4 Excellent STEM Apps for the Summer
Help! Someone recorded a birthday on the calendar but didn’t include the name with the date. Whose birthday is it? Goldie has a solution. She’ll make cupcakes for everyone in the town. In order to do that, she needs help from Ruby Rails to solve the puzzles and make the cupcakes fast and efficiently. As your child solves the puzzles, they are learning beginning coding skills. Along the way, take a break and enjoy a mini-game or play with the stickers you have earned in your room. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 5-8.
Monster Physics™ helps your child learn physics and so much more. Spend time on the “learn” page, where parents and kids learn physics vocabulary together. Move through the missions, starting with the “tutorial” level that introduces necessary strategies and tools. There are 50 different missions that can be accessed at any time with enough content available for a long shelf life. “Free build” is a personal favorite for watching kids invent to learn. In addition to all the physics, this app cultivates innovation, strategy, and persistence, which are not skills to be neglected. The full version costs $1.99 and is appropriate for children ages 6-8.
Toca Lab is the chemistry lab for young kids, and it is the perfect place for exploring how different materials interact. The app is designed around the world of a science lab. The incredible part is that children do not have to be able to read or understand all there is to know about chemistry in order to engage in tinkering in the lab. As children tinker with the “elements”, they create new “elements” for their own periodic table. Please note that the “elements” and periodic table are not based on actual scientific reactions but rather give children the understanding that, when elements are placed under certain conditions, a new element can be created. Be sure to provide lots of vocabulary and ask your child lots of questions while using the app. For example: What do you think is happening? How can you change the current state? What happens if you add water? Encourage them to ask questions, too. This app will make your child feel like they have all the tools of a mad scientist! The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 4-8.
Science experimentation without the mess! Thank you, Piiig Labs, for this inquisitive app that brings science-friendly activities to preschoolers. The budding scientist in your house will love making a volcano erupt, building a light bulb, and tinkering with a radio. The app does touch on themes such as electricity, chemical reactions, and cause and effect, but the app is designed for children ages 3-6, so the activities are age-appropriate. Each experiment is accompanied by a short science fact for kids. The app costs $2.99 and is available for iPad only.
Fun Activity: Create a Kaleidoscope
Using the sun and light for the basis for this activity, enjoy creating your own Kaleidoscope.
Focus: Science and Art
Kaleidoscope: Make your own kaleidoscope with simple materials and watch as the sunlight bounces off the colored beads and sequins and is reflected to create beautiful patterns when you look inside it.
- 1 clear plastic report cover or 1 sheet of mirror board (available at craft stores or online)
- Paper towel tube
- Plastic wrap
- Black construction paper
- Rubber band
- Sharpened pencil
- Small beads (translucent work best), sequins, confetti, or glitter
- Markers (optional)
- Stickers (optional)
- Duct tape (optional)
- Wrapping paper (optional)
- Draw an 8 x 4 inch rectangle on the clear plastic report cover or mirror board.
- Draw three vertical lines across the rectangle, dividing it into three 1 ¼-inch rectangles and one ¼-inch rectangle.
- Cut out the large rectangle with scissors.
- Fold along the lines to form a triangular shape. The quarter-inch strip will be taped along the outside edge to help the triangle hold its shape.
- Slide the triangle into the paper towel tube. The tube may need to be trimmed down to meet the end of the triangular form.
- Stand the paper towel tube on end and trace a circle around it on a piece of black construction paper. Then cut out the circle and glue it around one end of the paper towel tube.
- Use the sharpened pencil to poke a hole through the center of the black circle.
- Cut out a 4-inch square of plastic wrap. Place the plastic wrap over the other end of the tube. Gently poke it down into the plastic triangle until it forms a small pouch. Be sure that the corners of the plastic wrap remain exposed. Fill the pouch with the translucent beads, sequins, confetti, or glitter.
- Cut out a 4-inch square of waxed paper.
- Seal the items in by placing the waxed paper over the pouch and down around the paper towel tube. Secure with a rubber band over both the waxed paper and the plastic wrap. Make sure the rubber band is on tight so the beads do not spill out.
