MyBackpack - Waterford Learning

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
MyBackpack - Waterford Learning App Poster Image
Free games, stories, songs vary in quality and target age.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn, to varying degrees, about a variety of early learning topics. They'll explore nursery rhymes, literature, and reading. Older kids can work on quickly calculating simple addition and subtraction problems with four mental math games that increase in difficulty. Songs, and their accompanying animations, give kids a very basic introduction to a wide variety of topics from the scientific process to Venn diagrams, telling time, phonics, and the ABCs. Though the content's target age is somewhat unclear and is relatively simple in relation to many apps, MyBackpack - Waterford Learning provides a lot of free content with several support features.

Ease of Play

Some how-to instructions aren't totally clear, but overall, kids will be able to navigate easily.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

The app includes unique material and material from the developer's fee- and technology-based early learning curriculum. But it stands alone with no ads and no need to buy any of their other products.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that MyBackpack - Waterford Learning offers stories, games, songs, and nursery rhymes with which kids can explore reading, math, and science topics. The app is part of -- and borrows some material from -- Waterford Institute's larger technology-based early learning curriculum but also stands easily on its own. Though the digital storybooks and nursery rhymes are on target for young kids, the "mental math" material involves doing simple addition and subtraction problems, making the math section more appropriate for early elementary-age kids. Math games can be set for lefties and righties, and written instructions can be in English or Spanish.

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What's it about?

MYBACKPACK - WATERFORD LEARNING has four sections: storybooks, songs, nursery rhymes, and mental math games. Kids can read or follow along with cross-cultural, fully illustrated storybooks. Short songs with accompanying animations address a wide variety of topics from early math and science to grammar and punctuation. Nursery rhymes are presented as digital board books; children can read, be read to, or hear the rhyme as a song. To use the mental math section, kids sign in with a username and progress through various games that require kids to complete quick, simple addition and subtraction equations. Animal characters climb a mountain, fly upward in a hot air balloon, or balance an equation on a scale.

Is it any good?

The four components form a bit of a hodgepodge that varies in quality and appropriate target age range. The nursery rhymes are most appealing for the young preschool set, but kids won't be ready for the mental math games until early elementary school. The storybook collection has classics from a variety of cultures and feature print-quality illustrations and multiple read options, but a few books won't open or they freeze. Most appropriate for an early elementary group, the songs are the most disappointing: Lyrics and story lines are not always easy to follow and, without larger context, lose much of their potential to drive home a point. The reading options -- while fairly standard in children's ebooks -- are great to have, and kids can tap on single words for pronunciation if they're reading on their own and get stuck. Also, having the content available in Spanish is a big plus. Though there aren't many of the interactive features kids have come to expect, and there are occasional glitches and delays, there's a lot of content, and all for free, so parents can pick and choose the parts that work best for their kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the stories: Read them together and use them as conversation starters. Help beginning readers read the stories aloud.

  • Use the songs as launchpads for exploring lots of early learning topics. Help kids hear and understand the lyrics and then expand on the themes with research and activities.

App details

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