The internet might have been used for education in classrooms when you were in school, but chances are mobile devices weren’t.
As your child may have already been telling you at the dinner table, Apple devices are now a significant and exciting part of education in the classroom (though I doubt they would put it like that themselves!).
Teachers are incorporating technology into their lessons to bring them alive and provide a level of interaction that many of us never experienced at school ourselves.
One of these is of course the Apple iPad. And if you have one at home, you can download applications that teachers are using in their classes – and introduce them to your children, or even have the children introduce them to you! Even if you don’t have an iPad, you can usually access them on an iPhone or iPod, too.
Below we have provided 5 great apps teachers rave about – but of course there are plenty out there to explore yourself. Ask your child if they know the names of the games and applications used by their teacher – you should be able to download them and have some fun at home.
1. Math Bingo
A favourite amongst primary teachers, Math Bingo fuses important foundational math skills and rules of the popular game bingo.
Visually entertaining, the game focuses on addition, subtraction, multiplication, division or a mixture of all of them. It also lets you choose a difficulty level, a feature often missing from educational games. Games last 45 seconds, giving the player chance to answer as many problems as possible before the buzzer goes.
Storing 30 player profiles makes it a teacher favourite – each player can also choose their own avatar, and the game keeps track of every game played by each player – with a scoreboard for the top scores. Achievements are unlocked and recognised by awarding ‘Bingo Bugs’ which are remembered for each player. You can play the bugs after the game by using your finger, or even moving the device around.
The app provides enough different modes and settings to keep kids going for a while, and can get very addictive!
The company who makes it, ABCya, have many other great games for kids which you can check out on their website, here. If you like the Bingo format, ABCya also offer the game to assist in subject areas.
2. Squeezables Multiplication
Squeezables focuses on multiplication so it’s limited compared to Math Bingo in terms of content, however it offers fun customisations that are unlocked with achievements – and there’s a storyline to go with it.
The aim of the game is straightforward – to progress, the player faces sets of questions aimed at improving times tables skills. Each completed set helps Whizz, the main character, to save friends from the Maths Monster (don’t worry, he doesn’t look that fearsome!).
Achievements are trophies and stars, and information is saved for each player (4 profiles can be saved in total) so kids can continue the game over several sessions.
As with Math Bingo, the makers of Squeezables offer other great applications – check them all out here. Other versions of the game teach addition, subtraction and fractions among others, so if you like the concept it’s worth taking a look.
3. Operation Math
If your child loves action movies, this app will give them hours of fun while improving their skills with everything numbers based. Operation Math is designed for kids aged roughly 5 to 12, and teaches all basic maths skills through an international adventure as a James Bond-esque secret agent.
There are only 3 player profiles but thankfully the storyline is incredibly rich for an educational game – there are 105 different missions, three difficulty levels, a tonne of unlockable items that can be used in game and a map that tracks player progress over 15 locations around the world (so a geography lesson too!).
If that’s not enough, it even includes professional audio narration and a soundtrack – It really enhances the playing experience, and makes the game perfect to keep kids engaged in situations like a long car trip. Just remember your headphones!
Of all apps on our list, this one we find to be the most fun. Try it on hard and test your own knowledge. You might find it a bit of a challenge!
4. Oh No Fractions
This is a simple app in terms of function and scope. There are no player profiles or storylines – but that’s what makes it great (that, and it’s free).
The aim of the game is to answer if the fraction on the left of the screen is greater or less than the one on the right. The program won’t take your word for it, though – it then asks you to prove it. There is also the option to check if the fractions can be reduced.
Fractions can take considerable time to get the hang of, which is why teachers enjoy the interactivity and visual nature of this application. The problems to solve are quite basic, but it’s a great one to whip out when your child wants to use your device to play a game.
The company that makes it, Curious Hat, also create some unique applications that explore creativity – check them out on their website.
Alright, so this one doesn’t deal so much with numbers directly. But it’s still quite popular with digitally-minded teachers and based on a concept that many of us can remember using ourselves when we were young.
Geoboard is essentially an interactive peg-board used with colour rubber bands to create shapes and learn about geometry, distance, area, fractions and anything else you could think to use it for.
While the idea is simple, there’s obviously a lot you can do – the app allows different colour bands and fill areas with the colour of your choice when an area has been closed up.
