There is no reason your kids' brains should go unused this summer just because school is not in session. When they are not outside enjoying a trip to the water park or backyard barbecue, they can tap into educational opportunities on their iPads and touchscreen devices. The trick, of course, is to understand which educational apps are legit, and the be able to separate those from mindless games that claim to be educational but are nothing of the sort.
These selections for children between 3 and 18 are both entertaining and educator approved.
Toontastic: All Access (iPad, $13.99)
There is something truly fantastic about Toontastic, which your kids will enjoy more than clicking through endless TV channels or even going to the movies for the latest Hollywood blockbuster. The app, which encourages kids to simply tell and share stories through animation, is unique in that it is both highly educational and fun. Targeted to children between the ages of 3 and 13, Toontastic gives kids a digital toolkit of sorts to draw, narrate and share cartoon clips. Younger, less experienced users have a number of starter templates to choose from, while older kids can let their imaginations - within reason - run wild. Once a toon is created, it can be shared with family and other viewers worldwide at Toontastic's ToonTube. Relative to other educational apps, Toontastic: All Access at $13.99 is not cheap. While we think it's a bargain at that price, you can sample a free lite version to decide for yourself.
Duck Duck Moose Reading (iPad 99 cents)
While there are hundreds of iPad apps available that claim to teach preschool children and Kindergartners how to read, most of them stink and promote bad habits, if anything. This is not the case with Duck Duck Moose Reading, which is designed to reinforce relationships between written letters and their sounds. The app, which is based on US Common Core State Standards, features playful characters and a reward system that lets players and their parents know when they are picking up concepts, as well as what reading skills need to be reinforced.
Bobo Explores Light (iPad $4.99)
Looking for a way to engage scientifically-minded pre-teens this summer? All of the subject matter in this app, which is targeted to older Elementary School and Middle School students, is focused on light and how humans perceive it. Topics include lasers, auroras, photosynthesis, and bioluminescence. Bobo serves as a funny wingman throughout a mix of games, short videos, and interactive content that keep players engaged and entertained while learning about intricate concepts.
Stack the Countries (iPhone, iPad $1.99)
No worries if summer travel is not part of your family's plans in the coming months. There are several key concepts related to countries and continents that are taught and reinforced in this game, including capitals, landmarks, continents, major cities, border countries, languages, flags, and country shapes. Similar to its counterpart Stack the States, the app combines flashcard-based questions with an addictive physics game that requires players to literally pile countries on top of one another without letting them fall on the ground.
BallparkIt (iPhone, iPad $1.99)
If a high school student must spend part of the summer brushing up on his or her trigonometry skills, there is a home run of an app available with BallparkIt. In quizzes ranging from 20 to 120 seconds, players can test their trigonometric skills by solving right triangle problems. Each question has four multiple-choice answers and poses problems dealing with either an angle or a side length. Players must determine the missing component and select that answer as quickly as possible.