There is no reason why your kids' brains should go unused this summer when school is not in session. When they aren't outside enjoying a trip to the water park or a backyard barbecue, they can tap into educational opportunities on their touch screen devices. The trick, of course, is to understand which educational apps are legit and which ones stand out from mindless games that claim to be educational but are nothing of the sort.
These selections for children 3 to 18 are entertaining and educational.
Stack the Countries
No worries if summer travel is not part of your family's plans in the coming months. There are several key concepts related to countries and continents that are taught and reinforced in this game, including capitals, landmarks, continents, major cities, border countries, languages, flags and country shapes. Similar to its counterpart Stack the States, the app combines flash-card-based questions with an addictive physics game that requires players to pile countries on top of one another without letting them fall.
Toontastic: All Access
There is something truly fantastic about Toontastic, which your kids will enjoy more than clicking through endless TV channels or even going to the movies for the latest blockbuster. This app encourages kids to simply tell and share stories through animation. Targeted to children ages 3 to 13, Toontastic gives kids a digital tool kit to draw, narrate and share cartoon clips. Younger, less experienced users have a number of starter templates to choose from, while older kids can let their imaginations run wild. Once a toon is created, it can be shared with family and other viewers worldwide at Toontastic's ToonTube. You can sample a free lite version of the app before buying it.
Bobo Explores Light
Looking for a way to engage scientifically minded preteens this summer? All of the subject matter in this app, which is targeted to older elementary school and middle school students, is focused on light and how humans perceive it. Topics include lasers, auroras, photosynthesis and bioluminescence. Bobo serves as a funny wingman throughout a mix of games, short videos and interactive content.
If your high school student has to spend part of the summer brushing up on his or her trigonometry skills, this is a home run of an app. In quizzes ranging from 20 to 120 seconds, players can test trigonometry skills by solving right triangle problems. Each question has four multiple-choice answers and poses problems dealing with either an angle or a side length.
Duck Duck Moose Reading
While there are hundreds of iPad apps available that claim to teach preschool children and kindergartners how to read, most are pretty ineffective. This is not the case with Duck Duck Moose Reading, which is designed to reinforce relationships between written letters and their sounds. The app, which is based on Common Core State Standards, features playful characters and a reward system.
Texting kids with asthma
Sending a text message once a day to children and teens with asthma may help them improve their health. A Georgia Tech University study found a text message that simply asked kids about their symptoms spurred them to take their medications. And since nearly 90 percent of the kids in the study texted back, they managed their condition better because they showed they understood their symptoms. -- Peter King
If you're over 40 and female, you can probably forget about a free upgrade on your next flight. Airfare comparison site skyscanner.com surveyed 700 cabin crew members and found the person most likely to get a free upgrade was a well-dressed single male in his 30s. Best way to get upgraded: Be friendly and have a good sob story about why you need to be in first class. -- Peter King
Tablets to outsell PCs by 2015
Tablets will eclipse personal computers in 2015 as consumers flock to Apple's iPad and its alternatives, market researcher IDC reports. Tablet shipments are projected to grow 45 percent to reach 332.4 million in 2015, compared to 322.7 million for PCs. The portable and affordable tablets are replacing PCs as consumers' main tool for checking email, browsing websites and accessing music and movies. -- Bloomberg News