- Optional: Trim the corners of the waxed paper and plastic wrap.
- Optional: Cover the rubber band with duct tape for a decorative effect.
- Optional: Decorate the paper towel tube with stickers, markers, duct tape, or wrapping paper.
- Note: Remind your child never to look directly at the sun. Hold the tube up to a lighted area and look through the hole. Slowly turn the tube so the pieces inside move and the patterns change.
- Briefly explain how the kaleidoscope works. A kaleidoscope operates on the principle of multiple reflection, where several mirrors or reflective items are placed at an angle to one another. Typically there are three reflective objects (usually mirrors) set at 60° to each other so that they form an equilateral triangle. The 60° angle generates an infinite regular grid of duplicate images of the original. As the tube is rotated, the tumbling of the colored objects presents varying colors and patterns.
- Research to find out who invented the kaleidoscope.
- Research to discover different materials used to produce kaleidoscopes.
- Kaleidoscopes produce patterns, symmetry, and transformations. Further explore these mathematical concepts.
E-Books for On-The-Go Reading
E-books are great to have for on-the-go reading and don’t require lugging around heavy books. My family enjoys them on vacation, in a waiting room or in the car. Try these out for your next trip.
Goodnight Moon turns the classic storybook into a relaxing digital e-book. The book includes the classic illustrations and the option for a soothing narrator. Children can use the optional spyglass to find hidden treasures in the illustrations. Subtle interactive sections are included on each page, such as playing with the mittens or making the cow jump over the moon. Everything about the e-book should help your little one drift off to sleep. Goodnight Moon costs $4.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-6.
Join Elmo and Grover for another silly story. The animations in the story app are captivating and invite children to get involved in the story. Children can easily tap to turn the page and giggle with Elmo and Grover as they try new ways to block the reader from turning the page. Of course, every child wants to turn the page anyway to see what silly tricks Elmo and Grover will try next. The book does include interactivity with objects on each page to interact and play with– perfect for young children. The app costs $3.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-5. This book is one that is sure to be enjoyed again and again.
This app by Oceanhouse Media is a digital book sure to be loved by your kids. I know many children who love to pretend to be pirates. The How I Became a Pirate book was a New York Times bestseller and is sure to be a favorite digital book as well. It has two options for reading: Read to Me and Read by Myself. The book has several different interactive pieces. When reading, your child can have the words read again by tapping them or tap the wrapping on a pirate’s head and hear the word bandana. This story is perfect for summer because the story begins with a boy using his imagination at the beach, spying a pirate ship in the ocean. The pirates come upon the shore and interact with the boy. The boy in the story boards the pirate ship and has an adventure. KinderTown likes the recording feature on each page. Beginning readers can read and record their voices. Save the recording, and children can listen to themselves reading the story. This is a great learning activity for children ages 6-8. It develops fluency and expression while reading and will become a parent favorite as well. The app costs $3.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-8.
The Little Bug offers a pleasing story about a caterpillar who is fascinated with all of her bug friends. The story has calming background music and would be ideal before bedtime. The story offers many facts about bugs and has interactive pages to hold the youngest child’s interest. Children can make the grasshopper move, highlight the segments on a bug, or make the bee buzz. The art on each page is well done and communicates the story in an effective way. In the story, key words are in bold so that children can tap on them and have them repeated. The Little Bug costs $3.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-6.
Related Blog Post:
Unique eBook Apps
Summer Activity: Water Tasting
Try this water tasting activity with your family this summer and have fun taste testing.
Focus: Science and Math
Water Tasting: Conduct a taste test to find out if the members of your family (and maybe even your friends) think that all types of water taste the same. Graph the results and draw conclusions.
- Samples of water: tap water, seltzer water, bottled water, club soda, mineral water (flat or carbonated), distilled water, tonic water
- Paper, graph paper, or poster board
- Taste Testing Form (1 per person, provided)
- Pencils, pens, markers
- Explain that your family (and maybe some friends, too!) will conduct a taste test of different types of water.
- Determine the different types of water that you want to include in the test.
- Gather samples of the water for test.
