5 Apps to Boost Math Skills over the Summer

Apps that make a game out of learning will fit right into your kid’s summer schedule.

Daily math practice doesn’t have to be — and, in fact, shouldn’t be — drill-and-kill. Summer is a great opportunity to make learning more fun with apps that add a gaming element to key skills such as addition, subtraction, fractions, and more. These apps let kids avoid the “summer slide” in a fun — and totally painless — way.
Dragonbox Big Numbers: In a whimsical land called Noomia, kids collect resources, add them, regroup, and subtract when they buy supplies to accomplish various tasks. As they progress, new areas and challenges unlock, and numbers get larger.
Skills: addition, subtraction, grouping
Why We Like It

  • It’s a unique and fun next step for kids who have mastered basic addition and subtraction.
  • Leveling up slowly and letting kids work with numbers visually and in numerals helps kids master the skills no matter their learning style or pace.
  • The gradual addition of new worlds and challenges makes the repetition of collecting resources and practicing skills more engaging.

Marble Math: In this fantastic app, kids see math problems — such as “Collect fractions that add up to 2” — at the top of the screen and then navigate through a maze with a marble to pick up answers to the problem.
Skills: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, Roman numerals, decimals, negative numbers, and more
Why We Like It

  • The tricky mazes are fun to move through and solve.
  • Kids are empowered to customize the experience to their needs by selecting their level of difficulty, the specific skills they want to focus on, and more.
  • Users get good feedback and help; the “show me” button lets them see the correct maze pattern and math answer.

Motion Math Cupcake: For their new bakery, kids must design, name, and make cupcakes. As they take orders and deliver them, kids do the basic math that comes with the territory of buying and selling.
Skills: addition, subtraction, multiplication, arithmetic, counting, fractions, graphing
Why We Like It

  • Math skills are baked right in to the activities, so there are no distractions from learning.
  • Placing kids in a business setting shows how math skills are useful in real life.
  • The varied activities keep it interesting as the game gets more challenging.

Prodigy Math Game: After choosing an avatar, kids earn spells by completing math problems and use them to defeat monsters. Along the way kids can earn other rewards, and the game adapts to a kid’s skill level.
Skills: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, counting, equations, fractions, functions, geometry, numbers, probability, ratio, statistics
Why We Like It

  • Using the math to propel the game forward can motivate kids to keep practicing.
  • It covers a variety of math concepts within the look and feel of an adventure game.
  • Though there’s some pressure for parents to subscribe, kids can use this game totally for free.

Sushi Monster: Kids playing Sushi Monster work in reverse to solve addition and multiplication problems. Each round begins with a set of target numbers. The chef puts numbered plates of sushi on the counter, and kids must choose the correct combination of plates to meet the target, thereby feeding the sushi monster.
Skills: addition, multiplication
Why We Like It

  • With engaging characters and achievable rewards, kids could easily get hooked on this fun math game.
  • It puts a spin on the traditional drill-and-practice method of memorizing addition and multiplication tables.
  • It’s free.

Written by  Christine Elgersma for Common Sense Media

Why Kids Watch the Strangest Things on YouTube

Why do kids choose such strange videos on YouTube, like unboxing videos, movies of people playing Minecraft, or clips of YouTube celebrities shopping?

Admittedly, I’m not the best at consistently limiting screen time. Like much of my parenting, my paranoia about how bad it actually is ebbs and flows with the rising tides of articles that appear in my newsfeeds.

But I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes a babysitter is unavailable and I let the iPad watch my kids. (Wait, that’s backwards.)

Each time I start them on something “not so bad” — like episodes of Octonauts — they inevitably end up down the rabbit hole of kids opening and reviewing toys, kids performing weird food challenges or playing video games, or reality “shows” with wacky families doing wacky things.

Some of my kids’ favorites include: Hobby Kids TV, EvanTube HD, Sidewalk Cops and FGTeev (pronounced Tee Vee, get it?). These YouTube stars wander through Target, waste copious amounts of food and they are the only people on earth who actually make money shopping at Target.

At first I wondered how on earth my kids found these videos. Then I saw the number of times people have viewed them — millions! Then I panicked a little: how long have my kids been watching this on their iPads? How many of those views are from my two watching the same thing over and over and over again. (Because what’s more fun than watching another kid open toys? Watching the same kid open the same toy again and again.)

