When it comes to electronics, no mother or father, or grandparent or caregiver, it seems, is immune to the often challenging, frustrating, enlightening and educational tug of war relationship their child has (daily) with the almighty smartphone, tablet or other mobile device. As a parent, we struggle with how much time we should allow our child to "play" on these brave new modes of technology. We wonder what content and types of applications we should approve for our children's absorbent minds. We struggle with the right rules to put in place for these post-modern toys and games.
As parents of bright children, we waffle between not wanting our children to be plugged in too much and the realization that some of these systems of entertainment are actually providing our children with solid, goal-oriented problem solving skills and means of achievement not found elsewhere. It is indeed a balancing act but one that, if navigated wisely, can prove fruitful to our children and ourselves.
With the holiday season upon us, we have an opportunity to both foster our children's love of these apps as well as provide holiday presents that are extremely low in cost. It is a win-win situation, allowing us to get our children something they will love, continue stimulating their minds in ways that allow them to fine tune their smarts in the guise of actually having fun, and it doesn't hurt our pocket books to do so.
One important note is that apps are for all different age groups so it is important to evaluate them first before deciding if they are appropriate for your child. One way to check is to visit the Common Sense Media website which provides ratings on a variety of scales regarding the suitability of apps (along with movies, books, TV. shows and video games).
Here are some great ideas to get you going providing something for every kind of budding child from the curious scientist to the prodigy mathematician to the creative artist to the meticulous engineer:
1. Animoto - an app that turns photos into professional videos with the addition of music and text.
2. NASA - an app for following NASA videos, mission information and latest news while exploring over 13,000 images from the archives of space.
3. Simple Physics - an app for designing and simulating structures like tree houses and carnival rides.
4. SketchBook Pro - an app for unleashing creativity on the screen as if it were a canvas: draw, paint, sketch the imagination into fruition.
5. Trainyard - an app for strategizing the drawing of puzzle-like train tracks in order to get colored trains to their corresponding stations.
6. Words With Friends - Scrabble-like tile word game that can be played with friends over mobile applications.
7. Wikipanion - an app giving access to the online encyclopedia source that allows easy search, navigation and display of entries plus bookmarking features.
8. BrainPOP Featured Movie - an app that features a new movie everyday. After watching the movie, a quiz pops up to test comprehension and memory.
9. Playtime Theater - an app for creating a puppet show inside a customizable interactive castle with provided characters, props and sound effects and the ability to record the shows.
10. GarageBand - turns your iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch into a collection of Touch instruments and a full-featured recording studio.
I hope these ideas will entertain, engage and educate your children during this holiday season. Happy Holidays!