Using Digital Innovation to Combat the 'Summer Slide'
Top tips for parents about the best apps to keep children learning this summer, by Andrew Goff, COO, Gazoob
With the summer holidays just around the corner, as parents we are faced with a multitude of challenges for the weeks ahead – filling our kids’ time for 6 weeks or more, planning and carrying out day trips, family visits or holidays and also fitting in some worthwhile educational activity to ensure that younger children don’t fall behind and forget all their basic primary stage learning while they’re away from school.
As a former teacher, and current COO of Gazoob, a company that specialises in making educational apps for children, I think we should be looking to technology and the innovation it brings with it to keep our children learning this summer, albeit in a slightly different way than they might do at school.
Here are Gazoob’s tips for the most entertaining, creative and educational apps on the market:
Best for creativity
Onboard Camera App: We all use the cameras on our smartphones, but how often do most of us encourage our children to really think about the pictures they might be taking, and the content they are creating? Appoint them the official photographers of your summer holiday / trips to friends or relatives / days out and urge them to use an app like Skitch to add fun notes and comments to the photos.
Story Buddy 2: This fantastic storybook-making app lets children create, read and share stories on the iPad. They can draw straight onto the iPad's screen with their fingers to make their very own picture book, adding text using the built-in keyboard.
iMotion: iMotion is an intuitive and powerful time-lapse and stop-motion app for iOS. Children can take pictures, edit their own movies and create a really innovative way in which to tell their class about their summer adventures when they go back to school in September.
Superhero Comic Book Maker / Princess Fairy Tale Maker: These great apps from award-winning children’s app creator Duck Duck Moose let children create their own animated story books, be they superhero or princess themed. They can design the story, embellish with colours and stickers, add simple animations and then narrate their characters’ adventures using their own voice.
Best for ICT
Sketch Nation: This game creation app allows children to create simple games for a variety of devices. As well as giving children their first coding skills, the games encourage them to make a plan and utilise any knowledge they have of a particular subject. The website offers a great insight into how the games are already being used as a learning tool in classrooms.
Sphero: Sphero is a new type of game system featuring a robotic ball, which you control with a touch, tilt or turn from your smartphone or tablet. Children can draw shapes and create a path that the ball will follow. Admittedly, this is a pretty costly investment, but something so innovative yet simple for children to use that I thought it warranted a mention.
Daisy The Dinosaur: This free, fun app helps children of all ages to learn the basics of computer programming. It has an easy drag and drop interface that children can use to animate Daisy to dance across the screen. Kids will intuitively grasp the basics of objects, sequencing, loops and events by solving this app's challenges.
Best for getting outdoors
SkyView: Pitch a tent in the garden (if you’re already camping then that’s even easier), get plenty of marshmallows ready for toasting and then when night falls, lay back, point your iPhone at the sky and gaze at the stars as a family. The SkyView app is perfect for identifying a host of stars, constellations, satellites and more.
dirtgirlworld: Summer holidays are the perfect time for children to be outside in the garden and this interactive gardening app from dirtgirlworld is jam-packed with things that will want to make your children get outside and get grubby! Kids will learn how to grow and harvest food and the app will reward them with lots of free songs, videos, recipes and badges along the way.
Bound Round: For those of your heading off on holiday this summer let the kids take the heat out of the trip planning with Bound Round. It’s an interactive travel app designed by and for children and gets them researching the best kids’ activities in your chosen destination, creating a travel plan of must-see attractions, storing their experiences in a travel journal and sending e-postcards.
Best for getting hands-on at home
Kid Science: This super app lets children experience some mind-blowing chemical reactions, created using simple household products. Videos and photos explain everything simply and children can also create a shopping list of ingredients they need to buy. Take it a step further and ask your children to use one of the many grocery-shopping apps available to note the prices of individual items on their list and to calculate a total cost.