If You Are Going To Use An Electronic Babysitter, Why Not Make It A Smart One?
So you may already know I am a believer in letting go of the worries about too much screen time while on a trip. It’s just not a battle I like to pick, especially when there is so much downtime involved in traveling, from long car rides to delayed planes. I especially like to use the bait and switch tactic: “You can play on your iPad but only an educational app.” It is the modern version of my parent’s “You can watch TV but only PBS.” There will be whining but they usually will pick being forced to learn something rather than not playing at all. And I feel less like I am copping out on my parenting responsibilities as I enjoy a peaceful cup of coffee (or pint of beer).
- Stack the States and Stack the Countries by Dan Russell-Pinson. $2.99 for Apple and Android. This may be one of the best $3 you spend on an app. Kids will play for hours as they can unlock different levels and games and meanwhile learn some geography and trivia about all these places. This app is so good kids will often play it even when not forcibly limited to educational apps. They are better at state capitals now than I am. Love, love, love this app!
- Duolingo. A fabulous and free language app for Apple and Android. I use it myself to keep my Spanish current and have learned a little Greek and French as well. Easy to use but does require speaking and hearing phrases to advance levels so not good on planes or other quiet places. I don’t know that you can become perfectly fluent with it but my nieces and nephews have picked up some rudimentary skills that they did not have before so 2 thumbs up.
- Busy Water by Edoki Academy. $3.49. Apple and Android. A fun maze app where you have to build pipes to carry water to get a fish from one tank to another. There is a lot of problem solving and trial and error learning. I tried it out first before I bought it and 30 minutes later I was still playing.
- The Periodic Table by the Royal Society of Chemistry. Free for Apple and Android. I found this app recommended online and tried it out with my 7 year- old nephews not expecting much. It’s the periodic table after all. I was amazed how long they played with it. You can click on every element on the periodic table and it gives you a little blurb, as well as a short video. They particularly liked the videos which feature a professor from the University of Nottingham who is like a real- life caricature of a chemistry professor (Crazy hair, corny jokes but wicked smart). The videos often show chemistry students using the element in a chemical reaction, usually resulting in an explosion, which is big hit too. The videos are YouTube linked so you need WiFi for the app to work fully but again, another good bait and switch app.
- Newsomatic by Press4kids. Apple and Android.This interactive, subscription-based app really appeals to my 10 year old daughter. It’s an add-free daily recapture of current events and special topics for kids ages 7-10. Five news stories ranging from world political news to celebrity stories are posted on the News-O-Matic app's main page each day. Stories are available in three different reading levels, written by experts, and a child psychologist reviews the articles. Interactive features include puzzles, a word game, and audio ("Read to Me" feature). The news is presented in a fun way, and it’s fun to hear her share stories on politics, scientific discoveries, sports events, and more. It has a free trial offer and then costs $19.99/year.
- Prodigy Math by Prodigy Game.com. Apple only. My daughter and her friends love this fantasy-based math app geared to kids in Grades 1 through 8. Kids answer math questions to earn spells, which they use to battle monsters as they move through different worlds on the way to Wizard Academy. With this app, adventure and math skills go hand in hand. It’s a good app for math review as it is more suited to practicing skills rather than instruction. There's an option for kids to play online with friends, but you can only “chat” using preselected phrases. The app is free, but a paid subscription offers more features.
- Monkey Word School Adventure by THUP Games. A good early reading app for preschoolers and early elementary age children. It has six interactive games focusing on letter and word recognition. It will gauge your skill level and adjust accordingly. $1.99 from i-Tunes.
- Think Rolls 2 by AVOKIDDO. This fun app introduces concepts of matter and basic physics as kids navigate 32 spunky characters through 270 levels of increasing complex mazes. The Think Roll characters roll and glide through a series of themed chapters. Kids can roll the funny characters from one maze into another, via finger swipe, in order to reach the exit of a level at the bottom of the screen. Since the character can only roll sideways on their own, kids need to use various tools effectively in order to overcome obstacles. With some trial and error, kids will be able to solve the puzzles. It’s more fun than it sounds!
Here’s hoping you never need these apps on your travels and that your every waking moment is filled with courteous and contented kids finding all the joys of exploring new places and trying new foods. (HAHAHA). And when reality inevitably comes crashing in on a few of those moments, here’s hoping these apps come in handy to preserve some of your sanity and theirs.
Best of Luck!
Amy and Amanda