Technology is part of the daily routine for children. The wired world interweaves in the classroom and at home. Laptops are used in school for many assignments, and smartphones are both communication hubs and a means of entertainment.
Unfortunately, the prevalence of digital devices leaves kids staring at screens constantly. While parents may try to control and manage the screen time, smartphones, laptops and tablets don’t have to be a source of tech frustration. Parents can use these tools as another access point for education enrichment. Some of the best educational apps for science, reading, history, and math are even free!
The Screen Time Debate
The issue of screen time and how long children should be staring at screens is often a concern for parents. For preschoolers (ages 2 to 5), the recommendation is that those little eyes shouldn’t be peering at a glowing screen for longer than an hour a day.
For older children, though, the recommendations are less straightforward. Setting limits for older children may be difficult, because technology is now linked to the classroom. Many school districts provide students with their own Chromebook or laptop, and all assignments are completed electronically.
Textbooks might even be a trend of the past. The traditional bound textbook might be digital, too. Children may be focused on screens for the majority of their school day.
Today’s teens are now equipped with smartphones, too. When a teen is proclaiming that all their friends have a smartphone, they probably aren’t exaggerating. Pew Research reported that 95 percent of teens have one of these devices.
Not only do teens and children use computers all day, but they also connect with their friends via little portable smartphone screens. These same devices also hold games, social media apps and even streaming services. Smartphones are the everything device.
For older children, though, these devices should not interfere with healthy activities. This is where experts draw the digital line. Smartphones and tablets shouldn’t come to the dinner table, they shouldn’t keep kids from getting enough sleep or keep children from being active, and they shouldn’t take the place of face-to-face connections and family time.
Using Apps for Enrichment
Parents may draw their own digital lines on how often kids can connect via their devices when the school day ends. For children who favor digital learning platforms and who learn better via virtual instruction, the phone or tablet can be used as an educational tool.
Lines and limitations will still need to be established, but parents can use educational apps to help their children with core subjects in school and for lesson enrichment. There are many apps that are available for free, although parents may need to be mindful of those that offer in-app purchases.
Children may be learning to add simple problems or they may need to memorize their multiplication facts. Math apps can help children practice those math skills while having fun!
This app includes flashcards for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Let children practice their multiplication facts anywhere. The app also can help children work on mental math.
This app can be used for adults or children. Math Brain Booster Games includes different math games that help with mental math calculation. Players may have a problem like: 15 x __ = 45. Games can be difficult, but the trick is to get better and faster at solving problems mentally.
Many schools let students play Coolmath in class. The app includes many different games that children can play to work on different math skills.
This game offers many different shape puzzles—also known as tangrams. There are different levels of difficulty, and the hardest levels require players to form a shape with lots of smaller pieces. This is a great game to help children practice problem solving and understand spatial relationships.
Children can test their knowledge of history facts or study for their U.S. map geography quiz with these history apps!
This app is for ages 12 and up, but children who like history could play as well. Correct answers lead to more info about the facts related to the question.
Perfect for ages four and up, the quiz tests knowledge about the U.S.
Learn the states that make up the U.S. This app lets kids practice their understanding of the geographic location of each state. The app is perfect for prepping for geography quizzes. Players can choose games to test the knowledge of the states, capitals and even the flags for each state.
This app lets children practice both the states and the capitals. This app is a great resource for geography review.
Whether children are studying chemical reactions or they just want to learn more about the world outside, there are science apps to help them explore, understand and experiment.
This app is a lab simulation game. Conduct virtual experiments and learn different elements.
Using a smartphone or tablet camera, children can capture an image of a plant, bug or other living thing in their environment. Seek will identify the species. The app also includes different challenges.
Use the phone’s camera to view data about the sky up above, including constellations and planets. SkyView lets the night sky project anywhere, though. Use the app anywhere to view the sky as it appears outside. The app will project the stars in any space. However, children may have the most fun using the app outside to explore the real night sky.
Children can use apps to practice reading anywhere. Some apps are games but others feature immersive lessons to guide children on their reading journey.
Help children practice their list of sight words with Sight Words Reading. The app includes different games and activities to help children explore, understand and master those words. The app is ideal for children ages 3 to 7.
With this app, children learn to trace letters to prepare them for writing and to help them learn to identify each letter. There’s even a matching game to help children understand upper and lowercase letters.
For children who struggle with reading and who need a lesson-based approach to reading, Readability provides leveled instruction with a built-in AI tutor. Children read stories aloud, and the tutor helps to guide them if they have trouble sounding out a word or if they simply stumble. The tutor is programmed with voice-recognition software, and it learns to identify each child’s unique voice.
At the end of each story, the tutor also asks questions to test a child’s understanding. When children demonstrate proficiency in both reading fluency and comprehension, they advance to a more difficult reading level. Parents can follow their child’s progress via the Parent Dashboard, which shows all the reading data for each child.
Readability does require a monthly subscription. However, parents can find out if the program is right for their child by signing up for a free trial period. Readability offers a free-seven day trial that allows children to explore all the features of the program and use the reading tutor.
Using Learning Apps after School
Parents who are concerned about their children spending too much time staring at screens may prefer to limit screen time after school. Parents can set limits on the phone using parental control options to automatically lock down certain features and apps when screen time ends.
If parents are fine with children using learning apps after school, though, they may extend these app privileges. Parents also may only allow children to download games that are educationally beneficial.
There are many free apps that parents can use to help children explore different subjects. Some of these apps can even be used to help children prepare for quizzes or tests. Parents can explore other enrichment apps and games by visiting the App Store or Google Play.