As parents and children look to the end of the formal school year and on to summer, Educators are recommending that children of all ages engage in learning activities throughout the summer. What better way to do that than with educational apps? Check out my top picks for learning this summer!
Barefoot World Atlas (Social Studies)
Barefoot World Atlas will completely mesmerize all members of your family. Open 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. This app is completely worth the price of $4.99 and will be appreciated by both the adults and children ages 4-8. Find a time to sit with your child and enjoy Barefoot World Atlas together.
Human Body by Tinybop (Science)
The Human Body is an app made for exploring and asking questions. There is animation to accompany the six different body systems. Encourage and answer your child’s questions while exploring, and they will direct their own learning. Tap different parts of the brain, and an animation pops up depicting what that area of the brain controls. The app is not narrated, so parents need to provide the support for learning. In addition, the app offers a parent section and an option to set up multiple profiles for different children. Children can record questions while using the app, and parents can respond to them. Tinybop has even made a helpful parent guide to accompany the app. We highly recommend downloading it and using it with your child. It’s perfect for answering the tough questions your child may ask about their body.
In Thinkrolls, your student must navigate mazes with rolling character balls, accomplishing different challenges that will activate their reasoning skills. As the levels progress, children have to use visualization skills to predict the cause and effect of several moves in the puzzle. Concepts about physics and chemistry are sprinkled along the way when children must make decisions about the moving gear box, figure out how to make the balloon pop, and move the ice to quench the fire. The app offers a huge amount of content in the 90 levels of easy game play and 90 levels of hard game play. Chapter descriptions in the settings section will give parents a complete understanding of all the challenges presented in each level or chapter. Thinkrolls is a truly unique app priced at $2.99, available for iPhone and iPad, and is recommended for children ages 3-7
Learn with Homer (Reading)
Learn with Homer is a full “Learn to Read” series of lessons for kids. The app features letter sound instruction, sight word introduction, read aloud stories, and a mixed review of concepts presented. The app does a nice job of mixing reading instruction, a review of previously-taught concepts and the reading aloud of real books which are all key components to learning to read. The developers of Learn with Homer conducted research using their app on children who were beginning to read and showed that the use of the app 15 minutes a day led to an increase in their beginning reading skills. Learn with Homer is free to download but does include in-app purchases to buy additional lesson content.
Hungry Fish by Motion Math (Math)
Hungry Fish helps your child learn how to build quantities. Addition is provided in this version with options to buy activities for subtraction and negatives. As always, Motion Math does a great job of introducing how to play the game through thoughtfully scaffolding strategies on familiar counting techniques. Multiple children can save their progress and easily navigate between easier and harder levels. Overall this app provides a beautiful environment to learn and practice the different ways to create quantities.
Stay tuned this summer for more learning opportunities from KinderTown!
Everything Changes with iPad, and we couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to learning. This video captures the feelings and actions that many families have today. For some the feeling is uncomfortable, others exciting, some nervous. Whatever the feeling is, we are all aware of this change. The pace, the feel, the stimulus, the visuals, the sound; it’s all vastly different from how we as parents grew up and how we were raised. It can easily feel uncomfortable and scary. We are now navigating how we use the iPad as a tool and how it can benefit our children.
KinderTown was excited to see two of the app developers that we have reviewed featured in the video. Originator, who developed Endless Reader, Endless Alphabet, and their latest app, Endless Numbers, which is featured in the video. Also Montessori Letter Sounds is prominently featured with children and parents using the iPad together: the best way to experience an app!
Overall, KinderTown is really excited to see multiple representations of parents, children, and family interactions in the video; from children working together on the iPad, to parents reading a story across the miles, to families taking pictures outside together. The iPad is a great tool for connecting with our children when things are changing.
My daughter loves to paint! I hate messes. …Not a great combination. I do make an effort to set aside time to explore despite the mess that it sometimes creates. I always try to control the mess, use lots of paper towels, and hope for the best. Using Paint is an awesome way to be creative, and there is something about the experience that children love! My daughter exclaimed while painting, “I’m an artist.” I love encouraging all of the different things she can be and do. This sentence alone was worth the mess. Try this creative on and offline painting combination.