I kept their viewing habits secret for awhile; saddened they inherited my proclivity towards terrible television. I was convinced my kids were single handedly making these families YouTube celebrities. (Because honestly, that many people can’t really be watching. Can they?)

I’m not sure when or how I first came to the realization that it wasn’t just my kids who watched strange things, but it was a glorious time (for me). The walls of our secret YouTube fortress of dreadful videos came crashing down and I was left with the oddly satisfying truth that there are in fact, millions of other kids attracted to this kind of “programming.”

Now I’m left wondering why on earth, do kids actively choose this garbage? These are the best answers I can come up with:  

1 | It’s the toddler/kid version of Real Housewives – their little 6 year old guilty pleasure.

Maybe because they know it soooo bad but still so good, they can’t not watch, like your favourite really bad reality show. For reasons unknown to even the most gifted social scientists, reality shows still manage to fascinate us (or hypnotize us). They’re curiously addicting. You don’t want to; you have to.

2 | In a strange role reversal, kids are just trying to teach themselves about greed and gratitude.

Seriously, what do they do with all those toys after they open them? And the food that Evan and his sister Jillian waste dumping over each others’ heads?! Drives me crazy. Drives my kids to tears of laughter. Also, makes me seem like an uptight, fun-killing, Mom: “no, kids, you can’t dump chocolate sauce, tomato ketchup, tuna fish and rice krispies over your heads. Not today, tomorrow or in 7 years. But, hey, who wants to practice their writing!?” Equally puzzling to me: my kids have never asked, suggested or wistfully wished they could open hundreds of toys on camera for no good reason. So maybe, these shows are educational.

(For the record, I can be fun! “You can watch other kids open toys for at least 30 minutes!”)

3 | It’s just part of the sad truth that machines are taking over humanity.

It’s no longer fodder for science-fiction. YouTube seems to operate as does Facebook, always trying to guess what you want to see. You watched a video of this kid playing video games? Here are these 10 others just like it! Wow, you really like Hobby Kids. Here are 25 other videos of them you’ve probably already seen. Slowly you forget what you actually want to see, the machine takes over and all of humanity is screwed. Sarah Connors where are you?!

4 | Did you know there is some high pitched frequency only kids can hear?

It’s true. (In another life, I was a high school teacher and the class clowns loved to play the tone, watch while their friends recoiled while I remained blissfully unaware.) I think YouTube must operate in a similar manner. What our kids see and hear is not what we are seeing and hearing. It’s like an alternate frequency that only kids can decipher. A glitch in the matrix. A sixth sense. (The shows they are actually watching are gold – like Oscar-worthy gold!)

That’s it. There are only four possible reasons I can come up with for this conundrum. But whatever the reason, I leave you with one possible silver lining: at least it’s not Calliou!

The Benefits of Screen Time for Kids: A Look at the Data

The risks of excessive screen time are studied and documented. But what about the rewards?

My husband is an electrical engineer who has worked for two of the largest tech companies in the world. I am an investor in a variety of tech products. 

We both benefit from screens in our professional and personal lives. Inevitably, we model how ubiquitous screens are for work and play.

The news is filled with warnings. Screen time before two years of age harms kids eyes as well as their attention spans. Sitting in front of the pixel boxes contributes to childhood obesity. Psychology Today posts cat scans of disintegrated gray matter. Pediatricians talk of over-firing nervous systems.

The risks are studied and documented. But what about the rewards?

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]Self Control has the word “self” in it for a reason.[/su_highlight]

Allowing our kids to make their own choices (particularly during free time) improves their confidence, time management, and ability to sense and meet their own need.

Plus it preserves the parent-child relationship.

Peter Gray writes in the very same publication that scared us with brain scans:

“It is always a mistake, I think, to tell kids what they must or must not do, except in those cases where you are telling them that they must do their share of the chores around the house or must not do things that hurt you or other people. Whenever we prevent our kids from playing or exploring in the ways they prefer, we place another brick in a barrier between them and us. We are saying, in essence, ‘I don’t trust you to control your own life.’

Children are suffering today, not from too much computer play or too much screen time. They are suffering from too much adult control over their lives and not enough freedom.”

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]Video games can help keep kids fit.[/su_highlight]

Screen time does not just mean kids are sitting like lumps on the couch. Many games encourage dancing, bouncing and swinging. In our house even sedentary games seem to include a lot of jumping around as they encourage each other to win a particular battle. They are in it together. It is really more We, or Wheee than it is Wii.

