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Summer is here and if you’re already facing battles managing screen time in your home, take a moment and ask yourself what your child is doing when they’re in front of the screen. It’s one thing if they’re consuming content, it’s another if they’re being productive. Screens can be fantastic tools to enhance learning, spark new ideas, and teach new skills. The key is to tap into interests and provide ways kids can create content to learn new skills during screen time so there’s a nice balance between consuming and creating.
Kids who are obsessed with watching YouTube videos for hours on end, spend hours on end sitting on the couch and playing video games, and squint at the little screen of their mobile device can be doing so much more. Figure out what your kids are doing when they’re using their screens and harness their love of YouTube, video games, and apps into developing new and useful skills.
YouTube & Netflix Lovers: Use videos to inspire new learning, prevent the summer slide, and learn video editing skills
This week Thomas has been home with me while his sister is off at camp. We’ve gone on bike rides, done some summer reading, and had screen time during the hottest parts of the day which always involves YouTube videos. Sometimes I look over because he’s laughing compilations of videos that are like a mashup of America’s Funniest Home Videos and Ridiculousness-type content and other times he’s staring at a tutorial, trying to figure out how to make something.
Just a couple days ago he asked me if he thought we could try making rock candy. I tasked him with finding a video where the creator used supplies like ones we had at home and the recipe was corn-syrup free. It also meant no glucose syrup and no candy thermometer.
I left the room and came back and he had whittled his selection down to two videos that met my requirements and chose this one because of the easy to follow instructions.
That evening while I made dinner, he did a little kitchen science alongside me, boiling water, melting sugar, prepping sticks, and washing jars for his rock candy solution.
It just proves that if your child can dream it, there’s probably a YouTube video to guide them through the process. So tap into their curiosity since their imagination is the limit! Savvy older elementary ages and up will have no trouble finding YouTube videos on their own but younger kids should have some help navigating content on YouTube or you can also use the free YouTube Kids app for curated age appropriate content.
Other ways you can use YouTube to create content and learn new skills during screen time:
- Channel Your Inner YouTube Star with Apple Camp’s Free Stories in Motion Camp— For kids who want to be the next YouTube star, Apple Camp’s free 3 day Stories in Motion program is a dream come true for future filmmakers. Designed for ages 8-12, Stories in Motion explores the creative process of turning kids’ ideas into real movies using iMovie. In this three-day session, campers will learn how to brainstorm and storyboard. Then they’ll get hands-on with movie-making techniques like learning camera angles and editing with iMovie. On the final day, they’ll present their masterpieces.
- Read Along with YouTube Kids— Besides the wide variety of how-to videos on YouTube, the free YouTube Kids app keeps toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary ages engaged in reading along with video content this summer. YouTube Kids’ Summer Read Along features early language literacy content that’s engaging, fun, educational, and features favorite characters to help kids hone their reading skills and develop a lifelong love of books.
Hailing from Sweden, Star Stable is a wholesome, horse adventure game designed for girls. It’s one of the few MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing games) that is geared to girls ages 7-17 and promotes fun, creativity, engagement in a safe and positive virtual world while players create content to learn new skills during screen time.
As a MMORPG, Star Stable can most easily be described as an enormous role playing horse game for large numbers of players to enjoy online together. This means that hundreds, if not thousands, of players can play, chat and help each other through the challenges and horse adventures Star Stable has to offer.
The virtual horse game begins with creating your own character and designing your own horse. You will have the choice of many different appearances for both your character and your horse. The character and horse you choose will be partners and will ride together through the 3D world of Star Stable. You will meet many other player on your horse adventures and can help reach through the interesting mysteries hiding in Jorvik – a mystical island and home to Star Stable. Enter to win a Star Stable Lifetime Memberships ($75 value) at the end of this post.
App Obsessed Kids: Learn how to create their own apps and discover new summer reads
Kids who love spending time playing games on mobile devices can spend the summer learning how to create them! Swift Playground is a free Apple programming app that the company unveiled in 2014 to teach basic coding skills to kids through their iPad. The Verge reports “It uses an animated character tasked with performing simple challenges in a digital maze to make learning fun.”
