Back to school apps for 8 – 12 year olds

hopscotchThe school year pretty much starts the same way each year: new teacher, new classroom, review of what the kids learned last year and how to organize for this year.

Some kids have tutoring over the summer to work on subjects that need extra support, some jump ahead to prepare for the next school year; some kids don’t like to crack a book focusing instead on the great summer weather and outdoor activities. We sit somewhere in the middle and to get the kids back into the head space for school I like to spend the last week of summer with a tune-up using educational apps.

The links below will take you to my collection of Top Apps – we use apps to brush up on last year’s curriculum and also to give a warm up of what’s to come.  The apps are broken into key areas of learning and offer a fun way to get back into the groove.


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Where in the world is? Fun with geography apps

top-geography-appsThis month we celebrate the birth of the nation and these Top 5 geography apps offer a unique and fun way to learn about the world we live in. Some apps work like games and others more like challenges so depending on how your child likes to learn, there are choices to match their style.

Focusing on the US, Canada and the countries of the world these apps are fun for kids of all ages – give ‘em a try and test your knowledge! Continue reading

Inspire young readers with storytelling and story writing apps

storytelling-apps-header imageAs the school years starts to wind down it’s great to have a check-in with the kids to see how far they’ve come since the start of the school year.  For me the true test of how they’ve grown in the school year is in their progression in reading and writing.

Storytelling or storybook apps are good way to check out reading fluency and sight word recognition. Story writing apps offer an opportunity to check progress in writing style, writing in a sequential manner, spelling, grammar, punctuation, imagination and character development.  The apps below are a great tool for evaluation and practice in a fun learning environment.

little red riding app Little Red Riding Hood by Nosy Crow
is a new 21st century interactive story book.  As we see technology develop we find more and more exciting ways to draw kids into reading. The story app offers multiple “paths” along the way so that readers can create a new, fully animated adventure with different endings every time.  Selecting different choices offers different stories which is exciting to the reader.

sofia reads little red riding hoowRecommended for kids ages 3 to 8 my 11 year old enjoyed it as well.  My 8 year old daughter loved that when the wolf came along she had the ability to control the interactions so it wasn’t scary.  I watched to see if she could intuitively figure our how things worked and she just naturally knew how to be engaged with the story.  It was amazing to watch.  After the first time she wanted to do it again and again. Nine games are included in the story including catching feathers which help build motor skills, following directions while collecting bee honey, and leading the story by making choices help to keep the reader engaged.  Little Red Riding Hood by Nosy Crow – Price: $4.99.


the-legend-of-momotaro appThe Legend of Momotaro is a beautiful Japanese story which offers a cultural experience unlike any I’ve seen so far. It combines a story with learning Japanese characters and language so that readers can have a rounded experience.

Winner of many awards including Interactive story book Best of 2012, Critics’ Pick and a star for Remarkable Merit by Kirkus, a venerable review journal relied on by librarians to select books.

The story speed is flexible and you can pause along the way to engage with the Japanese vocabulary points.  My daughter loved being able to use her finger to “write” the Japanese symbols.  Great for a bedtime story where you can start and stop as you’d like sharing the story over a few days.  Little kids love to explore the artwork for new experiences and older kids can experience a new culture with the beautiful illustrations and gain a new appreciation for a different style of storytelling.
The Legend of Momotaro – Price: $2.99

storyteller deluxe app

Story writing apps come in different forms. Art apps can sometimes offer creative ways to tell a story or there are apps that are geared more like a story book and give an area for text and photos.  Key to success is making the process easy so the kids focus on the story writing making the steps easy and fun so that they want to create stories over and over again.

I like the Storyteller Deluxe app by isitt inc, it offers a nice simple to use interface for kids to tell stories.

cats storyYou can edit the copy and change out photos or drawings easily.  The selector for image size within the page allows for more or less text depending on the type of detail in each page. The nice option to record the story is a great way to send a story to relatives to have them hear the story with your child’s voice.  Sharing the story via email is possible to others who’ve downloaded the app.
Storyteller Deluxe price: $.99

If you’ve heard of a great storytelling or story writing app please share it in the comments section below!


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Top 5 drawing apps for all ages

art app icons

Like many kids my girls love to draw.  I’ve found that drawing and art apps are a great way for the kids to be creative in another way and save paper.  For my older daughter this school year has been full of reports so some of the apps below work well to spruce up projects that can use drawings or text in combination with photos or diagrams.

Typically drawing apps can cover a range of ages with younger kids developing fundamentals and older kids developing details so I usually take the recommended ages as a guide but not a rule since each kid, regardless of age, can have a different level of skill.  I like to find apps that grow with the kid’s abilities so this month’s featured art apps are great for kids of all ages. Continue reading

Help them get organized – Top 5 productivity apps: 9-12 year olds

note taking appsKeeping things organized and improving productivity became a big deal for my older daughter starting in the 4th Grade and she began needing skills and tools to keep on top of things.  Now in the 6th grade it’s even more important.

I’ve found it can be quite challenging to find the right balance of paper and digital solutions so this month our apps focus on being productive in the classroom whether it’s note taking, study aids or writing.

Continue reading

Top 5 Apps for math basics – Practice makes perfect

At this point in the school year we begin to see where our kids could use a bit of support in math. This month we focus on math for 1st through 6th grade with educational and fun apps recommended by school resource teachers.

Even if your child is strong in math you’ll find that as they get older and more concepts are learned they may need to practice or review basic skills to keep on track. Building a strong core base of the basics in math is key to be successful moving forward when new math concepts are introduced and children can always benefit from refreshing core skills.

