Parents

Plug your kids' summer 'brain drain' with these fun learning apps

When school ends, the dreaded summer learning slide begins for many kids.

You know the drill: With lots of free time, children forget much of what they learned during the school year, and staying glued to their screens all day is a tempting possibility.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, says digital lifestyle expert Carley Knobloch. Prevent the summer brain drain by limiting technology, but also using it wisely.

“You definitely want to make sure it’s not a free-for-all once there is no school and they just have free time. They get on the screens in the morning and they don’t stop,” Knobloch told TODAY’s Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford on Friday.

“You want to give them a break from school, but not a break from learning.”

The first action she recommends is getting on the same page about screen time rules before the summer starts. You can download and print a contract from her website that everyone in the family signs to be clear about what’s allowed.

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Involve your children in the decision-making because they can have great input, Knobloch recommended.

Be sure you are sending the right message with your own behavior. If you're asking the kids to be off screens at mealtimes, during playdates and car rides, then it's important they see you respecting the same rules.

Use tech to control tech

Circle is a gadget that allows you to monitor and set limits on the activity on any device that’s connected to your home Wi-Fi. You can set curfews, time limits per app (such as Facebook, Snapchat or YouTube) and a bedtime for each device so that it automatically disconnects from the internet.

Cost: $99

If you want to also monitor older kids’ phones, Circle Go costs $9.95 per month and extends to cellular devices, inside and outside the house. You can activate it for just the summer or longer.

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App for preschool-aged children

Tiggly Math: Combines an app with a physical toy that lets kids solve problems and makes math tangible for children 3 to 8 years old. It feels fun and addresses all the core mathematical concepts, Knobloch said.

Compatible with most iPads and recent Android Tablets, including Galaxy and Kindle Fire HD.

Cost: $29.95

App for elementary school children

Blurb: Lets kids work on written and photographic compositions over the summer, which they can publish in their own magazine. This is a great idea if you have a budding writer, photographer, illustrator or chef in your house, Knobloch said. The project keeps their writing and art skills sharp when they’re out of school.

Cost: Starts at $3.99 for one 20-page magazine and goes up from there.

App for middle school children

Skillshare: Learn creative things with the help of video e-courses that teach calligraphy, cooking, writing or even taking better photos on Instagram.

Cost: 515 classes for free. Nearly 5,000 classes for $9 a month.

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