Summer Learning Guide

Best Summer Ever!

Play, Learn, Do with Digital Tools

Whether your kids' summer days are jam-packed with activities or left wide open for leisurely exploration -- or something in between -- chances are some of those days will involve a smartphone, tablet, or other device. Now more than ever, you can use these powerful tools to enhance the activities that kids are already doing -- or to help create brand-new experiences. We've chosen the best apps, games, and websites for learning while doing this summer. Get ready to have the Best. Summer. Ever!
 

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the creators or by our funders. When you use our buy links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. We appreciate your support.

Guide Details

How Are You Spending Your Summer?

These categories can help guide you to the best tools based on your kids' interests and activities. We also offer tips you can use to support your kids as they play, learn, and do!

 

Explore the World

Learn about travel, geography, and cultures

2to6

Hands-On Science

Discover biology, physics, and astronomy -- all by doing

2to6

Get Creative

Draw, make music, and explore the arts

2to6

Tinkering & Tech

Build structures, invent contraptions, and learn to code

2to6

Learn Together

Collaborate, share, and create with others

2to6

Multimedia Memories

Use digital tools to creatively preserve and share experiences

2to6

 

 

 

 

Our Learning Ratings

We rate media on both age-appropriateness and learning potential based on developmental criteria from some of the nation's leading authorities. We make recommendations about which age each title is appropriate for. Then we evaluate the learning potential with these ratings: BEST, VERY GOOD, GOOD, FAIR for learning, or NOT FOR LEARNING.

 
Best: Really engaging, excellent learning approach.
 
Very Good: Engaging, very good learning approach.
 
Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
 
Fair: Somewhat engaging, OK learning approach.
 
Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
 
Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.
 
Who Made This Guide?

Who Made This Guide?

Common Sense Media is the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.

This guide was made possible through the generous support of SCE

Explore the World

Age 2-6

Very young kids may have a hard time understanding just how wide the world is. These titles can help them learn that the world is bigger than their own neighborhood or city.

age 4+
LEARNING

Dr. Panda's Airport takes kids through the whole airport experience -- from walking through the metal detectors to cleaning the plane. The 10 mini-games include matching luggage, identifying letters, and solving mazes -- touching on pre-reading and early math concepts.

age 5+
LEARNING

LeapFrog Explorer Learning Game: Globe: Earth Adventures offers a whirlwind trip around the world, during which kids solve puzzles, complete learning activities, and develop navigational skills while gaining a greater understanding of world geography.

age 6+
LEARNING

Barefoot World Atlas gives kids an interactive look at animals, indigenous peoples, and other topics of interest around the world. The beautiful graphics, photos, high-quality narration, and fun facts easily draw kids into learning.

age 6+
LEARNING

Interactive tours take kids into homes around the world, introducing them in impressive detail to how other people live, eat, sleep, and play. With no instructions or objectives, kids explore and learn freely, interacting with items in each home.

age 6+
LEARNING

Through One Globe Kids' stories, kids can "meet" other kids around the world without ever leaving home and gain cultural understanding through experiencing other kids' stories, learning countries' facts, and making comparisons to their own daily lives.

  • If you're traveling by air this summer, Dr. Panda's Airport is a fantastic app for preparing kids for what they'll experience at the airport.

Age 7-12

Summer is the perfect time for a road trip -- real or virtual. Many of these apps, websites, and games focus on North America and U.S. states, but tweens can also learn about international cultures and global awareness.

age 7+
LEARNING

Kids and Home is a great tool for sparking kids' interest in different cultures and for helping them build global awareness. In a highly interactive way, this app teaches history, legends, facts, and figures about the way people live around the globe.

age 10+
LEARNING

Kids can learn about global awareness and cultural understanding with Flat Stanley. The app's photos -- though often just funny and silly -- can expose kids to different places and cultures and give kids some context for geography as they peruse Stanleys on the world map.

age 8+
LEARNING

Take an engaging road trip through each state, earning money for gas and supplies by answering questions. Kids can learn about all 50 states through this interactive game, as well as U.S. geography, national parks, historic events, and trivia.

age 8+
LEARNING

Kids (and parents) can learn how to become responsible global citizens while exploring National Geographic Education's rich resource library containing topics ranging from science, geography, animals, and world events to global citizenship, ecology, and more.

age 9+
LEARNING

State Bingo and Road Trip US takes two very basic concepts for games and presents them in dynamic ways -- colorful maps, quick bingo games, and a cute little car on road trips throughout America -- to excite kids about U.S. states and geography.

age 10+
LEARNING

U.S. Geography by MindSnacks is a fast-paced, information-packed quiz app that draws kids into practicing U.S. geography and state trivia information through eight fun games, distinctive visuals, and demanding questions at the higher levels of play.

  • Flat Stanley is a great app for helping tweens connect and share with people around the world. Be sure to work with kids to manage their privacy settings.​

Age 13-17

By the time kids are teens, they have a better grasp of how big -- and how small -- the world is. With these tools at their fingertips, teens can learn almost anything about cities and countries around the world.

age 10+
LEARNING

Google Maps is an essential navigation tool that empowers kids to explore their world with confidence and forethought. Data like distance, scale, travel time, cardinal directions, and even traffic conditions will help kids make informed decisions about getting around.

age 11+
LEARNING

Google Earth’s easy-to-use tools and lack of restrictions let kids really get their hands on the planet (and beyond). Kids are free to create their own tours with narration, video, and photos and explore endlessly, bound only by the limits of curiosity and imagination.

age 12+
LEARNING

Kids can learn about geographical and cultural differences by examining mysterious locations. To figure out where these places are, kids must exercise critical-thinking skills, use deductive reasoning, and build up a sense of how different parts of the world compare.

age 13+
LEARNING

Field Trip is a must-have for road trips -- there's no need to make a U-turn to read that historical marker: It's right there on your phone. It’s a fun way to use technology efficiently and effectively to learn more about both places you drive by every day and those you're visiting.

age 13+
LEARNING

National Parks by National Geographic is an excellent travel-planning tool that includes visitor information for 25 of America's 59 national parks, as well as maps, a photo gallery of some of National Geographic's archived images, and user-submitted images.

age 14+
LEARNING

Get your kids excited about exploring the world around them with geocaching treasure hunts ranging from simple but exciting challenges to complex problem-solving adventures, which reinforce valuable geography, map reading, math, and other tech skills.

