Try as you might, you can’t keep an eye on your kids 24/7.
You want to make sure they can learn and grow, even when you’re not around. But how in the world are you supposed to let them explore the online world around them without worrying until your hair falls out? Parental controls are only one way to shape your child’s digital life.
Take childhood development a step further with these online tools that can help you nurture strong motivations and values in your kids.
The 11 resources below will make learning a variety of life skills fun for your kids; from household chores to finance management to being a compassionate person.
Motivate Kids to Help Out Around the House
Chore avoidance is a classic childhood pastime, much to parents’ frustration. However, doing chores is a proven childhood predictor of success later in life, so getting your kids to help out now could pay off big time for them in the future.
While cash rewards and sparkly sticker chore charts were the most popular chore motivators of days past, today’s apps do all that and more to make chores fun.
Chore Monster (iOS and Android, Free)
Parents will find this free app helpful because they can assign chores to each child as well as the number of points the child will earn upon completion. Most importantly, your child won’t get the points until you verify their chores have been done.
Parents can also choose a set of rewards for kids to redeem with their points. You can go for good old-fashioned money or a pleasant experience, such as 30 extra minutes of screen time or a trip to a local ice cream stand.
Kids will like Chore Monster because they log in separately from you, giving them the independence and sense of control that all kids crave.
They can see their assigned chores as well as the catalog of prizes waiting to be redeemed. There are also surprise monsters kids earn as they complete their chores, adding to the fun and appealing cartoon look of the app.
This app takes the chores-as-a-game approach literally. Kids choose a character to represent them and compete with each other in a race to finish their weekly chores first.
Parents will like You Rule because they can view all kids’ weekly progress on one screen. This could be especially helpful for keeping track of who’s doing what chores in a larger family.
Parents can assign chores on a weekly or biweekly basis, a nice time-saver for regular tasks. You can also choose from pre-existing chores in the app or create new ones.
As with Chore Monster, parents have the last say in whether a chore was completed satisfactorily, and they control the amount of coins players earn as a reward.
Kids will enjoy the video game feel and competitive nature of this app. The wish list feature lets them choose the rewards they want to earn and track their progress toward redemption. Kids will be further motivated by seeing how close they are to each of their wish list items in real time.
Encourage Outdoor Exploration
Get your kids out of the house and into the great outdoors! Studies show that simply being out in nature can benefit your kids’ mental energy and even improve short-term memory.
Many parents see technology as the enemy of outside play, so it may seem counterintuitive to use an app to get kids exploring. However, this app makes the great outdoors fun again.
Sky Guide (iOS, $1.99)
Remember that elementary school trip to the planetarium? Sky Guide is even cooler than that.
Parents will like it because it’s easy to use and doesn’t require Wi-Fi to operate. Simply open the app and hold your phone up to the sky in any direction.
Sky Guide will identify the stars and constellations you’re looking at. It’s educational and just as fun for adults as for kids, making it a great way to experience quality time together.
If you want to enjoy the sky on your Android device, you can also check out these Android alternatives to Sky Guide.
Download: Sky Guide for $1.99 iOS
Develop Educational Hobbies
Kids may sometimes seem naturally suspicious of anything deemed educational. However, research has shown that early educational stimulation is key to brain development later in life.
These apps provide a learning solution both parents and kids are sure to love.
Hopscotch (iOS, Free)
Programming is a highly desirable skill in today’s workforce. Get your little boy or girl on track to digital dominance with this app, which teaches programming skills through the design and creation of games, animation, art and anything else you can dream up.
Parents will love Hopscotch because it teaches children important skills like abstraction and sequencing.
Kids will love Hopscotch because it’s fun. They get to use their imaginations and learn without realizing they’re learning. Then there’s the finished product to show off!
Virtuoso Piano (iOS, Free)
With so many benefits to reading and playing music, it’s no wonder parents have always wanted their kids to learn the piano.
Kids, on the other hand, are not always motivated to practice.
Virtuoso Piano can help!
Kids will love playing the piano on their tablet, and the app’s professional sound quality makes it comparable to the real thing. It’s also portable, meaning kids can practice anywhere, even in the car.
