10 Items from the Dollar Store for the Sandbox
The weather has gotten warmer, so it’s time to get into the sandbox.
For this post, I’ve used a container instead of a traditional, full-sized sandbox, which lengthens the season during which the sandbox can be used. In addition, you can use it in different locations. Carry the container to a covered porch or garage on a rainy day or use it inside when the weather is cold. I also chose colored sand for our makeshift sandbox; it’s available at big box stores and LOVED by kids. These smaller sandboxes are also great for smaller houses or apartments that might not have room for a traditional sandbox.
Sandbox Items Found at the Dollar Store
Here are 10 items we found at the dollar store to use in the sandbox:
- Paintbrush – My son likes smoothing out the sand with the paintbrush, as well as making roads for the cars and trucks. Also, it’s a nice tool to practice writing letters and numbers in the sand.
- Measuring cups – My daughter likes to fill these up and dump them out over and over, and I like using the real measurements with her. (For example, if we call them the 1/2 cup, ¼, etc., I feel she is gaining an understanding of what these actual measurements look and feel like and hope she will be able to transfer that knowledge to other areas later.)
- Imitation gems – The dollar store generally has lots of different colors, shapes, and sizes. My kids enjoyed “hiding” them from their sibling and then having them find them later.
- Mini dustpan and brush – Brushing sand into the dustpan is great practice for developing motor skills, but it’s also handy for cleaning up sand that ends up outside the “box.”
- Kitchen strainer or serving spoon – This can be used as a sifter in the sandbox and as a tool to find the gems. They are also great for moving sand or just watching the sand fall through the holes.
- Mini watering can – The sand will fall out of the can as it is poured, but it is also great if you choose to add a little water to your sandbox.
- Pie pans – My children used these to make pretend blueberry pies, mud pies, etc.
- Kitchen spatulas – These are fun for stirring the sand around and around.
- Paint holder – These worked nicely for moving large amounts of sand because of the nice handle. (You can see a red one pictured in the photo at the top of this post.)
- Cars, trucks, tanks – The dollar store is a great place to get toy vehicles for the sandbox. Ours stay in the sandbox for use only in this location. This makes them novel when the sandbox is out and keeps the sand from being relocated to the house.
Now, while your kids are playing, be sure to join them. Here are 3 questions you can ask your child as they play:
- What are you making?
- Where did you come up with that great idea?
- How can we play together?
There are also lots of free things around your house that work well in the sand, too. Any container recently recycled after being cleaned out, paper towel rolls, plastic silverware, plastic cups, or old plastic containers without lids all can be used for sand play. You can easily and inexpensively round up an afternoon of fun in the sandbox.
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Apps for Spring
Spring is a time for children to head back outside and re-investigate the world around them. Talk about what is happening outside and then follow up your conversations with these apps.
Plants by Tinybop is a fabulous app to explore, play, and learn about plants this spring. The app is based on three biomes: the grasslands, tundra, and desert. Once inside the deciduous forest, the seasons change, the weather changes, and children can interact with the plants and animals. The app allows for multiple logins, so children can explore at their own pace. The learning within the app is based on what your child explores within the biomes. While the app does provide labels in the various biomes for plants and animals, it does not provide facts about each one within the app. Also, the app does not include narration, so be sure to talk to your children while they are using the app. Be sure to explore their wonderfully created handbook about plants for parents on their website. It provides a purposeful way to explore the app and facts about the different biomes as well as further websites to explore. Plants by Tinybop is a truly unique educational app for children ages 4-8. Plants costs $2.99.
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The Great Outdoors: App Connections
GazziliScience introduces young kids to science topics in engaging and kid-friendly play. In the app, kids progress through 6 science learning areas that teach through discovery and narration. Explore sections such as “Plants,” “Water Cycle”, and “Seasons” this spring. After completing each area, go to the Gazzili fun page, where you use prizes earned in the game to build a unique contraption. GazziliScience costs $1.99 and is appropriate for children ages 4-7.
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Dr. Panda Veggie Garden playfully gives kids the tools to be gardeners. There are 12 fruits and vegetables to grow. Over 30 activities, such as plowing, digging, picking off insects, and planting seeds, are sequenced appropriately for growing each type of produce. The app is more geared towards amusement and working through 1- and 2-step tasks than learning the sequence of growing fruits and vegetables. Each task is fun and easy for kids to work through, but there is not much free play in the games. In addition, there is not any language provided for your child. Be sure to supply rich vocabulary and questions while interacting with this app for your child to gain the most out of the experience. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-6.