  • Teens can create their own "tours" with Google Earth -- based on actual travels or a trip cooked up in their imagination.

Hands-On Science

Age 2-6

Do you have a budding young scientist on your hands? Let kids explore their interest in the scientific world with these cool options. They'll learn about plants, animals, life cycles, charting data, and more.

age 4+
LEARNING

In this educational game featuring characters from the Nick Jr. TV show, kids race on a predesigned track or design their own, choosing from the Badlands, Snowy Slopes, or the Monster Dome. STEM concepts are explained and explored during play.

age 4+
LEARNING

The three interactive stations of Sid's Science Fair gently teach core science ideas and inspire young scientists in fun, effective ways, reminding them that science is for everyone.

age 4+
LEARNING

Mesmerizing, open-ended app allows for pure creative exploration. Kids build natural elements such as trees, lakes, and mountains, and watch as animals move in and food sources abound. Interaction is slow and calm, so kids will need patience.

age 5+
LEARNING

This app includes lots of fun information about butterflies, and the lovable characters and whimsical rhymes make for an engaging experience. Navigating the book is a breeze, and there are some fun ideas for exploration in the real world.

age 5+
LEARNING

Kids can learn cool facts about bees, raccoons, and elephants in first-player games inspired by the PBS Kids show Wild Kratts. This app does a beautiful job of combining fun with high-interest material and delivering it in a way that kids will remember.

age 6+
LEARNING

Even if your summer "garden" is simply a potted plant, come along with the Cat in the Hat as he tells a fact-filled story about the world of plants. Fun info about growing things and familiar Dr. Seuss characters will keep kids reading to learn more.

age 6+
LEARNING

Virtual planetarium teaches about constellations and celestial bodies. Kids point their devices toward the sky, and a built-in gyroscope creates a sky map based on their locations. Friendly narrators and short animations teach facts about space. 

  • To get really hands on, put together a family science fair. Learn more about Sid the Science Kid and get great ideas for science projects on the Sid the Science Kid site for parents.

Age 7-12

Whether your tweens are fascinated by the stars or just want to know what makes things tick here on Earth, they'll find something to love in these science apps, games, and websites. There's a cool focus on DIY, so kids won't just read about what they're learning -- they'll do.​

age 6+
LEARNING

Wild Kratts, based on PBS’ Wild Kratts show, teaches kids about unique animals through zany wildlife-based stories. Kids will also practice observation, critical thinking, and investigation skills while traveling to different habitats with their own customizable avatar.

age 7+
LEARNING

From photosynthesis and fire to Thomas Edison and the human eye, Bobo helps kids explore light and its impact in highly interactive ways. By reading, watching videos, and playing activities with Bobo, kids can learn how light affects human life, nature, and the universe.

age 7+
LEARNING

Young nature lovers will get comfortable using technology alongside nature. Plus, they’ll get to try their hand at social media by sharing their photos as they follow the missions using critical-thinking and creativity skills to express themselves through their photography.

age 8+
LEARNING

Bill Nye is an excellent teacher who knows how to bring science to life. From cool optical illusions woven into a storyline about alien invasion to a video game-like planetary adventure to DIY at-home science experiments, kids are sure to find something to love about science.

age 8+
LEARNING

Five-week competitive summer program starting June 22 pairs weekly reading, math, and writing with an ongoing quest: Kids watch young animated adventurers as they travel across the globe, looking for treasure. Winner gets a $10,000 scholarship.

age 8+
LEARNING

This fascinating educational science site from PBS Kids introduces youngsters to the basic principles of engineering. Concepts like gravity, force, and energy are illustrated through engaging, easy-to-follow games, offline activities, and video demonstrations.

age 8+
LEARNING

DIY Nano can help kids learn about the tiniest things in science, technology, nature, and even "nanomedicine." This easy-to-navigate app includes short videos and step-by-step activities to do at home.

age 8+
LEARNING

North American nature lovers can collect, share, and analyze evidence about ecosystems, life cycles, and the seasons. The site helps kids understand how living things respond to the changes of seasons while contributing their “sightings” to real-world research.

age 9+
LEARNING

Physics and biology become a lot more fun as kids experience the phenomena firsthand. The experiments typically involve optical illusions that highlight the ways our eyes and brain process information and, although they aren't games, they’re fun to share with other people.

age 9+
LEARNING

DIY encourages kids to put on their scientific thinking caps to complete skill-based, hands-on challenges using everyday materials, resourcefulness, and knowledge. Kids may need adult support in finding materials or while they're interacting with the DIY community.

age 10+
LEARNING

Featuring hands-on activities, gorgeous images and videos, and a live sun cam, this interactive reference tool teaches kids about a wide range of topics, including solar storms, solar flares, the sun's diameter, ultraviolet light, solar energy, and much more.

age 10+
LEARNING

Astronomy, the brain, and other scientific topics are illustrated through short interactives, follow-along experiments, and more on this website from San Francisco’s Exploratorium museum. Even the most science-averse visitors' curiosity will be piqued.​

age 10+
LEARNING

Kids can learn about atoms, molecules, the periodic table of elements, and how the elements are used in everyday applications. They can also try their hand at building their own atoms and molecules.

