Hope you and the kids had a nice 3 months of maxing, relaxing, and … snaxing? Because, sadly, it’s time for everyone to get back to the school year routine. Ease the transition back to school by giving your kids a technological leg up. Use those screen time powers for good and download these smartphone and tablet educational apps that touch on a bunch of subjects. Each will hopefully give your preschool or elementary school student a refresher on how to learn — from a crash course on counting to a more advanced tutorial on the solar system. “Hey, Alexa … you got this?”
Basic Math App: Intro To Math
From Euclid to Hawking, they all started with 1-10. This back-to-school educational app teaches math’s most basic foundation through puzzles starting with stacking and sequencing objects of different sizes and progressing through matching numerals to quantities and recognizing the numbers and drawing their shapes. Montessorium’s modernized and beautifully designed take on the fundamentals will ensure your kindergartener can count to 10 even while wearing mittens.
Point your phone’s camera at the night sky and SkyView will determine your location via GPS and identify all the planets, constellations, stars and satellites that are currently visible. The robust search function helps you find things like the International Space Station, the Hubble telescope, or the Big Dipper (which, really, you should already know how to find). It also has daily updates that point out when new things have become visible. Like your kid’s interest in astronomy.
$1.99 (iOS) (Android)
Natural Sciences App: Leafsnap
Leafsnap uses software similar to facial recognition to scan a photo of a leaf that you take with your phone and cross-reference it with a database of hundreds of different tree species. The folks behind the app — Columbia, the University Of Maryland, and the Smithsonian — are adding species all the time. So if your tree identification chops start with “Apple trees have apples” and ends with “Trees without apples aren’t apple trees,” Leafsnap will help you see (and name) the trees from the forest.
ABCs App: Tiggly Words
Tiggly Words ($30)
123s App: Endless Numbers
Monsters are already teaching your kid everything from how to enjoy cookies to how to share. Why stop there? Endless Numbers’ animated ugly dolls will introduce concepts like counting, sequences, and basic arithmetic in fun ways. Because the only thing more fun than riding a Ferris wheel is counting all the cars on one … is what you tell your child.
Free (iOS) (Android) (Windows)
Reading App: Reading Rainbow Skybrary Family
Take a look, it’s in a book — except it’s not a book, it’s an app. Before you have an existential crisis in front of your kid, know that they can still “go anywhere” (even if it’s not as high as a butterfly). This back-to-school educational app features a kiddie Kindle of books that are targeted at specific interests. Wizards? Pirates? Princesses? Once they pick, little readers can decide to either read the story or have it read to them. You can subscribe for a monthly fee for more book options. Having LeVar Burton stop by personally is sadly not an option — take our word for it.
Free (iOS) (Android)
Writing App: Illustory
For the 5-year-old hipster who prefers the weight and feel of a real book (“I was into reading before it went digital”), the Illustory bookmaking kit gives you the option to publish online, or send the story away to be color-printed and hard-bound for just $29.99 (and, frustratingly, a 4-6-week wait time). It’s also a more crafty writing experience where they can physically write and illustrate the stories using provided toolkit pages — just like their forefathers did in the ’90s.
Lulu Jr. Illustory
Physics App: Tinybop Simple Machines
The back-to-school educational app presents the 6 elements of basic mechanics — levers, pulleys, wheel and axles, screws, inclined planes, and wedges — that are used to solve playful little physics puzzles, like cracking open ice boulders with wedges or using levers to lay siege to a castle. You know, typical real-world stuff your kid might have to face some day. And because it’s physics, and physics is hard, the app offers a downloadable companion, the Simple Machines Handbook, to help you better understand what’s going on and explain it to your children. Or perhaps vice versa.
Shop App: Sago Mini Toolbox
Sorry Playskool work benches, you’re going to keep everyone warm this winter. This app gives your kid their own virtual toolbox (the kind that won’t put holes in walls or their head) to build unique creations. The characters act like general contractors, too; they fart between projects and generally just sort of hang around unless you’re watching them.
$2.99 (iOS) (Android)
Driver’s Ed App: Super Nano Trucks
The game is simple to pick up and play right from the jump, with colorful graphics that are easy to read even if your kid can’t. Pushing the hard hat prompts players to attempt challenges with questions like, “Do you want to help us pick up dirt?” Do I? Picking up said dirt, laying down roads, and completing other tasks earns players hard hats. However, they can also test the law of inertia by driving around crashing into things and dumping giant rocks everywhere. Sure the forewoman will be pissed, but your kid is on their coffee break.
Ages: 3 – 8
Astrophysics App: Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System
The game is packed with a volume of information that’s seemingly as infinite as the universe itself, all of which kids aged 7-10 are encouraged to explore at their own pace. Along the way they’ll earn medals, build a rocket, and answer questions to send their faithful feline professor (and his new sidekick, Astro Mouse) hurtling through space — or plummeting into the endless void. It’s so fun, kids don’t even realize they’re being educated. Mission accomplished.
$2.99 (iOS) (Android)
An App for Actually Getting To School: Daniel Tiger Day & Night / Stop & Go Potty
It would be a beautiful day in the neighborhood if someone got their butt in gear and out the door. Your preschooler is already enamored with Daniel, so put that affection to good use. In the Day & Night app for smartphones, they’ll learn about some common routine behavior, like putting on their red hoodies and topping pancakes with fresh berries. Damn, that tiger has the life! And, because going to the bathroom is an integral morning step, Stop & Go Potty helps toddlers identify when they have to go and even teaches them to wipe themselves. That’s worth $3 right there.
Day & Night – $2.99 (iOS) (Android) (Amazon)
Stop & Go Potty – $2.99 (iOS) (Android) (Amazon)