Fun and educational ways to use technology with young kids
There is a lot to be said for co-using technology with your children, especially as this gives you the opportunity to influence how they engage with technology at an age when they still want to listen to you! Check out apps that can bring out their creative side, or enhance skills such as problem solving, or collaborating or communicating with others.
A recent UK study looked at some children’s apps that are very popular with the 0-5 age group and examined whether these apps had educational merits. They found that CBeebies, Disney, Peppa’s Paintbox and Toca Boca apps were appropriate for this age group and promoted a range of types of play and creativity. For older children, they found that Minecraft was successful in promoting play and creativity but they will need your help (or that of an older sibling or friend) at first.
Interestingly, this study also found that YouTube fostered a range of non-digital play and creativity, encouraging children to engage in creative and play activities off their screens. There are lots of great YouTube videos out there with fun activities, but remember that even YouTube Kids, while a safer and more restricted app to use than the full version of YouTube, is not always successful at filtering out harmful content. Scary or inappropriate videos can slip through the net, so always keep an eye on what they are viewing. Watching videos together is a great way to open up chats on a huge range of different subjects.
Don’t forget to start the conversations early. Talk openly with your child about using technology. Be interested and supportive and set rules for the whole family including the grown ups! If they see you following the same rules in terms of healthy tech use, such as not using devices at the dinner table, then they are much more likely to grow up following your example. And remember to check the safety settings on devices, apps and games. For the younger kids, always switch off chat options (or simply let them play the game offline) if you can, especially if these chats could involve strangers.
Check out our list of a few suggested apps, games or YouTube video channels to try below. While we don't endorse any specific products, these are ones that the extended CyberSafeIreland team like using at home. Click on the links to access more information on the apps before you download. (We're big fans of CommonSense Media for sensible advice on apps and games so have linked to their very helpful explanations where possible). We’d love to hear your suggestions too so please get in touch if there are websites, apps or games that you’ve enjoyed using with your kids.
Some ideas for kids under the age of 8:
Cúla Caint - fun selection of apps to introduce Irish words to children of different agegroups.
Toca Boca: exploring and role play apps and games aimed generally at pre-school kids
CBeebies Show Me Show Me: introducing very young kids to imaginary play
Cookie Monsters Challenge: aimed at helping pre-schoolers develop problem-solving and memory skills
Cosmic Kids Yoga: fun YouTube channel aimed at teaching kids yoga skills
Starfall: great website for practising phonics
Scratch JR: an introductory programming language that enables young children (ages 5-7) to create their own interactive stories and games
Khan Academy Kids: child-friendly app with lots of activities to help learning numbers, letters, etc
Ideas for kids aged 8-13:
Help my Kid Learn: a Department of Education website with lots of great ideas to help your child learn for primary school children
Minecraft: great building game which fosters creativity and problem solving skills
Scratch: a free programming language and online community where you can create your own interactive stories, games, and animations
Aimsir: is a very popular Irish weather app providing weather forecasts through Irish. It's not designed specifically with kids in mind but will help them to learn lots of great weather phrases, and learn about the weather in different countries
Smilebox: there are lots of sites like this where you can make fab videos to music. Use your favourite family photos, or pics of a family day out!
Alex Cooney is co-founder and CEO of CyberSafeIreland. She is a mum of two and is a big advocate of co-use of technology between parents and children where possible