age 10+
LEARNING

In this gorgeous, Zen-like game, players control an orb floating through space, absorbing smaller orbs and avoiding being absorbed by larger ones. Excellent execution thanks to realistic physics, different orb behaviors, and 72 increasingly tricky levels.

age 10+
LEARNING

The app adaptation of the innovative website lets kids submit nature photos independently or help with global research missions. It’s easy to submit pictures on the go and to see what other people in your neighborhood are noticing and submitting.

age 10+
LEARNING

This online community and citizen science website lets users submit nature photos to help with global research missions and record biodiversity. Kids can collect and share data with scientists from around the world, which makes learning relevant and authentic.

age 10+
LEARNING

This colorful, clear, and thoughtfully organized site provides kids with project ideas, guides, and help for studying all kinds of science at nearly any level. By making their own selections, kids will feel empowered as they do hands-on projects that promote deep learning.

age 12+
LEARNING

Putting Mobile Observatory into kids' hands is like giving them full access to an observatory and planetarium, along with a docent to guide them on their self-paced tour. The amount of information is mind-boggling.

age 12+
LEARNING

View the night sky -- past, present, and future -- or read details about each planet, galaxy, star, and object in outer space with this amazingly rich resource and breathtakingly beautiful mobile planetarium that helps kids learn about, see, and appreciate astronomy.

  • The Science Buddies website features an awesome project wizard. Kids take a simple survey about their interests, and the wizard returns projects right up their alley -- many of which use items you already have at home.

Age 13-17

If your teen is developing a deeper interest in science, these picks can serve as a great complement to the work they're doing in school.

age 12+
LEARNING

"Science Bob" Pflugfelder makes science fun and interesting for kids as he teaches them about chemical reactions, vibrations and sound, optical illusions, molecular structure, and other science-related topics. Kids can also find cool science fair project ideas here.

 

age 13+
LEARNING

Teens can take pictures of the living things they see around them and use the site's resources to identify and publish their sightings online. It's a great example of how researchers and citizen scientists from all over the globe can share data and build knowledge together.

age 17+
LEARNING

Tweens and teens get the chance to learn from others, as well as showcase their creativity and instruction-writing skills. They’ll learn to follow directions and improve reading comprehension while picking up cool project ideas, recipes, and ways to make toys and create fashion.

age 14+
LEARNING

Developed by the CDC, this engaging app puts kids in the role of disease detectives. The process of using clues to analyze data is an excellent way for them to use critical thinking skills and apply what they know about health science to solve realistic scenarios.

age 14+
LEARNING

Xperica is a great way for kids to explore and form a better understanding of physical science concepts through experimentation. Through observations, kids learn how changes in variables affect the outcome of an experiment.

  • There are several engaging apps and games in which players design a disease to wipe out the Earth. But with Solve the Outbreak from the CDC, teens use their disease-detective skills for good -- and in the process learn about how diseases spread in the real world.

Get Creative

Age 2-6

If you know young kids, then you know they can be very hands on! These titles are focused on visual arts and creating, just right for learning by doing.

age 3+
LEARNING

An alphabet app with a creative twist: Kids use real paper and pencil to draw around the device and add to a picture of an animal that appears on-screen. The simple graphics and animations are brief and fun; letters and animal names are spoken. 

age 3+
LEARNING

Immersive and fun app lets kids explore visual art, theater, music, and design/materials as they build their own virtual worlds with classic Disney characters. Plenty of activities, especially if you unlock all the options, which are pay as you go.

age 3+
LEARNING

This creative app encourages kids to discover and explore music. The engaging characters let kids learn about a fun range of instruments, from the traditional piano to the unconventional music-making clock, while controlling instrument sounds, rhythm, and tempo.

age 4+
LEARNING

Kids have the chance to learn technical skills, take risks designing their insects, and see their creations come to life. The variety of colors, stickers, and tools gives kids lots of creative options when designing their bugs and their free-paint drawings.

age 4+
LEARNING

Kids can tell stories and illustrate them with this app, which helps users get started by providing ideas for settings and characters and encourages kids to express themselves with artwork they create within the app. It's a fun way to introduce young kids to digital storytelling.

age 4+
LEARNING

Open-ended cooking game lets kids cook food, feed it to ever-hungry guests, and watch guests' reactions. Raw fish, oven-baked pineapple, or mushroom juice -- anything is possible. Play can be complicated, but it's unlimited and never ending.

age 5+
LEARNING

As kids color and mix media forms to create art on this vibrant site, they get to see how imagination -- coupled with nifty online tools -- can produce unique creations. There's something for the whole family here, from the youngest scribblers to the most skilled designers.

age 5+
LEARNING

In addition to offering fun craft ideas for kids ages 2 and up, this activity-packed educational site maintained by a mom of two introduces young kids to basic concepts like ABCs and 123s, holidays, cultures, animals, nutrition, weather, and much more.

age 5+
LEARNING

Kids use their imagination to create hairstyles. As they decide which tools to use and how they want each head to look, they're exploring their own style and learning about the creative use of color, fashion accessories, and more in a sweet, non-trendy way.

age 6+
LEARNING

In this latest spin-off of the Cooking Mama series, kids can build 40 different craft projects -- from pinwheels and clay ocarinas to earrings, birdhouses, and even mini Mama dolls. All these fun virtual activities are performed using the DS stylus and could inspire some real-life crafting.

age 6+
LEARNING

Kids’ imagination can shine as they create original animated cartoons. A guide to story arc helps kids learn about storytelling and theater. As they choose characters and setting and develop storyline and script, they gain valuable creative skills.

