We’ve been here before and here we are again: unless you're living in a digital vacuum, it’s highly likely that the use of screens is something you ponder over every now and then, possibly with increasing concern as your child gets older.
The debate goes on, and on, and on … the pendulum swinging from the importance of being ready for the new digital age and able to play a full part in it, to the dangers of excessive screen time with its hypnotic hold on the mind, its dampening effects on the spirit and its negative impact on sleep. If you weren’t worried about this before, you might be now!
Encouraged by my son who has been testing apps this week, I bring you Jumping Yak-authorised-goodness for your children’s portable devices. These screen-vitamins for school children are surely what the inventors of the tablet would have pitched to parents in their product launch.
Embrace the use of handheld devices in your home by encouraging good screen time with apps that will not only help your child to learn but more importantly will allow them to have fun while they do so. And the less addictive the app, the better.
Without further ado, let’s enter the alternative screen time arena.
QUICK MATHS - (Maths)
I love this maths game for two reasons: it’s definitely related to what they learn at school, and you write the answers on the screen with your fingertips! No typing or selecting from multiple choice answers. Just work out the answer and be delighted that it can ‘recognise’ the handwriting of even the scribbliest of writers.
SENTENCE MASTER - (English)
This is a fun way to practice English grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure. Order the words to form correct sentences with differing levels of difficulty and a section on well known proverbs and sayings. Possibly more fun than written grammar exercises? I think so. Do it with your child to see where their weaknesses lie.
FLOW FREE and ROLLERSPLAT - (both Logic Games)
I found it hard to chose between these two so, two for the price of one! In Flow Free, players connect matching coloured dots on a grid. The challenges are simple to start with but they gradually increase in difficulty so that even an expert’s mind will boggle as increasingly complex thinking skills are required. Rollersplat requires you to send a paintball through a maze. Cover all the white … and you have completed the level.
PICTOWORD - (Verbal Reasoning)
Great for younger children. Two pictures combine to give the clue for a new word, for example a foot and a ball, give football! You choose the letters to make up your answer from a bank of letters and earn coins for correct answers. If you like rebuses, you might like this app. Answers online if you get stuck.
PERIODIC TABLE - (Science)
This is hands-down my favourite learning app. Designed by the Royal Society of Chemistry, you can learn so much here. Not only is there a breakdown of detailed information on each element in the periodic table, there is also an interactive slider that shows you how the elements change state with temperature and how the table grew over the years as new elements were discovered. Trust me on this one: load it and learn!!
CHEMTRIX - (Science)
Learn about how atoms bond and about the properties of molecules. Your goal is to build molecules that get progressively more complex as you move through the levels. A free-fall mode allows you to play a Tetris style game where you must build molecules with whatever drops into the game board until you run out of space. Great for the little chemists out there!
SPORCLE - (For the Family)
Can you name all the African countries? How good is your English history? Fancy a go at continuous maths? If your family love quizzes, this one’s for you. It’s best played around a computer with one person typing the answers in, but you can play alone on a phone or on a tablet. The quiz categories are never-ending; if you love general knowledge and trivia, this one’s for you.
All of these apps have a rating so make the right decision for your child. Look at any app before you load it onto your child’s phone or tablet and be aware that age restrictions are usually there because of advertising, shared personal information etc., and also because content may include simulated gambling, violence, inappropriate content and so on. You have been warned!
If you are too busy to read this blog but have managed to skim down to here, PLEASE READ THESE KEY POINTS:
- Screens are the future, whether we like it or not! Use them wisely.
- Be aware of how they affect the dynamic in your family.
- Try to resist the urge to use devices for ‘babysitting’.
- Set screen time limits for your children.
- Practice what you preach - set screen time limits for yourself!
- Ensure devices don’t replace physical activity and real-life human interaction.
- Ensure there are no devices in your children’s bedrooms at night.
Devices are addictive by design - this is no secret - and if we don’t pay attention to this we won’t realise what else we might be missing: fresh air, real human interaction and the ability to sit and think with nothing else but our eyes and our thoughts to distract us. My main message this week: DON'T shy away completely from screens ... but because we are in an era of adjustment and still getting to grips with the technology, it makes sense to approach with a little caution.
If you missed the last blog on guilt-free screentime, you can read it here.
Next week, the Gems of Wisdom include some fiction for your children to read this Easter.
Until then, dear readers, happy app-ing!