Wreck This App is a great app to encourage creativity in students who may need a little guidance, or the permission to let loose. As the name implies, this virtual journal invites children to make a mess with the pages. Each page gives the user a prompt in order to think as an artist or start into an artistic direction with their own thoughts and ideas. Wreck This App is based on the book Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith. The app is intentionally created in black and white and has a simple interface that children ages 4 and up can easily use. The journal does not read the prompts to you, but younger children are able to navigate the tools once the prompts are read aloud to them. Add a photo of dirt, garbage or stains, trace your toes, or document a boring event in detail. This app makes your child think in many different directions and they can use words, photos, or drawing tools to express their answers. If your child doesn’t like the creation they’ve made, they can easily erase it and create another one. The app does have options for easily sharing to social media so parents will want to monitor their children when using the app, or disable these features on your iPad. Wreck this App is available for $4.99 for iPhone and iPad and will be a creative digital journal your child can come back to again and again.
Art Set is a virtual canvas for kids. My favorite feature about this app is that the tools and canvas appear as if they were painted with real paints and watercolors instead of looking digitized. This is a great app to use with students after they have used paints or watercolors on paper. This could also be used before to plan out what type of painting the children will create. There are a lot of different types of tools in the app, but children quickly learn how to manipulate and find their way around the art tools. The app is so sophisticated that it has pressure sensing tools as if your child were creating on real canvas. Explore oil paints, pastels, fluorescent colors or wax crayons with your child. Art Set is $1.99 and appropriate for creative kids ages 4-10.
PlayART makes you feel like you’ve stepped into an interactive Art Museum. Add a background of Monet; add artistic elements of Van Gogh; and empower your child to take on the feeling of famous painters to create their own pieces. In the My Museum section, kids can save their masterpieces. Within the app, children can decide which painter’s elements are their favorites and save them to their own personal pallet. Children can also add their own paint to the background of notable painters, or start with an empty canvas. The app includes 160 elements and 48 canvases from 8 famous painters. The app is completely kid-safe and does have options for sharing to social media, but they are locked. We wish that the app contained more information about the well-known artists themselves, so parents may have to supply the information once children are exposed to the painters. This app is sure to pique their interest in prominent painters’ work, and they’ll enjoy the process of creating their own unique paintings like the famous artists.
Try using a few of the apps above to inspire your child’s inner artist, then move to the paints and paper. Use a cup of water to rinse, and encourage your child to explore the different colors and brushes. Let them freely explore and paint.
Summer is just around the corner. I know that I am planning some of the yearly activities that my kids enjoy. I’m also looking into new opportunities that might be a good fit for my children. I learned about TenMarks and I wanted to share this valuable resource with you.
TenMarks is an innovative online education company run by Amazon. The amount of content that they provide for free is impressive. The program is marketed as a supplement for schools and homeschoolers. They offer both free and premium web-based packages. It can be utilized for homework, after school programs, remediation, enrichment, or practice during the traditional school year. In addition, they offer a free summer learning program for students to keep their skills sharp or to address areas of remediation. I am planning on using the program because my son enjoys math and I think he’ll enjoy the online practice.
As a teacher, there are a few features that stand out that I think make this program attractive. TenMarks’ interactive platform connects teachers, students, and families in order to individualize math instruction for the student. Allowing students to work at their own level and pace increases student engagement and learning outcomes. The adaptive program provides extra support for students who need to spend more time on a concept, while those who are ready for more challenging work can move ahead. The immediate feedback helps students track their progress and keeps them actively involved in the learning process.
The online program offers videos, hints, and interactive worksheets. Concepts are broken down so they can be read and dealt with more easily. The work flow is easy to read and audio is available for students who benefit from both visual and auditory instruction. As tasks are completed students gain access to the Reward Zone where they can play games and print certificates, an incentive I know my son will love.
What’s your favorite resource for summer learning?
Children love scavenger hunts, and my children are no different. We received the game UKloo for Christmas, and my children have been enjoying the game together. I have a 7-year-old reader, and a three-year-old non-reader. They work together to solve the scavenger hunt in this game, and a spirit of cooperation is needed to be successful with the game.
The game and app uKloo was made by a mom who was challenged by her son’s reluctance to read. He would hide from her whenever it was time to read. She thought perhaps hiding the “reading” or words would work for his learning style, and uKloo was born. As a teacher, the key to the game is the picture word chart that helps children link a visual picture to common words. Through repetition and their experience playing the game, the words start to stick. This game also serves as a great reinforcement of common words your child may already have learned to read. With summer right around the corner this would be an excellent game for your beginning reader to play, to keep their reading skills strong without them realizing that they are practicing those skills. The hook for kids with uKloo is finding the cards. Marching all over the house finding the clues and reading them was the big attraction for my kids. Use the Picture Helper chart for assistance in reading the words when your child gets stuck. This game has also received rave reviews from parents of special needs children who are learning to read because of its unique approach.
