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With the novel coronavirus dominating the news and schools nationwide being cancelled, many parents are finding themselves “homeschooling” for the first time ever… and are turning to educational tech to keep their kids occupied.
Maybe you’ve been trying to reduce screen time but are loosening up the screen time rules a bit while your kids are stuck at home. Want to make sure at least some of the time your kids spend on devices is educational?
This is the list for you.
Whether you’re sheltering in place, just staying home to prevent exposure, or a seasoned homeschooler who needs some fresh ideas for keeping kids engaged and learning at home, I’m sure you will find something useful in this list of educational tech.
Have ideas of your own? Let me know in the comments!
1. Prodigy: Kids Math Game
Kids complete math puzzles to take back control of The Academy from the evil Puppet Master.
There’s plenty of variety, and the game changes frequently enough to keep kids engaged. You may find your child solving a hundred math problems… just for the fun of it.
2. DragonBox Elements
The DragonBox Elements creators describe the app as “the game that secretly teaches geometry.”
Although this is not a free app, it’s well worth the small cost to download. And it’s a top-rated app with 4.6 stars in the Apple App Store.
I was the weird kid who loved geometric proofs in high school. For those kids who aren’t as weird as I was (ha!), this app makes learning proofs fun and engaging. (Really!)
You might even find yourself sneaking some playtime after the kids go to bed!
3. DragonBox Numbers
A more foundational educational app from the DragonBox suite, the DragonBox Numbers app is perfect for younger children who are just beginning to learn what numbers are and how to use them.
They’ll learn basic addition and subtraction as they manipulate the game’s colorful creatures, called “Nooms.”
4. DragonBox Big Numbers
DragonBox Big Numbers builds on DragonBox Numbers to teach kids how to add and subtract larger numbers (no reading required).
This app is good for kids who have mastered DragonBox Numbers, or roughly the 6-9 year old range.
5. DragonBox Algebra 5+ (or 12+)
I love that this educational app begins teaching algebra to kids as young as 5. They’ll learn addition, division, and multiplication in a fun way that gradually teaches them to isolate and solve for variables.
Being able to symbolically understand numbers is an essential skill for learning to write code. So I’m definitely in favor of teaching kids algebra in ways that make it fun and interesting.
For older children check out DragonBox Algebra 12+.
6. Sushi Monster
This app has only 12 levels (7 for addition and 5 for multiplication), but it’s a fun (and free!) way to drill kids on math facts without using flash cards.
Nancy Drew Codes and Clues
I was a sucker for a good mystery growing up and read quite a few Nancy Drew novels. This fun app combines computer programming skills with a Nancy Drew storyline.
One of the factors I use for assessing the value of educational tech is how relevant the interactions are to the app’s learning goals.
Common Sense Media says about this game, “The strength is that the coding element is useful within the story instead of being an isolated skill out of context.”
Because the skills are relevant, kids will be more engaged and more likely to remember the skills they learn.
1. Hoopla and Overdrive
These educational tech resources are sponsored by public libraries and schools, giving cardholders and students access to ebooks, audiobooks, movies, television shows, and music. Check with your local library to see which ones they offer access to.
Note that your available selection within Hoopla and Overdrive will vary based on what your library offers. For example, our library here in Raleigh does not offer video resources. But the library where we lived in SC (which we still have access to) does.
My husband and I regularly use Hoopla for movie nights, but they also offer an excellent selection of other digital resources. You can find Hoopla on the web or download their free app (iOS | Android).
2. Teach Your Monster to Read
I’ve been using the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons to satisfy my 4-year-old’s desire to learn to read. It’s an excellent learning resource, and I love that it uses a phonics-first approach.
Kids start with basic vowel sounds and gradually progress to full sentences. They’ll feel a sense of accomplishment as their reading skills help them defeat the Goblin Prince.
Reviewers say this app takes kids from reluctant to confident readers.
3. Khan Academy Kids
This app actually teaches more than just reading skills–from their app store description, this educational tech teaches kids “reading, language, writing, math, social-emotional development, problem-solving skills, and motor development.”
It’s totally free and designed for preschoolers and first graders. You’ll find fun songs, lessons, and stories that help children learn critical skills.
