Develop Phonemic Awareness with These Educational Apps

One of the most important ways to set your children up for success is to develop their phonemic awareness.

As parents, we all want our children to be successful in the process of learning to read. There are many things parents can do prior to that point in order to set their children up for success. One of the most important is to develop your child’s phonemic awareness. Research shows that phonemic awareness is the number one predictor of a child’s success at reading. It makes sense to approach the development of this skill in many different ways, including apps! Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in words. This is done through activities that help the child break those sounds apart, identify the individual sounds, and then change a sound in a word (cat to bat). Check out these apps that help your child develop phonemic awareness.

 

Phonological Awareness Lab

phonological awareness app

This app was designed by a speech language pathologist and covers the different parts of phonemic awareness through activities in a room that looks like a science lab. The activities cover skills such as rhyming, blending sounds, and counting syllables; however, the app does not provide any type of reward or entertainment value. Even when children successfully complete the activities, there are no rewards or free play. The app would be great as an assessment tool for parents or teachers, and the app does record your child’s scores and progress. The app also allows for tracking of multiple students. The app costs $19.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-6.

 

Dora ABCs Vol 3: Ready to Read!

Dora

Dora ABCs Vol 3 takes your child to a frog fiesta while helping them blend and change sounds to make words. The phonics games have your child blend simple three-letter words together by themselves or with the support of tapping the letters to hear the sounds. Drag and drop the matching picture next to the word. Then the app gives you a new word, and you have to change the initial sound to build the new word; for example, change car to jar. The frog games that your child can play after the phonics practice keep children interested in the app. This app is not very long but practices important early pre-reading skills. The app costs $1.99 and is appropriate for children ages 4-6.

 

Monkey Word School Adventure

monkey word

Monkey Word School Adventure uses mini-games to help kids get started on the road to reading. Games include spelling, letter identification, rhyming, and much more. Kids love the fast-paced and engaging activities. Children are rewarded with special pieces to add to their own terrarium. Parents get so much value out of the descriptive settings page that break down the learning in each mini-game. The app auto-adjusts based on your child’s play or gives the controls to the adults for customizing the app. Either way, you will know what your child is working on! The app costs $1.99 and is appropriate for children ages 4-6.

 

If you are looking for more apps to support your child in pre-reading, check these ones out.

 

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5 Sweet (e)Books to Read for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and it is a fun time to enjoy some books related to the holiday. These books make great Valentine’s Day gifts for your special Valentine.

 

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and it is a fun time to enjoy some books related to the holiday.

Valentine E-books

 

First Words Valentine

First Words Valentine

First Words Valentine is a sweet app that reviews common words associated with Valentine’s Day. The words are presented, and the letters are scrambled for the kids to arrange correctly. A picture accompanies each word to help children understand the meaning of the word. There are options for parents to turn off the letter clues, to turn off the sound, to change from lowercase to capital letters, or to change the font. The app is fairly simple but a fun way to enjoy Valentine’s Day. The best part is that the app is free! The app is appropriate for children ages 3-6. If you enjoy this style of app, the creator has several others designed in a similar way, such as First Words Animals and FirstWords: At Home.

 

Biscuit’s Valentine’s Day

Biscuits Valentines Day

Valentine’s Day is a great time to enjoy stories about love and kindness. This story is about the beloved character Biscuit and how he celebrates Valentine’s Day. The e-book has options for Auto Play, Read to Me, or Read by Myself. The app also includes a coloring book, sticker book, memory book, and puzzle section. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-5.

 

For additional book ideas for Valentine’s Day, check out these books at your local library.

 

Valentine’s Day Thematic Read-Alouds

 

CuriousGeorge

Happy Valentine’s Day, Curious George

George and his friends celebrate Valentine’s Day and, in his traditional mischievous style, causes trouble with balloons, glitter, and frosting.

 

LittleCritter

Happy Valentine’s Day, Little Critter!

Little Critter’s class is celebrating Valentine’s Day. Pull back the flaps and discover all the fun Valentine’s Day surprises.