  • If your kid likes Toca Hair Salon 2, also check out Toca Hair Salon Me, where you can add your own photos as characters. Ask kids which styles could translate to real life, and follow up with your own "Hair Day."​

Age 7-12

In the tween years, many kids start honing in on their specific interests. Maybe your kid loves origami or enjoys experimenting with color. These titles help kids learn -- and do -- more with their favorite crafts.

age 7+
LEARNING

This high-quality art set offers virtual paper, paints, crayons, pens, pencils, and more, as well as texturing and blending tools. The app can provide hours of entertainment for budding artists; for more advanced artists, it may open new options for exploring their talents.

age 7+
LEARNING

On this engaging educational site, kids can explore the different skills involved in listening to and making music. Games and activities introduce the concepts of pitch, rhythm, tempo, and instrumentation and show how these concepts apply to many different types of music.

age 7+
LEARNING

A compelling art instruction game geared toward girls, Imagine Artist encourages kids to express their creativity via painting, drawing, and more as they explore how to use a variety of implements to make different kinds of markings. Kids can share their works online or via email.

Providing kids with a template to create short books, this site brings together reading, writing, and imagination, giving kids an outlet to express themselves. Almost game-like, StoryJumper engages kids in creating virtual environments featuring the characters they bring to life.

age 8+
LEARNING

These interactive lessons teach kids about painting, drawing, and the history of art by introducing them to many different techniques and media, as well as famed artists. Detailed, step-by-step instructions lead users through the creation of still-life and portraiture works.

age 8+
LEARNING

Creating 3D objects with Foldify is fun and engaging. The well-designed user interface includes oodles of creative options. Users can see what other Foldify enthusiasts have created and share what they've made in the online gallery ... or by printing, folding, and showing others offline.

age 8+
LEARNING

Traditional Japanese paper folding is a fun way for kids to keep their hands busy creating -- and they'll learn some math concepts, too. This colorful app gives kids a dynamic way to learn origami independently. Kids can learn shapes, patterns, and more.

age 8+
LEARNING

Kids can learn to put together a catchy tune by experimenting with beats, melodies, and other musical elements. Discovering where a single sound fits in to the whole of a song, kids will gain an understanding of the combinations it takes to make all kinds of music.

age 8+
LEARNING

Make Beliefs Comix lets kids create their own positive comics using a charming cast of predrawn characters. Kids can practice storytelling skills using clever inspirational prompts that touch on themes like respect and self-improvement.

age 8+
LEARNING

This wonderfully inventive game lets kids explore their creativity in ways both digital and physical. They'll experiment with cutting and pasting virtual paper during the 3D adventure and later build real paper models based on detailed instructions provided by the game.

age 8+
LEARNING

Creativity flows as kids make fanciful paper toys to use in imaginative play. Instructions to fold, cut, and glue beautifully decorated paper designs help kids develop fine motor skills. Terrific content plus activity ideas, all for free -- and with no commercial messages.

age 9+
LEARNING

Comic Life lets kids easily create their own comics by selecting a background template, importing images, and adding text. Kids can learn basic storytelling elements, including story structure and plot and how to establish a character, set a scene, and write dialogue.

age 9+
LEARNING

Budding fashion designers can find a wealth of both terminology and design ideas here, as well as tips on classification -- determining similarities among items -- and keeping to a budget. Kids can use photos to create clothing items, which can be traded to other players.

age 10+
LEARNING

Fashion-minded kids can explore how clothing designers use different elements of style -- shapes, fabrics, colors, prints, and more -- to achieve unique looks. Kids can layer their creations onto photos of themselves and then share those pictures via email or social media.

age 12+
LEARNING

A virtual meta-museum provides access to more than 30,000 great works from hundreds of the world's most prominent collections. Kids can explore images in detail, read submission text, peruse collections, and create their own collections through their Google+ account.

age 12+
LEARNING

Pixton is a do-it-yourself site where kids can use an incredible palette of tools to create and share original comics. Kids can learn to use comics as a way to tell stories, summarize information, work on vocabulary, practice learning a foreign language, and more.

 

  • Does your kid love Imagine Fashion Designer? A real-world sewing or pattern-cutting kit lets kids exercise their fashion creativity offline.

Age 13-17

Teens who've mastered the basics will want more sophisticated tools for creating crafts and visual art. But creating is only part of the experience for kids this age -- it's also about sharing creations and finding a supportive community.

age 12+
LEARNING

This fun, hands-on approach is a great way for kids to learn the basics of video editing and the concept of fair use. They’ll love becoming curators, directors, and producers as they remix audio and video from the Web with their own multimedia content.

age 13+
LEARNING

Tweens and teens can create digital art using this professional-grade app, developing their unique style as they experiment with the different tools, colors, brushes, and strokes. Offering both free and pro versions, the app caters to a variety of skill levels.

 

age 15+
LEARNING

The step-by-step lessons in this amazing art-creation app show kids how to draw different images, including dogs, buildings, and more. Kids practice following directions while learning general art skills and concepts, such as perspective. Creations can be saved to an in-app gallery.

age 15+
LEARNING

This supportive online community of artists offers tutorials on advanced art skills and helps budding artists develop identity and gain inspiration as they post work and get feedback. Millions of pieces of art can be viewed here, some inappropriate for younger kids.

age 15+
LEARNING

Creative teens can "mash up" various types of online content -- including images, GIFs, and music -- to express themselves through their own piece of original media. It only takes a minute or two to create a super-arty GIF that could be funny, powerful, or just plain silly.

  • Encourage teens to visit the Sketchbook.com site, accessible via the Sketchbook Pro app. It includes tips and tutorials to extend learning.

