One of the most popular topics I get asked about in the media and when talking technology with people is “screen time”. There’s a perception that kids today get far too much “screen time” but the question we’re not asking to challenge that is – what are they doing during screen time? It’s time to redefine that simple concept of “screen time” especially when thinking about the youngest of them all – our pre-schoolers.
Ok so here’s the problem. When researchers and academics first started talking about “screen time” they were talking about TV. Remember a few years ago – there were no iPads, TV was the thing kids sat in front of when Mum or Dad needed to clean up or make dinner and it was raining outside.
Today, it’s a very, very different world. So if your kids are asking for screen time, if the kids want to play the iPod or iPad – perhaps you should ask them what they want to play?
And likewise, if you want to judge a parent because their child is sitting somewhere using an iPad – perhaps don’t jump to the conclusion that they’re watching TV or playing Minecraft. It could be, in fact it’s likely they are learning.
Frankly, Minecraft is educational in my view – the skills they learn in that game are greater than anything I was doing before I was ten. But, if you want to get right into the educational apps here’s a huge range to really tick that box – and take the guilt away from screen time, it could just be helping your child learn and prepare them for school!
I’ve downloaded a screen full of apps that are guilt-free educational screen time for pre-schoolers and their older siblings too.
We’ve all done it – counting with our fingers? And it’s a great way for kids to learn to count and answer mathematics questions. Little digits doesn’t require the kids to know how to type or know how to write the number. Instead, they put their fingers on the screen.
In the basic game, just put two fingers on the screen and the number two appears. Do addition or subtraction and answer the questions by putting the correct number of fingers on the screen.
Amazing and simple use of Apple’s multi-touch screen technology.
APP STORE: Little Digits – Finger Counting
This one’s fun. The letters appear, and you use your finger to manipulate them – they evolve as you move them around and you learn words that start with that letter. Easy! and fun! 🙂
APP STORE: Metamorphabet
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy
You’ve got this book right? Classic. This digital version comes to live with narration by David Tennant (warning, his thick accent could confuse the kids) – or you can record your own narration.
It’s well made, easy to use and allows kids to tap words to read it themselves too.
APP STORE: Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy
Tiny Robot / Tiny Owl / Tiny Fairy / Tiny Alien Maker
Not only are these fun – they are Aussie. An Aussie mum on Sydney’s Northern Beaches had the idea to let her kids build crazy characters. Each app is a different thing clearly, building robots, owls, fairies or aliens and rockets.
Each steps you through the process, every creature or creation is unique and can be saved in a gallery. They can also be exported so you can print them and make anything from birthday cards, invitations or just fun print outs of your creation!
Quick Maths Jr
Aussie company Shiny Things do so many educational apps and they do them at a really high standard too.
Quick Maths Jr is a great pre-schooler starter to maths and patterns, easy to play the kids will want to get involved
APP STORE: Quick Maths Jr
Like their Maths games, Quick Clocks pushes problem solving and learning. You can set the clock based on the time given, or choose the correct clock from a time given. You’ll get faster and faster and the kids are learning as they go. Simple concept, great one to introduce early.
APP STORE: Quick Clocks – Telling Time
Why not make a virtual cake. Add eggs, butter, sift flour, stir, bake, decorate.
Easy right? Well, you didn’t realise that as you went through you were learning all the time, including counting!
Simple – fun.
APP STORE: Shiny Bakery
Loads of options in this Aussie app, for example, a monkey balancing two buckets. You’ve got to work out what items will balance it out – thats’ a whole other level of thinking that I’d never thought to explain to the kids.
Easy once you get the nack, but the kids will love the challenge and the fun gameplay.
APP STORE: Shiny Circus
Ok, stand by to get addicted. Oh, and don’t forget to give the kids a go. They’ll learn curiosity, planning, teamwork and goodness knows what else when they set their six Toca Builders to a task.
Each builder does a different thing and together you can build some pretty amazing things.
Honestly, good luck getting the iPad back – it’s awesome.
APP STORE: Toca Builders
Toca Hair Salon 2
A bit more fun but stimulating the imagination and creativity is exactly what pre-schoolers need.
Concept is simple, let’s see what your kids would do if they had control at the hairdresser:)
APP STORE: Toca Hair Salon 2
ABC Play Time
A free app thanks to your taxes funding the ABC and you won’t have any complaints here – Play time is a huge bunch of basic games that use iPad physics to allow you to do things like bounce ABC characters on a trampoline, throw balls through a hoop, dress Humpty Dumpty and more.
There’s simple voice overs to help the kids if they don’t know what to do and there’s nothing but fun and learning in this one.
APP STORE: Play School Play Time
ABC Art Maker
Just like Play Time this guy feels a whole lot like you’re actually part of the Play School team – making simple scrapbook artworks with ABC characters and props.
But the coolest part – you can record video animations too. Hit record, then move the characters around and talk / narrate your show and it all records as a video on your iPad!
APP STORE: Play School Art Maker
ABC KIDS iView
They’ve done lots of learning, so now let them enjoy some time watching ABC TV shows. KIDS iView is all the kids content from the full iView, without the risk of the kids being bored to tears accidentally watching Q and A or Nightline repeats.
There are parental controls to set timers, and also restrict some programs. Easy!
APP STORE: ABC Kids iview
Ok so this is heavy stuff, but man o man, worth getting into. It’s actually all about coding – learning command and control functions.
Probably for the older ones, but at its heart the littles ones could combine their Sphero robot with the “Draw & Drive” app to learn how to create functions and control.
Go a level up and you can get right into coding with the lightning lab.
- BB-8™ App Enabled Droid Powered by Sphero
- Sphero Draw N’ Drive
- SPRK Lightning Lab – Programming for Sphero Robots
I wish I had this 8 years ago. It’s awesome.
Like some sort of visual trickery, the Osmo system uses real items like letters and numbers and shapes to interact with the game.
Each “kit” is different, Osmo Words is a set of physical letters – think scrabble letters, that you use to answer questions or quizzes within the game.
Likewise, Numbers is a set of tiles with numbers on them – for mathematics problems.
And then there’s the Tangram set – shapes which you use to solve puzzles on-screen.
It works by putting your iPad into the specially designed base. Then on top of the iPad you place a red cover over the camera – what it actually is, is a mirror that points the camera down onto the workspace in front of the iPad. This is where you place the tiles or shapes to solve the problems.
Honestly, so very cool. My 4-year-old has been having a ball with the shapes, solving the puzzles and progressing through the rounds. He’s loving it.
Then there’s 5-year-old Victoria, having completed half of her Kindy year – she’s getting pretty good with words and numbers, so these were great challenges for her.
But, for 9-year-old Jackson, they’re a bit lame. Don’t worry – there’s Osmo Coding for that. A coding kit that teaches the basics of computer programming – the future staple of all jobs right?
BUY DEVICE: Apple Store
Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.
He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.
Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.