 

RainedHearts

The Day It Rained Hearts

Cornelia Augusta couldn’t believe her eyes as this unusual downpour began. Each heart was special, and she knew just what she wanted to do with each and every one of them. The simple and gentle text is kept to a minimum.

 

Enjoy these books with your little Valentine and check out our other ideas for celebrating the holiday here.

 

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Apps for Developing Number Sense

Learning how to count is part of what young children need to begin laying a foundation for early math skills. However, learning to count is really just one of several concepts that develop in early childhood. Beyond counting, children need to develop an understanding of numbers. For example, children need to be able to look at a set of objects and know without counting that there are 4 and begin to understand that 9 objects are more than 5 objects. Developing these concepts in early childhood will lay the foundation for later mathematics.

 

Apps for Developing Number Sense

Quick Math Jr.

quick math jr.

KinderTown loves the app Quick Math Jr. by Shiny Things. It’s uniquely made to capture kids’ attention and help them learn about counting, ordering numbers, adding, subtracting, and writing numbers. The app is centered on colorful and playful monsters. One of five different game areas is randomly selected when the game play begins. The areas are represented by a bus, a light bulb, a pair of eyes, a house, and a train. One of the greatest features of the games is that they automatically adjust to your child’s learning level so they are appropriately challenged as they learn and progress through the app.

 

These games are combined together to create Hustle Bustle Island. The app has 3 different islands available for purchase, each of which provides 3 new games for children. Parents can also elect to receive report card notifications on their child’s progress via email.

 

Throughout the game, children can earn different facial features for the monsters, which then appear within the app. Our child testers liked this feature and the ability to personalize their own monsters. The app allows for multiple students to have profiles, so if you have a classroom or multiple children at this level, the app will support each child’s individual development. The app is appropriate for children who can recognize numbers and number concepts, starting around age 4, although the ability to add and subtract numbers and memorize the facts usually occurs later. Parents, also read the parent section to find different examples of age-appropriate number games that can be played offline to support your child’s learning and development of numbers. The app is free, but additional content costs $4.99 for each island.

 

Motion Math: Hungry Guppy

hungryguppy

Motion Math: Hungry Guppy provides a delightful aquarium environment for children to work on developing number sense. The app provides easy explanations of how to drag bubbles with dots together to make a new bubble with the combined dots. Then, children match the dots on the bubbles to the dots on the fish. Your hungry guppy is designed to eat only the correct number, but there is no losing in this app. Learning is reinforced every time your fish gobbles up the correct number. Numbers that are greater than requested quietly disappear off the screen. The app moves from dots to written numerals quickly. The app practices subitizing (instantly recognize “how many”) dots and recognizing written numerals to match given quantities your fish wants to eat. The app works to build number sense and pre-addition understanding by dragging smaller quantities together to build a larger amount. Hungry Guppy is a prequel to the app Motion Math: Hungry Fish.

 

Other apps that incorporate number sense along with other early childhood math skills include Bugs and Numbers, Monkey Math School Sunshine, and Bedtime Math. Enjoy working with your child as they develop number sense.

 

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Fun E-books to Read Aloud with Your Child

E-books add variety and interest, making them great for read-aloud times with our child.

 

E-books add variety and interest, making them great for read-aloud times with our child.

 

Reading aloud to children is a vital activity for building vocabulary, a love of reading, and an understanding of what reading “sounds like.” Also, reading aloud to children is the most important activity to build their eventual success in reading. Did you know that reading a book aloud is two times richer in vocabulary than watching a typical TV show?

 

Also, children’s listening abilities develop ahead of their ability to read, so it is important to continue to read aloud to children even when they start to read on their own. These skills do not level out until children are in approximately eighth grade, so continue the habit beyond the early years.

 

Dr. Seuss Treasury

dr.seusstreasury

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, such as Hop on PopHorton Hears a Who!Green Eggs and Ham, and The 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.

