How can I help my kid learn with digital tools?

The learning potential and success of any teaching tool depends on who's using it and how kids' learning is being supported by the teachers, parents, and friends in their lives. Kids can skim the surface of Sid Meier's Civilization V and get something out of it, but they'll get a whole lot more if parents help extend their learning with other history-related activities.

Fortunately, it's not difficult to foster this kind of learning, because your kids can guide the way. Your role is to get them talking, reflecting on their actions -- and thinking. Ask them questions about the programs they're using. Depending on the content and your kid's age, you can be specific ("What's happening in the game?") or abstract ("Is it better to be brave or safe?"). Encourage them to think critically not only about the subject matter but also about the piece of media itself (who made it? Why do the characters look the way they do?). Take the learning offline by planning related activities (create an original story inspired by the story-making app Dora and Friends, for example).

Look to the developer for ideas too. Take advantage of any parent material that comes with the app, game, or website, and find out if the developer offers materials or ideas to help extend the learning potential of its product. The game Roblox, for example, dedicates a portion of its website to parent education. Also, check our reviews for the Families Can Talk About section, where we provide conversation starters and other ideas to get the ball rolling on learning.

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