- Label the cups to distinguish them from one another (numbers, letters, or colored dots). One person should be designated to know which samples represent each type of water.
- Give each person a taste test form (or develop your own) to rank the water samples from favorite to least favorite throughout the test.
- Begin the activity by having each person observe each sample before Questions to consider are:
- How does the water look?
- Does it have an odor?
- Next, have each person taste one sample at a time. Have each person think about the taste and texture of the water. Questions to consider are:
- How does the water taste?
- How does it feel in your mouth?
- Circle the rating on the taste test form continuum for that sample.
- Discuss the results as a family. See some of the questions under “Extension” to get started.
- Reveal type of water for each sample.
- Create a graph of the results. Your family can decide which type of graph would be best to display the data (bar graph, pictograph, circle graph, or line plot) and then discuss the following:
- Is there an overall favorite or dislike?
- Is there a tie?
- What characteristics of the water may have influenced your decision to rate a sample higher or lower on the scale?
- Might the container they are stored in affect taste? Why or why not?
- How could the experiment be improved?
- Research the different types of water that your family tested. Try to find information about how the water is collected, produced, and manufactured (i.e., what might be added, such as sodium, that could make them taste slightly different).
Fun Summer Activity: Evaporating Art
Playing with water outside is a great way to have fun in the summer. Try this Evaporating Art activity.
Focus: Science and Art
Evaporating Art: Experiment to see how sun, shade, and wind affect how water evaporates. This activity works best on a warm, sunny day.
- Paint brushes, sponge brushes, or sponges
- Bucket or open container to hold water
- Pavement or stone (playground, driveway, sidewalk, or large rocks )
- Dip a brush or sponge into the water and paint a picture on the pavement in a sunny area.
- Ask the child to predict what will happen in 5 minutes to his picture.
- “Act out” evaporation with your child. Have him follow along with you. Crouch down and explain that you are all the water molecules in his painting. Next, explain that the sun comes out. All the molecules “getting excited” and “jumping” into the air. As you say this, stand up and jump into the air with your arms extended up and say “evaporate”.
- Ask him the following questions:
- What do you see?
- Describe what is happening to the water.
- Is the water soaking into the pavement?
- Is some of the water evaporating? How can you tell?
- What do you think your painting will look like in _____ minutes? (Select a time you feel is reasonable here)
- Repeat the steps above, but have them paint a picture:
- on the same surface in a shady area.
- on the same surface in a shady area, but have him blow on it or fan it.
- Ask him what happened to the water painting. Discuss the differences he saw between his paintings when in the sun, when in the shade, and when he added wind.
- Have the child paint on the back of his hand or on his arm.
- Have him blow on it or fan it.
- Ask him the following questions:
- What is happening to the water?
- How does your hand/arm feel differently?
- Explain that when water evaporates that heat escapes with it. This is why it feels cooler when the air made contact with it. This is also why when you come out of the bath or shower that your body feels cooler. As the water on your skin evaporates, some of your body’s heat goes with it.
- You can continue to experiment with different surfaces (pavement, siding on the house, a toy) to see what happens to the water.
Apps for Building a Love of Nursery Rhymes
Nursery Rhymes are important to develop a love of language and build a foundation for future reading skills. Read this blog post to learn more and enjoy these apps.
Baa Baa Black Sheep by Duck Duck Moose makes the familiar childhood nursery rhyme come alive with interactive silly characters and a search-and-find game, which links all the screen play together. The app is a wonderful activity for kids who love to explore and discover. We appreciate how it encourages young children to be inquisitive. Have “ Baa Baa Black Sheep”. The app includes pleasing music and young children’s voices to accompany the game play. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-4.
Little Miss Muffet lets your little one interact while listening and reading a familiar childhood nursery rhyme. Each line of the rhyme is presented on a page with many hotspots that your child can tap to listen and learn. For example, count the daisies and the apples. Our child testers liked that the apples fell with letters on the app. Put the letters together to spell the word apples. Each page is dedicated to learning either letters and words, numbers and counting, or colors. Two other nursery rhymes are hidden in this app as well. Overall, this app is a fun and valuable tool for learning nursery rhymes. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-4.