It can even be used for the old two player game some of you may remember – where each person takes it in turns to add a new straight band between two adjacent posts, the goal being to be the one to close a box off with your turn first, allowing you to fill the box with your colour. The winner is the one who has the most boxes filled.
No longer will rubber bands be flying all over the room and speeches be needed about safety. When you want to start again, just reset the board!
If you would like more information about what teachers are using in the classroom, contact your child’s school. Many primary schools these days have digital specialists whose job it is to keep up with the latest technology and assist teachers to incorporate it into their lessons – they will usually have some great ideas on what you can download to improve your child’s familiarity with their digital experience in the classroom.
6. Maths with Springbird
You didn’t think we would leave out our own app, did you? We’ve been getting some great feedback from teachers as well as parents so why not!
If you’ve subscribed to our mailing list and you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve already seen Maths with Springbird yourself. But in case you haven’t, or you want to email to a friend about it, here’s the lowdown.
All of Springbird’s friends have been locked up in cages, and it’s up to the player to help free them – but it’s not going to be easy! To get through the game, Players must answer math questions starting with addition and progressing to multiplication and beyond.
As questions are answered correctly, Springbird’s crazy looking bird friends are freed from their cages and a variety of fun items are unlocked which can be used in-game – so, there are plenty of reasons to answer questions and progress as far as possible. Springbird was made with kids aged 4-8 in mind – there are 4 player profiles available and an Expert difficulty to try once they’ve mastered the normal one.
We think it’s pretty cool – but don’t take our word for it. If you haven’t already, try it out and let us know what you think.
There’s so many fantastic apps in the market at the moment that are helping kids around the world improve their maths skills and have fun while doing it – tell us in the comments below what apps your kids can’t get enough of!
As a busy parent, it’s sometimes easy to forget that how you spend time with your child is just as important as the length of time you spend with them.
With the information age accelerating, it’s also becoming easier to decide what to do with them when the time comes – but this can often end up with their eyes (and yours!) glued to the family TV!
Planning in advance can take weight off your shoulders while ensuring you’re keeping your child active and learning. It’s also important to repeat the same activity at scheduled times or frequent intervals – this gives your child something to look forward to and the opportunity to help you plan – making your life even easier.
Children learn more during ages 3-5 than during any other 2 year period for the rest of their lives, and are highly sensitive to new information and experiences in the years directly after. It’s therefore crucial that you encourage learning where ever you can.
To give you a kick start, we’ve listed 4 activity types below that can give you some ideas – schedule 1 of each in every week or fortnight, and take a few minutes to decide what to do. You will appreciate it later!
1. Read to them after they can read themselves
Most parents only read to their children until they can do it themselves – but it is highly beneficial that you continue long after they have mastered the art of reading.
Learning to read themselves improves skills like comprehension, reading, language and speech. Reading to your child also allows them to:
- Associate relaxation with reading, temporarily taking away the added stress of learning as they go
- Experience books above their reading level, giving them something to aspire to
- Focus more deeply on their imagination
- Increase comprehension skills by contemplating storylines and personality traits of characters in stories
Finally, it helps your child understand or observe situations they may be facing in different ways – Reading stories that emphasise the importance of maths or science, going to school and dealing with bullies are some examples.
The digital age has brought with it a vibrant new platform for storytelling – break up the books by downloading some interactive stories and storytelling applications for your mobile device.
Search for some yourself, or try some of the suggestions from the AppAlp.com, who have a great list of iPad books for kids.
2. Have scheduled family outings
We live in a busy time when regular family activities can be tough to fit in. However difficult, it’s always important to block off some space in your calendar to take your kids out of the house and do something new and exciting (even if it’s just for them!)
Stepping out of the house to explore new environments provides opportunities to amplify your child’s awareness of the present moment, encouraging them to stay alert and inquisitive, while taking responsibility for their own learning interests.
Check out your local council website and local online guides to keep track of what’s happening in your area.
If you’re stuck for ideas, go back to basics. Adventures to the local park, museum, art gallery or a drive to a nearby town can be cost-effective and educational.
If you’re feeling creative, Kelly over at Be a Fun Mum came up with 100 great activities for kids during the school holidays to cater for everyone’s interests – check it out here!
