October 27, 2020
Not all educational apps are created equal. Here’s how to find the best for your kid.
Remote online learning is the best option for many parents right now, but it has its hiccups: the audio issues and distractions at home (and everyone else’s homes) can get in the way of real learning. If you’re concerned that your kid may fall behind, especially on critical STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) subjects, there are apps out there that can help—and they could be a better alternative to passive screen time focused solely on entertainment. Ask yourself these quick questions when searching for STEM/STEAM apps for school age kids.
Is it interactive? The key word here is interactive. Kids learn by doing, and the best apps will enable them to create, make choices about their next steps, and reinforce learning.
Is it age-appropriate? This is a given but make sure to review the age level that the app is intended for (the app store should tell you before downloading). Sticking to age-appropriate apps will ensure your kids are challenged enough to stay engaged without the content going over their heads, which could discourage them from taking on more difficult subjects.
Do I enjoy it too? Consider what you enjoy doing when seeking out the best apps for your kids. Chances are that if you find an app fun and engaging, they will too.
Can we do it together? You might want to choose an app where you can collaborate on a project, like making a piece of art, creating some new music, or designing a math movie. Getting involved with your kids on apps will help them make the most of them, including asking questions and feeling positive about your screen time approval.
Finally, look for a variety of apps so that your kid can choose what to use during their allowed screen time. Here is a list of STEM/STEAM apps to try out for online learning at all ages. Circle can help you curate your kid’s screen time so you can balance educational and entertaining apps. Learn how.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND ENGINEERING APPS
Bridge Constructor: Kids put their physics knowledge to work by building bridges in a variety of environments. Then, they put them to the test! Ages 4+ (iOS and Android, Free)
Cargo-Bot: In this game, kids teach a robot how to move crates. The 36 levels of increasing difficulty force kids to be clever and creative to find the best solutions. Ages 4+ (iOS, Free)
Codespark: Kids can learn how to code with more than 1,000 activities in this online academy. Ages 5-9 (iOS, $10/month)
Scratch Jr: Kids program their own interactive stories and games by snapping together graphical programming blocks. In the process, kids learn to solve problems, design projects, and express themselves creatively on the computer. Ages 5-7 (iOS and Android, Free)
SimplePhysics: Kids design structures from tree houses to Ferris wheels with this cool engineering app that’s all about practicality and application. The app keeps track of the cost of actually building their structure, challenging kids to design the most cost-effective solutions. Ages 9+ (iOS, $1)
Rube’s Lab: Kids can save Rube’s Lab from certain destruction by solving the engineering puzzles in this game. Time and tools are limited, so they need to think fast! Ages 4+ (iOS and Android, Free with in-app purchases available)
The Robot Factory: This Tinybop app lets kids design a virtual robot, then put it to the test to see if it can walk, run, fly, talk, and more. Ages 4+ (iOS/$3)
World of Goo: This physics puzzle game has a unique concept and engaging graphics. Kids solve puzzles by building with giant gobs of talking goo. It’s a ton of fun, and terrific for developing problem-solving skills. Ages 4+ (iOS and Android, $5)
ART AND DESIGN APPS
Autodesk Sketchbook: This interactive digital sketchbook is a way for aspiring artists to practice digital drawing and painting with grids and rulers. Ages 4+ (iOS and Android, Free)
BandLab: Aspiring musicians can create, collaborate, and sync across platforms in this social-driven music creation app. Age 12+ (iOS and Android, Free)
Blueprint 3D: Kids can improve their spatial awareness as they rotate the puzzle until the blueprint image suddenly becomes clear. Ages 4+ (iOS/$1, Android/Free with in-app purchases)
CreativeLive: Kids can get inspired and learn from 1,500+ curated classes in photography, design, music and more. Ages 4+ (iOS, Free)
Stop Motion Studio: Using stop motion technology, kids can create surprisingly sophisticated and polished movies from their own stop motion creations. Ages 4+ (iOS/Android, $5)
Bugs and Numbers: Early learners will enjoy these non-traditional math games as they learn all about numbers with the help of some very clever bugs. Ages 4+ (iOS and Android, $3)
Geogebra: Kids can download free online math tools for graphing, geometry, 3D, and more. Ages 4+ (iOS and Google Play, Free)
King of Math 2: Kids will enjoy practicing math skills in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Ages 10+ (iOS and Android $3)
King of Math Junior: This app is for kids who are just learning basic math skills. They’ll be introduced to concepts from counting and addition to shapes and fractions. Ages 5-9 (iOS and Android $3)