Now, there is an app to pair with the early learning reading game. uKloo the app works like the hands-on game. The app works to build familiarity with basic sentence structure and high frequency words. The app invites children to find the uKloo card hidden in the scene by reading the short and simple clue. Two different scenes are provided, a farm scene and a market scene. Prompt your child to use the picture clues for what word might be in the sentences that they need to read, or use the helpful book icon to display the visual picture prompt chart. Parents, you can adjust the level for your child (1-10) and the amount of correct answers needed before receiving positive reinforcement. As the levels increase, the sentence structure becomes more difficult and the words are less repetitive. Your child will feel successful learning to read because of the repeated phrases and words on the clues. Unlock surprises along the way for reinforcement for your child. Use the ? button to find helpful hints. uKloo is free and appropriate for beginning readers ages 4-6.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the science project I am conducting with my children. We are growing seedlings inside to start for our garden. My children have excitedly watched as the seeds have sprouted. We use our iPad to take pictures, and I analyze with my older son why one of the sprouts seems to be leaning towards the window.
They received the book How a Seed Grows for Easter, and we have read it several times. We will review the pictures of the seeds later to remember how the seed started and progressed. This week we will use the app Popplet to make an organizational chart about how seeds grow, include drawings, our own pictures, and color coding.
After reading How a Seed Grows, my children and I can talk about how the story connects to our own experience, and how the seed in the story is different from our seeds. Making connections to the story and distinguishing differences is a great thinking activity for reading together with your children. Use this printable to record your children’s thinking.
Popplet is an open-ended app in which you can create your own graphic organizer. It is a great tool for lots of different subject areas, and simple enough for younger kids to use with guidance. I like how the app only offers the most simple and useful tools, and doesn’t overwhelm kids with tons of options. We will investigate the pictures we have taken and use the app Popplet to put the pictures and descriptions together to form a visual representation of the process of how a seed grows. Popplet could be used for many different purposes such as a pre-writing tool, to recreate a timeline from a book, to describe a character from a book, or record facts you’ve learned about a topic. Popplet is a fabulous learning tool!
Welcome to your own personal fruit and vegetable farm! This app is adorable and you will fall in love with it! Kids take on the role of the farmer and complete the tasks associated with growing food. The background music plays familiar nursery rhyme tunes. From the menu, children choose the garden, tractor or monster area to play. Children are engaged in play, but certainly learning about how food grows in an age-appropriate way. They can dig the holes for the seeds, plant the seeds, water the plants, harvest the vegetables, and even chase the unwanted bugs away. The app does not contain narration, so parents, talk to your children about what is happening as they complete all the interactive areas. Children earn stickers along the way for extra motivation and are able to navigate the app independently.
To round out the learning experience, I will make this little mini-book with my children. I found it on A Teacher’s Touch. I will also use her Plant Life Cycle Sheet. These last two activities will round out our Science mini-study of seeds. Of course, the experiential learning will continue throughout the summer and fall as our seeds are transferred to our garden and we harvest the fruits of our labor in the fall.
Easter baskets, Easter candy, and a few new spring trinkets entertain my children this week. Easter grass and plastic Easter eggs are scattered over my house as the kids enjoy the aftermath of a busy weekend with family and friends, and several Easter egg hunts over the past few weeks. But, before you throw the plastic Easter eggs away, turn them into a learning activity. If your kids are like my kids, then they seem to never grow tired of the hiding and finding of the eggs.
Upper Case and Lower Case Matching
My daughter attends a local preschool and has begun to identify many letters. At her recent parent conference, her teacher shared her progress, and suggested we work on matching all of the upper case and lowercase letters. To create the game, I write with sharpie upper and lowercase letters on either side of the Easter egg. Then hide them around the house. I’ll be sure to include a few I know she knows for review and building confidence as well as a few she isn’t sure of yet. The easiest upper case and lower case letters to match are those that look visually similar such as Uu, Ww and Cc. Letters that are not as visually similar are more difficult to learn and recognize as the upper and lower case version, such as Ff, Gg or Nn.
This game will be perfect for her, and I’ll follow it up with a writing activity, and time on her favorite phonics app, abc PocketPhonics. I’ll space the activities out and repeat them over the next week or two. This is a great learning combination for anyone still learning the upper- and lowercase letters. I’m tapping into multiple senses and experiences to solidify her learning. To find out about more great apps for learning letters, download the free KinderTown app.