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Best Apps for Learning About People
Kids love to learn about other children around the world, and one of the great advantages about the iPad is that you can easily access information from around the world to have at your child’s fingertips. Enjoy these apps that celebrate all types of people!
Learn About People with These Apps
Wee-You Things (iOS only)
Wee You-Things is a beautiful e-book app that shares an important message. “You-things” in the app are all those unique things about people. The message in the app is that we all have “you-things,” and that is what makes us special. Kids are greeted by over 20 unique characters to learn about each one’s “you-thing.” Interactivity on the page highlights, in some very funny ways, the character’s special quality. You are sure to hear some giggles when your children use this app. What we love about this e-book is that it opens up so many possibilities for conversations between adults and kids. You-Things is an excellent social learning app that is a must-have for your kids. Wee-You Things is appropriate for children ages 3-8 and costs $2.99.
Barefoot World Atlas (iOS only)
Barefoot World Atlas will completely mesmerize all members of your family. Open the app to a globe dotted with images that just beg to be tapped. Read and listen to fun facts by touching the images on the screen. Looking for more depth? Search by country and region to learn facts that give you a look into the lives of people and places around the world. The app is completely worth the price and will be appreciated by both adults and kids. Additional information packets such as World Art or Great Cities can be purchased for $0.99. We see this app becoming one the family sits on the couch and uses together. Barefoot World Atlas costs $4.99 and is appropriate for children ages 5-8.
One Globe Kids – children’s stories from around the world (iOS only)
One Globe Kids is an app designed to bring kids in other countries and cultures into your child’s world. The app allows children to learn about kids from around the world. KinderTown loves the pictures and voices of the children included in the app as they share different aspects of their everyday life. The app opens by allowing your child to personalize their experience by choosing their language and adding a photo of themselves. Then children can explore different cultures by spinning the globe and tapping hot spots that indicate a child is featured from that part of the world. Each child featured includes facts about that child’s native country, language, and even a tutorial on how to speak a few words in that language. Pictures of the child in their home country are included and show what a typical day in the life of the child might include. The app is appropriate for children ages 3-8 and provides an easy way for children to learn about other cultures without ever leaving home. One Globe Kids is completely kid safe with no advertisements or information being shared with others. There is a section where children from other countries can ask your child questions, and they can record their responses as if they were talking to that child, but the information is not shared outside of the app. The app is free and includes a profile of one child in Haiti. Additional content can be purchased for the price of $1.99 per country. One Globe Kids has an education version available as well called Globe Smart Education 1, which provides all of the content for one purchase price of $3.99.
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Developing Social Skills with Apps
Apps for Learning About Government
What is an election? What are laws? Who is running for president? Your children may be asking questions like these as our country experiences a presidential election year. Check out these apps to help them learn more about how government works and help explain the some of the difficult concepts associated with election and government.
Learn About the Government with These Apps
How America Works by KIDS DISCOVER for iPad (iOS only)
This app tells about the different parts of American government and reads like a magazine for kids. It includes videos and interactive learning activities that discuss democracy, how a bill becomes law, and checks and balances within our government. Be sure to enjoy the 3D representation of the Oval Office and Air Force One with your child. Browse the gallery of all 44 presidents. The app is $2.99 and appropriate for children 6-8. Also, visit the KIDS DISCOVER website for a free lesson plan to accompany the app.
BrainPOP Jr. (Android and iOS)
BrainPOP Jr. uses cartoon style movies, quizzes, and facts to teach children. The app tackles difficult concepts for younger kids such as U.S. history and government. Be sure to check out the free video, The Branches of Government, in the Social Studies section. Free content is available within the app, but a subscription to BrainPop will give you access to a complete digital video library. The subscription can be completed through an in-app purchase. There are two options for a subscription: BrainPOP Jr. Explorer Subscription, which offers the free movie of the week plus 3 related movies for 1.99 a month, or the BrainPOP Jr. Full Access Subscription for $5.99 a month.