This charming e-book app comes to life with pages of classic Mother Goose nursery rhymes. The table of contents includes ten classic nursery rhymes with pictures reminiscent of your childhood. Each page of the app has interactivity; including making Jack jump over the candlestick and making the rain in “Rain, Rain, Go Away” disappear. In addition, your child can put Humpty Dumpty back together again. This app allows your child to have the app narrate the story or read it aloud themselves. The app costs $4.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-4.
Goosed Up Rhymes gives nursery rhymes a modern twist. The most popular nursery rhymes that we all know and love are read and acted out on the screen with modern animation. KinderTown likes how the animation helps children comprehend the rhymes. Our child testers enjoyed all the special interactive areas on the screen for each rhyme. There are eight animated nursery rhymes that include features such as fixing Humpty Dumpty. This is a fantastic app to listen to nursery rhymes over and over again. The app costs 2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-4.
Related Blog Post:
Developing Language Skills with Nursery Rhymes
Summer Science Activity: Will it Absorb Water?
Experimenting with water is the summer is an engaging way to learn about science. Try this activity to learn about absorption.
Will It Absorb Water? Gather materials, make predictions, and test to see which materials absorb or do not absorb water. Discuss the results.
- 2-4 items that will absorb water, such as a paper towel, construction paper, sponge, piece of fabric, cotton ball, coffee filter, baby diaper, or tissue paper
- 2-4 items that do not absorb water, such as aluminum foil, foam, wax paper, plastic wrap, plastic straw, marble, or coin
- Medicine dropper or pipette
- Small bowl of water
- Food coloring (one color)
- A pan in which to test items or place a small samples of each item in the sections of a muffin tin or ice cube tray
- Display the items to be tested in no particular order.
- Place a few drops of food coloring in the water. This makes the absorption easier to see.
- Explain that absorption is the act of taking in small particles through holes or small openings. Demonstrate this concept with a tissue or other item.
- Before testing each item, ask your child to predict if he thinks it will absorb the water.
- Have him place a few drops of water on the item.
- Ask him to describe what he sees.
- When finished, review which items absorbed the water and those that did not.
Place a stalk of celery (with the leafy greens attached), leaf of cabbage (Napa works well), or a carnation in a jar or vase full of colored water to demonstrate water absorption in plants. Have your child predict what will happen. Check back daily to observe changes. It may take a few days to see the full effect.
Quality Educational Apps with a Nature Theme
Summer is a great time to get outside and enjoy nature. Enjoy these Nature Themed Apps.
Educational Apps with a Nature Theme
Domi Domi Nature Shapes – Matching and Sorting for Toddlers works to develop early childhood skills in a calming nature environment. Children must match the outlines of the creatures to the fully colored animals including crabs, owls, sea turtles, and sea horses. As your child progresses throughout the five different areas, the difficulty level increases from marching shapes to sorting the objects by color, type, and size. Sorting objects is a key skill for early childhood development. The app only has five games areas, and children may progress through them quickly. Many children would enjoy repeating the games again and again. The app has wonderful graphics and a soothing quality to the music and nature scenes. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 2-4.
Grandma Loves Bugs is an app that practices different types of skills that are appropriate for children ages 3-5. The app includes 10 mini-games and 8 educational videos for children to enjoy. The app works on skills such as matching letters, memory skills, identifying groups, and looking for differences. Grandma is charming as always and needs help finding the bugs in her hair. This app offers great basic skills practice for the summer. Children can also catch fireflies, draw a spider web, and eat caterpillar leaves with Grandma. The app costs $1.99.
WWF Together is beautifully created with stunning pictures of endangered animals. It would be valuable to sit with your child and discuss “endangered species” while looking at the pictures on the app. Each endangered animal is displayed through origami and includes information on creating your own origami creatures. You can even pose with the origami creature for a unique selfie! The app also provides a few interactive activities that coordinate with some of the animals featured in the app, including racing a jaguar and outjumping a snow leopard. The app includes facts about the animals, but these are not read aloud. There is a 3-D interactive globe which pinpoints exactly where endangered species exist, and children can calculate their distance from the species. Our child testers loved discovering the videos embedded within the app of endangered animals. This app is appropriate for children ages 4-8 and is a wonderful learning experience for the whole family.