Parents will love it because it’s free and it’s a great space and money saver for those without the means or space to own their own piano.
Foster Empathy and Compassion
When you think about the kind of adults you want to raise your children to be, empathy and compassion are two traits likely to be near the top of your list. But empathy doesn’t just happen for kids. To raise a more caring individual, you need to teach them how to empathize early on.
From sharing toys to recognizing others’ feelings and helping to make the world a better place, technology can help your kids develop these important soft skills.
The Mother Co. (Web, Free with paid resources)
Created by mothers of preschool-age children, The Mother Co.’s products teach emotional intelligence.
Parents will love the inexpensive downloads, which teach empathy and compassion with fun and interactive videos. Stock up on a few clips for your car ride and listen to your child play The Feelings Guessing Game in the backseat.
Kids will love the brightly colored and cheerful videos, which combine real people with puppets, stuffed animals and cartoon characters.
Heifer International (Web, Free)
Perhaps you’ve already donated to this popular organization yourself. Now you can introduce your children to Heifer International and empower them to help solve problems around the world.
This site offers a number of resources for parents and teachers to incorporate into children’s learning.
Kids will enjoy taking action by starting a fundraiser at their school, which they can manage through the Heifer website. They will like the feelings of independence and helpfulness they experience, as well as the social aspect of bringing people together with a fundraiser.
Teach the Value of a Dollar
Financial literacy is an important skill for children to learn. The more they understand and appreciate the value of a buck as kids, the more likely they are to become responsible adults without the burden of debt so many Americans carry.
One study conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge found that, for many kids, financial habits are already formed by the time they’re 7 years old.
The app and website below make money management fun, so kids will want to learn how to save and budget early on.
P2K Money [No Longer Available]
Parents will like this app because it’s free, meaning there’s no upfront cost to invest in your child’s financial future.
It allows kids to track their income and purchases, and review past expenditures. Parents will especially appreciate this last feature, which provides an opportunity for kids to reflect on whether that toy they only played with for a week was really the best way to spend their birthday money.
Kids will love the wish list feature, which allows them to add pictures of items they want to buy and track their progress towards acquisition.
Rich Kid Smart Kid (Web, Free)
This free website offers games that teach kids financial literacy.
Parents will love it because there are games for every grade level and topics range from “pay yourself first” to “debt dilemmas.”
Kids will have fun with the friendly cartoon worlds of the games and the real-life situations, such as running an ice cream stand.
Establish a Sense of Social Responsibility
Just as important as teaching empathy and compassion is teaching kids to be good citizens. Research shows that, much like empathy, social responsibility is something that should be taught to kids.
Use these websites to help kids learn how to take care of themselves and others around them in order to have a positive effect on their environment.
NetSmartzKids (Web, Free)
This website was created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to teach kids how to keep themselves and their friends safe both on and offline.
Parents will like the helpful lessons, such as what to do if a stranger asks for personal information. Kids will delight in the fun ways these lessons are delivered: through video games and print-out activities.
ePals (Web, Free with paid resources)
Having a pen pal can be a transformative experience, teaching kids that the world is bigger than their community and showing them how much people from different countries and cultures have in common.
This site updates the pen pal experience for the digital age, as well as offers many other resources to help children build communities.
Parents will love the collection of children’s e-books available to purchase from one convenient site, and kids will love the ePals clubhouse. There, they can connect with other kids around the world, create art, play games and share their stories.
ePals prides itself on being a “safe and protected space for student interactions,” so you can rest easier knowing that not just anyone is allowed to sign up for the site. If, however, you’re still wary of letting your kids send mail back and forth to other students, you could also set up a VPN or install a private browser on your computer.
Let Technology Ease Your Biggest Parenting Concerns
The best part about these 11 websites and apps is their appeal to parents and children alike.
Each tool offers a wholesome and educational experience in a fun, colorful package that will help your kids being their lifelong journey of personal growth.
Which one of these skills will you focus on first? Tell us in the comments section below!
Image Credit: StartupStockPhotos