3. Playing group games
One of the most enjoyable ways for children to have fun while they learn is by playing games – board games, puzzles, word games, card games, the lot! A simple way to extend their learning is to play regularly with groups, or even join a local community that organises fun and educational extra-curricular activities.
The valuable part that games play in the development of young children is widely known. Among others, it strongly improves their logic and prediction, reading, creativity and mathematics skills. Group work brings 4 more useful skills::
- Communication – groups develop people skills, including writing, speaking and reading out loud. In cases where someone is new to the game, letting your child explain the rules and assisting them in helping the new person in their first game is great for their confidence.
- Cooperation – Teamwork sometimes does not come naturally, and working in groups helps promote the right qualities in an effective team player.
- Winning and losing – A talent I often hear early primary teachers recommend that parents cultivate is a gracious attitude when losing a game. Shaking hands and discussing how well each team played is a good way to do this. It’s also important to be a good winner – overall, respect for the other players is a good value to uphold.
- Abstract thinking – This usually evolves during ages 4-7. In group games predicting other player’s moves are essential to success, as is how your team mates are thinking. Discussing games after they’ve been played greatly improve development in this area.
In addition to these, regular sessions (for example weekly) allow you to play with the same games or puzzles multiple times, reinforcing their new skills – which is why our first educational app, Springbird, has been so useful for children to develop their maths abilities effectively.
A great idea which you can use when facilitating a game with both just children and a mix with adults is to encourage everyone to use their logic out loud. You may have seen this used in popular shows like ‘Jeopardy’ and ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’. Using this technique slows the game down to encourage awareness while improving critical thinking.
Parents often have a good arsenal when it comes time to suggest group games, but if you need some fresh ideas, Activity Village have some great ideas (and they’re fun ones too!). Find them here.
4. Teaching Independence
It can take an incredible act of patience to teach your child how to tie their shoe from an early age, but the truth is, these are the one percenters that really boost their confidence and ability to make informed decisions on their own.
As well as the usual shoe laces, promoting independence with daily processes like choosing clothes and getting dressed, putting things back in a basket after use, packing their own school bags and even basic cooking (not the family roast just yet – work them up to that!) will be worth it in the long run.
Kids learn about ‘recipes’ and ‘methods’ in their early years at school, so this is a great way to show them how useful they are and they can use their creativity to come up with more efficient ways to do things (or another practical method that involves some fun).
Here are four simple strategies that busy parents can use to teach and increase empathy in the home.
- Be an example. When we treat our child with empathy, we provide not only emotional nourishment but also a model of kindness that our child can imitate.
- Point out real-life examples of empathy in the news, in history, in your neighborhood or community. Help them to understand how others must be feeling and how they would feel if it were them in a given situation.
- Help your child understand and describe his or her own feelings. Kids need to be able to label their own feelings in order to understand how others feel. When a child has a strong feeling, we can lay a foundation for empathy by helping our child put the feeling into words.
- Watch for opportunities to practice empathy. Notice if someone needs help, or is feeling sick and help children to notice and find ways to show empathy. Involve your child in acts of kindness. Cooking meals as a family to take to a homeless shelter or making get-well cards for sick friends can help make empathy a habit.
Courage is not only being able to face your fears and try new things, it is also being able to stand up for yourself and others. Courage means doing what is right regardless of what others will think. Here are a few thoughts I have on teaching our children to have courage.
Try new things together. As my children all flew past me on the ski hill this year and I snowplowed my way down the hill, I had to chuckle. I am definitely out of my comfort zone and feeling a lot of fear, but I want to show my kids that even though I am scared I can put myself out there and have courage to try. Your kids will see you moving through your fears and will follow your example.
Allow them to work through difficult situations. Our initial reaction when our children are struggling is often to rush in and help. We do need to show love and encouragement but giving children the opportunity to work through things on their own is a great way to build courage and a confidence in their ability to overcome things independently. When they can choose to do the right thing on their own, without the nagging of parents they will find the inner compass to guide them when we are not around.
Discuss and share. Share examples of people showing courage in the midst of great struggle or hardship. You can use YouTube or other media to show the stories of individuals in history. Talk about your own experiences and share other family member’s courageous moments. Role-play difficult situations they may come across at school and in their day-to-day life. This will help them have some tools when the time comes for them to speak out or stand up.
