Learning apps to stop summer slide: grades K to 2

Yes, kids should be out playing. But when you're waiting in line at the grocery store and your child's begging for your smartphone, try one of these apps to keep your child's brain sizzling.

By Sonali Morris

Dr. Seuss omBooks

$3.99
For iPhone and iPad.

Want to ratchet up your child’s reading? Dr. Seuss never disappoints. These ebooks engage youngsters through wacky rhymes, whimsical illustration and animated narration. Kids can listen to stories, read books traditionally or put the app on auto play and watch as the story unfolds. 

Check 'em out: Dr. Seuss omBooks.

Rocket Math

$0.99
For iPhone and iPad.

This cool number crunching app takes math and makes it out-of-this-world fun. By correctly answering arithmetic operations, kids earn money to personalize rockets using many cool contraptions. Projectiles then take off for one of 56 different educational missions, ranging from numbers and time to shapes/patterns and square roots. Kids earn medals for their efforts and are encouraged to beat high scores.

Check it out: Rocket Math.

BrainPOP

Free
For iPhone and iPad.

Animated Tim and his beeping robot Moby take the most mundane and esoteric subjects (bar graphs and cnidarians respectively) and turn them into riveting learning lessons. Each morning, your child will eagerly rise to hear BrainPOP’s new topic and shine as a result. Flash-based movies cover a multitude of subjects: science, social studies, English, math, the arts, health, technology. A quick quiz follows each story to build comprehension, and scores are stored so they can be beaten next time around. All movies are captioned, making it easy to read along. A great way to keep grey matter giddy.

Check it out: BrainPOP.

Casey's Contraptions

$2.99
For iPad. Requires iOS 4.2 or later.

Casey may be an eight-year-old boy, but the contraptions he builds are not child’s play. Using an assortment of toys (cars, slingshots, balls) and everyday items (boxes, balloons and baskets), Casey entices peers—and imaginative adults—to ignite a chain reaction to achieve the simple goal of getting a ball into a basket or popping a balloon. It’s robust physics game play that will keep kids occupied for hours.

Check it out: Casey's Contraptions.

Toontastic

$0.99
For iPad. Requires iOS 4.2 or later.

Puppet show meets iPad in this animated app. Kids learn valuable storytelling and divergent-thinking skills through creative play. Toontastic walks young authors thorough the key aspects of building a story with informational prompts. Kids choose settings and characters or draw their own creations, easily recording voiceovers to narrate the scenes. When finished, masterpieces can be shared via ToonTube, a global storytelling network. It’s a great app for collaborative play between kids and their siblings, friends or parents.

Check it out: Toontastic.

Highlights Hidden Pictures

$1.99
For iPhone and iPad.

It’s impossible to resist the pull of a good puzzle. Kids will love seeking and finding everyday items in Highlights’ detailed illustrations. A great tool for teaching concentration, patience and how to find things not readily apparent (say a baseball mitt, a favorite toy or an overdue library book). Come to think of it, that last skill might come in handy all summer long.

Check it out: Highlights Hidden Pictures.

Montessori Crosswords

$1.99
For iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1 or later.

What’s a three-letter word for stealth learning? A-p-p. Recommended by teachers and parents, Montessori Crosswords uses phonetic sounds coupled with visual aids to reinforce literacy skills. If you buy it, they will solve it and before long graduate to Will Shortz’s New York Times Crossword Saturday edition.

Check it out: Montessori Crosswords.

Story Patch

$2.99
For iPad. Requires iOS 3.2 or later.

Cultivate right-brain thinking with this stellar self-publishing app that gives kids the choice to follow cues to plot stories or begin tabula rasa. Children will love spinning yarns and embellishing pages with illustrations (800 available), scenic backgrounds and changeable characters. And, for parents who think outside the app, this little iOS invention has even greater functionality. Use Story Patch to enable quick capture of the day’s events—a great way to introduce journaling at a young age. Simple to use, a cinch to save and great to share, Story Patch will keep kids dreaming and writing all summer long. For more on journaling, check out Turn scribblers into scribes!

Check it out: Story Patch.