PocketPhonics brings three important language skills together into one app. In abc PocketPhonics, children learn to recognize letters, hear letter sounds, form letters by tracing, and use the letter sounds to build words. Encourage your child to repeat the sounds made by each letter. Parents are able to create multiple users, have control over the font, letter types, what letters their child can work on, and how flawless the writing needs to be. PocketPhonics tracks each user’s answer and will not advance a user unless they first demonstrate mastery of the basics. KinderTown recommends the use of a stylus to help in the transfer of letter formation from the iPad screen to handwriting on paper. There is a Lite version to try to see if this app is a good fit for your child.
As Spring arrives, and children get to spend more time outside, it’s a great time to talk about all that is happening in nature. Last week, my daughter and I took a trip to the seed store, had a helpful conversation with the owner, and returned home to plant our seeds. My daughter wanted to grow specific plants for the garden so she could enjoy the fruits of her labor. The owner of the shop explained it was too early to plant certain kinds of seeds, and guided us in the best and most fun way to plant seeds inside to watch them grow. He also suggested Peat Pellets to aid in growing, and we watched the pellets expand by adding water to create the soil. My daughter kept saying “I didn’t know we could plant seeds inside!” We predicted how long it would take the seeds to sprout, and talked about the essential items for seeds to grow: sun, water, and soil. We chose a sunny spot to keep the plants, and my daughter is keeping watch over them. I know this is a valuable hands-on learning experience she won’t forget.
Gro Garden is your child’s virtual garden. Drag the seeds into the holes and add fertilizer. Stir up your own compost pile and add rain to your garden to make it grow. Tap to pour on the sunshine and rain. There is not a right way to play the game, rather, discovering how to make your garden successful through interacting with the different components is the goal. Feed your fresh vegetables to the characters in the app, and start the process over again. The app does not include narration, so parents you will want to supply the vocabulary and guide the discussion about growing plants. Gro Garden is appropriate for children ages 4-8 and is available for iPhone and iPad.
Ansel and Clair take your child to their own virtual world and adventure. Ansel and Clair encourage you to keep your island clean, thereby earning points to sustain your island with water, sunlight and trees. There are 18 missions to unlock and earn prizes in order to keep the island world running smoothly. All of the missions focus on sustaining the world, such as planting trees, adding a bike path, planting grass, recycling trash and reducing pollution. The missions make a great connection to real-world problems. Little Green Island is $1.99, appropriate for children 4-8 and only available for iPad.
Plants is a wonderful non-fiction app for the iPad. Children can take an in-depth look at the process of photosynthesis, and adaptations that plants make in the environment. This informational app includes sections such as “Plants as Art,” “Unusual Plants,” and “Plants Around the World.” Plants by Kids Discover includes animation, videos, puzzles and games for children to learn about Plants. Check out their website for a Lesson Planto help you learn along with your child. Kids Discover is $3.99 and available for iPad. This app is appropriate for children ages 3-8.
Freefall learning apps take skills that can sometimes be less exciting to learn and often require a lot of repetition, and swirled them into engaging, motivating practice apps for kids. The graphics have a unique, simple, kid-friendly look, and children are motivated by earning prizes to keep their pet fish alive and well in their own personal aquarium.
Splish! Splash! Play with a fish tank and practice spelling words along the way. Freefall Spelling is an app for practicing your own spelling lists, or pre-made lists that exist within the app. Freefall Spelling has three unique modes in which the user can practice spelling words: Type Mode, Freefall Mode, and Scramble Mode. In Type Mode, children type the words using a child-friendly keyboard that automatically appears on the bottom of the screen. In Scramble Mode, the words are scattered and the child must recreate the word, and Freefall mode, the child must recreate the word with the letters before they fall to the bottom of the screen. Freefall Spelling’s default setting uses all capital letters. KinderTown recommends that parents change the type to lowercase, because that is how words appear most often in print. As the students practice the words, the words are said aloud, and hints can be displayed to help children. For more advanced learners, turn the hints off so children must recall how to spell the word entirely. The most loved part about Freefall Spelling is the fish tank play area. Children earn the ability to buy animals and other trinkets for their fish tank as they correctly complete the spelling activities. They can also feed the fish, play with the fish and clean the fish tank, a great motivating hook for children ages 5-8. Freefall Spelling is $2.99 and available for iPhone and iPad.