Get started by downloading it here and if you need a guide, the Coding iPhone Apps for Kids book is a hands-on guide and helpful resource that teaches how to make a birthday tracker and skateboarding game as they dig into the fundamentals of Swift Playground.
If you’re looking for additional resources, Common Sense Media has a list of Cool Coding Apps and Websites for Kids of all ages.
OurStory is an app for kids, parents, educators, and librarians to discover diverse books. An interactive quiz helps you find the perfect book, and membership levels include access to exclusive content from authors and illustrators and materials that parents, educators, librarians can incorporate into their homes and schools.
OurStory was created as a tool to help readers explore and buy diverse books, highlight the work of creators from marginalized communities, and enhance the reading experience. The three different free versions of the OurStory app (Kids for ages 12 and under, Teen for ages 13+, and Pro for educators and librarians) serve as a one-stop shop for children to see themselves and their culture reflected in the pages of a book. She also discussed how books could give children access or a “window” into other people’s experiences.
For more reading inspiration, visit Cricket Media’s Keeping Tech in Check Activity page and Bug Camp Summer Reading Program for free downloadable activities that will keep kids engaged in reading thanks to inspiration that comes from ideas through a screen.
Game Lovers: Provide tools to create video games, instead of consuming them
When it comes to video games, eliminating screen time is often hard on parents and kids so it’s better to meet kids where they are and provide tools to help them learn to create video games, instead of always playing. They can use their knowledge of games, game design, and learn basic coding to start creating games of their own. Here are tools and resources to help them get started.
Let’s Start Coding believes that if you want to raise a code-literate kid, you need to teach them real code and provide the resources for beginners who want to learn to program such as electronics and lessons that teach fundamental code concepts. The Let’s Start Coding Base Kit is affordably priced at $40 and includes everything you need to get started to experiment on a budget.
I love that everything comes in a green tackle box with space for each of the components so kids can keep things organized plus a stack of cards containing over 30 projects that guide kids through using the buttons, lights, and speakers that are part of the Base Kit. Once your kid starts coding, it’s easy to add new components and the website is full of code concepts to further knowledge. Let’s Start Coding offers an Ultimate kit with more than 90 programs and more components. But if you start with the Base Kit and want to upgrade, the Upgrade Kit containing a light sensor, LCD screen, sound trigger, temperature sensor, and flexible LED strip is available to round out your programming needs for an additional $55.
In this 3 day session for kids ages 8-12, we’ll introduce programming through interactive play. Kids will learn visual-based coding by solving puzzles with Tynker. Then they’ll learn how to program Sphero robots, and even create fun stories starring Sphero as the main character. My kids have loved creating movies during past Apple Camp experiences but I love the additional offerings this year that offer relevant technology skills through fun hands-on experiences. Take a look at what’s being offered this year and sign up for Apple Camp ASAP before slots fill up!
I love LittleBits because of the endless creativity that occurs when you set kids down with a bunch of bits and they start putting them together. New discoveries are made about how things work while creations come to live. LittleBits’ newest kit is the Code Kit and for parents who want to engage their kids in making games, this is the kit to get. The 16 bits and 30 accessories are plenty to get kids inventing and coding games using the tutorials and inventions that can be found through the free Code Kit app. LittleBits Code Kit uses drag and drop code that is based on Google’s Blockly and is an easy and engaging place for kids to start in the world of programming. I mean…Who wouldn’t want to create a Rockstar Guitar that you can play after learning the concept of looping?
If you’re noticing that hands on learning is the way to teach coding, you’re right and for kids who love robotics, Microsoft Stores Ozobot Camp is the perfect way to explore programming. Microsoft Stores Ozobot Camp is a free hands-on two-hour camp where students ages 8-12 will learn to code and create games with Ozobot’s coding app, Ozoblockly, at local Microsoft stores.
There’s a lot to do in the two hours that kids are at Microsoft Stores’ Ozobot Camp: They’ll explore programming the Evo robot with block coding, from completing simple commands right through to creating a dance game and learn how robotics are used in the 21st century and be inspired with how they can be involved. By the end of two hours they’ll be familiar with how robotics work, gained hands-on experience with block coding and how to program the Evo robot, and have a better understanding of the importance of robotics.
