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Finding Educational iPhone and iPad Apps for Summer Learning

School may be out for the summer, but that’s no reason for kids to stop learning.  In fact, there’s every reason to encourage your children or grandchildren to bolster their education through the break.  Studies show that, on average, younger students lose 2.6 months of math skills and 2 months of reading ability over the summer hiatus.  But this loss can be mitigated with continued educational engagement.

Whether at home or away travelling, the iPad and iPhone can be great tools in helping you continue your children’s or grandchildren’s learning over the summer.  However, with no standard governing what apps can label themselves “educational,” it can be difficult to determine which offerings truly help develop a young mind.

Here are some tips on how to identify truly educational apps for kids:

  • Good apps will provide guided discovery at the child’s own pace and on their own terms, rather than simply tell them that what they should know.
  • Apps with room for creativity and critical thinking will be more engaging than those that simply present information to be memorized.
  • It’s advantageous when the information taught through the app is presented with context and helps the child link new lessons to what they already know.
  • Better apps will require active participation and mental effort.  Many so-called “educational apps” are nothing more than repetitive games with passive swiping to get through the “lesson.”
  • We don’t live in individual bubbles, so apps that encourage social interaction, whether through discussion or competition are more useful.
  • An app with questions and problems presented within a relevant context are more engaging and will help the child apply what they learn in real life.
  • If you’re unsure of the quality of an app or doubt it’s claims, consider looking up the developer and seeing what parenting websites and blogs have to say about it.

Kids just want the summer off. You can expect to face some resistance against summer learning.  This is especially likely if you present the material in too regimented a format.  To keep things fun and to take advantage of the great weather and the family’s freer schedule, you may also want to consider apps that promote more general development.   Remember, life skills are just as important, if not more so, than school subjects.  Furthermore, an app doesn’t have to be labelled as “educational” or even for a certain age-range for it to have an educational impact if used creatively. For example:

  • You can download age-appropriate reading materials, worksheets and so forth through any reading app.
  • Introducing the child to a simple budgeting app to track their allowance spending and savings can help them develop financial mindedness from a very early age.
  • A fitness app along with a tracker can help your child keep active and experiment with different types of physical activity.
  • Navigation, public transportation and map apps can help develop a child’s understanding of their place in the world, sense of independence and knowledge of their city.
  • Writing, art and draw-you-own-cartoon apps promote creativity, self-expression and self-reflection.
  • Working through a simple recipe app together can help teach a child to find foods they like, create a grocery list, shop and cook nutritious meals.

Finally, there’s nothing wrong with learning through undisguised play.

  • Although many “educational” apps out there are nothing more than games, requiring children to play such a game together can promote important social skills.
  • Sudoku, Kakuro and other such logic-based game apps aid in the development of inductive and deductive reasoning.
  • Slide and jigsaw puzzle apps promote visual acuity, colour recognition and spatial awareness.

Whichever pathway to childhood learning with your iPad/iPhone you choose this summer, we hope you have a safe and happy break!



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