Screens are all over, and kids these days are getting used to having them around at a very young age. While it may be desirable to try to keep young children off them, adults model using screens because we rely on them for so many tasks. If screen time can be functional for adults, can it be functional for young children, too?
Fortunately for parents, the answer is yes. Our pre-schoolers have access to a variety of apps that can help them learn reading, language, math, shapes, and creativity, all on a phone or tablet. These apps can give preschoolers a head start both academically and behaviorally by introducing subjects in kid-friendly and interactive ways in a format children see their parents use all the time.
Why Use Pre-school Apps?
Young children learn from observing the world around them, and they’ve all seen their parents and caregivers using computers and devices for work and entertainment. Often they will try to play with these devices themselves, and many parents are buying some electronics for young children, such as kid-friendly tablets on which they can play games or watch videos.
Preschool apps make this screen time productive by teaching them skills they will need when they enter school. They are not limited to learning numbers, shapes, and the alphabet, either. There are apps that introduce preschoolers to such subjects as music, art, and managing emotions. There is no replacement for interaction with parents, but the right apps can augment the things that preschoolers learn from their caregivers by organizing it for them in ways they can understand at their level of development.
A further benefit of preschool apps is that it familiarizes children with technology at an early age. Our world is ubiquitous with the internet and wifi, electric cars, computers, data, and electronics to the point where we depend on them for a variety of everyday uses. The near future is going to be even more connected as 5G ushers in an even wider Internet of Things ecosystem that will see devices as varied as cars, refrigerators, and points of sale all woven together with wifi. Preschool apps are a way kids can be introduced to the technology they will learn to rely on over their lifetime.
Educational preschool apps can also be a productive use of time where kids might otherwise be bored or restless, such as waiting rooms, grocery shopping, or during chores at home. While they should never be a substitute for parenting, they are a great way to keep kids occupied while also helping them learn.
Finding a Good Preschool App
When looking for apps for preschool students, there are some important considerations to keep in mind. After all, you don’t want your preschooler seeing inappropriate ads or accidently spending thousands on in-game content without your knowledge. Every child is different with unique needs and strengths, and while it is good to challenge them with new things, it is not so good to overwhelm them because they will get frustrated and discouraged.
As a result, there are a few specific things to look for in an educational app for preschoolers:
- Online security is as important on your devices as it is on your computer, and apps that collect your data may not be safe. If you are looking at an app that requires you to give out personal information, make sure it is from a reputable developer before telling them anything.
- An app’s features will include how it teaches and keeps track of lessons. Some apps may not have many features while others will have a lot. Too many features might be overwhelming, or they may be desirable for a child who requires a lot of stimulation to stay engaged.
- Ease of use means how simple an app is to interact with. If an app is too complicated to use, a young child may find themselves frustrated and will not want to play with it, no matter how interesting or educational it is.
- Age-appropriateness is important when choosing an app for your preschooler because having apps that are above their level may include both features and subjects they won’t understand. “Age-appropriate” is different for each child and how they interact with a topic, as it does no good to hold a child back from a subject they enjoy and are good at, but it also means recognizing if your preschooler is in over their head.
- How does your preschooler engage with the app? While there is much to be said for watching videos, the more a child has to interact with the app, the more they will take away from it. Apps that include mindless swiping aren’t teaching kids anything. Part of interaction is also characters that kids can get to know and enjoy.
- Does the app cost money? Some of the best apps may have to be purchased or require a subscription. Others might have add-ons or expansions that cost a small fee to download, even if the basic app is free.
What Preschool Apps Should I Get?
There are many preschool apps that can be downloaded from your app store, and what app you choose is reliant on the unique skills and needs of your child. These apps are some of the best because they meet many or all of the criteria that make a good educational app for preschoolers. They have been rated by experts along a myriad of parameters that all come down to whether they are beneficial for children.
Khan Academy Kids
A site whose contents are used in formal online classrooms, Khan Academy Kids is the segment of it intended for toddlers to second graders. The program is free and uses a multimedia approach to learning that includes games, songs and videos on a wide variety of subjects.
Studies have shown that kids who enter school with a knowledge of phonics, the sounds made by letters and combinations of letters, will have an easier time learning to read. For a very small purchase price of $2.99, AlphaTots teaches kids the alphabet and the sounds letters make through a series of games that have enough variety to keep your preschooler interested.
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox
With a variety of games covering a wide range of topics and hosted by adorable characters, Monkey Preschool Lunchbox teaches numbers, shapes, colors, and letters. A series of games might have preschoolers matching things, counting objects, and solving puzzles, all for a one-time cost of $1.99. Plus, kids can track their projects with a series of in-game rewards.
The Monster at the End of This Book
A digital version of a Sesame Street classic, this app is an interactive book that warns kids to avoid the titular monster. Grover leads kids to escape the monster through a series of interactive tasks that lead to the end of the book. The monster is no scarier than Grover himself, opening the door to discussions about childhood fears.
Kids can be creative as they explore the environment by building their own little world with forests, mountains, and wildlife in Toca Nature. With drag-and-drop features, kids can grow a variety of landscapes and plants and use them to feed some of the animals that are drawn to their creations. This interactive app costs $4.99, a small price to pay for an early appreciation for nature.
Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings
Daniel Tiger is a popular PBS character with a series of apps for preschoolers, all of which are critically acclaimed. Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings is designed specifically to help kids learn emotional literacy through a series of stories, games, and interactive situations. For $2.99, the app teaches kids about managing emotions and expressing them productively.
Homer Reading Learn to Read
The Homer app is the biggest competitor to Khan Academy, using a teaching method that gives preschoolers a 74% boost to the skills they need for the classroom. The app offers education in a variety of topics from emotional literacy to math and numbers to reading. While the basic app is free, there is a monthly subscription of $9.99 to access the system’s entire library, which updates regularly.
Currently owned by Khan Academy, Moose Math has maintained its own identity as it teaches kids a wide variety of mathematical concepts beyond simply counting. The app features geometry, measurements, and basic addition and subtraction. Notably, it meets Common Core standards for preschoolers.
Parents can use their cable subscriptions to provide a variety of kid-friendly entertainment on the go with the Nick Jr. app. There are both shows and games on the app that are designed by the trusted kids’ network, allowing kids to both watch and interact with their favorite characters. Not every game is educational, but they are all tied to the Nickelodeon brand, building familiarity and fun for young kids on an ad-free app.
Adults remember drawing on this popular toy when they were children, but the Etch-a-Sketch It app has one improvement we all wish the original had. Kids can play around with the drawing app and then save their work to be posted to their parents’ social media or proudly displayed later on. The app also allows pictures to be added to it, giving kids a chance to engage with them as drawings and relating their creative potential to familiar scenes.
The Best App for Your Preschooler
The most important thing to keep in mind when looking for apps for your preschooler is who your preschooler is. What do they enjoy? What subjects do they show talent in? What skills do they struggle with? With so many available, it is easy to find an app or group of apps that can be tailored for your preschool child’s education and enjoyment.