“Systematic surveys have shown that regular video-game players are, if anything, more physically fit, less likely to be obese, more likely to also enjoy outdoor play, more socially engaged, more socially well-adjusted, and more civic-minded than are their non-gaming peers.” – Wack & Trantleff-Dunn (2009), “relationship between electronic game play, obesity, and psychosocial functioning in young men; CyberPsychology & Behavior.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]Easier access to academics.[/su_highlight]

As our kids get older, their technological fluency is leading to advanced academics. One of the most common phrases in our house is “search it up.” They have taught themselves how to inflate boats to contribute to their Destination Imagination Project. They have created multi media presentations on “matter” and they have learned how to pick a lock. We are so proud.

New Scientist explains…“there is an unquestionable body of research showing that new technologies can engage children,” she says. Her studies have shown that children who struggle to learn using books often made more progress with iPads.

Its not all research and reading…it is also having the technological fluency to focus on the content rather than the computing. In school test taking has taken to the keyboard.

My kids have to turn in assignments through Google docs and communicate with their teachers through email. Their ability to type and navigate the internet took a lot of their anxiety away about the process of school, allowing them to focus on learning.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]It’s a small world after all.[/su_highlight]

My younger son’s social life is supported by Skype. He may be online, but he is not alone. He chats with a boy from Germany about bedtimes while he plays Minecraft. He crafts imaginary worlds while learning about the real one.

When he is confused about a game, he heads to a wiki. When he needs a refund for an online purchase, he copies his purchase order and heads to the forum to request help from customer service.

Sometimes he sends gifts to his online friends. Other times he barters with them over pick axes and armor. He is learning cost-benefits analysis and other economic principles at the same time he is practicing social skills.

Kim Komando writes about the hidden benefits of Minecraft for USA Today:

“One overlooked value of most strategy-based video games is resource management. The player has a finite amount of resources at any given time and needs to decide wisely how to use them most effectively.”

He feels that anything and anyone are just a click away. This is a powerful message to learn at nine, and I don’t think that anything could have taught him this more quickly than a few keystrokes with the fingertips that reach forward to access the world.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]Tablets level the playing field.[/su_highlight]

Studies that talk about family dinners and bedtime reading routines often have stratified results based on socioeconomic backgrounds. Tablets seem to take away some of the tilted results.

Although not every family has tablets in the home a consistently lowering price point (for example, $50 for a color Kindle Fire) is making access more equitable.

New Scientist cites a survey of more than 1,000 teachers and parents of five-year-olds concluding that: “importantly, the performance of children from low socio-economic backgrounds who use both at home is less likely to be below average at school than if they only look at books.”

According to Wired Magazine tech can be an equalizer economics as well as academics. “Technology can be the spark that transforms these limiting systems and extends economic opportunity to those marginalized populations desperately in need of it. If these individuals remain in the margins, and their perspective, ideas, and talents continue to go untapped, they will become a financial burden to society, rather than viable contributors.”

Instead of limiting our kids’ access to technology we offer slight oversight as they learn about research, Kickstarter, auctions, and other cultures. When they were small, they learned to read and write and add and take turns. Which is not to say our world is contained in computers.

Together we take family walks and bike rides, we kick around a soccer ball, and some of us play hockey and practice yoga. A Saturday might include a hike…after 6 hours of Minecraft and a movie.

It’s the way we live, for better and for worse. Brain scans be damned.

dokiWatch: The World’s Most Advanced Smartwatch For Kids

It’s the first-ever smartwatch for kids to feature video calling. All-in-one wearable phone, GPS locator, fitness tracker, and more – for kids.

Doki Technologies is raising funds for dokiWatch: The World’s Most Advanced Smartwatch For Kids on Kickstarter. It’s the first-ever smartwatch for kids to feature video calling. All-in-one wearable phone, GPS locator, fitness tracker, and more – for kids.

We like the general idea of this smart watch for kids.

  • It’s good that they have a way to contact parents that’s not easy to lose.
  • Most kids would love this watch.
  • Many kids would enjoy using it to contact friends.
  • Would also be great for actiivies like skiing and traveling with the family.
  • But it’s not clear that kids really want to virtually bring their parents with them everywhere.
  • And would it be a distraction in school?
  • Bottom line: here at Parent.co, most of us would like to try the dokiWatch with our kids.
Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.kickstarter.com

Guilty of Sharenting? You’re Not Alone

Research shows how frequently new parents post to social media – and why.