3 Math Apps to Help Prevent the Summer Slide
Summer is here, but the learning shouldn’t stop. We have gathered 3 great apps that will help prevent the summer slide for your children in the area of math. These apps track your child’s progress and can be purchased on a monthly basis to supplement any curriculum your child has completed during the past school year.
Prevent the Summer Slide with These Math Apps
Todo Math is a free app designed to practice early childhood math skills. Todo in Spanish means “all” and is designed to inspire play with all the early childhood math concepts. It includes 20+ multi-level games. It has two different types of play: free choice and mission. In mission mode, the app gives a brief overview of each game and guides your child through each game one at a time. In free choice mode, all games are presented and your child chooses which one they would like to play. It includes multiple levels of math games and adaptive play, where the games automatically adapt to your child’s skill level. Other options for children are the Mathematical Missions, designed to motivate children to engage longer with the mathematical concepts. Parents, you can sign up for a parent account which will provide you with a more detailed look at how your child is progressing through the app. Compared to most apps, Todo Math does contain a worthwhile amount of free content practicing many different areas of math for children ages 3-6, or levels PreK-2nd grade. There are additional in-app purchases to access more content. The additional content would be beneficial to support your child’s math practice over the summer months and help prevent the summer slide.
My Blee Math offers a wide variety of elementary math lessons on topics such as measuring line segments, working with money, mental math and multi-digit addition for students ages 5-8. KinderTown likes how the app gives initial instruction on a particular concept before the child is asked to practice or apply it. The instruction is given with a unique robotic-like voice. Another great feature is the use of “MyScript” technology that can identify a child’s handwriting as she writes her answer directly on the screen. Children will also find the use of the digital manipulatives which include movable rulers, blocks, protractors, etc. both interesting and helpful for solving problems. My Blee is an app that would benefit students who need additional practice with math concepts. The app offers communication to parents about their student’s progress through frequent emails. The app is free for 10 minutes each week. Subscriptions can be purchased for students who need more time per week for $9.99 a month or for $74.99 for a year.
Splash Math is an interactive workbook style app where you’ll find all the math practice your child needs to reinforce what they have learned throughout the school year. There is a nice mix of multiple choice, fill in the missing pieces and choose an answer problems. Kids will find some questions that require reading, so parents will want to stick close when starting the app. Parents get complete customization of what math concepts and skills are presented to multiple children in the app. Splash Math comes in a variety of levels from PreK-5th Grade and reinforces math concepts learned during the corresponding grade level. You must purchase each level as an individual app for $9.99 and it includes the entire year’s worth of skill review.
Related Blog Post:
Summer Learning Apps for Your Preschooler
Paper Bag Painting
My daughter loves to paint. She wants to paint every day, and paint supplies can become expensive. Today, I had a brown paper bag around, and it turned out to be the perfect canvas for paint because it is extra thick and stands up to the paint well. We used regular and glitter paints and different size brushes. She decided to paint a nature scene. This is a great way to spend a summer day!
Lazoo Art Box is a fabulously creative digital coloring book for children ages 3-5. The app presents a child with a starting place for adding creativity to an existing scene or page in the coloring book. When your child is finished, watch the page come alive as the objects perform short animations. The app is extremely easy to use and kid-friendly. There are 3 interactive areas; Let’s Squiggle, Let’s Color, and Let’s Draw. For each area your child is prompted to draw with their finger and then press the Play button to view the animation. The app does a nice job of providing directions and vocabulary to accompany the picture. There are a variety of coloring tools provided at the bottom of the screen including stickers, markers, spray paint, and paint rollers for a variety of effects. There is also a blank page where children can create their own pictures. This would be a great app to keep on your phone to use when you are on the go this summer! Lazoo Art Box is $1.99 and available for iPhone and iPad.
Related Blog Post:
3 Creative and Educational Apps for Kids