Dr. Nicole Beurkens
Going back to school after a long summer break brings many transitions for children of all ages, which can increase stress and anxiety. You want to make sure your kids are managing their anxiety, staying focused, and dusting off the cobwebs in the academic parts of their brain after time away from lessons. It’s helpful to know that there are many quality apps that may help ease the way for everyone. Here’s my selection of back-to-school apps to keep your kids organized, focused, healthy and learning.
Dr. Nicole’s top 10 best back-to-school apps for kids
I’ve selected a variety of apps to support parents, children, and families with the most common challenges that arise during this season. The 10 apps and games I’m suggesting here are safe, appropriate, and will help them learn new skills, while easing many of the stressors families experience.
1. Headspace for Kids
This is a great mindfulness and relaxation app for kids (and adults) who experience stress and anxiety related to school. Whether it be homework, tests, or just the pressures of being with other people all day, everyone gets stressed at school sometimes.
The Headspace for Kids portion of the app helps kids understand how they’re feeling, and teaches mindfulness practices that even younger children can implement with or without parent support. This app has multiple age brackets and activity categories to choose from, making it a great option for families with children of varying ages and developmental levels.
If your kids don’t like carrying around heavy planners or agendas on top of the rest of their school supplies, or tend to lose track of their papers and assignments, this app may be helpful. This electronic planner app is great because it allows you to connect your child’s planner with another account so you can easily see their assignments and track their progress. It’s also convenient to use, so you might even convince stubborn kids who don’t use planners at all to give it a try.
Say goodbye to packs of flashcards and big study guides! Quizlet is a useful tool for kids in preschool all the way to high school and college that allows them to create and view customized sets of flashcards. They can study material in a “traditional” way where they simply give the definition of a term and flip the cards to see if they’re right, or play a variety of games with their study materials that include speed matching, mock quizzes, and more. Your kids will learn new vocabulary words, history facts, or math operations more quickly, without you having to be there to quiz them.
GoNoodle is a company on a mission to get kids up and moving throughout the day. This benefits them physically, mentally, and behaviorally in school and at home. The apps include a range of activities and games that encourage kids to move their bodies while they learn and grow. They have also designed all of their technology for kids so each activity is safe and fun, and they can be customized based on age, available space, and more.
5. Natural Reader
Many students find it helpful to download audio versions of books they have to read for school. Listening to books, either while following along on paper or not, helps some students focus and comprehend better than with written materials alone. Research has confirmed that listening to audiobooks is not “cheating” and doesn’t deprive kids of learning important skills.
While every child is different, listening to larger works can also help alleviate some of the stress they feel when facing a major reading assignment. Natural Reader is a powerful app that takes this a step further by allowing document uploads, so your kids can listen to everything from class assignments to study material and textbooks.
6. Khan Academy
Khan Academy is one of the premier resources online for students of all ages and for all subjects. Students can access brief but instructive lessons on everything from reading skills to geometry, biology, and much more. They are particularly well-known for their detailed and instructive video lessons and excellent SAT prep lessons. Khan Academy can be a great option for students who need extra support in a specific academic area, parents who want kids to get ahead with learning, or simply for students to explore new areas they don’t have access to in their school setting.
If you have any picky eaters in the family, or you’d like to get your kids involved in planning their school lunches, this is a great app to try. It has an innovative design that turns meal planning into a fun little game, and encourages kids to make healthy and balanced choices each day. Plus, it just might help eliminate some of the stress you encounter when trying to pack a lunch they’ll actually eat.
Younger kids just starting out with a second language in elementary school will love the fun graphics and lessons, while older kids can benefit from convenient practice throughout the day. There are even built-in motivational features such as streaks and reminders to keep your kids engaged. It’s also helpful for getting kids interested in different cultures, and there is a wide variety of languages to choose from.
9. Time Timer
It doesn’t get simpler or more effective than this visual timer app when it comes to encouraging better time management and productivity. While there are lots of timers out there that are similar, I like Time Timer for its simplicity and ease of use.
Using a visual timer can be a great way to help kids focus on tasks without questioning the amount of time they should spend, and is especially helpful for kids who easily lose track of time or lack good time awareness. It’s something they can use with parental support in the early years, and independently to keep themselves on track as they get older.
Back to school time unfortunately can mean that kids get back to struggles with bullying. The KnowBullying app is a great tool for parents who want to educate their kids on bullying, healthy relationships, and more. It contains useful tools to start conversations with your kids, and help them understand ways they can prevent or respond to bullying. In fact, research shows that just 15 minutes of conversations like this each day can go a long way toward helping your kids form stronger relationships and live better lives both in and out of school.
These 10 are some of my favorites to suggest to families with kids who want to get a little extra out of their school experience, explore new topics, or those who need a bit of a boost to turn their “school brain” back on after a long summer.
As with any digital activity, I always recommend that you work with your kids to set limits on screen time so that they can strike a healthy balance between electronics and the real world. A tool like Qustodio can help accomplish this simply and effectively. I hope these apps, combined with safe and healthy screen time habits, bring more ease and learning to your family in the months ahead.