A common topic of discussion (and arguments!) in our family has to do with “screen time” – our term of the use of any technology such as the computer, TV, ipad, or smartphone. Whatever amount my husband and I think is appropriate seems like not enough to our kids, and whatever amount they are on their screens these days seems like too much to us.
In an effort to find some common ground, I’ve started to focus on the types of things they are watching or doing on their screens. Instead of mindlessly playing things like Fruit Ninja (where you “slice” falling fruit with your finger before it explodes) or Paper Toss (where you flick your finger on a virtual balled up piece of paper to “toss” it into a trashcan) for hours on end, I think they can at least be playing games with some educational value. A few obvious ones that come to mind are Sudoku, Words with Friends, and even Hangman. Work your problem solving skills, build your vocabulary, increase your phonemic awareness and spelling ability – who can argue with that? But the kids and I dug a little deeper, and found a few other apps that can keep them both entertained and learning at the same time:
- 4 Pics 1 Word – This is a fun game that builds analytical skills as well as spelling and vocabulary. Four seemingly unrelated pictures appear on the screen. Your job is to think of a word that they all have in common. There are a number of spaces below to tell you how many letters are in the word you’re looking for.
- Star Walk – For those interested in astronomy and the solar system, this app is chock full of interesting information. Point your device at the night sky and it will name and identify the constellation(s) you are viewing. It also tells you when and where to find the planets on any given day and even helps you identify satellites. It makes for great fun on a warm summer night.
- Multiplication Table and Division Help – While we know that being a good mathematician involves understanding concepts, it is also important to have a high level of fluency with basic math facts. These two apps give kids the opportunity to practice their computation and mental math skills, giving them a solid foundation on which to build as they move into more complex math concepts.
- Ecosystems HD – This app is like having an interactive science encyclopedia at your fingertips. Kids can choose an ecosystem to explore, and will find easy to read descriptions, pictures, and even links to related YouTube videos. There are also leveled quizzes to take at the end of each exploration.
These are only a few of the no doubt myriad educational apps that are out there these days. Give them a try, or better yet engage your kids in the process of finding “parent approved” apps that they can enjoy without making you too crazy over too much screen time!
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