Five Treats for the Brain to Stock Your Techie Child’s Christmas

Kids love to unwrap presents and discover the joy of blank screens…a joy that parents don’t exactly share. But there are ways to give games and social media some competition for attention on those new Christmas phones and tablet computers! We’ve put together a list of five ways you—or Santa—can arm your child’s phone to connect them with learning and enrichment opportunities. And plenty of them are engaging enough to get adults off their Facebook apps as well!

1. Learn how to code with Kodable. This free web browser-based learning tool teaches kids as young as kindergarten the basic concepts behind computer programming. Lessons progress through multiple grade levels, with the endpoint of writing real JavaScript code by 5th grade!

For kids, the focus is short-term: fun games and self-guided puzzles. For parents, there’s a long-term comfort in knowing your progeny will have a steadier grasp on this foundational skill.

2. Turn piano practice into a game with Magic Piano. This no-cost mix of game and music-maker is popular the world over, with a community of users who record and proudly share their own charming off-tempo versions of well-known songs. Kids will be entranced with the hypnotic gameplay, their fingers following dancing beams of light…and parents will love explaining that catchy tune they’ve created is none other than “Hey Jude,” a song older than Mom herself!

3. Engage screen-free entertainment and learning with the Brains On! audio program for kids. Parents love the convenience of on-demand programs, and now there are some great selections for kids, too. Brains On! is a free weekly exploration of the different stuff that makes our universe fascinating, from Mars to narwhals to animal farts… Each episode has a child host, funny sketches and songs, and interviews with real working scientists. Hint: It’s an especially great conversation-starter to liven up road trips and those “I’m bored” moments.   Listen here: /whats-smaller-than-an-electro n/

brains on

4. Knowing another language is like having a superpower, and Duolingo is an app that can connect kids with scores of other languages. The gaming interface makes it addictive…but who can find fault with a skill as beneficial as fluency in Spanish…or Japanese…or Esperanto? Just providing an opportunity to explain Esperanto to your child is reason enough to engage with this mega-popular language learning app leader.

5. Get weather wise with Weather by Tinybop. As parents, we often have to explain “You must wear your coat,” but too few of us can elaborate on the real factors and processes that cause cold fronts, drizzle, fog, etc. This artful app is as gorgeous as a picture book, and teaches children about weather phenomena as they do their own experiments, mixing wind, air pressure, temperature, and precipitation. There’s no guarantee they’ll come out of it believing in dressing for the weather, but they’ll absolutely know more about clouds!

Lindsey Jenn

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