Online Resources for Families

Family Sitting On Sofa At Home With LaptopHow did I ever manage before I could go online? OK, as I recall I did manage to survive. But I have to admit, having access to the internet really makes my life a lot easier! If I don’t understand my kid’s homework he needs help with, where do I go? The internet! What if I need to know how to make my own taco seasoning? I go to the internet! If I need to order the next book in the Big Nate series for my son, I get online. You get the picture. Online resources rock! Today, Red Apple Reading shares 6 favorite online resources for families.

  1. Pinterest – Who knew you could gain so much information from an online pin board? Really! I can’t remember how I prepared dinner before I was introduced to Pinterest! If you are interested in crafting, cooking, education, fashion, humor, holiday planning, or just about anything else – you just can’t beat Pinterest! If you haven’t already become a pinner, go straight to this amazing site and get started immediately!
  2. Discovery Education – With resources for parents, students, and teachers, Discovery Education is a wonderful asset for families! This website is particularly helpful if your family needs help in the homework department – step-by-step math instruction is just one of the amazing resources available to families! I personally love the Puzzle Maker which allows you to create your own puzzles (word search, cryptograms, hidden phrases, etc.) for free!
  3. National Geographic – Watch a video about stink bugs, take a quiz on international foods, put together a puzzle of Africa, and learn 5 surprising squirrel facts. These are just a smattering of the fun things you and your family can enjoy when you visit this fun and informative website. National Geographic offers a plethora of fun games, activities, and videos that the whole family will enjoy!
  4. Fun Magazine – If you’re looking for fun crafts, games and activities for your kiddos, then look no further than Fun Magazine! This website was my go-to for years when I had small children. I love their party planning ideas and Toy of the Year awards. Make sure to check out this fun-filled online resource today!
  5. Scholastic – Who doesn’t look forward to receiving those Scholastic book fliers from their child’s school? I have to admit it’s one of my favorite things to find in my son’s backpack (my least favorite: the smushed snack). Did you know that Scholastic also has a great website with resources for children and their parents? Kids can read stories, find printables, play games, and watch videos. Parents will find homework help, suggestions for building their child’s library, daily tips and more.
  6. Red Apple Reading – Get ready, we’re about to toot our own horn (but it really does deserve sounding!). Red Apple Reading is a great online resource for families who have emerging, early, or struggling readers. If you’re looking for top notch reading instruction outside of the classroom, then look no further than Red Apple Reading! Your kids will love the fun and engaging games and you will love the results! Check out our free sample lessons today!



A Mom’s Review of the Red Apple Reading Program

Red Apple Reading Online Reading SoftwareAs you may suspect, I’m not only a regular contributor to this blog, but I’m also a Red Apple Reading customer, so I wanted to let you know how Katie is progressing with her lessons and share some thoughts on the effectiveness of the program from a parent’s perspective. And what better day to share than on Read Across America Day! Quick disclaimer: though I’m obviously a member of the team here, you have my word that my opinions are my own and as unbiased as possible!

Fun Factor
Katie is no stranger to computer games. She plays PBS Kids, Disney Junior, and Nick Jr. probably more than she should, and she loves Red Apple Reading just as much. The games keep her attention and are just the right balance of entertaining and educational.

One thing that sets Red Apple Reading apart from other online games is that it truly boosts Katie’s confidence. She loves hearing the animated characters tell her what a great job she’s doing, and when she gets something right, I can see her face light up with pride. As a mom, there aren’t too many things in life better than that!

I have to admit that when we first started the program, I was a little worried that the lessons could potentially confuse Katie since she’s learning to read at school as well. I was concerned that the sequence or method of instruction might not correlate with what her Kindergarten teacher was doing in the classroom, but I was wrong! Many of the activities such as identifying words and creating word families and are similar to what I do with Katie each night for homework, so I knew we were right on track, plus she learned some new sight words that her teacher hadn’t yet covered. With Red Apple Reading, she’s not only having the skills taught at school reinforced at home, but she’s getting ahead of the game as well. Score!

As you can see, I really couldn’t be happier about the program. It does exactly what I thought it would and more. One warning though, and this is just my personal opinion. I would let your child go through the levels at his or her own pace. Although the game is fun and encouraging, as I mentioned, it’s also challenging. Challenging is good, of course, but if you pick up on any frustration or see that your child is getting tired during the lessons, take a break. Don’t treat the program like another homework assignment that your child must finish. That takes the fun out of it, and when it comes to reading, that’s the last thing you want to do!

Find out more about the Red Apple Reading program on their website. Level A covers basic phonics skills (short vowels, digraphs, blends, and an intro to long vowel sounds), Fry’s first 100 sight words, and an alphabet review lesson for every letter. Level B will be released this summer and will have a quick review of Level A concepts, advanced phonics skills (long vowel patterns, r-controlled vowels, diphthongs, silent letters), prefixes and suffixes, syllables, compound words, contractions, vocabulary (homophones, homographs, abbreviations, synonyms, antonyms), and comprehension skills. Future releases include a Pre-K level with more phonemic awareness and pre-reading skills, as well as upper elementary/middle school reading adventure games. Like and follow their Facebook Page for updates.



