By August Deshais, Common Sense Media education blogger
With the arrival of August, many 5-year-olds are hearing a special question: "Are you excited about kindergarten?"
For parents, a different question may come up: "Is my child ready?" As a kindergarten teacher, I know how scary that question can be for parents. A few practical tips: Help your kid practice writing her name. This is an important skill she'll practice over and over in the classroom, and being able to do it will boost her confidence. Also, visit the library frequently. Familiarity with books, letters, and words will set the stage for academic success. And, finally, seek out high-quality educational apps that can help build important basic literacy, math, and concentration skills that are key to the success of early learners.
Here are my five favorite apps to help future kindergartners start the year off right.
1. Reading Rainbow
This app based on the famed PBS show is a terrific way to put a collection of quality children's books at your fingertips. Reading a diversity of genres exposes your child to a robust vocabulary, and, by discussing the text before, during, and after reading, you help build comprehension and prediction skills. Most importantly, daily reading is a fun way to spend time connecting with your child.
2. Letter School
Pencils, crayons, and markers are always good for developing the fine motor skills needed to write, but this app is a great way to encourage correct letter and number formation. Every letter (both uppercase and lowercase) and number features three fun, and sometimes silly, ways to practice correct formation, requiring increased independence along the way.
3. Endless Alphabet
With a charming cast of creatures and an ever-growing collection of regularly updated vocabulary words, Endless Alphabet helps foster letter recognition and phonics. Add to that the playful cartoon scenes that define each word, and you have a surefire winner that builds academic skills and keeps children coming back for more.
4. Memory Train
The ability to attend to the task at hand, especially when surrounded by the commotion commonlyfound in the classroom, is a skill your child will develop with time. However, practice with this fast-paced memory game can help your child build focus while having fun, and most kids will probably beat adults when playing together.
With a focus on counting and number recognition, TallyTots is a great way to encourage strong early math skills. Although mastering number order and one-to-one correspondence are aims of the app, it's best for you to work alongside your child, talking through the process to build strong math sense.
Finally, remember to keep things balanced. Technology is now a vital way we learn, regardless of age, but too much of a good thing is never good, and too much of a substandard thing is even worse. The best apps are those you select for your child to address a specific need and, better yet, use with your child to model engaged thinking and lifelong learning. And for those still fretting over your baby heading off to school in a month or two and wanting to slow down time -- unfortunately, there's no app for that.
About Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. We exist because our kids are growing up in a culture that profoundly impacts their physical, social, and emotional well-being. We provide families with the advice and media reviews they need in order to make the best choices for their children. Through our education programs and policy efforts, Common Sense Media empowers parents, educators, and young people to become knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens. For more information, go to:www.commonsense.org.