Sometimes, in our modern world, it can be difficult to separate kids from their electronics. Maybe they want to watch the latest kids show on Netflix on your phone, or have their own phone or tablet and want to have something fun to do in it.
This is compounded by the current global situation, with many schools closed until the next school year and homeschooling the only true option. Yet, sometimes even mom and dad need a break, and that is where the digital world can still provide your children with fun and affordable apps that provide educational lessons in a variety of subjects.
We’ve pored over hundreds of apps, and have found that the nine presented below have consistently been reviewed, recommended, and suggested across the internet as the best.
ABCMouse is a wonderful app for kids up to 8 years old. Covering subjects such as math, English, arts, and music, it is always presented in a colorful way, with lots of options of interaction. Over 10,000 activities and lessons are included.
The app is free to download and has a 30 day free trial, with a $7.99 per month subscription afterwards. There is also a yearly subscription option at $79.99.
The Khan Academy is a non-profit, completely free “global classroom.” Originally designed for continuing education and college level courses, over the past few years the Khan Academy Kids section has been developed. Hundreds of lessons, on STEM subjects, language, and even computer coding are available at no cost through the app. Simply start the app, set your kids grade level or age, and let them explore freely to learn.
World of Goo is, for all intents and purposes, a game. However, what developers 2D BOY have actually made is an interactive STEM and basic engineering simulator that has a fun and funky storyline. Your kid will need to stretch, shape, reinforce, and build bridges, structures, and ramps to solve puzzles, and engage their logic and critical thinking skills to do so. More aimed at the 6 to 12 year old crowd, the game is still enjoyed the world over by many “older kids” (read: parents) once their own kids are in bed.
Requires a one time purchase of $4.99, and a free demo is available.
Crazy Gears is an ongoing lesson in logical and critical thinking, hidden in the guise of a puzzle game. The game requires your kid to transfer power from a motorized gear, through a variety of methods, to an end gear. In the way are obstacles, distance issues, walls that block a direct connection, and a variety of other challenging but solvable problems.
Requires a one time purchase of $2.99. Available on iOS only.
PBS Kids Games is a great app for kids between 3 to 8, bringing many of the characters and themes from their favorite PBS shows into a learning environment. Introductory math, coloring, puzzle solving, and letter games are just some of the activities available. Over 100 different games are provided for free, and no subscription fee is required.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) Science Zone is an app that lets anyone from kid to adult explore and enrich their knowledge of science. With an intuitive carousel browser as the centerpoint, you can dive down into any subject that is listed, or filter what you, or your kids, see with a built in touch filter. You can also see new and exciting discoveries from NSF partners, allowing you to have a discussion with your kids about how science shapes the world around us.
Bedtime Math takes one of the “scary” subjects, namely math, and makes it part of a fun story that a kid navigates with a parent before bedtime. Much like like a bedtime story, a short narrative is presented, where a math problem or two will need to be solved to continue the adventure. By integrating the learning of math into the reading of a bedtime story, the learning process is intuitive and part of something enjoyable. As well, Bedtime Math has been peer-reviewed by Science Magazine and shows that math scores improve dramatically if the math is part of a narrative.
If the explosive growth and love of the game Minecraft over the past two decades has proved anything, it’s that kids of all ages like to have room to play. Toca Nature takes the concept of the narrative-less game, and lets kids create their own natural habitat. The educational aspect comes in when the very clever coding of the game makes plants and trees grow, makes wildlife appear, and shows what changing the environment does to affect the biosphere around it. A very intuitive and deep “game,” it is a great tool to also teach your kids about biology, ecology, and botany, and how the surrounding environment shapes it all.
SkyView Lite is an app for those with kids that want, or have, a telescope and peer at the night sky in awe. By pointing a smartphone’s camera at the night sky, an algorithm will find what part of the sky you are looking at and show you, and your kids, what constellations are there, as well as point out planets, major satellites, and even the track of the ISS as it crosses the night sky. The free version does contain some ads, but contains all the functionality of the full SkyView app.