Five of the Best Educational Apps for Children, Part I (Tweens and Teenagers)
In this article, I highlight five of the best educational apps for children, focusing on educational apps for tweens and teenagers. These apps are kid-tested and parent-approved. They promise to both entertain and educate your child.
How I Evaluate Educational Apps for Kids
I supervised my seven children (ages 15, 13, 11, 9, 7, 5, and 3) as they tested out dozens of highly rated educational apps over the course of one full year. We followed this process:
- I found recommendations for educational apps in parenting magazines, at educational websites, and by browsing app stores.
- My children were allowed to try them out, and if the apps appeared to be functional, user-friendly, and wholesome, we kept them on our devices.
- Over the months, a few apps began to shine as clear winners.
The Best Learning Apps for Tweens and Teenagers
1) Squeebles by KeyStageFun: A Spelling and Math App for Kids of All Ages
Produced in the UK but with the option for American English, Squeebles is aimed at children under age 12, but is entertaining enough for older children and adults who may need to brush up on basic math or spelling.
The spelling app is customizable, allowing the parent to input a spelling list. The app offers appealing games as incentives, but they may only be played for a limited time before the user must get back to work.
Even after a full year, my tween children absolutely love this app and I’m sure they will never tire of it. Of note is that it can also be used by preschoolers if one takes the time to instruct them properly, and age appropriate spelling words are used.
A comment on educational math apps: A wide variety of apps for math drills abound, including the aforementioned by Squeebles, and after we tested many of them, I found that it really depends upon the child in terms of what is appealing. For example, there are math apps with games that feature animals, vehicles, space travel, aliens, and candy, and there are math apps that offer competition with other users around the world. It really depends upon what interests your child.
These kids’ spelling apps are customizable, and they have fun games. They are worthy of mention in this list of the best educational apps for kids because they can really be customized to provide an entire spelling and vocabulary curriculum to a child. These spelling apps are also used by many school districts. You can also download lists in many different categories based upon subjects and student’s grade level.
3) A Suite of Geography Apps for Kids: Presidents vs. Aliens, Stack the States, and Stack the Countries by Freecloud Design
This is by far the best educational suite of apps that I have ever found, hands down for teaching geography and facts about the U.S. Presidents, and it is by far the favorite of all of my oldest four children. If you don’t already use these geography apps, you need to find them and download them now! I’m excited to see what else Freecloud Design will produce in the years to come.
Here is how my 11 year old son (who quickly memorized all of the Presidents and most of the facts related to them thanks to the Presidents vs. Aliens app) describes the premise of Presidents vs. Aliens: “You protect the people from the aliens. You get a powerup for every three you get right and you win Presidents. You learn about what they look like, their names, where they are from, their party, quotes, historical events, before and after, and nicknames.”
Stack the States teaches the shape of states, bordering states, capitals, nicknames, landmarks, cities, and flags. Stack the Countries teaches capital cities, continents, languages, border countries, notable cities, landmarks, flags, and country shapes.
4) An Interactive Encyclopedia for Children: BrainPOP
This is a favorite of my tweens for casual learning about innumerable subjects. It’s really like an interactive encyclopedia for kids with appealing videos (that are just the right length) and activities on almost every subject imaginable. It is perfect for enrichment for children who can read, and allows them to explore their interests.
For older children and adults who want to learn about almost any academic subject via a lecture format, this is our family’s choice by far. It is most appropriate for high school students and adults, and some subjects may be inappropriate for children.
Khan Academy seems to have just the right amount of both “treats” (in the form of badges and other little incentives for learning), and social connectivity (it doesn’t overly encourage this a la Facebook, but there is a community there to help when you need it).
By Sally Casey
Before staying home with her many children, Sally Casey taught geology at Minnesota State University, Moorhead. She currently works part time as a writer, specializing in and blogging about topics related to education, children, and family.