Must-have free educational apps for your kids

HOUSTON - You've got the school supply list done and shopping plans for tax-free weekend, but what are your kids doing to get ready for back to school?

There are many free educational apps you can download to your phone or tablet to help your kids learn and have fun doing it!

"My 11- and 10-year-old use them all the time. My oldest going into junior high uses a lot with the school," said Fitness Instructor and Houston Moms Blog Spokesperson, Hilary Hall.

From preschool to junior high, more than ever kids are using smartphone apps to enhance their learning.

I think technology is very helpful at even a young age getting kids interested in the idea of learning their alphabets, their numbers," said Dr. Sapna Singh with Texas Children's Pediatrics Sugar Land.

Hall has a "Houston Moms Blog" approved list of the best free educational apps.

Kids 5 and Under

Sight Words Learning Games - games to help kids recognize the most common sight words.

Preschool Educational Games for Kids - includes puzzles and games to help kids learn colors, shapes, numbers, time and more.

Reading Rainbow (called Skybrary Family)  LeVar Burton will read to the kids and the kids can also read to themselves. There are 500+ books available.

Ages 6-10

Splash Math - prepares kids for addition all the way to algebra.

Kids U-S Atlas US Geography Planet Factory Interactive - learn about all 50 states including capitols, monuments and other elements that make each state unique.

HopScotch - Coding 101. Provides step by step instructions for kids who want to learn how to build an app or even build games.

All Ages:

Skyview App - gives a real time look into space. You point your device up to the sky and you can see stars and consolations.

7-minute workout for kids - allows you to get a full body workout. Counts down different workouts that target your entire body.

Max's Plate - nutrition for kids. App allows you to build plates of food using each food group.

Apps To Monitor Screen Usage:

Time Away - You can monitor and restrict time spent on the device, allow and block apps, and track the current location of the device.

Dinner TIme - Monitors time  and usage of apps and devices.

Note to Parents: While all of these apps are free, many have options to buy extra features after a certain trial period. So, watch what your kids are doing with the apps so you don't accidentally get charged extra down the road.

How long should your kids really be using apps? You can check out devices usage recommendations for each age group, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Warning signs your child may be using devices too much

While she does recommend technology for learning, Singh says there are three big warning signs your child may be using devices too much.

Rough Sleep:
"Ideally, I tell parents, about an hour before bedtime all screens need to be turned off. It can disrupt your ability to go to fall asleep and to stay asleep, which children are way more sensitive to."

Obesity:
"Mindless eating while you are on the couch watching TV or mindlessly scrolling around on app can be a side effect of that," said Singh.

Isolation:
"If you've got kids who are playing video games for 4-5 hours at a time, in a dark room, zoned into one thing. They are not going to come out of that interaction for a while.  Withdrawal from social things, isolation, occasionally depression. If there is too much time spent zoned into something that doesn't require person to person interaction."

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