Freefall Money follows the same idea as Freefall Spelling, but tackles the difficult concept of counting money. Sometimes learning to count money can be difficult and often requires repetition in order to be successful in mastering the skill. Freefall Money has three distinct modes as well: Cluster Mode, Scatter Mode, and Type Mode. In addition, parents can set the number of coins that are presented in each activity, from 3 coins to 10 coins. The app does not include any instruction on how to count coins, so your child should have a basic understanding of this concept before they start. Cluster Mode shows different groups of coins and different total amounts. The child must match the coin groups to the coin total amounts. As with any matching, it’s possible to make guesses, so it is helpful to watch them do this activity. In Type Mode, the coins are scattered and children must type the total amount using the number keys that automatically appear at the bottom. KinderTown likes how the coins can be moved around in order to assist children in counting the total value of the coins. For example, children could arrange the coins from largest to smallest in order to count the total value of a group of coins. There is also a movable pencil in the game if children need to tap or point, but the pencil doesn’t actually write on the screen. This would be a helpful improvement. Lastly, in Scatter Mode the coins are scattered and the child must add the correct amount of coins to the piggy bank to equal the value shown at the top of the screen. Again, watching your child complete this activity will ensure they are not just guessing which coins to add to the piggy bank. FreeFall Money is $1.99 and is made for iPhone and iPad and appropriate for children ages 5-8.
Freefall Time practices telling time up to the minute. Parents can use the Settings menu to set the practice clocks to show 1-minute, 5-, 10-, 15-, or 30- minute intervals. There is only one mode of play in Freefall Time. Clocks fall from the top of the screen and children must match the clock to the options at the bottom of the screen. Freefall Time includes a practice area where you can move the hands of the clock to practice creating different times. This would be a great parent-child practice tool. The clock works well for telling time to the minute, but the hour times were not correct when displaying times to the hour. Children earn rewards for their own personal fish tank to customize the fish, food, and cleaning tools. Freefall Time is $1.99 and available for iPhone and iPad and appropriate for children ages 5-8.
Freefall Math offers practice for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, which means that the app can serve multiple children in one household, or grow with your child. Freefall Math includes a Fall Mode and Type Mode. In Type Mode, children type the answer, and in Fall Mode the facts fall and must be matched to the correct answer. The customization of which fact tables you would like your child to practice is a nice option for parents. This app includes an interactive piece of chalk and an eraser but they only serve as pointers in the app. A nice addition would be the ability to write the answer with the piece of chalk. Freefall Math is $1.99 and available for iPad and iPhone and is appropriate for children ages 5-8. As in the other Freefall apps, your child earns rewards for their own personal aquarium.
Last week, I attended SXSWEdu and there was a big focus on “making.” The Maker Movement has been characterized by students using tools, designing plans, and executing all the steps needed to create a final product. Here are a few apps inspired by the Maker Movement.
Ropes, pulleys, belts, and gears to combine and play with! My son really loves the challenge offered by this app, and it has quickly become one of his favorites. I like that it works on problem solving and engineering thinking skills.The app introduces the quirky characters, Pettson and Findus, and they serve as the student’s guide in creating crazy inventions. Each invention challenge involves the use of simple machines. Students must match the pieces up into the correct order to make the machine move and complete a task such as helping the bunny reach the carrots. Each challenge slowly becomes more complex as children understand how each machine part works. A star is earned for every invention that is completed correctly. There is also a “versus” section where two children can challenge each other to complete the task as a timer ticks away. In the settings section, you can increase or decrease the level of difficulty. Children will love this introduction to how simple machines work together. Pettson’s Inventions Deluxe is $2.99 and appropriate for children ages 6-8.
The World of Goo is sure to inspire the messiest builders. The heart of this app is playing with the gooey, stretchy substance. Students must stretch the Goo to complete a task such as making a bridge or reaching a higher object. Each challenge has a goal of a certain number of moves (or times you stretch the Goo) to complete the task. This is truly a unique game, and the graphics are captivating. The overall game is organized into chapters and tells a story as you complete the tasks. You have to try the World of Goo to fully appreciate the experience it provides. Playing with the Goo feels like a surreal cinematic experience! The World of Goo is $4.99 and appropriate for children ages 5-8.
The Goldie Blox app is inspired by the Goldie Blox toys. If you haven’t heard of them, they are engineering toys for girls made in appealing pastel colors. The app works to teach beginning animation skills. Children are given step by step directions for drawing simple shapes in different spaces in order to make an animation when played consecutively. The app is focused on creativity and uses photos, colors, shapes, and stickers to make a movie. Students can browse other creations for ideas, or watch the tutorials to learn new techniques for animation. The app is focused on children ages 4-8, and is free. Check out the Goldie Blox toys as well! From this app, you can print your creations and use them with the Movie Machine Toy Set. This combination would make a great gift for the girl inventor you know!