Raising our children to be confident, caring and happy is a common goal among parents. Helping our children understand their strengths and develop a strong sense of worth while striving to do and be their best is very important. Here are five ways you can support and build confidence and self-worth in your children.
Focus on the positive. Look for opportunities and take time to comment on the things they are doing well. When your children are struggling, focus on the BEHAVIOR not on the CHILD. You may not like their behavior, but you still love the child.
Help them learn from mistakes. Discuss what happened and have them make a plan of what they could say or do differently if the situation arises again. Show that you make mistakes too and role model how to deal with them.
Give opportunities to develop independence. Help them to develop their communication skills to show you their way will work. Allow your child to discover consequences for themselves. If they don’t practice their piano, the teacher will be sure to notice and they won’t be able to move onto another song. Give them choices and responsibilities.
Acknowledge effort. Each child has unique strengths and abilities; encourage them to do their best. When something doesn’t work, it’s not a failure. Some of the world’s greatest inventors failed many, many times.
Spend time with your child. Take an interest in what your child is doing. Take time to learn new things together. Time spent with a parent is what will be remembered far more than material things. Attend as many of your child’s activities as possible. Mom and Dad on the sidelines, or in the front row will be remembered for life.
Encouraging kids to eat a variety of vegetables and fruit can sometimes be a struggle, but a colourful rainbow of healthy foods is an important part of your child’s diet.
Both vegies and fruit contain essential nutrients that are vital for children’s health, growth and development. However, with the convenience of pre-packaged supermarket snacks, it’s easy for parents to favour these types of foods.
Research has shown that 70 per cent of food preferences are established at an early age, so it’s essential that parents and educators lay the foundation for a good relationship with food early to ensure a diverse diet later in life.
To address this issue and help improve the eating habits of Aussie toddlers, Australian avocado growers funded the development of the ‘Eating My Colourful Vegies and Fruit’ early childhood learning resource kit in 2010.
Myself and fellow childhood nutrition education expert Nadine McCrea created this resource to give educators the necessary tools to engage kids and help them develop healthy, varied food preferences in fun and positive ways. We knew that by getting at children in early learning settings, we could also support parents with encouraging kids to eat the rainbow of vegies and fruit at home.
The resource kit contains teacher information, resources and ideas for development-focused activities that address key curriculum markers such as development of language, science and food literacy skills. A free tray of delicious, healthy avocados is also provided and, as avocados are a rich source of dietary fibre, low in salt and sugar, mild flavoured, creamy and fun to work with, they are perfect for kids to experiment with.
Using the resource as a guide, educators encourage three to five year olds to explore the variety and origins of vegies and fruit and practice life skills as beginner cooks. They also build and expand their social abilities by sharing their snack creations with others.
The ‘Eating My Colourful Vegies and Fruit’ resource kit has proved highly successful with early childhood centres nationwide clamouring to be involved. Since launching in 2010, it has touched the lives of over 60,000 pre-schoolers and this year is set to be even bigger, with 600 new preschools already registered and the programme is being piloted in 10 primary schools.
This innovative program is really working to help Aussie kids get a healthier start to life, but of course, parents have a huge role to play – we need to ditch the processed snacks and instead, whip up nutritious options with fresh produce, involving kids in the cooking process along the way. This is a great way to make those positive connections with healthy vegies and fruit.
For more information or to get involved, visit www.avocado.org.au/earlylearning or email email@example.com
[infobox type="info"]‘Eating My Colourful Vegies and Fruit’ has been created for early childhood educators to assist with guiding and encouraging children’s food preferences in fun and positive ways. The resource includes lots of experiences with vegetables and fruit which help educators and children to understand that everyone’s food preferences change and that it is easy to learn to like new foods.
Through sensory food exploration, investigation and preparation, the ‘Eating My Colourful Vegies and Fruit’ resource also supports children’s language development, food literacy, science discoveries and social skills.
‘Eating My Colourful Vegies and Fruit’ is a multi-faceted educational program that includes practical support for participating early childhood centres. There is a comprehensive educator’s booklet supported by colourful and engaging resources including posters, colour swatches, food finder, songs and child-friendly recipes.[/infobox]