 

Dragon Brush

dragon brush

Dragon Brush is so beautifully designed that parents and children will love interacting with this e-book. The background music is soft and calming, and the illustrations are beautiful. The narration is provided by a male voice. There are hidden interactive features on each page and special inkpots hidden in the story that unlock artistic features in the special painting area of the app. The story is about a young artist, Bing-Wen in China, who was poor and lacked the tools to create art that he loved. He helps a lady whose giant cart has overturned, and she gives him a paintbrush. He discovers that the paint brush is magic and everything he draws comes to life. The end of the story has Bin-Wang cleverly using his paintbrush to solve problems. The story is based on a traditional Chinese folktale and has a moral that you can discuss with your children at the end. Dragon Brush costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-6.

 

Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

fantastic flying

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a delightful story that the whole family will enjoy. Mr. Morris Lessmore ends up in a magical world of books. He falls in love with each of these books and shares little tidbits with the reader through quotes and games. Kids get to immerse themselves in language and letters with mini-games and thoughtful interactivity. This is a wonderful app for sparking a love of reading. We highly recommend it for talking about the variety of books and purposes for reading with your child.

 

Also, try out some other KinderTown approved e-book favorites: The Monster at the End of This Book…starring Grover!, Fancy Nancy Dress-Up, and Goodnight Moon. Enjoy these interactive experiences with your child!

 

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New Year, New Apps

Whether you have had an iPad for a while or you are just starting out with a brand new iPad, check out these apps for some educational enjoyment!

 

Whether you have had an iPad for a while or you are just starting out with a brand new iPad, check out these apps for some educational enjoyment!

Sago Mini Puppy Preschool

PuppyPreschool

Sago Mini Puppy Preschool is an engaging app that balances play and educational value for the youngest learners. The app is very easy to use and is appropriate for children ages 2-3. The app has friendly, happy characters who appeal to boys and girls alike. The characters invite your child to learn about numbers one through 10, matching, shape recognition, and musical play. Pile all the different types of dogs into the bathtub as the app counts up to 10, or take them out of the bathtub and see and hear the number decrease. Match shapes and colors to make the animals happy with their toys and food. Sago Mini Puppy Preschool costs $2.99.

 

Easy Music – Give kids an ear for music

easymusic

Easy Music is an easy introduction to the theory of music that is educational while still being playful. I appreciate that the app gives children direction in learning the concepts of rhythm and beat while still providing opportunities for open-ended creation of musical sounds. Other musical concepts that are covered through playful interaction are recognizing notes, pitch, and melody. This app does rely on the sound of the iPad, so you may want to have your child enjoy it with headphones or be prepared to enjoy the added noise. Easy Music provides a unique approach to music development that I haven’t seen in other apps– a delightful experience! The app costs $3.99 and appropriate for children ages 4-6.

 

Grandpa’s Workshop

grandpa'sworkshop

If your child has ever spent time with a grandfather in a garage or working with tools, they are sure to love Grandpa’s Workshop. The characters developed in the Fairlady Media apps are welcoming and certainly do feel like you are interacting with your own grandparents. In this app, the focus is on working with tools, but the app creatively weaves in educational elements such as cutting a board into quarters, putting puzzle pieces back together, and watching educational videos about a specific tool (such as a chisel) and how it is used in woodworking. The app costs $2.99 and appropriate for children ages 3-5.

 

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STEM Toys for All Ages

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is a hot topic right now for children of all ages. Check out these STEM toys for children ages 3-8.
 
kindertown-tech-toys

Snap Circuits® 300 Experiments 

snapcircuitsAs the name indicates, Snap Circuits helps children understand basic concepts about electricity using pieces that all snap together. The set can appear complicated at first, and it requires active adult participation and guidance in completing the projects for your child to understand how the pieces work together before being able to play independently. The kit comes with a complex manual (45 pages long), which helps in understanding the toy if you have a basic understanding of electrical parts. The kit has loud sirens and alarms, so be aware of the potential noises it can make in your house; however, the sound effects do increase the motivation and interest for kids to achieve the goal of making a circuit. The kit does provide a nice foundation and understanding of electrical concepts and is appropriate for children ages 6-12.

