Back to School Reading Apps
Back-to-school time is here, and these apps are great to supplement your beginning reader!
Reading Train Learn to Read Books, Songs & Games is a uniquely designed app for emergent readers. No other app is as specifically tailored to the needs of beginning readers. Reading Train includes 200 books for children who are beginning to read. Children are typically at this stage of reading during their kindergarten or first-grade year, depending on their development. Many children progress quickly through these stages, while others need more time. This app would be an asset to those children needing more time at this level. The app has a kid-friendly train where children choose books based on their level and desired topic. Parents, you will need to assist your child during their first interactions with the app in order to create a user and guide your child to the appropriate level. The books offer three different options: Listen, Read, and Record. Children like the books, but the app does not offer enough entertainment value that your child is likely to choose this app freely. Children are rewarded with a songbook after reading books and completing review activities. Some children won’t have enough patience to sit through the longer song and may tap the screen in anticipation of interactivity in this area. Also, this app should not be used in isolation because children need to learn the valuable skills associated with handling real books, such as reading left to right and orienting the book correctly. There’s no real substitute for creating a love of real books! The app would be a great supplement to a literature-rich environment. Reading Train Learn to Read Books, Songs & Games costs $3.99.
Duck Duck Moose Reading is a solid phonics practice app for your beginning reader. Children quickly progress through five varied phonics activities, each focused on a specific set of letters. Games are entertaining to play and are designed to focus kids on individual sounds, letters, or both letters and sounds in the context of words. Kids earn animals to add to their zoo after each series of activities. Parents are given a progress report for multiple kids who log into the app. We’d like it if parents were able to customize which letters and sounds are given to each child to practice. Overall, this is a good phonics practice app with the high quality visual and touch screen design that Duck Duck Moose is known for. Duck Duck Moose Reading is perfect for children at the Kindergarten or first grade level and costs $2.99.
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Pre-Reading Skills: Beyond Letters and Sounds
Create Sea Snacks for the Whole Family
Create some healthy under-the-sea-themed snacks to share during a picnic, barbecue, or any time that suits your family. Here are some ideas to get you started. See if your child can come up with some of his own creations to add to the list.
- Bananas (not peeled)
Sea Star Sandwiches
Use a star-shaped cookie cutter to transform your child’s favorite sandwich, toast, waffle, pancake, or slice of cheese into a sea star.
Fish in the Sea
- Fish-shaped crackers
- Cream cheese
- Rice cake
- Blue food coloring
- Mix a scoop of cream cheese with a drop or two of blue food coloring. Stir well.
- Spread the blue cream cheese onto the rice cake.
- Place several fish shaped crackers into the “sea” of blue cream cheese.
- Take a picture of your creation. Then eat and enjoy.
Add baby carrots standing upright or florets of broccoli to create a coral reef for the fish to hide in.
- Round crackers
- Peanut butter, cream cheese, hummus, or cheese spread
- Yogurt-covered raisins (white)
- Spread peanut butter, cream cheese, hummus, or cheese onto one cracker.
- Place one yogurt-covered raisin off center in the peanut butter, cream cheese, hummus, or cheese. This is the bottom of the mouth of the clam with the “pearl”.
- To make the eyes put two small dollops of peanut butter, cream cheese, hummus, or cheese onto the top of the other cracker about thumb width apart. Place a raisin on each.
- Set the cracker with the eyes on top of the cracker with the pearl.
- Take a picture of your clam(s). Eat and enjoy!
Back to School Learning Activities
Back to School time is upon us and KinderTown would like to provide you with educational activities for your 3-8 year old to complete at home. Most of the activities can be completed in 10 minutes with little to no preparation.
To use the Learning Bingo Board, simply complete any activity and have your child mark it off in some way. Color the square or use anything else that you have around the house to mark the squares, such as stamps or stickers. Decide on an incentive or reward for completing the board that works for your family or child. Check back soon for more activities!
Be sure to download KinderTown, the Educational App for Engaged Parents, to find additional educational apps to support your child’s learning. KinderTown is dedicated to improving early childhood education by empowering parents with the tools to support their child’s learning. KinderTown only includes apps that have substantial educational value as determined by an objective review process conducted by childhood educators. Search by age, device, or subject area.
Summer Activity: Jellyfish in a Bottle
Make your own jellyfish in a bottle using recycled materials and items from the kitchen.
- Empty clear plastic bottle with lid (label removed)
- 1 white plastic grocery bag
- Thread or small rubber band
- Food coloring
- Hot glue
- Cut the handles and bottom off the plastic grocery bag.
- Cut the sides of the bag so you have the two halves–the back and the front sides. Discard the side with the logo.
- Lift and pinch the center of the bag and make a small bubble.
- Tie off the bubble loosely with the thread or rubber band so a small opening remains. Turn it over and be certain you can see a small opening. This is the “head” of the jellyfish.
- Cut the part of the bag hanging down into strands to make the tentacles. Cut the strands so that there are various lengths and widths.
- Fill the bottle close to the neck full with water.
- Add a few drops of blue food coloring.
- Turn the jellyfish over. Blow into the small opening and fill with air. Then fill the opening about half way with water.
- Twist the head closed and stuff the jellyfish into the bottle.
- Hot glue the lid on to the bottle.
- Turn the bottle upside down and then right side up to watch the jellyfish swim.
Family Activity: Design Your Own Spectroscope
Light is an amazing tool for learning and experimentation. Make your own spectroscope and experiment with light.
Spectroscope: A spectroscope is an instrument used to break up light, just like a prism does, showing the light spectrum. Make this scientific tool using recycled materials.
- Paper tube
- A blank CD
- 2 index cards (at least 3×5 inches)
- Pencil or pen
- Hot glue or quick-drying glue
- Scissors or utility knife
- Paint or makers (optional)
- On the reflective side of the CD, draw a circle off to the side, using the tube as a template.
- Use tape to remove the reflective layer from the CD. You may need to make a small scratch on the CD with a key or coin to get it started.
- Cut out the circle you drew on the CD.
- Tape the two index cards next to one another, leaving a small vertical slit between them.
- Place the paper tube on top of the index cards, covering the slit. Adhere the paper tube to the cards with glue. Trim the index cards so they are flush with the paper tube.
- Place the circle cut from the CD on the other side of the tube. Be sure the lines on the CD are parallel to the slit in the index cards on the opposite side. Glue the circle to the tube.
- Optional: decorate the outside of the tube with construction paper, paint, or markers.
- Note: Remind your child never to look directly at the sun. Look through the CD plastic toward a light source. The spectrum should appear on both sides (like the colors of the rainbow).
- Experiment with different light sources, which will produce different spectra.
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 bandanna. 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.
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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.