By Rachel Pathak

Happy First Day of Summer! For many parents, these summer months are a time to loosen the screen-time reigns and let kids play Pokemon Go, Temple Run and Minecraft as long as they want. Others worry about the impact of too many hours spent on social media, games and videos, often at the cost of more nostalgic summer past times, real or imagined. (Did we all actually climb trees, build forts and pick blueberries?).

But how to manage screen time when you might not even be home to do it? And even if you are a stay-at-home parent, do you have the energy to fight the battle every hour of the day? It’s a challenge for many families, and one that’s generating a host of responses: One Washington D.C. area principal recently offered to pay incoming 8thand 9th graders $100 each if they went screen-free every Tuesday of summer vacation. Another mom recently locked her children’s devices into an offsite storage unit in her quest to experience some digital downtime.

What exactly is the impact of screen time during the summer? And how will you choose to manage it this summer?

Many parents worry how much screen time their kids will experience during the summer; but it’s just as important to know what they’re consuming. After the infographic below meant to give you some cold hard facts, and tips, I have shared five great apps all but guaranteed to inspire kids to get outside and explore the world around them!

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(Image courtesy of

Whether your kids want to learn about insects, birds, the sun or simply how to build a back-yard pond, here are some top apps to get them out of the house! And for parents looking to help prevent summer slide when it comes to elementary kids and math, we’ve sourced some of the very best apps for game-based mathematics

1. DIY Sun Science 

This NASA-backed app offers fascinating ways to learn about the sun: through activities, videos & images, as well as a “sun observatory,” which shows live images of the star from a NASA satellite in seven different views. A good assortment of activities offers mini experiments on subjects like solar convection — sun-baked s’mores! — and heat distribution. Most can be done with minimal parental supervision. This is a worthwhile app for kids with an interest in space sciences and is entirely free.

2. DIY: Kids Learning Skills and Being Awesome 

DIY: Kids Learning Skills and Being Awesome is an amazing app that encourages kids to learn new skills, many of which will get them exploring. Outside. Kids earn badges for skills such and learning to shoot with a bow and arrow, sewing a beekeeping suit and building a back-yard pond. Through the app, they can sign up for projects, track their progress and get feedback from other users, creating a community where a truly great assortment of skill-building, creative DIY projects gets star billing.

3. Project Noah 

Backed by National Geographic, Project Noah is mobilizing a new generation of nature explorers and helping people from around the world appreciate their local wildlife. With a goal to build the go-to platform for documenting all the world’s organisms, the site encourages kids to upload their own photos and observations of nature around them, no matter where they live.

4. Audubon Bird Guide

This fantastic (and completely free) app gives you the tools to photograph and expertly classify birds. Audubon Bird Guide boasts many impressive features more than 800 images of bird species, detailed seasonal and migratory range maps, birds reported near your location, and over eight hours of bird calls. Kids can even search for birds visually by identifying things like color, size, body shape, and wingspan. Best of all: Despite containing so much information, the design doesn’t overwhelm.

5. Meet the Insects

This is great way for kids to not only learn about insects, but also to spark their curiosity to know more. Kids can read, watch and learn about hundreds of species through snippets of text, video, photography, audio recordings and graphics. A great day-to-night feature includes realistic insect sounds. While younger kids may need some help adjusting to the navigation, the observation journal is very easy to use. Best of all, it encourages kids to apply what they’ve learned to the outdoors (or indoors, depending on where the insects are living)!

The research has been done and the numbers crunched: It turns out that the majority of kids would rather eat broccoli than do math.


If your school-age kids fall into Camp Cruciferous, however, there may still be hope: Three new math apps for elementary students not only make learning and reinforcing math fun, but they also give numbers exceptional (and exciting) real-world applications.

Motion Math: Cupcake! $4.99

One of our all time favorite math apps, Motion Math: Pizza, now has a sweet partner, Motion Math: Cupcake! Like the pepperoni version, this app requires elementary students to run all aspects of a food-service business, from solving word problems to filling orders, comparing ingredients and deciding which vendor to use. It has highly realistic game play, with speed incorporated into it when demand for cupcakes is high.

Numbers for Osmo: Free (but requires purchase of Osmo Box)

Here’s an awesome app that interacts with physical objects (in this case a series of game pieces with numbers and dots on them that must be purchased in order to use the “free” app).  By attaching Osmo’s mirror to the iPad, the app sees the pieces, and then elementary students can play by using number squares that add up to the sum seen on-screen. As they progress through the game, kids go from counting the dots to working out multiplication challenges.

Learn & Earn: $4.99 monthly subscription

This super cool app also comes with a huge caveat: It ties time on it practicing math skills needed for elementary students grades 1-4 to rewards. And by rewards, we mean goods that can be purchased through Amazon. Yep, that’s the concept here: The app lets parents link it to their Amazon account and then motivate kids by connecting learning goals with rewards. Parents select how much they are willing to spend and children select a prize within that price range. Children work toward the goal and the app keeps track of use. More than 500,000 math challenges are available, and parents can select skills kids practice.

Here’s to a great summer, and being mindful of screen time!