The best online apps and games for learning. Great websites for homework, free time, and homeschool learning extensions.
At Back-to-School night this year, my third grader’s teacher addressed homework this way:
Your child should read each evening, respond in his reading journal 2-4 times a week and do a word study activity each evening. There will be projects. If you feel he needs more homework, he can access First in Math or Study Island online. (Both programs require school programming and passwords.)
And that was it. I did a little whispered cheer. Big has homework every night, but not too much. Together we can regulate, and if he needs to work in a specific area, there are hundreds of online and app-friendly opportunities to further his learning.
Online opportunities for enriching learning
Cool Math for Kids offers math activities in everything from basic math facts to tessellations to puzzles to math art. Nearly any concept that your child needs or wants to work on will be found on this site. It also includes lessons, practice sheets, and a glossary, which is helpful for parents.
Two years ago, I reviewed websites and apps that focus on the practice of basic math fact skills.
My sons love their iPods. So, a few weeks ago, when Big needed to practice his “Word Study” (aka Spelling) words for homework, I figured we’d do it in a way that interests him–on his iPod. I downloaded My Spelling Test Free onto his iPod, and now every Monday afternoon, he enters his new words into the app (which helps him with practice.) The app quizzes him by saying the word, and he spells it by typing it. At the end of the “test,” the app grades him and lists the words he missed so that he can practice and retest.
Online, check out SpellingCity, which offers an “efficient game-based study of literacy skills using any word list” and focuses on both spelling and vocabulary (free to save word lists, but you get more benefits from joining.)
My kids have been playing Starfall for years. In fact, my 3-year-old and 7 year old both enjoy it, though in different areas. Starfall starts with basic letters and phonetic sounds and continues to teach through independent reading of comics, non-fiction, fiction, and more.
For basic reading and listening skills, Read Me Stories is an app that offers a new story every day. This app encourages kids to come back for more as they want to hear the next story. It has a read to me and a read with me feature and displays words on the screen to help children learn to read and identify words and sounds.
Whole Language Learning
A favorite amongst youngsters, FunBrain has areas of math, reading, writing skills, and just plain fun. They also work with some favorite characters and novels, such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, to encourage the literary connection.
My kids can’t get enough of Discovery Kids. Their latest addiction is Whizz Ball, which exercises their minds as they develop and solve trajectory, systems, architecture, and engineering skills. Puterbugs teaches letter, reading, writing, and keyboarding skills, and Scuba Adventures (available for iOS or Android download) takes children through underwater adventures. I love sending the kids to Discovery Kids with an offer: you can play one game you love, but you have to find another game and report back to me. In fact, I might just challenge them to find a game they don’t love and report back. I think they’ll have trouble with that one.
Best Parental Control Apps
ConsumerNotice.org has created an in-depth Internet Safety for Kids guide, including information on online risks, how to avoid them and how children can come to you if anything goes wrong. It covers topics like Teens and Social Media, How to Set Rules, Explaining Internet Safety to Children, and more!