New parents love social media, especially on mobile devices. They (we) use it for entertainment, to keep up with friends and family, to shop, and for research.

New parents use social media pretty much for everything. Pretty much like everyone else.

Social Media Sharenting

One difference, however, is the frequency that new parents post to social media.

A fascinating study from Ipsos MediaCT and highlighted by Adweek reveals that, compared to non-parents:

  • New moms post 2.5x more status updates.
  • New moms post 3.5x more photos.
  • New moms post 4.2x more videos.
  • And new parents use Facebook mobile 1.3x more often than non-parents.

It’s completely understandable why new parents post so many photos and videos of their babies.

The average parent will post almost 1,000 photos of their child online before he/she turns five.

Sharenting: used to describe the overuse of social media by parents to share content based on their children. “Oversharenting” or not, social media is an easy way to share with friends and family. There’s the pride and joy factor. Parents use social media to share their kids’ milestones. And then there are ALL THE LIKES.

  • New parents’ Facebook posts about babies get 37% more interactions from relatives.
  • New parents’  Facebook posts about babies get 47% more interactions from friends than their general posts.

This brings to mind “Moments That Matter – Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary,” an October 2015 study of consumer sharing behavior from Facebook IQ.

Their findings can be summed up as “parenthood is mobilehood.” Insights from their study:

  • Baby feeding time is mobile time.
  • New parents are active on Facebook super early in the morning, starting as early as 4am and peaking at 7am.
  • By 7am, 56% of new parents on mobile have visited Facebook for their first mobile session of the day.
  • Comparatively, 45% of non-parents have logged into Facebook by 7am.
  • According to Facebook IQ, new moms post status updates 2.6x more, share photos 2.9x more and share videos 5x more than non-moms typically post and share.
  • New moms ages 18–34 post status updates 2.6x more, share photos 3x more and share videos 5.5x more than non-moms of the same age typically post and share.

Here at Parent Co, we’re intensely interested in how parents use social media.

After all, we make Notabli, an app that allows parents to save and share their kids’ moments in private social networks of friends and family.

We’ve seen the upsides and downsides of sharing kids’ photos on social media. It’s easy and appealing in the moment (and many of us here do it.)

However, there are serious concerns to oversharing kid and baby photos on public social networks.

Still, there’s no doubt that “parenting is becoming a digitally shared experience.”

More Reading

 

These Secret Netflix Codes Unlock a Better Family Movie Night

Netflix has been holding out on us, you guys. Here are the secret codes you need to find cinematic gems for your next Netflix and Chil(dren) session.

Here’s a little tip for unearthing some cinematic gems for your next Netflix and Chil(dren) session.

Netflix has been holding out on us, you guys. This little trick the internet recently alerted us to can streamline the time you spend digging around for something new for your kids to run into the ground.

When you browse Netflix on the computer, you’re using a url that looks like this: http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/783.

That number at the end is the key to unlocking secret category codes that help you access all sorts of collections and films you may have otherwise missed. If, like my family, you never really watch via the computer, you can still search this way and add to your lists to watch later on your TV. (Note that this shortcut doesn’t work when browsing in a kid account.)

Here are some we’ve found most useful:

Find codes for everybody on this unofficial list.

We’ve played around typing in random codes (some which work, some which don’t…) and been more than entertained by what we’ve churned up. Let us know what you find!

Netflix Secret Codes

Apple Music: What Parents Need to Know

We think parents will find a lot to like about Apple Music, the service that’s equal parts global radio station, music store, and streaming audio service.

By now you’ve probably heard about Apple Music, the splashy service that’s equal parts global radio station, music store, quasi–social network, and streaming audio service.

Apple took an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink approach to the service, which makes it feature rich, but a bit confusing to use.

Still, we think parents will find a lot to like about Apple Music. In particular:

Beats 1 Radio is pretty cool – no explicit language, and it’s free

Apple calls Beats 1 “live global radio,” while Rolling Stone calls it “the heart of the service.”

It’s a bit like a Sirius XM station.  Beats 1 broadcasts 24/7 to over 100 countries from studios in LA, New York, and London. It’s a single station playing the same programming to everyone who’s tuned in.