Here are a list of Microsoft Stores offering Ozobot Camp beginning in July:
- Microsoft Store at Bellevue Square Mall – Bellevue, Wash.
- Microsoft Store at NorthPark Center – Dallas
- Microsoft Store at Westfarms Mall – Farmington, Conn.
- Microsoft Store at Houston Galleria – Houston
- Microsoft Store at Westfield Century City – Los Angeles
- Flagship Microsoft Store at New York – New York
- Microsoft Store at Oak Park Mall – Overland Park, Kan.
- Microsoft Store at The Shops at La Cantera – San Antonio
- Microsoft Store at Fashion Valley – San Diego
- Microsoft Store at University Village – Seattle
- Microsoft Store at The Westchester – White Plains, N.Y.
Unplugged ways of teaching basic coding to younger ages
If you’re looking for an unplugged way to teach the basics of computer programming, ThinkFun has great games that introduces the concept in age appropriate ways for preschoolers through elementary ages. My picks include Robot Turtles (ages 4+), Clue Master (ages 8+), and CodeMaster (ages 8+). Our family is also loving the new WaveBreaker that teaches problem solving and logic by requiring players to dock their boats in a safe harbor before the crew declares mutiny, Fidgitz that has nothing to do with fidget spinners but everything to do with twisting and turning the puzzle to turn one side white and the other blue, and Lunar Landing that requires using logic to navigate helper-bots back to your space craft’s emergency port.
Fans of Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Connected Home Products: Design and Build Cloud Connected IoT Devices
Instead of asking Alexa or Google Home, kids who live in California and love the smart home capabilities of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things can design and build cloud connected IoT devices thanks to Acer America. Acer’s CloudProfessor educational development kit (used by A3 Education for its 2017 Internet of Things (IoT) online summer class) is being offered for free in many counties in California. Students between the ages of 5-24 who have not yet completed high school can register now for the A3 Education IoT Summer Class here. The convenient online class and curriculum (available to students between July 1-August 31) will teach students about the Cloud, coding and how to design Internet of Things with the Acer CloudProfessor kit and the Acer CloudProfessor app using their Android or iOS devices.
Class materials, which include video and written tutorials, manuals, an interactive app and the Acer CloudProfessor IoT kit will be provided for free to all registered students. The Acer CloudProfessor IoT kit is valued at $349 MSRP for the hardware, not including A3’s educational content.
Registration has opened for this new class, which develops students’ programming skills to design and build cloud-connected IoT devices using Acer CloudProfessor. Students in the following counties in California are eligible to register: Butte, Colusa, Contra Costa, Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Lake, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Mendocino, Merced, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Orange, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, San Benito, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Solano, Sonoma, Sutter, Tulare, Ventura, Yolo and Yuba.
Tinkerers: Become Productive Makers Thanks to Summer Screen Time
If your family has ever been to a Maker Fair, you know that the imagination is the only limit to the possibilities. For kids who love to create, tinker, and are inspired by projects, Maker Camp’s Project Paths for Summer 2017 provide endless inspiration while encouraging kids to explore, make, and share. Kids can choose projects according to themes like light it up, make it sing, paint with light, give it form, change the move, and sew the circuits and use the site’s vast resources to start making at home. A new project is offered every day. A daily video from the day provides an overview while links are furnished for working at home. Sign up for email alerts to stay up to date on the latest Maker Camp daily projects.
Create Content to Learn New Skills During Screen Time with a Star Stable Lifetime Membership ($75 value)
Star Stable is an online game designed for girls who love horses, adventure and friendship. To celebrate summer, the addition of the much-loved horse Spirit (from new Netflix series Spirit: Riding Free) into the game, and give kids the chance to create content to learn new skills during screen time, one lucky winner will receive a Star Stable Lifetime Membership ($75 value). To enter, use the Rafflecopter form below.
For more information, visit the Star Stable website and follow Star Stable on:
I was compensated for hosting the Star Stable giveaway but all opinions are my own and no other compensation was received for any mentions in this post. Products were received for review purposes. I am a Netflix Stream Team Member and while I am not compensated, my family does enjoy a complimentary Netflix subscription and other items for my involvement.