BrainPOP Jr. is a wonderful app for sparking curiosity in children and can serve as a resource to answer the many questions children may have about a wide range of topics. There are videos on Science, Social Studies, Math, Language, and more. Each video is followed by an easy or hard quiz for which KinderTown encourages parentparticipation, as reading is needed.
News-O-Matic, Daily Reading for Kids (iOS and Android)
News-O-Matic is a news magazine for kids. This magazine contained within an app includes interactive activities and videos. News-O-Matic features 5 daily stories covering the United States and international news, sports, arts, science, and more. The articles are written by their staff of journalists, including educational experts, and reviewed by psychologists to ensure age-appropriate content. The content of the articles is designed for young readers to understand. The app is also ad-free, so the distractions are limited. News-O-Matic also features complete playback of the articles via a Read-to-Me function, making the information accessible to younger students and struggling readers. Definitions and pronunciations are provided for difficult words within articles. A few games are featured as they relate to the news of the day. The app also offers a Spanish translation. A special school edition exists for classroom settings or homeschool environments. KinderTown’s favorite feature that is only included in the school edition is the ability to change reading levels within the app from a first-grade reading level up to a sixth-grade reading level. In addition, the school version includes assessment questions for students. News-O-Matic is a very complete educational news magazine for kids and lots of features for educators and parents. News-O-Matic is appropriate for children ages 5-8 and offers many different choices for price and time duration for subscriptions.
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Tags: App, brainpop, civic, Educational, election, government, kids discover, KinderTown, laws, politics, president, review
Top 10 Must-Have Math Apps
Must-Have Math Apps
Motion Math: Pizza! (iOS only) teaches children beginning economics by simulating a pizza shop. While using the app, children are learning about economics, setting prices, and serving customers through simulation. Parents, follow up the use of this app with conversations about why certain things cost more money than others and how your family makes purchasing decisions.
Bugs and Bubbles (iOS only) is an engaging app for younger children. The randomized practice offers multiple ways to practice beginning math skills in a visually rich environment. Counting, upper- and lowercase letters, and sorting are all presented with a fun garden theme.
Pet Bingo – by Duck Duck Moose (iOS only) is a math fact practice app that includes addition, subtraction, multiplication, anddivision. This app can be replayed for a long time and could be used with multiple children in your house. Children earn rewards for completing math facts correctly in order to care for their virtual pet.
Quick Math – Multiplication Table & Arithmetic Game (iOS only) offers basic math fact practice with a simple, clean interface. KinderTown’s favorite feature about Quick Math is that you can write on the screen with your finger and it will recognize the answer. Quick Math has also developed the apps Quick Fractions and QuickClocks that provide similar practice of the concepts.
Dragon Box Algebra 5+ (iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Windows Phone) is an app that develops algebra skills with approachable problems for children starting at age 5. (There is a second Dragon Box app for more advanced students, called Dragon Box Algebra 12+.) Both apps create problems that must be solved visually in order to make the quantities on both sides of the screen equal. This app is excellent for preparing students for algebraic thinking.
Splash Math (iOS, Kindle, Android) is a series of apps that are made for each grade level. The Splash Math apps cover an entire year’s worth of math skills. Through the app, randomized practice is presented to your child. The app also offers parent features such as progress reports and the ability to customize the skills your child is practicing. This app serves as a great reinforcement of concepts your child has already learned in math.
Math Doodles (iOS only) is a puzzle app that brings a visual perspective to math thinking. This app contains many complex concepts and spans a wide range of skills. Your six-year-old child could use this app as well as a high school student because of the ability to change the type of puzzle pieces presented from simple dice to Roman numerals.
Operation Math (iOS, Android) has created two apps, Operation Math and Operation Math Code Squad. Operation Math simulates high-tech, intense math missions for children to undertake. Operation Math Code Squad follows the same ideas, but up to 4 players can play at the same time. There is a timer feature in this app, and if your child does not like the feeling of being rushed or timed, this would not be a good match. Operation Math Code Squad is an example of how apps can involve multiple players in order to practice math facts.
Motion Math: Zoom (iOS only) moves your child along the path of learning numbers, place value, and number relationships with this thoughtful app. By the use of analytics, the app guides your child at his own pace through a variety of number quantities with the goal of helping him manipulate a number line and make connections between 1’s, 10’s, 100’s, and eventually decimals. The game appears simple as numbered balloons float on the screen, but the swiping, pinching, and tapping will keep your kids on their toes.
