The weekends are a great time to have an adventure with the kids, and going on a road trip can lead to discovering new places in your state…that aren’t too far from home. Road trips also can be a more economical vacation option for families on a budget; the trip doesn’t have to be far, and parents may map it out so that there aren’t any overnight costs.
Longer road trips, though, may mean backseat boredom. No worries! Handheld devices like tablets and smartphones can include fun, engaging apps to keep kids entertained. Here are the best apps–reading comprehension and entertainment—to bust out backseat boredom. For parents who want to minimize tech use on the trip, Readability also compiled many other ways to keep kids busy without the screens!
Best Apps: Reading Comprehension, Reading Fluency and Sight Word Identification
Depending on the grade level for each child, reading expectations may differ vastly. Older children may be reading more difficult text and may be expected to ‘read between the lines’ to find meanings that aren’t necessarily clearly written. Older children also may need to make predictions or examine the character’s plight from their own standpoint.
Younger children, however, may be focused on basic reading comprehension skills like identifying the key ‘wh’ questions (who, what, where, when, why…and how). Children in early elementary grade levels also may need to identify a list of sight words.
Parents might need apps that meet the needs of different grade levels. Readability provides young readers with lessons focused on both phonics/phonetics and comprehension. The app also includes a built-in AI tutor that recognizes the child’s voice and helps correct any pronunciation errors if they stumble.
The tutor also asks questions at the end of each book to test comprehension. Children don’t move on in the program until they demonstrate proficiency at each level. Apps like Readability that address a broad range of reading struggles are ideal for children with different reading needs; Readability also can be used as an enrichment tool to practice reading and gain confidence and fluency. The app is designed for children in grades Pre-K through sixth grade.
Some children might read on grade level but may need help memorizing or identifying sight words. There are many apps that can help with sight word mastery. Some of these apps are designed as fun games, so children can enjoy learning their list of words. Download these free apps to practice sight words on road trips:
This app includes more than 200 sight words and is structured as a game. Sight Words Learning is designed for children in Preschool through third grade.
The app is colorful and entertaining; it helps children with early reading and sight words. Children join Abby the monkey in a space adventure, with each new island opening up more levels of learning.
With more than 300 sight words, this app is designed in a flash card format. This can serve as a great tool to skill and drill sight words.
This could be a good app for children who need help identifying letters and sight words. The app lets children trace out both letters and sight words to help with writing and sight word identification.
This app is all about “see, say and touch” to help children identify sight words. The app shows three words on the screen and the narrator says a word; children then have to touch the correct word. When the child correctly taps the word, the levels become a bit harder showing more words on the screen and asking children to then point out the spoken word. Parents can adjust the app for grade-level.
Reading Apps for Tablets and Phones
Parents also can download other reading apps that allow books to be downloaded to tablets and phones. These apps are typically known as e-readers. Most smartphones will include an e-reader, and parents can tap the e-reader icon on the screen to bring up more information. Phones will typically direct to a virtual library where parents can download books for the e-reader (some may be free). For phones without an installed e-reader, parents can download apps like Amazon Kindle, Libby by Overdrive, Google Play Books, Nook, eReader, iReader and more.
Audio Book Apps
Some children like to listen to a book as they read. Parents also can download apps like Audible that allow them to download audio books. Other audiobook apps include Audiobooks.com, Apple Books, Scribd, OverDrive, LibriVox Audio Books and more.
Apps for Back-Seat Entertainment
Reading is entertaining, but kids may need a break from the books. Some kids might want to switch between reading and playing games. So what are some fun apps for backseat entertainment? Here’s a list of apps that include road trip games and some silly apps that are just plain fun.
Bake up a pizza and eat those virtual creations…or, at least, pretend to eat those virtual creations! Don’t eat the screen! Kids can make the crust and add all their favorite toppings. The game is perfect for preschoolers…and adults, too!
Crafting meets dinosaurs! Perfect for ages four and beyond, this game lets players find all types of dinosaurs and go up against them in battles. Design buildings and craft armor, weapons and more.
This is a great app for children who love to draw or who just want to learn how to draw different creations. The app helps kids learn how to draw a butterfly, frog, a car and a hedgehog. Then the app will bring the drawing alive via animation!
It’s oozy, it’s slimy, but, even better, it’s virtual so there’s no mess for parents to clean! That slime can seep its way into carpets and furniture, but virtual slime is good clean fun! The Super Slime Simulator lets kids make all kinds of slime—clear, milky, puffy and classic! Choose a color and add some decorations (like glitter). Then kids can play with their slime on the screen.
The classic game that includes all those angry birds! Kids will have a blast shooting the birds at the enemy pigs with the sling shot. There are numerous versions of this game, and kids can pick their favorite.
The app costs $0.99 via the App Store. Kids will make sundaes for guests and have to follow the instructions for each order. As the game advances, it gets harder. However, the app states that it’s appropriate for ages four and up. There are many other games in the “Papa’s” franchise including Papa’s Mocharia To Go!, Papa’s Sushiria to Go!, Papa’s Pizzeria to Go!, Papa’s Burgeria to Go!, and more! The games vary in cost from around $0.99 to $1.99.
Yet another classic. Roblox includes lots of different games and is very, very popular! However, the app is designed for ages 12 and up! So this one may be fine for middle schoolers but isn’t designed for younger children. However, younger kids may like Minecraft. Parents might want to review Roblox before downloading.
Minecraft can be played in different modes: creative (which is focused on building) and survival, which is focused on crafting and fending off mobs. The age range is nine and up.
A puzzle game, Block! Offers many different challenges for children. The game is set up like tangrams, which requires children to piece together a specific shape. The game can be adjusted to be easy or more challenging. Puzzles also can be chosen in different shapes: triangles, squares and hexograms. This is a great game to challenge the mind.
Other Ways to Learn & Practice Reading On the Road
Road trips can be great educational experiences for kids. There are many ways to integrate learning with trip adventures. A simple road trip can incorporate a reading field trip to help children immerse in their book. Ask children where their book’s adventure takes place or ask them about places in the book. Parents could use their own devices to find places along the road that might complement their child’s book.
For children who need help practicing sight words, parents can create their own game that mixes road trip fun with sight word lessons. Make sight word bingo cards that feature a mix of sight words. During the trip, have children identify the sight word and try to find that word on the journey. The word could be on a sign, a bumper sticker, a business…anywhere. The first person to call Bingo wins. Parents may purchase a little pack of prizes for the game.
Taking a road trip can lead to unique adventures…for kids or parents. Sometimes it’s fun to map out a route, or parents might decide to see where the road leads them. Families can discover lots of new destinations and maybe even some unique roadside attractions, too. For longer trips, parents can keep the back seat arguments to a minimum by downloading apps on devices that are educational and fun. Include apps that help children with reading comprehension, sight words and sprinkle in a few apps that are just plain fun.
Want to try out Readability before hitting the road? Sign up for a free trial today!