Summer slide, brain-drain, skill slippage, whatever you call it — all that stuff your kids learned in school last year? As much as one-fifth of it goes flying out the window during summer vacation. But the last thing you want to do is nag your kids about homework. Summer’s all about fun, and that means less hassle for parents, too, right?
We looked at a bunch of tech tools that are built to help our school-age kids retain what they’ve learned in a more fun and interactive way without getting them stuck on screens. Here are five top tips, tricks, and child-specific gadgets to help your kids out this summer and beyond.
Note: For this story, we stuck with Amazon-specific devices because they’re the top picks across most consumer tech reviewers’ lists, including ours. We’re always testing out more gadgets, apps, and tech tools, so please let us know if we left something off this list that we need to try to try out!
#1. TERRIFIC TABLETS
For millions of kids, a tablet is one of the first devices they use to explore the digital world. Some do’s and don’ts here?
DON’T: just hand them your iPad and hope for the best. Hello, they’re expensive, not to mention it’s a real hassle to lock down access so that your child can only get to age-appropriate content on a shared adult device.
DO: Find an affordable tablet built from the wires-up just for kids. Our main picks here?
- Amazon Fire 7 Kids for ages 3-7, $59.99 (Normally $110)!
- Fire HD 10 Kids Pro for ages 6-12, $149.99 (Normally $200)!
WHY? They are both priced affordably, but even more importantly — they’re great for learning on the go — with plenty of storage and up to 10 hours of battery life. They also come with a free suite of easy parental controls and a lot of other bells and whistles that add a ton of value for parents and kids alike.
#2. START WITH TRAINING WHEEL TECH!
DON’T: Throw your child into the deep end of tech and expect them to swim.
DO: Teach them critical, age-appropriate skills to manage devices and content.
I talk a lot about training wheel tech. Just like you teach your child to ride a bike or swim or eventually drive a car — you don’t just toss them into the deep end or hand them the keys and expect it to all go perfectly. It’s the same with tech. You have to start with the basics, teach and guide them, then take away the floaties, training wheels, and student driver signs as they mature, grow and get more capable of self-regulation and making healthy choices.
I appreciate that these devices all come with a year free of Amazon Kids+ and a built-in suite of parental controls. That means they deliver age-appropriate, kid-focused content without ads, access to social media, or adult sites. You can set time limits, check in on them, and use the Parent Dashboard to fine-tune, adjust boundaries, and even set educational goals, like the “Learn First” feature. That means they have to read, or do math, before any entertainment.
#3. MORE REWARDING READING
Reading is one of the top skills that tend to slip over the summer.
DON’T: Pack a pile of library books everywhere you go. (That’s just crazy.)
DO: Snag an e-reader like the Kindle Paperwhite Kids ($159.99) with up to 10-WEEKS of battery life. There’s no glare, it looks like real paper, even in the sunlight, comes with a kid-friendly case; one year Amazon Kids+ that puts thousands of books in the palm of their hands, from classics to new favorites. Best of all? There are zero distractions from apps, videos, or games, and, it’s waterproof! Amazon says kids who read on their Kindles read an average of an hour a day.
#4. READING WITH ALEXA
DON’T: Dismiss all of the hidden skills/gems these devices can offer.
DO: Use them to your, and your children’s, advantage.
So many parents don’t realize that these adorable kids-specific speakers can really help your kids learn too. The Echo Dot Kids and Echo Show 5 Kids come packed with features including more than 2,400 podcast episodes specifically for kids as part of Amazon Kids+. We’re big fans of Wow in the World to help provide for hours of learning.
And check out Readyland books ($14.99): These are actually books that interact and totally come to life with Alexa too. Kids can talk with the characters, play games, sing songs, and enjoy hundreds of difference experiences along the way. These have been a huge hit since I first covered them last year, and new titles are coming all the time!
Echo Dot Kids, $59.99
Echo Show 5 Kids $99.99
#5. AWESOME APPS
DON’T: Spend a fortune on kids learning apps on your adults devices.
DO: Invest in child-friendly tech that come with the top apps already included.
The best apps for kids’ enhanced learning while on vacation are as engaging and entertaining as they are educational — so kids just think they’re having fun — not having to learn stuff. I like several that are already a part of Amazon Kids+ — like Disney apps, and you can’t go wrong with Sesame Street, PBS Kids, Codespark, and Toca Lab. These offer up the very best for kids — without a bunch of extra stuff you don’t worry about them seeing!
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