Learning apps for kids over the summer

Perfect for road trips, weekend mornings for an extra hour of sleep, and those precious weekends with the Grandparents, screen time can be a useful tool when the kids are home over the summer.

But it doesn’t have to be all about mindless games and social media – there are plenty of apps that deliver loads of fun alongside a little education for kids of all ages.

So if your children have earned some time on their devices, you can feel less guilty about granting it to them with these popular learning apps.

Young learners (4-6 years)

ScratchJr: Thanks to some very bright folks including researchers at MIT, even the youngest of learners can get comfortable with coding with this fun and free app. Interactive games, stories and problem-solving playtime will introduce your child to the concepts of computer coding while unleashing their creativity.

Sago Mini: Imagine a cheerful cartoon world where your little person can play pretend to their heart’s content. Grocery shopping, going to the post office, getting a haircut or cleaning the house have never been this fun. There are many different apps created by Sago Mini, so your little learner can pick the world most appealing to them for some fun, play-based learning that sparks their imagination.

Loopimal: This weirdly wonderful educational game is popular with schools and music teachers and beloved by kids. Various fun and funny animals help kids (and their parents) learn about various parts of music such as beat, rhythm, melody and tempo. Kids can create their own patterns of musical loops while watching the entertaining movement and animation that goes along with each animal.

Elementary school learners (6-12 years)

TocaBoca: This series of apps is powered by the concept of play-based learning. It’s silly, fun, interactive and educational. From running their own chemistry lab, to creating their own recipes in the kitchen and working in an office, kids can explore these apps at their own pace with their imagination taking the lead – never having to worry about the “wrong” or “right” way to play and learn.

Prodigy Math Game: Popular in many schools, this app is a fantasy-based game that reinforces math concepts learned through grades 1 to 8. Kids have to correctly answer math questions in order to conquer monsters and other challenges as they move through the game. This app is free, but a paid subscription unlocks more challenges and learning fun.

Minecraft: You’ve heard about it, your kids want it, and we’re here to tell you they’ll learn a lot about coding while having a ton of creative fun. Created by a Swedish developer, Minecraft is an open-ended game where players decide what they want to do all by themselves. There are several different modes, from creative through to multi-player, but all platforms involve building and playing with blocks, going on adventures and exploring how to mine and use the limitless resources provided.

Teen learners (13-18 years)

DragonBox Algebra 12+: The creators of this math-based learning app have learning games for all ages, but this award-winning version covers all the nitty-gritty concepts of high school algebra with fun, engaging and entertaining games and levels. Help your teen learner review the basics of addition, division, multiplication, fractions, factorization, substitution and more while still having fun with their screen time.

Sketchbook Pro: Encourage your budding artist with this professional-grade and beautifully programmed drawing and painting app for their device. The free version allows kids to draw and create art their own art with a decent tool set, while the premium version offers even more creative options. Your teen can also organize their artwork into albums, share their masterpieces with friends, and keep a copy of their favourites in the cloud.

Podcasts: Every teen needs a little time to chill out, tune out and turn up the volume on their device. When their favourite playlist gets old, why not keep their minds active with a podcast app and free subscriptions to some interesting and educational audio programs? There are plenty of high-quality podcasts out there to spark your teen’s imagination and fuel their desire for learning. TED Talks, 411 Teen, How Stuff Works and The Moth are all popular, well-produced podcasts loved by teens and their parents.

Even better, why not listen to an episode or two in the car on your next family road trip, starting a conversation and learning something new all together this summer.

Carmen Kinniburgh

Carmen Kinniburgh is a freelance writer and editor exploring topics and ideas about parenting and families, Canadian science and research, health and medicine, as well as travel and lifestyle. Born and raised in Alberta, Carmen has also lived in Southern Ontario and Manitoba, where she worked in professional communications for a university and a national health charity. Currently living in Thunder Bay, Ontario, she gets all her best ideas and insights for Parentwise from her own three delightfully precocious children.

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