 

Educational Insights® GeoSafari Jr. Jungle Crew Lab Set

Geosciencekit

This super science kit is super-friendly for little hands. Preschoolers can experiment by mixing liquids with the animal-themed test tubes, funnel, and flask. The kit comes with cards to give you ideas for experiments without having to search online. The supplies you need are all items you probably already have in your kitchen. The kit is open-ended enough that you can design your own experiments as well. The kit is appropriate for children ages 3-6.

 

Osmo Pizza Co.

osmo pizza

This game combines math, money skills, and critical thinking skills to run your own pizza shop. The game system works with the original Osmo system. The Osmo Pizza Co. game comes with all the money pieces needed to run your cash register as well as pieces to create your pizza with various toppings. The game walks you through buying toppings for your pizza, creating the pizza, cooking it, and serving it to the customer. Be sure to watch the customer’s facial expressions to see if they enjoy your pizza. Afterwards your child flips the pizza board over to process the payment from the customer and calculate the change. In addition, at the end of the day, the game calculates the total profit made (if any), and children have the opportunity to reinvest the money in the pizza business. This game also works well with multiple children who needed to work cooperatively to attain the goal. The game develops the mathematical concepts of addition, subtraction, fractions, and mental math. This is a wonderful simulation game for the budding entrepreneur. The game is appropriate for children ages 6-10.

 

From connecting circuits to make noise to measuring liquids to tossing pieces to make a pizza, these toys are sure to provide some extra educational stimulation at your house.



Top 2 Toys for Hands-on Play!

At KinderTown we love high-tech toys for the youngest learner but we are also passionate about hands-on play. So, put down your device and try out the top 2 toys for hands-on play for children ages 3-6. We beat you’ll have some fun as well!

 

Coding is the latest craze among tech lovers and their kids. Consider these toys if you want to develop your kid's coding skills.

Gears, Gears, Gears

gears gears gears

Gears! Gears! Gears!, by Learning Resources®, invites children to practice their engineering skills by combining pieces to make them move with one another. The play is open-ended, and children can create endless combinations of gears. The gears do go together easily and can be repositioned and changed without frustration, and taking them apart and rebuilding develops a real understanding of how gears work.  I appreciated the frustration-free packaging that Learning Resources used. The package was simple to open and easy to get right into playing with the toy. The gears do not require batteries; just turning one of the gears makes all of them move. Learning Resources does have a variety of gear sets with other interesting themes and pieces.  The basic gear set is appropriate for children ages 3-6.

Magformers® Walking Robot

magformers robot

Magformers Walking Robot High Tech Set combines traditional Magformers magnetic blocks (45 pieces)  with a walking robot to inspire your child to build creative robots. There is a nice booklet of instructions that will give you and your child eight ideas for how to create interesting robots. The robot piece does require batteries and has two different walking speeds for the robot as well as options for the hands to spin. Planning out how to make the robot walk forward and knock over other toys was a hit at my house!  The robot is compatible with other Magformers pieces. Overall, this is an engaging set for children to play with, and it is appropriate for children ages 3 and older.

 

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3 Gift Ideas for Kids Who Want to Code

Coding is the latest craze among tech lovers and their kids. Consider these toys if you want to develop your kid’s coding skills.

 

Coding is the latest craze among tech lovers and their kids. Consider these toys if you want to develop your kid's coding skills.

Fisher-Price® Code-a-pillar™ Review

Code-a-pillar is a toy aimed at the youngest learner.

Code-a-pillar is a toy aimed at the youngest learner. It is intended to introduce 3-6 year-olds to the concepts behind coding. Right out of the box, the caterpillar comes with batteries installed and is ready to play with, a big win for children in this age group.

You will need a large open space with a hard surface. The goal for your child is to connect the pieces of the caterpillar in order to make it move in the intended direction. A picture showing the intended move appears on the top of each caterpillar piece. Children can rearrange the pieces and see the effect on the caterpillar’s movement. There is a delayed reaction to the initial movement, which could be frustrating for some children. Also, if you do not have a large enough area for the caterpillar to move, it ends up running into furniture or other objects, which can lead to frustration or a lack of understanding of how the caterpillar is intended to work. To reduce frustration, remove some of the caterpillar pieces so only 3-4 directions are used to guide the caterpillar. Parents, be sure to guide your child in this process of discovery because the cause-and-effect relationships of the symbols to the caterpillar’s movement may not be apparent. After your child understands the idea of the toy, see if they can navigate the caterpillar around a single object or multiple objects.