Tinkering & Tech

Age 2-6

Kids ages 2 to 6 love building physical toys. These virtual ones offer a complementary experience, often letting kids build bigger and more imaginatively than they can with their blocks. Work together to see whether you can re-create kids' digital creations with real items -- and vice versa.

age 6+
LEARNING

This virtual construction toy features open-ended play with a hidden physics lesson. Kids set up all sorts of pieces -- ramps, tubes, gears, and more -- and then unleash balls upon their creation. It's great for experimenting ... or just creating a chaotic mess of motion.

age 6+
LEARNING

Kodable's visual instructions and step-by-step levels make it possible for kids to learn programming concepts even before they learn to read. Short challenges engage them and slowly build in difficulty and complexity, keeping kids challenged but not overwhelmed.

age 6+
LEARNING

An earlier introduction to computer programming and multimedia creation than predecessor Scratch. With some adult help, kids can get short scenes running and explore the many options for colors, backgrounds, and actions -- exciting for first-time users. 

age 6+
LEARNING

This sandbox-style creation game gives kids a fun, easy-to-manage way to express creativity and use technology. Kids can learn creative thinking, geometry concepts, and non-standard measurements while building the worlds their minds imagine -- block by block.

age 6+
LEARNING

The goofy, high-energy STEM lessons on this beautifully designed site will delight and engage early elementary kids. Animated buddies Bean, Dizzy, and Bit guide students through a series of activities and games covering addition, shapes, music design, and basic engineering.

  • Check out the parent/teacher portal in Kodable Pro. You'll find helpful learning guides and excellent extension ideas.

Age 7-12

These cool apps, video games, and websites encourage kids to start thinking more like the creators of their favorite digital titles -- not just consumers. Kids can also get super-creative as they tinker and build, exploring engineering concepts as they go.

age 7+
LEARNING

This puzzle game challenges kids to build inventive solutions using their wits and a handful of materials. The inventions use concepts like physics and momentum and may spark interest in building real-world items.

 

age 7+
LEARNING

Kids use their imagination and develop rudimentary engineering skills as they build carts and aircraft for pigs. The app gets kids to view a situation in a different way when a vehicle doesn’t work and must be redesigned -- a fun challenge for kids who like to tinker.

age 7+
LEARNING

This introduction to programming uses a simple design and a cute dinosaur character to draw kids in without intimidating them. They'll learn about conditional statements and looping to make Daisy move, turn, grow, shrink, jump, roll, and spin based on the program they create.

age 7+
LEARNING

In the digital age, programming skills are considered an important aspect of literacy that everyone needs to effectively use and understand technology. The story-based puzzles are fun and reinforce programming concepts, giving kids skills that can transfer into coding.

age 8+
LEARNING

This story-based adventure game plays like an old Mario adventure and will draw in reluctant techies. Kids will have fun working through the maze and may even not realize they're programming, but these basics will give them a good foundation in computer-programming literacy.

age 8+
LEARNING

This fascinating educational science site from PBS Kids introduces youngsters to the basic principles of engineering. Concepts like gravity, force, and energy are illustrated through engaging, easy-to-follow games, offline activities, and video demonstrations.

age 8+
LEARNING

Drag-and-drop coding puzzles introduce the logic of programming with visual blocks of code. It's fun and features a diverse set of cartoon characters. No instructions or in-app help, but a full curriculum explains concepts on the codeSpark website.

age 8+
LEARNING

This family-friendly kart racing game lets kids design their own video games. Younger kids can exercise their imagination by customizing avatars and karts, as well as building simple tracks. Older kids can get into more complex game-making techniques.

 

age 8+
LEARNING

Kids let loose creatively as they learn about game design in this wonderful platform adventure. Applying logic in the creation of virtual worlds, creatures, and objectives, kids can build just about any kind of game they want and then share it with others.

age 8+
LEARNING

This mobile version of the popular PC game provides lots of opportunity for imaginative creation here -- especially for builder/tinkerer types. Minecraft PE rewards imaginative thinking and may give kids a confidence boost as they show off the worlds they've created.

age 8+
LEARNING

As kids create animations, video games, art, and music videos with Scratch’s visual block-based form of computer programming, they'll pick up valuable skills like problem solving. Collaboration is encouraged, and kids can share helpful comments on each other's projects.

age 9+
LEARNING

Kids program a robot's moves by moving the right cards into place to direct him where he needs to go. This fun puzzler gets kids thinking critically and strategically to solve problems and write programs; they’ll work with directionality and negative numbers, too.

age 9+
LEARNING

As kids become immersed in designing, building, and managing the best amusement park possible, they get a stealthy lesson in economics, as well as science and math, by using basic geometric and physics skills to ensure that their coaster can function safely and flawlessly.

age 10+
LEARNING

In this puzzler designed to teach programming, kids drag and drop directions to get a robotic arm to perform a task. They'll learn the gist of programming concepts like procedural abstraction and subroutines without having to master the lingo or syntax of code.

 

age 10+
LEARNING

This web-based video game with its own online community teaches kids the fundamentals of game design through an epic adventure-based plot. Kids can create their own video games, a process that teaches them to think both mathematically and creatively at the same time.

age 10+
LEARNING

In this gentle introduction to programming logic, kids use visual blocks that represent programming concepts to create their program -- a game or animation, for example. Kids are exposed to the ideas they'll use in programming without worrying about minute details.

age 10+
LEARNING

With the growing availability of kid-targeted programming apps, Lightbot best suits kids already drawn to programming and logic who also thrive on puzzles and challenges. Kids who stick with the challenge will develop a pretty deep understanding of programming concepts.

age 10+
LEARNING

This app builds some coding basics into a colorful game starring a cute turtle. Younger kids will need a parent's help, but tweens and teens can easily pick up basics such as how to draw a line or box. Step-by-step programming requires lots of critical thinking, too.

