Stir crazy. That is how many of us feel — parents and kids alike — as we are facing the rest of the school year in our homes. Do you find yourself “giving in” and allowing your kiddos to have more screen time than usual? We all know the pressure of not allowing too much screen time but also needing to keep our kids occupied — especially now. It can be hard to keep the screen time limited in times like these. While I personally think that mindless screen time is not so great in any circumstance, I actually like to allow my kids a reasonable amount of time on their devices when they’re working on educational apps.
Of course, there is an exhausting amount of “educational” apps out there. It can be hard to know which ones are legitimately helpful. And it can become overwhelming vetting them before allowing your child to play. Below is a list of five free educational apps (free of advertisements as well) that my kids (and I) love. But first, let me share my evaluation criteria.
How to Choose a Good Educational App for Your Kids
First and foremost, content is crucial.
- Is the app genuinely educational – has the app had input from educators or child development specialists?
- Does it promote higher-order thinking skills such as problem-solving and creativity?
Engagement (for you and your child) is vital.
- Have distractions such as pop-ups or advertisements been eliminated?
- Does the app require your child to think flexibly and make decisions? I am not talking about decisions such as which shape is the triangle but real-life choices.
- Is parent engagement included? In other words, can the parent also interact with the app to see their child’s progress or extend the learning? Is there parent information about the app’s content?
- Is your child genuinely interested and do the interactions feel authentic?
If the answer is yes to these questions, you have found a good one!
5 Free Educational Apps Kids Love
Khan Academy Kids
Khan Academy Kids was developed by educators using research to guide the creation of content. It features five friendly animals, including Kodi, the guide through the program. The activities are individualized, dependent upon your child’s age. The app itself is extremely user friendly for both parents and children alike!
A plethora of games are available on the PBS Kids app focusing on the many prerequisite skills required for our youngest learners. Not to mention the many child-favorite characters available to interact with your kiddo — your little will genuinely feel like she is playing with the characters in some of the games! My son’s favorite is playing Hide & Seek with Daniel the Tiger and his family.
Who can resist the adorable characters and lessons from Sesame Street? This app does not disappoint — it includes games and so many songs and video clips. Sign up for a free account to save your child’s favorites. And if you are looking for a specific content area, check out the learning domains section of the app where it groups videos and games based on the different content areas.
Ages: While the app itself states for children 4+, there are many games and videos appropriate for 2+.
Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame
Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame gave me all the feels! It focuses on helping an adorable little monster solve real-life toddler problems, eliminating his feelings of frustration. The parent portal has a wealth of information, as well. You can even personalize it with your voice, so your child hears words of encouragement coming from you!
Play and Learn Science
Early childhood experts developed Play and Learn Science, a PBS app. Children explore “what happens when” through inquiry-based activities. The app has a robust parent section as well, providing questions and follow-up, real-world experiments to enhance the investigations on the app.
In summary, while this is not an exhaustive list, these educational apps have all been rated highly and include privacy policies, a minimum for quality apps. Not to mention, they are enjoyable and encourage creative thinking, allowing your little one to have fun while learning! Next time your kid begs for screen time, download one of these free educational apps and let them discover a new way of learning that will keep them engaged and let you have a bit of time for yourself, too. Hang in there, moms! We’re all in this together!