I like to play the games with my girls to review what they know and to see where they struggle to see if I can offer new strategies to help them build confidence in addition, subtraction, multiplication and fractions. Continue reading

Top 5 FREE apps for Kids – games for imagination & strategy

Free AppsWhether you’re  enjoying your new iPad, iPad Mini, iTouch or iPhone or Android device you’ll appreciate this list of top 5 free apps for RealKids.  Focusing on fun and relaxation these games will be sure to please your 6 – 12 year old in their downtime and challenge their financial management, imagination, strategy, and planning abilities.  On the list are our favorites that please all members of the family.  Enjoy! Next month the list will focus on educational based apps.

tiny towersTiny Tower – Become an entrepreneur building new floors to your tower.  Plan the revenue stream to support your building so you can keep expanding.  Fun to build over time this is a planning and financial management game for the aspiring Donald Trumps. Available for iPhone and iPad as well as Android at Google Play.


Temple RunTemple Run – A great game for the adrenaline junkie, in this game you try to outrun the evil monkeys. Collect coins to buy items like power ups and new characters. Not exactly an educational game but definitely fun for a while and very entertaining.  Upgrade to the paid version for additional options.
Available for iPhone and iPad as well as Android at Google Play.


minecraft liteMinecraft Pocket Edition Lite - A great building game where you can create detailed buildings, farms and towns.  Very popular with the 6 to 12 year old kids this game uses strategy, planning and imagination. Basically if you can imagine it, you can build it.  In the game you need to make everything so kids rely on each other and their own skills to customize their environment. Available for iPhone and iPad as well as Android at Google Play.


angry birds freeAngry Birds Free – Just passing it’s 3rd anniversary the Angry Birds series is super popular.  Using various birds in slingshots you knock down structures. The strategy is getting the angles right in the attack relying on dexterity and remembering the special features of the birds. Some birds explode upon touch and some move faster or do nothing at all. Lots of fun for all ages. Available for iPhone and iPad as well as Android at Google Play.

Where's my waterWhere’s My Water?- Disney’s very popular game is a favorite in our house. The goal is to use strategic reasoning to plan the flow of water to the tub.  You have to make decisions which affect the outcome and no two turns are the same.  I also like that there is no correct answer and there are multiple ways to solve the problem giving kids an option try things out and fail and then rethink their strategy to win. Available for iPhone and iPad as well as Android at Google Play.

The games featured come as free versions of paid games, you can upgrade to the paid version turning on extra levels and options or keep it simple with the free versions of the apps.

Looking for more educational apps? Check out the monthly lists recommended by school resource teachers in the Top 5 Apps for learning lists with a focus on spelling, math and dexterity.

Do you have a favorite free app? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Top 5 Apps for Kids – Art, Music & Imagination Apps

iBoxesI know I’m not the only parent with an Apple product on the wish list this year and whether it’s an iPad Mini, iPad, iTouch or iPhone we’ve got the best selection of apps that are sure to keep them excited.  You can use educational or creative apps to work on skills for school and life.

Try out these fun and educational apps that develop fine motor skills, social interactions and boost creativity. These apps are great for kids ages 6 to 12 years old.

Art App

scetchbook express iconSketchbook Express - this easy-to-use free drawing tool is amazing.  My 7 year old picked it up and started drawing with the app right away, no instruction needed. Once done saving masterpieces is easy.  Good for any age and this app can grow with your child and will get a lot of use over time.  Available for iPad and Android Google Play.

sketchbook express

Using Sketchbook Express is easy.

Music App

GarageBandGarageBand features a selection of instruments from piano, violin, drums, guitar, electric guitar and cello and more.  We’re trying to get my daughter to choose an instrument to play and this is a great way for her to sample some choices.You can play the instruments composing as you go and even record an original song. Experiment with chords or notes depending on your preference.  The instruments sound unbelievably real.   Price $4.99

Film /movie making App

iMovieiMovie from Apple is great if you have a budding film maker. You can choose from movie trailer templates or choose to edit your own masterpiece.  Import your videos from the iPad and customize as you like, you can even record your own voice over. My 10 year old loves this app. There is an option to create a movie trailer using a set of templates from themes like adrenaline, Bollywood, scary and fairy tale and your film looks just like the pros.  Price: $4.99

Great Games

minecraftMy inner geek rejoiced this year when my 10 year old daughter told me she needed to get to the computer to set up a virtual server with her friends so she could play Minecraft Pocket Edition. The game is an architectural tool where kids can build villages, gardens and homes while digging for resources like gold and diamonds.  At first I thought the graphics weren’t very sophisticated but as I watched the kids play I could see that they work with the resources available and come up with some great ideas. The communication between kids is amazing as they plan their villages and homes and ward off intruders.The Minecraft Pocket Edition is a nice way to try it out without committing to the full desktop version. Available on iTunes for iPhone and iPad and Google Play for Android devices. Price $6.99

playing minecraft

Design gardens, houses, roller coasters and more on Minecraft.

star wars angry birdsAngry Birds Star Wars is as fun as the name suggests.  Based on the very popular Angry Birds series which celebrates it’s third year this week. Using a sling shot this fine motor skill game uses strategy and reasoning to knock down targets for points.  My kids love this app and so do I.  The birds have gone into Star Wars disguises and you can fling Luke Skywalker and if you miss you’ll face Darth Vader!  Available on iTunes for iPhone and iPad and Google Play for Android devices. This is serious fun for just $0.99.

If you missed the other Top 5 Apps we select the five best apps recommended by school resource teachers that help support learning and are fun to use.  Top Math and Science apps and websites features the best age appropriate apps for children, ages 7 year old, 8 year old, nine year old and up, that we’ve come across for homework and learning.

If you have some amazing apps you’d like to recommend add them in the comments section below.

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