 

Code-a-pillar comes with colorful circular cards that can serve as obstacles. Overall, the Code-a-pillar is easy to use and does introduce the foundations of coding, but children may need guidance to make a secure connection between their play and the coding signs. Also, the toy is noisy and does not have a volume control button. Code-a-pillar also offers expansion packs, which include additional caterpillar pieces that move the caterpillar in different directions or make additional sound or light actions.

 

Osmo Coding Review

The Osmo Coding system works with the Osmo base and stand.

The Osmo Coding system works with the Osmo base and stand. Once opened, the Osmo system does require about 20 minutes for set up. The steps are easy to follow. You must set up the Osmo stand and mirror on your iPad, download the coordinating app, and create an account to get started. The account lets you create multiple profiles for different children in your household and track their progress.

 

The object of Osmo Coding is to move a friendly blue monster through the woods by using the hands-on pieces to help him move in the direction of his favorite fruit, strawberries! Children must use the pieces to tell the monster the correct code to obtain the desired strawberries. The app does a very nice job of visually showing your child which pieces to use to obtain the desired code in the beginning. As your child progresses, the codes become more challenging, but the app does provide support and hints for children along the way. The game is designed in a virtual world with stops along the way for coding challenges. The game does take some tenacity to complete the challenges and may frustrate some children without parental guidance. There is a pink bar that pops up along the way to show how far along in each challenge your child has progressed. The only obstacle we had while using Osmo coding was keeping the pieces within range of the camera. As children change the pieces, it is easy to move out of range of the camera. Be sure to keep the pieces close so the mirror can read each piece.

 

Wonder Workshop Dash Robot Review

The Dash Robot is not for the faint of heart.

This robot is not for the faint of heart. A basic knowledge of coding on the child and/or parent’s part is helpful in having a successful experience with the Wonder Workshop Dash robot. There are so many capabilities of the robot that initially using it can be overwhelming. Dash does come ready to play without the box; simply charge the robot, and your child can begin interacting with it via the coordinating apps. The robot is not compatible with all generations of iPads, so be sure to check their website to be sure your tablet is compatible. The app does support both Android and Apple products. The robot does appear to be well made and works well on hard surfaces or carpet. You will need a large space to be able to use the robot easily.

 

First download and open the app and begin to navigate the robot with your child. The apps do not provide much support in getting started, so be sure to help your child and be ready to experiment to figure out what works well. The robot does have exciting capabilities such as recording your own voice, dancing, singing, or avoiding obstacles. There are several apps that work with the robot: Blockly for Dash & Dot Robots, Go for Dash & Dot Robots, Wonder for Dash and Dot Robots, and Path for Dash robot.

 

The app, Go for Dash & Dot Robots is the easiest to use with Dash, and I would recommend starting with this one. This app would be appropriate to use with children ages 4-8. The app allows you to immediately control and move the robot in a simple way. Use the joystick to move it forward and back, turn its head, change the light color, and play a set of preset sounds. Next, use the Path for Dash robot app. This app provides children with an arena to experiment with the controls used with Dash but in a more purposeful way. Children can complete a maze on a racetrack and add fun noises, such as wheels squealing and honking horns, or move the robot around the farm while making animal noises. This app would be appropriate for children ages 5-8. Finally, Wonder for Dash and Dot Robots and Blockly for Dash & Dot Robots provide a more structured and in-depth look at coding. These apps are appropriate for children 8 and older. Also, check out Dash’s additional extensions, including Dot, a compatible smaller robot, Wonder Workshop Xylophone for Dash Robot, Wonder Workshop Launcher for Dash Robot, and Wonder Workshop Build Brick Extensions for Dash and Dot Robots.

 

Wonder Workshop Dash robot is a complex robot that would be valuable for families with a high interest in learning coding skills, small education groups, after-school learning, and summer camps. The robot is long lasting in that it offers a variety of levels of learning in the area of coding and has multiple extensions that can be explored with children.

