It’s no secret we love cool educational apps for kids that blend fun and teaching and getting kids excited about learning new skills. And now with summer around the corner, it’s even more important that we find ways to keep kids engaged to avoid that summer slide, and allow them to jump right into the new school year in September.
Of course, not all kids would agree. Especially when the weather gets warmer and the park is calling.
So how perfect that we get to team up with our newest sponsor, the highly esteemed Sylvan Learning which has just launched SylvanPlay, a whole mobile gaming network of cool, educational apps for kids on both iOS and Android (yay!). They’re designed to be so entertaining your kids won’t even know they’re learning. In fact, they’ll probably complain when it’s time to put the tablet away. We love when that happens.
With several homeschoolers and former homeschooling parents here on staff, we’ve compiled a lot of great ideas from experience over the years. So together, we’re offering these tips to get our kids–and yours–fired up about learning. And yes, they’re simple. Promise.
1. Start with what they already love.
If your kids are fans of astronauts, kittens, rocks, carrots, modern art, dinosaurs, dress-up, or trying to take apart your remote control, then any of those is a perfect place to start. Spend time with them learning more about those things, and finding opportunities to bring those concepts to life in fun ways. Maybe there’s a TV series about space travel, a cool new museum exhibit, or a learning app that can spark their interests. Besides, it lets kids know you’re excited about what they’re excited about, and that’s huge.
2. Embrace the everyday.
Tune in, and you’ll realize there are learning moments all around you–on the drive to school, when kids are at home playing, and all the times in between that you might be missing. Even when they’re watching a show on TV. Spark their inquisitive minds by asking questions. Start with I wonder… or What if… and you may be amazed at what kids come up with.
You can also get kids involved in problems you might have ordinarily just solved yourself, like asking a preschooler to sort the crayons by color, or getting a child to figure out a system to best organize the book shelf. By finding those learning moments outside of the classroom and in the world kids already live in, you’re instilling a valuable skill early on.
3. Get hands-on. Literally.
You don’t need to be crafty nor do you need to be a teacher to create projects and experiments with your kids. A few really basic ideas: Allow kids to join you when you’re cooking in the kitchen and let them measure; also talk to them about what’s happening as the ingredients come together, or why the butter turned from solid to liquid as you heated it. Have them keep a diary about their day or write a song about their favorite movie. (Geez, ours do that anyway, all day long!) Ask them to read you the bedtime story instead of the other way around, then ask questions about why they think the character made that choice.
None of this seems like you’re “teaching” but you are. And hey, if you do happen to have the Martha Stewart gene or a teaching degree, we bow to your mad skills.
4. Make a game out of it.
Technology, as we all know by now, has made it so much easier to get kids excited to learn. Especially with the spate of educational apps out there designed to build skills through entertaining games. It’s really smart that Sylvan Learning has taken their trademark approach to personalized learning and applied it to technology for kids, who like ours, are using mobile gadgets a lot these days anyway.
SylvanPlay is a great new addition to your arsenal, featuring a library of eight educational, fun apps that address reading, math, and geography to name a few. Basically, all the important stuff your kids need to know in school, but with a big shot of fun. Like Angle Asteroids which teaches geometry (shhhh), an awesome word game called Sushi Scramble or Pizza Party which makes fractions fun. And delicious.
They’ll also love that they can play language games, science challenges and lots more collaboratively while chatting with friends–all safely, of course. It’s so smart, because the older your kids get, the more social they get.
The apps are aimed at kids in first through fourth grade, and they address age and grade-appropriate topics that your kids are working on in their classes at school right now. So it’s helping to reinforce what they’re already learning, all while teaching them new skills.
It’s cool to see a kid’s eyes light up when they recognize the Seattle Space Needle in the Critter Cruise app, because they’re studying the Pacific Northwest in class.
5. The Internet is your friend.
If you’re a reader of this site, you know there are just a ton of online learning resources for kids online, whether it’s educational videos on Brainpop or free printable coloring pages. We’ve found no shortage of ideas for amazing crafts, DIY science projects, videos, and games on Pinterest alone, that will get kids excited about learning. The hardest part is tearing yourself away from your boards to actually put all those cool ideas to use.
And trust us, we’ve got sites like Wikipedia, History.org, and How It’s Made bookmarked so we can answer all the tricky questions our kids tend to ask us. How is it that they know what will stump us every single time?
6. Lead by example.
If you want your kids to be excited about learning, then you need to set the example. Make sure they see you reading your own books. Show them the crossword puzzle you’ve been working on (and maybe ask them to help with the easy questions). Be willing to ask questions and take in new information with a positive attitude, especially if you get something wrong and get corrected. We are always the first to say, “oops…I was wrong and you were right. It turns out Montevideo is the capital of Uruguay.”
Your willingness to school your kids and hey, be schooled yourself, is invaluable.
Thanks to our sponsor Sylvan Learning and their brand new app network SylvanPlay for iOS and Android, which helps make it so much easier to get kids excited for learning, and keep them motivated. All while making it fun. That’s important too.
Keep an eye out for even more edutainment apps coming out soon for kids up to sixth grade.
[top photo: thijs knapp]