By Tracey Dowdy
Our early years of life should be measured in dog years. The amount of knowledge kids absorb before they even start school is staggering. They’re developing motor skills and language, learning to recognize shapes and letters, mastering basic math skills, and learning self-care and independence.
Building that foundation puts your child on the path to academic success. Before you think I’m suggesting hours of daily flashcard drills for your toddler, understand that not only does each child learn differently, they learn virtually all the time. They’re learning spatial relations while they build a tower with blocks or put together a puzzle. They learn social skills while they play house; physics while they play with their trains or cars; geology and nature while they dig for worms in the backyard.
A child’s love for math, reading and language can start at home and you are your child’s first teacher. These apps can help you plant those seeds, so your little ones will have a solid start to a lifetime of learning.
Doodle Critter Math Shapes
Doodle Critters Math Shapes has six learning activities including tracing, solving puzzles, and matching that teach kids to recognize shapes onscreen and then see examples of them in the real world. Along with simple math skills, the tracing activities in particular will help your child develop their fine motor skills. (iOS – $2.99)
Bugs and Numbers
Bugs and Numbers spans a wide range of math skills and takes kids from preschool through early elementary. Kids explore places like a diner or a circus from a bug’s perspective while they learn about shapes, counting, sequencing, addition, subtraction, fractions, telling time and more. The graphics are beautiful and the bugs are fairly realistic and kids can earn more bugs by completing activities and can even zoom in to see their bugs in action. (iOS – $2.99)
Reading Raven takes kids from pre-reading to reading short sentences through activities like letter tracing and recording their own voice reading words, all self-paced with sticker rewards to celebrate successes. Kids will love having a raven with a backpack guide them through adventures and meeting fly-eating frogs and circus performers, and parents will appreciate the step-by-step lessons. (iOS – Free/$3.99)
Starfall Learn to Read
Starfall Learn to Read is the app version of the Starfall Learn to Read website. Kids will develop reading skills through 15 mini books, each focusing on a different vowel sound that teaches by using games, songs, and videos. Each book features its own song to reinforce the vowel sound and each page offers kids the opportunity to read the sentence themselves, get help with pronunciation or have it read to them. (iOS, Android, Kindle Fire – $2.99)
Endless Alphabet uses clever monsters to teach kids letters and build vocabulary through fun animations. A monster has a mouth full of words in alphabetical order and when kids select a word they hear how it sounds, get to put it back together using phonics and watch an animation of the word’s meaning. Kids work at their own pace and the app is “endless” because new words are constantly added. (iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Windows – Free/$6.99)
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox is a collection of seven games that teach kids colors, matching, counting, letters, and shapes by helping a cheeky monkey pack his lunch. The app is designed specifically for preschoolers so there are no confusing menus, making it easy for your child to play independently. Kids can earn stickers for winning a game and each game flows easily into the next. (iOS, Android – $1.99)
Drawing Pad is an art studio in your hands. Kids use photo-realistic crayons, markers, paint brushes, colored pencils and other media to create one of a kind artwork. Kids can save their work and go back to edit or add to it later. The app features one-touch connectivity with Facebook and Twitter, so parents can show the world what their budding Picasso has created. (iOS, Android, Kindle Fire – $1.99)
Toca Lab introduces kids to science. Kids will love putting on their lab coat and safety goggles to play with the centrifuge, heat elements with a Bunsen Burner, or make them magnetic with the oscilloscope. The app introduces kids to the 118 elements of the periodic table by giving each element its own personality. (iOS, Android – $1.99)
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.