Cash Cow Deluxe (iOS only) uses gameplay to help kids become proficient at manipulating money. Tap small coins to make quantities of 5, 10, 25, or 100 cents. The more coins you make, the more the cash cow earns to save the duck’s farm. The app offers several modes of play including arcade, relaxed, endless, practice, or story modes.
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Tags: App, counting, economics, Education, Educational, fact, fun, game, ios, KinderTown, math, money, practice, pricing, problem, puzzle, review, skills, sorting, thinking
myBlee 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 female 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. myBlee 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.
Read about other math apps here.
Tags: addition, App, concept, Educational, elementary, instruction, KinderTown, lessons, math, measurement, mental, money, myblee math, practice, review, student
Engaging Math Apps
Engaging Math Apps
Jump! (iOS only)
Jump! is a truly unique game experience based on numbers. The app takes children through challenges involving counting, skip counting, and addition. The player must lead their character from one shore to another by jumping on the correct number. Players can combine numbers to make numbers needed if they are missing. There is a hint button which is helpful to players who are just learning to play the game. The app uses adaptive technology to quickly adjust to your child’s learning level. There is a rewarding play area where children can play with the characters they have saved. The game has additional obstacles called “Stompers” and “Fuses” that will add a challenge to your child’s strategy as they navigate their way through the game. This app is appropriate for children who are becoming confident with recognizing numbers and counting approximately ages 4-8 and is $2.99.
Motion Math Match (iOS only)
Motion Math Match presents children with a series of cards and challenges them to match cards that equal the same value. For example, a student might choose the following cards, 2+2=4, 4, and 3+1=4. The students can use both hands to match multiple cards. Once a match has been made the cards disappear and more cards fall into place. The app adjusts to your child’s level and can be played with addition facts, subtraction facts, multiplication facts, or division facts. This iPad app is appropriate for children ages 5-12 and is $3.99. Motion Math Match is available for iPad and iPad mini.
Read about other math apps here.
Tags: addition, App, apps, artgig, cards, counting, Educational, engaging, game, jump, KinderTown, learning, match, math, motion math, numbers, skip counting
Dr. Seuss E-books
Read Across America Day is this week, and libraries and schools across the country will celebrate by reading Dr. Seuss books to children. Try some of these apps together with your child that celebrate reading! For more fun with words and sounds, check out our Power Pack Sound Play for children ages 3-4.
Dr. Seuss E-book Apps
Dr. Seuss ABC (iOS only)
This e-book reinforces your child’s growing knowledge of letters, sounds, words, and vocabulary. Your child will enjoy tapping the pages of this delightful ABC book in order to find hidden surprises. The e-book reads aloud to your child and highlights the words as they are read. You can also change the settings to allow the app to “Read to me” or “Auto Play.” The “Auto Play” feature reads the pages and turns the pages to allow the book to play like a movie continuously. In each story, letters are referred to by their size such as “Big A” and “Little a.” Be sure your child knows that this means uppercase and lowercase. The book engages your child by repeatedly asking questions such as, “What begins with C? or D? E?” etc. Try asking your child this type of question as you enjoy the story together.
Dr. Seuss Treasury (iOS only)
Oceanhouse Media has created a Treasury of Dr. Seuss books. Here you will find the e-book versions of many of the classic Dr. Seuss books your child may already know and love. For example, Hop on Pop, Horton Hears a Who!, Green Eggs and Ham, and Cat in the Hat. Check out the rest of the books and read a new title with your child. The e-books include interactive and engaging features such as reading aloud to your child, highlighting the words, and looking for fun hidden treasures by tapping the scenes. The app is subscription based which gives your family access to 55 digital Dr. Seuss books.
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Tags: 3-4, App, books, Dr. Seuss, eBook, Education, KinderTown, preschool, Read Across America, Reading, review
Expanding Your Child’s Vocabulary with Apps
As children grow, their vocabulary expands from their immediate environment such as family members’ names and foods they like to eat, to naming everything they can see, to eventually learning more sophisticated topics through books and literature. Reading to your child even as he begins to learn to read independently increases his vocabulary and knowledge of educational topics. Try these apps for a different approach to build on your child’s existing vocabulary. Download our Power Pack on Vocabulary for more ideas and activities to expand your child’s vocabulary.
