the galaxy. Upon your flight you’ll experience stars, shapes, coins and 3d objects. Each shape is related to a different math problem, from addition and subtraction all the way the scariest space creature of all, SQUARE ROOTS! You’re kids will have so much fun customizing their ship they probably will forget that they are even learning.
BrainPOP – (Free) BrainPOP allows users to view an animated video everyday, then test your knowledge on what you just viewed in a quiz! Take quizzes on subjects like history, science, biology, math, social studies, art and music. There are also paid features of the app that allow children to access even more educational material.
High School Seniors
Studentawards.com – (Free) As high school students prepare for college, this app will direct them to the best scholarships, bursaries, and grants suited directly for them. It gives alerts anytime a new scholarship is updated or added directly to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
Kaplan SAT Flashcubes – The test that is going to determine the rest of your life. The one exam that will determine whether you’ll be successful or working at McDonald’s forever. The SAT’s! There really is a lot of pressure on high school students to preform well on the SAT’s, for good reason and bad. You need a decent score to get into a good school, but it seems silly that one test can determine the path for the rest of your life. Kaplan SAT Flashcubes is here to help you get on the best path possible, or at least raise your SAT score a few hundred points. Kaplan is a series of flashcards that mimic SAT test questions. Their are over 500 different verbal and mathematical questions in the app. Another nice part about the app ius that is gives you reports on how you are doing and how you are improving.
There you have it, the best apps to keep your kids sharp this summer. I leave you with my favorite computer learning game when I was a kid. Math Blaster! Actually I remember hating this game, but whatever. Nostalgia wins.