A Parenting Blog

Technology as a tool for learning is a major tool that we use with both our children. I have only recently introduced my 2 year old, Brendan, to the iPad (of course, under very close supervision). My 4.5 year old, Kieran, has been using my iPhone since she was 2 and quickly took to the iPad when we purchased one last year. I enjoy seeking out various educational apps to keep their minds stimulated, but there are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of apps geared towards this age group, so narrowing it down to what I’m willing to spend the money is a challenge.

We already have SchoolZone books in our house in our rotation of “learning activities” that we do with our daughter and I love them. I was interested in checking out their line of iPad-based learning activities for both Brendan and Kieran. This is the first educational app I’ve checked out for Brendan, while Kieran is definitely an “old pro”.

SchoolZone Interactive sent us three apps for review: Math Grade 1, Spelling 1-2 and Pencil-Pal Preschool. I’ve broken down each one in this article and have a video so you can check it out for yourself, too! All the games do a great job of providing positive reinforcement, as well as different methods of encouraging the child to “try again” when an answer is incorrect.

Review: Preschool Pencil Pa
Ages: 2 and up
Available in the App store for: $4.99

Brendan turned 2 recently and I’ve been using Pencil Pal as is primary iPad entertainment. While he gets a bit impatient at times with the home screen, he definitely enjoys the video. I love that Kieran will sit beside him and tell him about what he’s looking at on the screen, too. For example, the colors and the animals in the videos presented. An interactive barn serves as the home screen and touching on any door or window opens a new activity. Some of the activities include an “Theatre” (with several videos), a painting & drawing activity, and a letter and color recognition game. Pressing on additional objects always produces a response, whether it be a joke-telling horse or various sound effects. Overall, this app does a great job of introducing concepts of number, letter and color recognition, while fostering creativity through “painting” and free-drawing—essential preschool concepts.

Review: Spelling 1-2
Ages: 4-8 (Grades 1st-2nd)
Available in the App store for: $4.99

This app is best for kids that are already able to read and to help build their vocabulary and spelling words. Kieran does a great job with phonetic spelling, so I thought this app would be perfect to reinforce concepts she already knows and also expand her repertoire of sight words. This app is set in an underwater world, full of bright colors and interactive sea creatures.

In each game, a list of words is presented to study, then a game is played to determine the correctly spelled word. Two to four words are generally presented with “bubbles” under the sea. Only one word is spelled correctly and your child must select the correctly spelled word. A timer is also running, so each answer must be selected before it runs out. It’s not a ticking sort of timer, but rather the bubbles gradually spread to each side and if they reach the far margins, time is up. With each correctly identified word, your child will receive a star or a fish, and with enough collected, will be rewarded a virtual prize.
There is also a fun game set in a sunken ship where is word is first spelled and sounded out, then goes away and the child is asked to spell it out on their own immediately thereafter. Great spelling practice!

A little advanced for Kieran at this point, there is also a word scramble game where your child must rearrange the presented letters to form a word. I like that this is a game that will grow with Kieran’s advancing spelling skills. Another great feature for school-aged children is the ability to add your own list of words, which will show up in the games!

I love that a prize in any form is still a prize! Kids love virtual prizes and being able to build their own world or treasure chest with their collected “prizes”. Prizes are kept in the virtual lagoon and can be rearranged to create a custom space.

Review: Math 1 On Track
Ages: 4 and up
Available in the App store for: $4.99

Kieran turns 5 in a couple of months, but has expressed an interest in math basics for quite some time. I knew that the Math-Grade 1 app would be appropriate for her at this point, reinforcing concepts we’ve already introduced to her such as  addition and subtraction, as well as introducing new math vocabulary such as correct number sequencing (i.e. fill in the missing number).

This app is a great buy! It works on many facets of math. It works on math basics in several ways. For example, addition may be instructed as 2 pictographs added together (where Kieran can just count everything to reach the sum), but in a separate activity there are no pictures and she is asked “Add 5 to each number  and type in the answer”, requiring her to work the solution out in her mind. Subtraction is worked on in different scenarios as well. I also love that it reinforces counting in various ways, such as counting by 1’s or by 10’s.

At this stage, Kieran will learn best from supervision while using this app. If a concept is too difficult or is producing too much frustration, I like that you can easily skip to the next activity. There are so many different activities within this app that it holds her attention for an extended length of time. It definitely makes learning math concepts fun!

Mom Blogger: School Zone Apps a Hit!