I have spent the last 7 years specialising in reviewing or supporting those developing children’s apps, particularly those that promote learning. At this very difficult time for all of us, I’ve taken a look at apps, online platforms and other resources that might help those who suddenly find themselves homeschooling their kids — while trying to work themselves. This article focuses on suggestions that will support primary school children as well as pre-schoolers with early literacy, reading and writing skills.
Night Zookeeper — 6-12 year-olds: I highly recommend Night Zookeeper, in fact, if your child is Year two or higher and you were only to use one service during the COVID-19 crisis I would suggest this one. This is a UK creation so the language and curriculum are particularly good for UK households. It is primarily a service to encourage Creative Writing but does far more than that. Children get to create their own digital drawings of animals for the Night Zoo and are encouraged to write in a way cleverly designed to develop their writing skills. Qualified tutors mark the work they submit, providing comments to stretch and encourage the children.
There are also learning games and a fun reward game to keep children engaged. Uniquely the games also feature their own creations, which really encourages their creativity and certainly has got my kids very excited! An adaptive curriculum serves up activities with age-appropriate content that helps to develop literacy skills such as reading comprehension, word choice, punctuation and grammar. Children can ‘friend’ each other using their anonymous usernames if they want to read and send encouraging comments to each other too. Furthermore, the Team Blog and Leaderboard provide a means for international recognition for great work.
Night Zookeeper was created by a children’s author, primary school teacher and designer and really seems to capture the essence of all of these skills. The design of the product is beautiful throughout. They also have offline activities (currently free) to ensure it is not all screen time. And there are even four physical books, a card game and a Sky TV show to enjoy within the brand. There is also a free seven day trial and half-price for Design Week readers.
Teach Your Monster to Read
Teach Your Monster to Read — 3-6 years old: Teach Your Monster to Read: This is another wonderful option to help your child learn to read, starting from pre-school age. The app combines mini-games for letter recognition, blending, segmenting and learning tricky words, through to reading with purpose. This programme will again allow your child to move at their own pace and keep them entertained while they learn. This is also one of 8 government approved educational apps for language learning for early years (see below).
Twinkl — 4-16 years-old: This is a much loved resource for teachers that has very much opened its doors to supporting parents with homeschooling. You will find a huge range of resources to support learning from ebooks to printable phonics activity sheets to activity suggestions.
Audible Audible is currently providing 100s of their Audiobooks for kids for free to support parents entertaining their children at home. Ultimately, a love of stories is one of the most important drivers of good English skills and academic success more widely, not to mention opening up a pastime they will enjoy for life. Getting children to listen to stories is a great place to start. Perhaps encourage them to write reviews, synopses, diaries from characters, related poems, draw pictures of scenes from the story or get them to write their own short story inspired by what they have heard on Night Zookeeper.
If you want to inspire your children to learn creatively, Night Zookeeper can offer a creative writing platform for kids with design at its heart.
Night Zookeeper supports thousands of children to develop vital literacy skills such as writing and reading. Of course some children find it hard to put pen to paper, but this website makes it fun and engaging. It’s an encouraging place where children are invited to design their own magical animal to come and live in the ‘Night Zoo’.