As a mother of four and professor of education I have strict criteria for apps I will recommend on this site. It must pass the test based on these three traits:
- It has educational value
- It doesn’t have ads.
- Kids can play it and not get totally bored after 5 minutes
Don’t want to spend money on apps? I hear you. Back when Ipads first came out I was a sucker for a free app, but no longer. Today, almost every “free” app has a stipulation attached. Sometimes it’s semi violent ads that pop up every 3 minutes. Often they pull you in with one level free, so after 5 minutes your child is begging you to buy ‘coins’. You quickly realize that those ‘coins’ cost actual real world money. No thank you. I’d rather pay a one-time fee to get a nice educational app.
Another common problem is that an educational app will initially seems ok, but it is so simplistic and repetitive that kids are totally more quickly than it took you to download it. With this criteria in mind I plan to do several posts with apps that I recommend. Some adults scorn technology, but I have seen first hand with my students and my own children that meaningful learning can occur via educational apps.
Here is the first app I would like to recommend:
Stack the States
Stack the States is the best $2.99 I have ever spent. I bought this app over 7 years ago when I co-taught a second grade inclusion class. We had some students who needed enrichment, so while we were busy working with other children this game provided geographical fun that wasn’t necessarily in our curriculum. Fast forward 7 years, and my 8, 5, and 3 year old all love this app.
Cost: $2.99 available on IOS and Android
Does it need parental supervision? NO! The game is very intuitive, and the directions are simple. It can even be set to read the questions to you.
Recommended for Ages: 4+
My 5 and 8 year old do this app independently, but I must admit my 5 year old is a bit of a geographical whiz. (Perhaps this app is partially to credit for developing that skill set.) My three year old can do this game, but usually with his brothers telling him the answer to the trivia questions. This is fine because it is scaffolding the learning for him, as he practices reading the state’s names and memorizes their shapes. This game is not too babyish, so tweens and teens will enjoy it as well. Heck, my kids catch me playing it sometimes.
What is it exactly?
Basically, this is a trivia game. Multiple-choice geographical questions are asked, with 4 different states as the choices. If you select the correct state you get to place the state in a stack. The goal is to stake the states on top of each other so they are higher then a bar. Making the tower higher than the bar beats the level, and if you’ve earned more than 50% on the trivia questions you earn a state. The more states you earn the more games you unlock.
One of the games you can unlock is Map It, where you have to touch the location of each state on a blank map. Another is a game where you match the state to its capital before they both fall off a conveyer belt. The games are engaging, and the cute eyeballs on the states make them whimsical and silly. There is also the global version, Stack the Countries.
Corona virus quarantine criteria:
Can I work from home while my child is doing this? Absolutely. Depending on the age of the children and their interest level you can get anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour of uninterrupted time while they focus on this game. It’s sort of addictive.
Can I count this as “school?” Totally! Initially it may seem like some pointless trivia. You might even think, who needs to know their state’s flag and some random national parks? I hear you, but the value of this game in developing children’s ability to think geographically. It will help them learn the names, locations, and physical features of many places in the United States (and globally for Stack the Countries). This is a beneficial trait. At the very least it will stop your child from becoming that teenager that tells their high school librarian that they didn’t believe Rhode Island was a state because they had never heard of it (true story).
I am not getting paid a single cent to endorse this game. It’s just really awesome and I know we all need ways to engage our children in meaningful learning while schools are closed.