How Educational Apps Can Support Early Development

December 4, 2019 3:42 pm
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The idea of letting young children use smartphones and tablets is divisive. Many argue that young children should not be allowed any screen time at all. However, some experts say educational apps can actually be a valuable part of a child’s early development.

Melanie Pilcher, quality and standards manager at the Early Years Alliance, suggested:

‘Screen time with a purpose can be a useful part of early learning because it provides children with another means of exploring and interacting with the world around them.’

In July 2019, the government opened a competition to find the best educational apps for children. The competition will look at apps that help to kickstart early language and literacy skills at home. The government identified apps as a great way to improve literacy levels, especially in underprivileged communities. Apps which meet the government’s criteria will get an official stamp of approval.

Children and Families Minister, Kemi Badenoch, commented:

‘A great education is the key to unlocking every child’s potential and ensuring no one is left behind. We want to work together with families to give all children the best possible start and support parents to begin the learning process at home.

‘Digital technology means there is a wealth of fun activities at parents’ fingertips, but the content of these is important too. That’s why we want to help parents make confident, informed choices about the resources they use, so they can help inspire a love of learning in their children.’

So, how can educational apps help parents of young children?

Apps Educate Children While Parents are Busy  

Parents can use a child’s natural draw and affinity for screens and give them apps and activities which will help them use their time constructively. Many parents already use apps to keep their children occupied while they do chores, work, or wait at appointments. By choosing apps which help with basic literacy and numeracy skills, parents can make screen time a valuable part of their child’s development instead of just a means of distraction.

Apps Help Create a Routine of Learning

Parents can start to integrate learning time into their child’s routine early. This helps them get into the pattern of learning time and will make it easier to sit down to do homework later when they start to receive it from school. If parents have older children who have homework to complete, sitting young children at the table or nearby with a quiet app while the other children work will also help to create that routine.

Reward an Inquisitive Mind

Children are inquisitive and want to touch and discover as much as they can about their world. Educational apps reward children for tapping on the screen and help to channel that inquisitive nature in a way that starts to develop critical thinking skills.

Some examples of apps for parents to try:

(Please note: these apps have not received government approval as yet as the DfE scheme is still in progress)

  • Endless Wordplay (free): this app helps children establish basic literacy and numeracy skills.
  • Jungle Time (£1.99): Jungle Time helps teach children to tell the time in all forms.
  • Edu Guru Maths (£1.99): this app is aimed at children aged 3-5 and helps them establish basic maths skills by bringing maths to life in front of them.
  • Play123 (free): Play123 helps toddlers get to grips with counting.
  • YouTube Kids (free): YouTube Kids has a huge array of videos perfect for all ages and abilities. If you have a little time to set up a playlist, it’s a great way to give children educational content.
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