5 Low-Tech Ways of Teaching Digital Literacy to Young Children

In honor of Digital Learning Day 2013, we wanted to share some strategies for helping your child acquire the skills to learn online in a safe and healthy way. Read on to learn about digital literacy instruction.

5 Low-Tech Ways of Teaching Digital Literacy to Young ChildrenKids today seem to be born knowing how to swipe a tablet or use a mouse, so it’s not likely you’ll have much trouble teaching your kids the basics of using new technology, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need your guidance. We parents often make self-deprecating jokes about how our kids teach us how to use the latest gadgets, but don’t be fooled. Mother (and father) still know best when it comes to the less-technical side of digital literacy, such as which sites are appropriate and how much time children should spend behind the screen. Here are some tips for helping your child learn and play online while avoiding the downsides of new technologies.

  • Play Together

One of the concerns of children playing online games is that it’s often a solitary activity, and there’s the risk that kids can become isolated from family and friends, especially if they really enjoy computer games! Luckily, online games don’t have to be played alone. In fact, your child will likely be thrilled to have you play with her, even if you’re just watching and cheering her on.

  • Guide the Way

As you’re playing games together, you can teach your child valuable skills like how to avoid unwelcome advertisements, what not to click on, and how to evaluate specific websites. Like it or not, you will one day have to send your child off in the digital world on his own, so he needs to be prepared. The earlier you teach your child how to play it safe online, the better.

  • Limit Tech Time

A decade ago, we only had the television and home computer to consider when monitoring our children’s screen time. Today, keeping tabs on how much media they’re consuming is harder than ever. With laptops, tablets, Smartphones, MP3 players, and even web-connected gaming consoles, it can become overwhelming. Whatever monitoring system you use to keep tabs on your kid’s tech activity, do it with the goal of teaching him to self-monitor.

  • Have Fun Offline

Many kids today assume that technology and entertainment go hand in hand, so it’s our job to remind them of the fun things we used to do as kids—you know, back when the only kind of web we knew about was the one inhabited by spiders! Board games, playing cards, and crafts will never be replaced by computers or gadgets, and they can be just as much (if not more) fun.

  • Be a Good Example

This last technique may be the hardest to implement, especially if you’re a Facebook or Words With Friends addict fan, but it’s also one of the most important. Kids don’t do well with the whole “do as I say, not as I do” routine, so remember to put down your own devices frequently to engage in a little tech-free family time. Often, these are the most fun and memorable moments for you and your children.

Teaching your child how to navigate our digital world is an ongoing process. New apps and devices are being developed en masse at this very second, so we moms and dads have to learn as we go and work together to stay on top of the latest news and strategies.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on teaching digital literacy, so don’t be shy. Share your ideas below!


Is There Such a Thing as a Kid-Friendly Web?

Do you find yourself constantly checking up on your digital savvy youngster? Does your heart skip a beat every time your child goes online to play a game or chat with a friend? You’re not alone. Although the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) takes steps to protect your child’s personal information from websites, there are many other online threats you’ll need to guard your child against, including mature content, online predators, and cyberbullying to name a few. So many parents these days struggle with the question of how to allow their children to benefit from all of the educational and entertaining aspects of the Web without exposing them to the dangers that we all know lurk behind the monitor. If you’re among those who still aren’t sure how to perform this balancing act, then consider these tips for ensuring that your child’s next online experience is both a safe and pleasant one:

  • Consider a Child-Friendly Browser

Depending on the age of your child, you may want to consider providing a child-friendly browser for your youngster to use whenever she goes online. These browsers come with pre-installed filters that minimize the chance that your child will view inappropriate material online. Some of the child-friendly browsers currently available include Google’s SafeSearch for Kids,, and Rover app for iPad.

  • Try Parental Control Software

A child-friendly browser is perfect for younger children who simply want to play games or watch videos online, but as your child gets older, he may find these browsers to be too restrictive. For instance, if your middle-schooler needs to work on a research project in science class, the browser may be too limited to find relevant information. In this case, you may find parental control software like Norton Online Family, NetNanny, or Qustodio to be a better solution. These programs allow you to block certain sites, monitor the time your child spends online, and receive weekly reports about their activity. That way, you can allow older children to experience more freedom online without exposing them to potential harm.

  • Talk About Online Dangers

Perhaps the best online protection you can give your child is a good education about just what dangers she may come in contact with on the Internet. As soon as your child is old enough, you should begin the conversation about safe Internet use. Advise your child to never give out personal information online without consulting you first, and to use good judgment when deciding which sites to visit and which to avoid. Establish boundaries for your child regarding social media, chatting, and other online opportunities your child will have access to as she gets older.

As our society becomes more and more high-tech, it will likely become increasingly difficult to monitor everything your child does online, even with the help of special browsers and apps. That’s why creating an open dialogue with your child early on is so important. Encourage your little one to begin asking you questions now, and let him know that he can always come to you with any problems that arise—whether on or offline.