Vocabulary App Recommendations
Noodle Words Action Set 1 (iOS only)
Noodle Words Action Set 1, is the first of two apps that present fun, interactive, engaging, and appealing word play experiences for children. Noodle Words supports vocabulary development and increases comprehension through motivational word play activities. The app presents individual words to your child and then demonstrates the meaning of the word with a creative visual. For example, the word “grow” is accompanied by a vine that continues to grow out of control as your child repeatedly taps around the screen. Children love the repetitive visual effects that illustrate the meaning of the 18 different action words included in the app. Playing Noodle Words with your child will be some of the most fun you will have learning vocabulary together. Noodle Words is $2.99 and appropriate for students ages 4-6.
Martha Speaks Word Spinner (iOS, Android, Kindle, and Windows)
Martha Speaks Word Spinner is a fantastic board game app that will inspire lots of family fun! This app is an interactive board game that is played on your iPad. Choose your pup game piece, spin the wheel, and see who can get to the dog house first. There are six games to choose from within the app to play on each turn. Word Spinner gets kids listing words, telling stories, and playing charades. The games present open-ended questions such as “Name several kinds of fruit.” The app does not correct these types of questions, so parents will need to provide the feedback. Your child will need an engaged adult or sibling to listen and respond to the answers. The vocabulary in the app ranges from simple words like “clothing” to more advanced concepts like “prehistoric animals.” A wonderful game for the whole family! Martha Speaks is free and appropriate for children ages 5-8.
Endless Alphabet (iOS, Android, Kindle, and Windows)
Endless Alphabet is a super silly, wacky, hilarious vocabulary learning app for kids. Children can scroll through words inside a friendly blue monster’s mouth. Tap on one that looks especially interesting and learn what the word means. Kids need to build the word, letter by letter first, then watch, listen and learn about the meaning of each word. Wacky, weird letters and colorful, interesting (non-scary) monster characters play the starring role in the app. There are no high scores and no climbing levels in Endless Alphabet. This app is just about learning new words in a playful, discovery-focused way.
Tags: apps, Educational, endless alphabet, engaging, KinderTown, learning, marta speaks, noodle words, review, vocabulary
The act of storytelling develops vocabulary, understanding of character, and story organization. Using a storytelling app will augment that process for your child, as you provide the occasional vocabulary help or guiding questions. Check out our Power Pack on Storytelling that will provide you with more ideas and a greater understanding of how to grow this skill within your child.
Superhero Comic Book Maker (iOS only)
This app does an awesome job of making storytelling easy for children as young as three years old. It is easy to navigate, and the pieces to create a story are embedded nicely within the app. To begin, children choose the comic maker button and select a background as the setting for the first scene in their story. Children can easily record narration for each character as they develop a story. By returning to the main menu children can create additional scenes and then combine them into a longer story. Even if children only use one scene to create a mini story, they are building vocabulary and language skills. This app provides an inviting environment for young learners to start creating stories. This app is appropriate for children ages 6-8 and costs $1.99.
My Story (iOS only)
Your child can use stickers, markers, photos, and voice recordings to create an original book with My Story. This app also allows for the creation of multiple users so more than one child in a household or classroom can have an individual account within the app. This feature is great for classrooms or learning centers. My Story also allows for sharing if enabled by email, on social networks, or in iBooks. Parents be sure to help your child with this if you are interested in sharing stories with family and friends. This app is appropriate for children ages 5-8 and costs $3.99.
Draw and Tell (iOS only)
Draw and Tell brings the best features of drawing apps into one fabulous art and storytelling experience. Children can choose from a blank page, browse your photo library, or select a background from within the app to start creating a story. The app provides tools such as crayons, stickers, paint, and erasers. Your child can narrate his story while the app records the audio and stickers moving around the screen. Children who are not feeling up to creating their own picture can try the variety of coloring pages where they can drop paint into the lines to create a vibrant scene. Draw and Tell is $1.99 and appropriate for children ages 3-8.
Tags: App, art, creation, draw and tell, drawing, Educational, ios, KinderTown, my story, power pack, review, storytelling, superhero comic book maker