As a parent, winter break doesn’t feel like much of a break at all. But for parents of school-age kids, it’s a struggle that’s over in a matter of weeks. When you have toddlers and preschoolers, on the other hand, you have to find ways to keep them happy through to spring — which, when you’re in the depths of January, seems impossibly far away. But keeping your little ones entertained doesn’t have to mean bundling up to brave the cold or spending tons of money on outings. With technology, you can keep your young children entertained even when it’s too cold to go outside.
Reading to your kids is a special bonding experience, but sometimes you just can’t take one more round of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” Enter Skybrary, the modern iteration of the beloved classic, Reading Rainbow. In this app, children as young as two can take a self-directed adventure through an interactive world filled with more than 600 narrated stories and field trip videos. This e-library does come with a fee after the free trial period; for a no-cost alternative, turn to Storyline Online.
Little kids love to dance. As soon as they can stand, you’ll spot toddlers bouncing and clapping along to their favorite tunes. But dancing is good for more than entertainment. When toddlers dance, they’re also refining their gross motor coordination and keeping their bodies healthy through exercise. To make the most of dance, play videos of action songs so your tots can watch and follow along. It’s best to play videos on a big screen like a TV to promote movement, rather than a tablet or computer.
There are a million reasons to teach your kids a second language. From stronger problem-solving skills in childhood to greater job prospects in adulthood, knowing another language offers a lot of benefits. And while you might think that studying Spanish or Mandarin is more the realm of high schoolers and college students, science suggests that it’s actually young children who pick up language the easiest. The best part? Even if you’re not bilingual, your kids can be. Thanks to second language learning programs designed specifically for early childhood, like Little Pim and Rosetta Stone Kids, your tot can learn independently using age-appropriate apps and videos.
You know your preschooler is bored of solving the same puzzle over and over again, but you can’t afford to buy a new one every other week. With puzzle apps designed to help young children learn their shapes and colors, you don’t have to. Using a tablet or another touchscreen device, your little one can drag and drop her way to a brighter mind. Common Sense Media offers parent-approved app suggestions for children from 2 to 4 years old.
Some parents preach zero screen time for babies and toddlers, but it’s not the technology itself that’s good or bad. Like all tech, it’s how you use it that matters. Of course, you shouldn’t let your little ones sit idle in front of the TV all winter long. But when the weather’s dreary and you need to get things done, educational apps, videos, and games are a great way to keep your early learners engaged.
Jenny Wise homeschools her four awesome children. As any homeschooling parent knows, every day is an adventure, and Jenny has begun chronicling her experiences at SpecialHomeEducator.com. She hopes to use the site to connect with other homeschoolers and to provide helpful advice to parents who may be considering a home education for their kids.