By Children’s Librarian Eileen Saam
As we spend time at home this winter, many families are likely dedicating more time to screens—playing games and watching videos, movies, and television shows.
Time on screens can provide positive experiences for families—a way to relax and have fun, connect, and share experiences together. This time also can provide an opportunity to learn something new, build creativity, and enhance learning.
Remind me: What do the experts say?
As mentioned in part 1 of this series, in order for screen time to provide positive experiences for children and their families, it is important for parents and caregivers to be mindful of how they engage in digital content with their children.
My last post also included information about screen time limits, recommendations for digital resources available through the library, and results of some recent research. Conducted by the Educational Development Center, this research highlights the importance of continually exploring digital media in order to expand children’s learning opportunities.
Are there any benefits of screentime for my preschooler?
Today I will share information about digital content for children ages 2-6, focusing on educational apps. There are an overwhelming number of digital apps, games, videos, and television programs available for children ages 2-6 that claim to be educational.
It can be difficult to decipher which digital media is truly educational and worthwhile for early learners. On top of that—with the knowledge that screen time should be limited to about an hour a day for children ages 2-6—it can be a challenging process to find digital media that is both engaging and beneficial for your child in their learning process.
In a study from 2019, the Educational Research Center specifically looked at the effects of digital media from PBS KIDS on early learners. Researchers concluded that tablet-based games and videos can have positive effects on children’s ability to acquire physical science knowledge and to engage with science and engineering practices.
This study is exciting because it helps to validate that digital media can help young children learn important concepts and practices.
According to the experts at the Educational Development Center, digital media is most beneficial when it “is developmentally appropriate, targets important school readiness concepts and skills, encourages active learning, and is paired with hands-on science activities.”
So, how do you effectively select apps that meet your child’s needs & help them prepare for kindergarten?
Focus on engaging and intuitive digital apps and games that support specific goals—such as problem-solving, expressing and understanding emotions, developing early literacy skills, and fine motor skills.
From music to math and STEM to language arts, here is a short list of some recommended apps for children ages 2-6 across different subject areas:
Busy Shapes & Colors by Edoki Academy
This intuitive app designed to help children learn their shapes and colors offers a fun, motivating digital playground to build problem-solving skills.
Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings by PBS Kids
$2.99 iPad, $2.99 Kindle Fire
This well-designed app with engaging characters, catchy songs, and simple activities invites kids to explore feelings and learn to recognize and respond to different emotions.
Khan Academy Kids by Khan Academy
Free: iOS, Android, Kindle Fire
This comprehensive and highly interactive early learning app offers a wealth of engaging activities to help young children learn about letters, numbers, colors, measurement, science, health, kindergarten readiness skills, and more.
More about these apps:
- Check out the findings of a 2018 study from Texas Tech University of the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood PBS program and Daniel Tiger Grr-ific Feelings app. According to this study, the app increased emotional regulation and knowledge in the children who used it. Plus, the skills learned had a lasting effect on them.
- Check out this parent guide from Khan Academy Kids watch this short video to learn more about what kids can experience on Khan Academy Kids.
Where can I find more resources for early learners?
- Many apps include parent tips. Look on the home screen of each app.
- If you like an app, search in the Apple Store or Google Play Store by the app developer and find even more great apps.
- Want books too? Check out our “New Experiences” picture book section in the Children’s Services area at the Main Library to find books about getting ready for kindergarten.
- Common Sense Media is a great resource for parents and caregivers to find high quality apps and games that support their child’s learning, development, and engagement. Users can search by entertainment type, device, price, subject, skill, and topic and get expert reviews of media content.
- Check out this 2022 app guide for more recommendations about educational apps for kids ages 2-5.
- If you have a Kindle Fire at home, here is a guide to recommended apps for the Kindle Fire.
Eileen Saam is a children’s digital learning librarian who loves discovering new things, learning from others, and sharing with children the joy and wonder of books. One of her favorite things to do at the library is to help children, families, and teachers find books and digital resources that delight and inspire them.