age 10+
LEARNING

Roblox gives kids the opportunity to design virtual worlds and games, from simple mazes to more complex cityscapes. Kids can also get user feedback on their work (via safe chat mode, if they’re 13 and under) and try out other users’ games in a multiplayer environment.

age 10+
LEARNING

Using the wacky contraptions of cartoonist Rube Goldberg as a basis, kids are given 18 puzzles to solve using their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Your tinkerer will feel empowered when designing the contraptions and seeing how they work to complete a task.

age 10+
LEARNING

This physics-based puzzler and engineering tool challenges kids to solve puzzles and create their own virtual inventions using balls, bolts, chains, connectors, conveyer belts, fans, wheels, ropes, scissors, switches, and more. It's part game, part creative outlet.

age 11+
LEARNING

Open-world sandbox game differs from Minecraft by pitting players against numerous enemies and offering more options. Players draw from their understanding of the real world to solve contextual problems and use deduction and strategy.

age 12+
LEARNING

Kids get immersed in designing, building, and testing virtual roller coasters in this fun game. Along the way, they learn about principles of force and motion and strengthen their thinking, reasoning, and evaluation skills while troubleshooting problematic designs.

age 12+
LEARNING

Provides in-depth, well-respected, and free introductions to many of the most common computer-programming languages. Bite-size lessons make it easy to get started -- kids work on code from the start -- and encouraging feedback keeps them interested.

  • Challenge kids to create three different kinds of games using the elements they collect while playing Gamestar Mechanic. If they need help, suggest that they play some of the games shared by others.

Age 13-17

It's easier than ever for teens to access the tools they need learn to code. And they aren't too young to do some serious software development: British teen Nick D'Aloisio made millions of dollars selling an app he created, Summly, to Yahoo. What will your teen create?

age 11+
LEARNING

This simple computer-programming tutorial uses live JavaScript to teach both kids and adults about the basic (and more complicated) things you can create using code. Lessons start simple and get increasingly complex, so kids of various ages can learn at their own levels.

age 8+
LEARNING

The open-ended environment in this popular game offers sandbox-style play in which players create items and buildings from scratch using materials they harvest from the world around them. Kids hone their creative thinking skills and pick up some geometry and geology.

age 12+
LEARNING

Kids can remix webpage projects and complete their own with side-by-side windows that instantly show the effects of their coding tweaks. Whether they learn through guided remixing or start a project from scratch, kids can find their own entry point into Web design.

age 13+
LEARNING

Teens design their own theme park and roller coasters in this building sim played on Facebook. As they use their imagination to create coasters with unique tracks and customize a park’s layout and appearance, they learn about following directions and achieving goals.

age 13+
LEARNING

This straightforward software development tool offers resources to teach kids to program in the Lua programming language. Tweens and teens familiar with programming can pick up Lua fairly quickly and start writing their own programs, like games or other graphics.

 

age 13+
LEARNING

This innovative, user-friendly tool introduces kids to the computer programming languages JavaScript, HTML, and CSS, which can be used to create Web apps, games, and websites. The interactive exercises organized into lessons are sure to flex kids’ problem-solving muscles.

age 13+
LEARNING

The Hackety Hack app and corresponding website are a great way for kids to pick up programming basics. They can read about programming languages, test simple examples using the application, and then extend their knowledge by trying to create their own simple programs.

age 13+
LEARNING

This site's well-organized, easy-to-follow Ruby, Python, and JavaScript programming language courses provide a hands-on learning experience with frequent examples and exercises. Unlike some code-instruction sites, it offers an impressive amount of personalized instruction.

age 14+
LEARNING

The online version of Make Magazine encourages kids to tackle a variety of interesting projects that help build scientific method skills. Projects vary from technical to practical to artistic, and users are invited to submit their own projects or edit existing ones.

 

age 15+
LEARNING

Developed by two former Stanford computer science teaching assistants, CodeHS includes 10 sections with programming lessons, puzzles, practices, and challenges to help kids learn to write and use code. They'll learn as they go and, if they pay full price, get personalized feedback.

  • Use Codecademy to learn a programming language yourself so you and your teen can collaborate on a coding project -- building a game for the whole family to play, for example.

 

Learn Together

Age 2-6

Playing with young kids opens up all kinds of opportunities for learning. A key way you can boost kids' learning is to help them relate what's going on in an app, game, or website to their own life. These titles are great for playing with a parent, sibling, or friend, and some of them even have a safe online component for kids to learn by communicating and collaborating with others.

age 3+
LEARNING

Kids can do some high-tech sleuthing with a blend of real-world and other-worldly fun as they try to help the Gloops fix their spaceship. Kids and parents both have a role in this family-friendly game.

age 3+
LEARNING

Each of three mini-games focuses on a basic cognitive skill: attention and memory, sorting, or visual motor coordination. Parents and kids can play together because of multi-touch capability; the music and playful little monster blobs are cute.

age 3+
LEARNING

Sesame Street Family Play offers fun, interactive offline games for parents and kids to play together. Kids can learn social, emotional, gross motor, and fine motor skills, as well as basic academic concepts.

age 5+
LEARNING

The app is super preschool-friendly -- no reading required, cute graphics, and totally kid-safe -- but also fun and challenging enough for kids and adults of all ages to play together. It adjusts based on speed and performance, helping kids practice their visual and memory skills.

age 6+
LEARNING

Silly tasks promote real-life interaction in this fun board game. Kids can practice basic math and literacy skills as they learn collaboration, turn-taking, and how to play an app-based board game.

age 6+
LEARNING

Kids who love to write or tell stories with pictures will love the opportunity to easily publish good-looking digital books. The social aspect of the site creates an art-infused storytelling community.

age 6+
LEARNING

Kids’ imagination can shine as they create original animated cartoons. A guide to story arc helps kids learn about storytelling and theater. As they choose characters and setting and develop storyline and script, they gain valuable creative skills.

