The Best Apps to Keep Kids Learning on Vacation
Learning doesn't have to stop just because school's out.
Summer learnin’, happened so fast... that’s not how the song goes, and it’s often not how real life goes either as kids quickly drop all thoughts of school for the summer vacation. And that’s a good thing -- we want our kids to have fun summer memories. But there are times when you need to keep the ol’ brain ticking over, maybe get a headstart on subjects you know will be a challenge in the fall when school reopens. With that in mind, here’s our SuperParent selection of apps that will keep your kids entertained and learning stuff through the hot summer months.
If you’re having trouble encouraging your kids to read, or if you just don’t have space for all the books they want, then this app is a real lifesaver. Think of it as Netflix for kids books, with over 25,000 titles to choose from covering all age and ability groups up to 12-years-old. It has everything from picture books for kindergarten all the way up to audiobooks and full text novels, as well as a generous selection of non-fiction. These are books your kids will have heard of and want to read as well, with classic brands such as Flat Stanley, Lemony Snicket, The Chronicles of Narnia, Sesame Street, Batman, and Goosebumps. The app rewards good reading, unlocking badges and trophies the more kids read.
Sharpen up those mental arithmetic skills in this espionage-themed puzzler that takes players all over the world in pursuit of the villainous Dr. Odd. He wants to eliminate all the even numbers, and you must stop him by cracking codes against the clock. Progression is rewarded with the chance to level up your secret agent to elite status, and, naturally, every challenge in the game can be tweaked to suit your child’s ability.
Developed by a meteorologist and his 6-year-old son, this fun science app for younger kids features introductory information about weather systems, temperature, and other climate-related topics. Games include dressing up your character for different weather conditions, as well as a weather diary you can fill in each day - a fun task that can stretch across even the longest vacation.
Available On: iOS
Many kids love hands-on science experiments, and this appealing app includes 12 digital versions of classic school science projects. Using simple drag and drop interactions, you can make the obligatory baking soda volcano, build a basic electronic circuit and a radio, and grow a venus flytrap. You can also pilot a rocket to the planets in the solar system and look at everyday objects through a microscope. There’s plenty of variety, and any experiments that really spark their imagination can be followed up in the real world.
Often the best way to get kids engaged with science is to slip some of the basics into a game. This stealthily educational puzzler doesn’t look or play like a teaching tool, but over 200 levels you’ll navigate block mazes by using scientific forces such as gravity, elasticity, acceleration, buoyancy, and more to unlock 26 fun collectable characters. To young players, it’ll feel like another Angry Birds or Cut the Rope, but you’ll know they’re getting a headstart on STEM topics they’ll be studying in greater depth in high school.
Even the most creative kids sometimes need a helping hand, and this Mad Libs-style tool will help fire up your budding novelist in a fun way. Pitched at kids between 7 and 14, the app will generate a prompt to get you started - it may be a suggestion for a story title or a selection of words that you have to use. Ingeniously, the app will then keep throwing new suggestions out at set intervals (you can change the timing of these) adding new ideas to the mix every few minutes to keep kids thinking on their feet as they write.
There are lots of apps designed to get kids interested in coding, but most are puzzle games that assume a basic interest in STEM topics to start with. In this interactive storybook, a top project has been stolen from the Tech Fair and it's up to tween “de-tech-tive” Nancy Drew and her pals to solve the mystery. You do this by playing through six story chapters, learning the basic principles of coding as you program Nancy's pet robot dog to help you in your quest. The result is a game that will draw in kids who just love a good story, as well as those who are already aboard the coding train.
This emotionally challenging virtual life simulator is ideal for older children looking for something with substance. Set in Norway in the 1950s, it casts you as the adoptive parent of an orphaned “lebensborn” - a child fathered by Nazis to be the first in a new generation of the master race. Not only must you carefully use your time and money to raise this child, but you have to consider how to guide them through the knowledge of their background in a world that is eager to visit the sins of the father on them. Clearly, this isn’t exactly an upbeat fun-time experience, but as an interactive way of engaging with real-world history and timeless ethical problems, it is enormously powerful.
The Human Body
Available On: iOS
You really can’t go wrong with any of the apps designed by Tinybop, but this gleefully gross journey into biology is especially likely to appeal to kids. You get a fully interactive working model of the human body, and can explore every organ in X-ray detail, discovering everything from how the lungs pass oxygen to the blood, to how our body breaks down food and - yes - expels it at the other end. It’s all depicted in authentic - if cartoonish - detail. A demo version of the app can be downloaded for free if you want a preview before making a purchase.