Taps for Tots: Summer “School”
School is almost out, but developing minds needn’t turn to mush. Here’s a list of iPad apps to engage young brains and eager fingertips alike
It’s summertime—the backyard is calling, play dates abound, and bedtime has been pushed back an hour or so. No child wants to be re-immersed in the dungeon of anything overtly educational, especially when the local pool has extended its hours! Thankfully, several app developers have mastered the art of disguising educational lessons through mesmerizing graphics, engaging storylines, and addictive game functionalities. With the help of this handy list, your tot can spend hours “playing games” (actually: “learning a skill”) with sheer contentment. —Lucie Alig
ADDITION AND MULTIPLICATION
Inspired by the increasingly popular “conveyor belt sushi” restaurants (coming to a mall near you), this Scholastic-produced app is a lesson in quick thinking, addition, and multiplication. As numbers circulate around the belt, users must select the digits that correctly make up the given product or sum—or else the sushi monster will starve and growl!
Okay, okay, so the name of this one blows its cover as “educational.” Still, no list of apps for learning would be complete without a shout-out to the good ol’ 26 characters we all know and love. In Interactive Alphabet, preschoolers can not only see the colorfully construed letters and hear them pronounced; they can also engage with each and every one. You can take a bite out of A’s apple, undo Z’s zipper, and interact with geese, fans, lights, and whales in between.
Ages 5 and up
Original illustrations by David Dean meld with mind-boggling technology to comprise this interactive, 3D app (no glasses required). Kids can explore every region and country in the world, and learn about fascinating elements (from animals to plants to climates) along the way. What’s more, Barefoot World Atlas—which also includes live facts about the weather—is also a far more visually stimulating alternative to weather.com!
A shoe-in favorite for kids who love the PBS TV series[http://pbskids.org/superwhy/] that goes by the same name, the Super Why! app masks hardcore literary lessons through the guise of giddy characters, fun music, and oh-so-simple functionality. The app is divided into four categories (reading, spelling, letters, and rhyming), each of which features a different character from the show.
Beyond the neon interface of this literally glowing app are lessons pertaining to reflection, refraction, photosynthesis, bioluminescence, and human vision. And while the subject matter may sound jarringly advanced, the bold visuals and hands-on, experimental interface enables a fun and approachable introduction to physics at large.
We all need an “electronic babysitter” every now and then—something to keep kids happily entranced when traffic is jammed, the dentist is behind schedule, or dinner is still cookin’ away. In the days of yesteryear, the Walkman, Gameboy, and smart phones filled this void, but the iPad has provided a much sleeker, and educationally effective alternative (studies show it fosters kinesthetic learning). Here, Elizabeth Street explores all different kinds of apps, so whether your child is two-years-old or eight, a prima ballerina or an aspiring entomologist, we’ve got you covered. So get tapping!