  • Toontastic's ToonTube is a network showcasing animated stories created by kids around the world. If your kid would like to submit cartoon to share, you'll need to create an account and approve cartoons for online sharing.

Age 7-12

Most tweens are eager to explore social media and online communities. Communicating and collaborating with others in a safe online environment can be an engaging way for them to develop 21st-century skills.

age 6+
LEARNING

The authentic and colorful Disney atmosphere should prove an instant lure for young fans. Kids can learn how to read and follow directions as well as how to build friendships by being helpful and selfless in this simple life simulation game with fun and rewarding activities.

age 7+
LEARNING

Kids will love the opportunity to write and upload their own reviews. They can learn to communicate their opinion with supporting details and may even engage in a little healthy debate when commenting on other reviews to discuss their viewpoints.

age 9+
LEARNING

Kids can learn that reading doesn't have to be a lonely endeavor; this site gives them the opportunity to talk to others about books, forming opinions as they share thoughts with friends. They'll learn communication skills, improve their writing skills, and actually read books!

age 9+
LEARNING

DIY encourages kids to put on their scientific thinking caps to complete skill-based, hands-on challenges using everyday materials, resourcefulness, and knowledge. Kids may need adult support in finding materials or while they're interacting with the DIY community.

age 9+
LEARNING

Kids can learn how following directions, sharing project information (including photos and videos), and asking questions can combine to make DIY projects not only doable, but easier and more creative.

age 9+
LEARNING

By following the rules of the community, kids can learn safe, positive social networking and respectful communication. They can practice decision making, friendship building, and multiple forms of expression through posting photos and written content.

age 10+
LEARNING

Tweens who love music can use this social networking site to meet friends and learn about music through an eclectic but tween-pleasing G-rated collection of songs, games, videos, and virtual-world play. After mastering some games, kids may want to try the real instruments.

age 10+
LEARNING

On this educational video-sharing site created by a teacher and children's book author, kids can watch videos created by their peers that offer all sorts of fascinating facts about cities, farms, careers, and school-related subjects. Site staff approves and edits each video.

age 10+
LEARNING

This beautifully illustrated virtual world brims with places to explore and people to meet, serving as an excellent complement to the Harry Potter books and films. Kids can learn to use their reading comprehension and investigative skills in order to complete tasks and advance the story.

age 13+
LEARNING

Scoot & Doodle lets kids experience the positive side of social media -- including cooperation, teamwork, and friendship building -- as they communicate with other members of the Hangout to collaborate on a single project in real-time through video and voice chat.

  • Kids under 13 aren't allowed on Facebook and many other popular social networks. So try Yoursphere instead; it's a fun social network that lets kids tailor the experience to their own interests. Tweens can build their community by inviting their real-world friends to join.

Age 13-17

Teens can learn a wide range of skills through their online experiences -- everything from effective communication to respecting others' viewpoints to friendship building. In the right online communities, teens can learn from working with others, whether it's getting feedback on a creative work or organizing peers to change the world.

age 11+
LEARNING

As kids get together to talk Potter, the HPA nudges them toward the real world, where many people face Voldemort-esque threats every day. Teens will learn social skills and organizing skills for charity drives, protests, or online campaigns that promote change in the world.

age 13+
LEARNING

A creative outlet for teen writers, Figment gets kids thinking about the writing process and what makes a book a good read. Teens post their works-in-progress and get feedback and encouragement along the way from peers; they can also read and comment on others’ writing.

age 17+
LEARNING

Tweens and teens get the chance to learn from others, as well as showcase their creativity and instruction-writing skills. They’ll learn to follow directions and improve reading comprehension while picking up cool project ideas, recipes, and ways to make toys and create fashion.

age 13+
LEARNING

Kids can learn writing techniques and structure and also get a taste of the writing life as they work toward meeting their goal: a complete novel in 30 days. Kids can share ideas and questions in the forums and share excerpts of their novel-in-progress with Writing Buddies.

age 13+
LEARNING

This mind-mapping tool lets kids use words, images, and their own drawings as a way to easily make connections and delve deeper into ideas and concepts visually. With realtime collaboration, Popplet is a great way for teens to work with others to create and share ideas.

age 13+
LEARNING

Kids learn to process their emotions through poetry and get support by socializing with a diverse community of mentors and peers. They’ll learn storytelling skills when sharing their own experiences and gain insight into others' lives by reading and analyzing their poems.

age 13+
LEARNING

Kids will find in SMITHTeens a supportive community and fertile environment to exercise their short-form writing skills. The challenge here is for teens to distill their emotions and experiences into six words, which helps them understand the emotional punch of brevity.

age 13+
LEARNING

Teens who love to write will find solid refuge in this website, which is a community of young writers. Kids will find value in sharing and publishing their writing and will also appreciate connecting with peers about their writing, as well as other topics, in a safe forum.

age 16+
LEARNING

On this site, teens can access the tools and motivation to get involved in social causes and make a positive impact. DoSomething provides fun facts, how-to guides, lessons learned, and even scholarship rewards for teens who are willing to take the step of organizing peers and being leaders.

  • Figment offers teen writers a supportive environment where they can learn with their peers. The site encourages writers to use their real names, so encourage teens to think about their digital footprint when sharing stories, photos, and other personal content.