 

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High Interest Math Fact Apps

Memorizing addition and subtraction facts is an essential part of math instruction. Having your child practice the facts on the iPad can provide an engaging experience and increase their time spent practicing them. Check out these high-interest math fact practice apps.

 

Having your child practice math facts on the iPad can provide an engaging experience and increase their time spent practicing them.

 

Squeebles Addition & Subtraction

squeebles

The goal of the game is to free the “squeebles” from the mean math monster. There are four different ways to play the game, which makes it interesting for kids. The modes include addition, subtraction, random, fill the gaps (3+_ = 8) and tricky questions (questions answered incorrectly previously).  Be sure to check the settings for difficulty levels and find one that best suits your child. Multiple children can be registered in the game, so it is suitable for multi-children households or classrooms. Children enjoy the quest to save the squeeble. Squeebles Addition & Subtraction is available for iPhone and iPad and costs $1.99.

 

Fruit Ninja Academy: Math Master

fruit ninja

This app provides an engaging theme of the quest to find stone tablets through searching in jungles, ancient ruins, and temples, all while practicing math facts. The main character in the story is a ninja who likes to swing and slice and dice the correct answer to math problems. Kids are in control of the slicing and dicing, which keeps the interest high throughout the game. Parents, you may want to have your child use headphones or turn the sound off because the background noise can be distracting, as sound effects are used for all of the movements and complex scenes. The app does also offer practice with number concepts, multiplication facts, and shapes. The app costs $4.99 and is available for iPhone and iPad.

 

Math Evolve: A Fun Math Game for Kids

Math Evolve

Math Evolve is an arcade-style game that encourages children to solve simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, or advanced division problems quickly. Soar through different environments, zapping numbers while dodging all kinds of obstacles. The challenging game play was highly motivating for our app testers. This app is a long-lasting app for building number fluency because it covers facts through division. Math Evolve is for the child who is already adding and can handle a fast-action game play app. Math Evolve costs $1.99 and is available for iPhone and iPad.

Whether your child is freeing a squeeble or pretending to be a ninja, these apps will make practicing their math facts more enjoyable.

 

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3 Apps about United States History and Government

Election season is upon us, and this may have your child asking questions about United States history or government.

 

Election season is upon us, and this may have your child asking questions about United States history or government.

 

Your child may be learning about the election in school or at home, and these apps would be a great complement to those learning experiences.

 

Geography Drive USA

Geography Drive Icon

Geography Drive USA tests your child’s geography knowledge of all fifty states, with a few history questions thrown in. Kids travel the highways while answering questions to unlock airports and gas stations, which are essential to stay in the game. Bonus games allow them to visit the state fair to take the capital and state shape challenge and earn trophies and headlines. Overall, this is a fantastic app that encourages kids to study independently while incorporating a dynamic game to motivate and make learning meaningful.

 

Constitution by KIDS DISCOVER

Constitution

Constitution by KIDS DISCOVER is an interactive digital magazine that delves into the creation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The magazine includes sections on The Father of the Constitution, To Ratify or Not to Ratify, and Making Changes to the Constitution.  The magazine explains the creation of the Constitution in reference to the election of a president and a few tidbits about voting over the years. There are four interactive activities included in the app, which involve a Constitution fill-in-the-blank, a game matching the items in the Bill of Rights to their corresponding numbers, a jigsaw puzzle, and a quiz. Overall, the app does a nice job of providing information about the Constitution in a kid-friendly layout.

 

Stack the States®

stackthestate

Stack the States uses motivating gameplay to help kids learn about geography and state facts. Questions are presented unvoiced, and you need to choose from 1 of 4 states to answer the question. When you answer correctly, you earn a state; in “tippy tower” style, the goal of each level is to stack the earned states up to a set line. The game play is motivating enough to keep kids (and adults) answering questions about location, national parks, capitals, and major cities. Children enjoy watching the backgrounds change with iconic pictures of our nation.

 

Related Blog Post:
Civic Engagement Series (Demme Learning)

 

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