I was prepared to be cynical about Beats 1, but I have to admit – it’s fun. A team of talented DJs play a mix of “the latest and best in music,” along with interviews, guest hosts, and the most recent news in the world of music. As you would expect of a 24/7 service, there’s a ton of programming in Beats 1, which you can read more about here.

If you’re worried that becoming a parent has dulled your edge when it comes to music, Beats 1 will help you feel fresh again. If nothing else, it’ll make your minivan sound cooler than everyone else playing the Frozen radio station on the block.

Bonus for parents:  Beats 1 songs are clean – while lyrics may be racy (as most pop songs are), there aren’t any swears or explicit language.

Revamped Curated Stations 

If you liked the old iTunes radio stations, never fear: they’re still part of Apple Music.

Discovery

When you’re focused on raising a family, it’s easy to let your taste in music stagnate. Before you know it, “old favorites” become “tired oldies.”

TechCrunch writes that “Apple Music is for more casual listeners who need help with discovery” than other services like Spotify. That sounds pretty useful for most parents. There are many music discovery elements in Apple Music:

  • Beats 1 radio
  • Curated playlists for different activities and from music experts, similar to how the Beats app used to work
  • “For You” personalized suggestions based on the music you say you like
  • Suggestions based on your existing iTunes collection
  • New releases and top charts
  • Pandora-style radio stations powered algorithms, based on artists or genres of your selection
  • Tunes posted by Artists in “Connect.”

About Your Existing Music

All your existing music, whether purchased in the iTunes Store, ripped a CD, or downloaded from some other service lives in Apple Music.  You get online access to personal music libraries. Songs you own that can’t be matched with content on Apple servers is uploaded to iCloud and your music library.

Cost

Some of Apple Music’s best features are free:

  • Listen to Apple Music radio stations
  • Listen to Beats 1 radio station
  • Follow artists on Connect
  • View artist feed on Connect

Like most other streaming music services, the premium features of Apple Music costs $9.99 per month. These features include:

  • Enjoy unlimited listening from the Apple Music library
  • Play and save Connect content
  • Like Connect content or radio songs
  • Add Apple Music content to your Library
  • Save for offline listening
  • Get expert music recommendations

Apple offers a Family Membership, which is a good value: for $14.99 up to six people can get unlimited access to Apple Music on their devices.

Everyone starts with a free, three-month trial membership with full access to Apple Music.

How to Get Apple Music

  • Get Apple Music on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch by upgrading to iOS 8.4 (Go to Settings > General > Software Update on your device)
  • Get Apple Music on your Mac by upgrading iTunes to 12.2 in the Mac App Store.

Should You Switch From Spotify, Pandora, Rdio, etc?

Our team at Parent Co is equally divided between Spotify and Rdio users. In fact, we’ve curated  family-friendly playlists of awesome music on Rdio. (I love the simplicity of Rdio – it’s still my fav streaming service.)

None of us are canceling our subscriptions to those services yet. We’ll try Apple Music in earnest for the next 3 months (since it’s free for three months.) It’ll be interesting to see if any of us switch fully over after that time.

For reference, The Verge has posted a comparison of streaming music services.

Learn More

Apple Music is a bit confusing because it has so many features. Here are some guides to make it easier to understand:

Hands on with the fun new Vine Kids app

The new Vine Kids app is fun. Like regular Vine, it features six second looping videos. Unlike regular Vine, all Vine Kids videos are curated for safety and appropriateness for young children.

Vine Kids has its own, kid-friendly look and feel. It features animated characters, silly noises, and a vibrant, easy-to-navigate side swiping interface.

Our kid loves it. Tonight we watched a monkey riding a dog, a baby monkey having a bath in a sink, a pug eating a banana, stop motion singing eggs, and a band of musical cats. We could have kept swiping though these videos for hours, but alas, it was almost bedtime.

Most of these videos are highly creative.  However, some reviewers are knocking Vine Kids videos for being mindless. It is a bit mindless, but doses of amusement between life’s serious and focused tasks is good for the mind. (For grownups, at least, there’s research to back this up.)

I also think it’s great when grownups take a few minutes away from the “job” of parenting to simply enjoy ridiculous videos together with their kids.

Vine Kids is a safe app that you can let kids use without supervision. Videos have audio, which can be tricky in busy settings. Most of the Vine Kids videos I’ve seen are entertaining even with the audio turned off.

Vine Kids is free, but it’s  currently only available for iOS. Read about it on Vine’s company blog and get it here.

For further context, read Common Sense Media’s review here.