Multimedia Memories

Age 2-6

Kids this age have often spent their entire life saying "cheese" to smartphones -- and may even have a selfie or two under their belt. Empower them to take their own photos and videos to document the summer from their perspective. Then you can use cool tools like the ones here to help them make books; they can choose the photos, record audio, and dictate what they want to write.​

age 4+
LEARNING

Curious George helps kids create movies that let them think and talk about their own lives and experiences. Kids take photos of themselves, their families, friends, and pets; record audio and video; or create their own art. Movies can be saved and shared.

age 4+
LEARNING

What's more exciting to kids than reading stories or publishing their own? Starring in those stories! Kids can use Kid in Story Book Maker to create stories featuring their own pictures and words.

age 4+
LEARNING

This creative tool is great for making personalized stories. With help from a grown-up, kids will enjoy preserving their summer memories by taking pictures, adding sound and text, and putting it all together to make a story.

age 6+
LEARNING

Make videos up to 12 seconds long comprising one-second clips inspired by single words. The playback is basically a slide show of micro-videos of your kid's interpretations of each word. Bolsters abstract and critical thinking while inspiring creativity.

age 6+
LEARNING

This interactive storytelling app features simple step-by-step tutorials to guide users through its process. There are also different options for how text and pictures are read or uploaded to support different types of learners.

  • Kid in Story Book Maker is designed to help kids with routines and social situations, but you can also use it to make kid-friendly digital scrapbooks, too. But the interface isn't designed for tots, so you'll need to take the lead in putting it all together.

Age 7-12

Scrapbooks, pictures, and home videos may be the traditional way to preserve and share summer memories, but if you've got a smartphone or tablet, you can use it -- along with some cool websites -- to document everything from lazy days to family road trips. With a little creativity, you can turn your family memories into a comic book, a movie, or a digital scrapbook.

age 7+
LEARNING

Kids can create a memorable summer journal with this diary app that engages them in journaling using drawings, stickers, text, and photos. They’ll learn storytelling skills and how to self-reflect using different forms of expression via digital technology.

age 8+
LEARNING

By mixing a variety of multimedia elements, such as images and text, kids use their imagination to create their own e-books, which can then be shared via iBooks or Google Play Books, Dropbox, or email. This is an excellent way for kids to preserve and share their summer memories.

age 8+
LEARNING

This open-ended, versatile comic book-creation app lets kids endlessly experiment with visual elements and text as they hone their writing, storytelling, and graphic design skills. Kids can combine their own photos with dozens of in-app clip art graphics, icons, and flourishes.

age 8+
LEARNING

Super fun TV-show maker lets kids star in their own themed creations. Kids get a background scene, face-detecting costumes, cue cards, and special effects. It's great fun, and kids are empowered to showcase their imaginations.

age 10+
LEARNING

This photo-editing app is best for tweens and teens who've grown out of simpler apps but aren't quite ready for professional-level functionality. They can learn digital photography and graphic arts as they add creative touches to the moments they're preserving.

age 10+
LEARNING

Kids can select from several layouts, various fonts and text box patterns and designs, stickers, orientations, and frames to create funny scenes overlaying their favorite photos with this powerful collage app. They'll get super creative as they save and share summer memories.

age 12+
LEARNING

Applying simple technology skills, kids can create custom videos from photos and video clips on this site. Animoto's online tool provides the basic structure but still lets users add their own unique touches. Videos can be shared via email and social media.

  • Book Creator is an easy-to-use tool for tweens to create their own books to document their summer. That said, the in-app tutorial doesn't remind kids about key components of a book (title, author byline, crediting image sources), so give kids a lesson on the basics before they begin.

Age 13-17

Teens can blog, take photos, shoot videos, and more with these creative titles. As they create new content, they'll employ a wide range of skills -- from imagination and brainstorming to communicating and collaborating.

age 12+
LEARNING

Kids can share special moments and creative projects with "Krowds" while learning video editing basics. The focus on storytelling presents a slightly different vibe than other cloud-based video sites, reminding kids why we record all this stuff in the first place.

age 13+
LEARNING

Teens can make video slideshows by organizing media for creative digital storytelling. This solid tool can help teens sharpen their decision-making skills and hone the art of brevity (text fields have character limits). Slideshows of summer fun can be downloaded or shared.

age 13+
LEARNING

Motivated kids will find this eye-catching platform a fun place to share their voice with a potential audience. The simple interface and easy-to-use tools help kids learn some design skills as they choose templates, upload photos, and write posts, making the site their own.

age 13+
LEARNING

Advancing through a wizard-like process, kids choose theme, music, and duration to create mp4 videos. The app then automatically edits the footage and assembles the final product, helping kids see how the software compiles clips into a complete and whimsical whole.

age 16+
LEARNING

Teens can learn a huge range of skills related to digital drawing, photography, and presentation with this super powerful photography, image editing, and drawing app that's like Photoshop, Flickr, and a professional camera all rolled into one.

age 13+
LEARNING

Teens can get hands-on experience with a skill they'll use throughout their lives: presenting to others. They can also watch featured prezis for ideas and inspiration.

age 13+
LEARNING

Kids can shoot video and use their creative skills to sequence scenes with a wide variety of special effects to make fun movies of their summer adventures. VideoFX Live encourages the use of social media; if kids are 13 and older, they have the opportunity to practice smart, safe online sharing.

age 14+
LEARNING

With this simple blogging tool, teens get to express themselves by writing and publishing for an authentic audience. This can help kids refine their writing and teaches them about effectively using technology to communicate.

 

age 14+
LEARNING

Sample videos, video tutorials, and on-screen instructions guide users as they create professional-looking videos with cool features like teleprompting, sound effects, customized feeds, and a whiteboard.

age 14+
LEARNING

This cloud-based video-creation site lets teens create, edit, and share video content in one place. Whether they're sharing a personal story or reporting on historical events, the site's tips will help them visualize information and create clean presentations.

  • One of the fun aspects of VideoFX Live is the ability to share creations via social media. Just make sure your teens understand the responsibilities -- and consequences -- of making a video public on social media sites.