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Most parents aren’t looking to add more screen time to their kids’ schedule. But let’s face it: At the moment, devices are a necessary evil for many of us who are trying to work and keep our children entertained. And if you’re going to hand your kid a screen, why not preload it with tried-and-tested educational apps and websites—suggested by other parents?
The burden on parents is only growing. Recently released guidance from the U.S. Labor Department dictates that families that have opted to keep their kids at home, when given the choice by their school, will likely no longer be eligible for emergency paid leave for childcare as outlined in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. To be sure, many parents don’t have a choice and must send their children to school, despite very real fears of the virus.
Apps won’t solve the crisis. But they can provide some temporary relief for parents and an entertaining outlet for kids when used sparingly. Sound like something you want—make that need? Read on for recommendations from a handful of working parents around the country.
Executive director of the Susan Crown Exchange, a non-profit in Chicago that aims to arm youth with digital skills
First up on her list is Wide Open School by Common Sense Media. Rummel says it provides free distance learning activities like multiplication quizzes and poetry tutorials for preschool through grade 12. Student activities are segmented by grade, and there is also a family resource center that includes tips on managing Internet use (and anxiety). “Another great resource is DoSomething.org’s Coronavirus resources and action campaigns, which provides ideas and resources for volunteering opportunities,” says Rummel.
CEO at Bandwagon, a fan identity and data and analytics startup in Austin
Kiddopia, which is optimized for preschool-aged kids, features fun lessons on ABCs and numbers but also includes skills-based things like baking a cake or making a pizza. Hughes also suggests trying Tankee instead of YouTube, because the former features fully vetted videos only. “Led by a Black founder and based here in Austin, [it] is a truly family-friendly platform,” says Hughes, whose four-year-old likes to watch other kids play video games on the site.
Financial advisor at Capital Choice, in Buford, GA.
Duolingo, the popular app for learning languages, has plenty to offer children. “My kids do 20 to 30 minutes a day on the app, and it’s really helping to keep up with their Spanish,” says Proano. She also recommends Muzzy, which she describes as a “really old app that has little cartoons in Korean, Spanish and French.”
Cofounder of Istet Games, in Palo Alto, Calif.
He recommends CodeCombat, a platform for learning computer science skills. “The kids have enjoyed it and it’s teaching them about problem solving and perseverance as well as how to code,” says Perkins. “Even if they don’t end up with software jobs, I think the lessons learned here are well worth the time they invest into it. The best part is they don’t see it as an educational experience—to them it’s just a fun game to play.”
Owner of Sebastian Designs, in Boone, N.C.
Sebastian is a fan of GoNoodle, which offers games that aim to get kids moving. “We were in Spain for the year when COVID hit, and ended up having to get evacuated to get home,” she says. “While we were still there, we couldn’t leave our house—there were police officers patrolling the streets. Physical activity was the No. 1 thing for us.” (An added bonus: GoNoodle offers activities in Spanish too.) “Also, because of all of the anxiety at the time, we used a mindfulness and meditation app called Smiling Mind,” says Sebastian. “It’s done by a very soothing Australian narrator and we used it a lot at bedtime.
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