To use ReadTheory, your child will take a short test to assess their current reading skills. The website then gives them relevant reading, worksheets, and activities to improve their reading.
The assigned readings and activities adapt to your child’s abilities, making the learning process more engaging and effective.
As a language nerd (I majored in Spanish and minored in French before getting my master’s in computer science), I know that nothing can truly replace full immersion. But Duolingo makes a great effort at coming close.
Duolingo offers instruction in over 30 languages. Your children (or you!) will learn how to speak, read, listen and write in the new language.
The lessons are small, making them easy to complete and gain a sense of accomplishment. The game-like structure will help keep your child motivated.
I personally think this one is a little weird, but my son loves it and is starting to speak the Spanish he learns from it without me prompting him.
This is a series of cartoons produced by the BBC. It features a giant clock-eating creature from outer space named Muzzy… and the love story between the princess of Gondoland and the palace gardener.
After watching a video that tells part of the story, kids can play several activities to help drill that video’s vocabulary.
Available languages include Latin American Spanish, Castilian Spanish, American English, British English, French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, and Korean.
Our local library offers access to Muzzy for free, so it’s worth checking to see if your library or school does as well.
1. Night Sky
This is a very cool augmented reality app for learning about (you guessed it) the night sky. Point your phone at the sky and learn which constellations you’re looking at, which “stars” are actually planets, and where the Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station are.
This in-depth app lets you dig deep and learn more (and works during the daytime too).
Available for iOS.
2. Mark Rober
I shared one of this guy’s YouTube videos last year when he made a glitter bomb to deter package thieves. A former NASA engineer, Mark does fun experiments and make interesting inventions.
Although the channel is not geared specifically toward kids, he does create a lot of kid-friendly content. And his playful approach makes the channel enjoyable for anyone who’s curious about science.
Check him out on YouTube here.
3. Toca Lab: Elements
This app for iOS and Android lets kids explore the individual elements from the periodic table. The elements all have unique personalities that react in different ways when you spin them, warm them, cool them, add other elements, change voltage, or magnetize them.
Toca Lab: Elements provides a fun and safe “lab” environment for kids to learn about the elements.
4. Babble Dabble Do
This YouTube channel is a fun DIY channel geared specifically toward kids. The colorful videos include science, DIY toys, engineering activities, and more.
Check out the channel and spark some creativity here.
This app, available for iOS and Android, is a great way to explore the outdoors and natural science. Assuming you’re not completely confined to the indoors, take the app outside with you and identify the plants and animals you see.
My son is always asking questions about what we see when we’re outdoors; if your child is the same, this app would make a great resource.
6. Access Mars
Explore the surface of Mars as seen from the Curiosity Rover. The page itself is currently being updated, as of this writing, but the 360 mode is available and very interesting.
1. Creative Bug
If you want to direct a creative child but are personally a little lacking in the artsy department (like me!), you’ll enjoy this site for its detailed craft tutorials.
Although you’ll need a paid subscription for full access to all of their classes, many of the project instructions are available for free.
From cooking to decor to kid-specific crafts, Creative Bug offers fun crafts for just about anyone.
2. The Artful Parent
This YouTube channel‘s tagline is “easy & fun arts and crafts for kids of all ages.”
The videos are short, and the crafts are fun and engaging for kids.
3. What Do We Do All Day
With “creative ideas for curious kids,” this YouTube channel offers a little bit of everything. Arts and crafts activities, science experiments, and fun games will keep your kids occupied and learning.
4. Virtual Museum Tours
Take virtual tours of over 2500 museums around the world. From art to history to anthropology, you’ll find museums of all kinds.
View French art at the Musee d’Orsay or learn about the Pharaohs at London’s British Museum. Find the full list of partner museums at Google Arts & Culture.
Love music? Listen to the Seattle Symphony Orchestra perform on their YouTube channel.
This is a great way to expose your kids to classical music and boost their brainpower!
How much tech time should your kids have?
So we’re neither anti-tech nor all-in-tech-for-everything. We try to balance tech time with lots of free play, personal interaction, and outdoor time.
If you need a little help putting together screen time limits that work for your family, take a look at my free email mini-course.