Balancing Your Child’s Use of Technology

Balancing Your Child's Use of Technology

One thing I’ve learned in my career as a mom is that much of parenting is a balancing act. One particular issue that can be tricky to navigate with kids is balancing their use of technology. Red Apple Reading has some suggestions that we think will help you achieve electronic equilibrium in your home!


Limit Screen Time – Does it seem like every time you turn around your kid is on the computer? It can be hard to managing technology time. Here’s a few ways to help curb the computer craze!

  • Set a Timer – Time flies when you’re having fun. If left to their own devices, children will spend endless hours in front of a screen. If you feel like you are constantly nagging your kiddo to get off the computer, let the timer be the bad guy. When the alarm goes off, the computer does as well!
  • Earn Screen Time – Another effective way to limit screen time is to have your child earn the privilege. For instance, for every chapter read, your kid could receive 10 minutes of screen time. If your little one has a hard time finishing her chores, offer 15 minutes of technology for each completed task.
  • Computer Curfew – When my oldest daughter was in middle school, I noticed that she was getting out of bed earlier and earlier to get online. To nip the problem in the bud (and make sure she was getting the sleep she needed) we told her no computer time before 9:00 a.m. If your kiddo is staying up too late because he has trouble “unplugging”, then put the computer “to bed” at an appropriate time each night.

Make it Count! – Another important piece in balancing technology is to ensure that time spent on screen is meaningful. There is no end to the different games, videos, and sites for children to peruse online. While they are plugged in, be sure to make it count!

  • Creativity – How creative is the content of your kiddo’s favorite game or website? Is your child watching countless mindless videos? Are the games he’s playing inspiring creativity? Be sure a substantial portion of your kid’s screen time inspires innovation.
  • Math – If you’re like me, you don’t consider solving math problems in your spare time to be much fun. Believe it or not, there are tons of fun educational math games for kids to play online. My son’s 4th grade math class recently participated in an online Kakooma tournament on Greg Tang Math and came in first place. They not only sharpened their math skills but had a good time in the process.
  • Coding – Computer coding or programming is growing in popularity even among children. Tech savvy kids are learning how to code and loving it! Check out this Edutopia article that lists 7 apps for teaching children computer coding.
  • Reading – Improving reading skills is one of the best uses of computer time. Of course, it may be possible that we at Red Apple Reading are a bit biased! We do think you’ll agree with us once you visit our website. Check out our free online trial today!

Don’t Rush the Holidays – Enjoy Fall While You Can!

Don't Rush the Holidays! - Red Apple Reading ExpressIt’s that time of year again – the leaves are turning and beginning to float to the ground, the weather is getting chillier, and the holiday season is just around the corner. Fall is fully here! Instead of jumping straight into holiday mode, why not enjoy the season and wait until December to panic? Red Apple Reading has some fun fall activity recommendations that will help you relax with your family and enjoy the season while you still can. Make this fall season the best you and your family has ever experienced!

  •  Go on a Nature Walk – Autumn is the perfect season to explore the great outdoors! The weather has cooled off and the leaves are changing colors. Gather your little ones together and head to your local walking trail or arboretum. Make sure to take a bucket with you for all the cool stuff you collect along the way.
  •  Enjoy a Campfire – This is a personal favorite in my family. When the weather turns cool, we like to spend a weekend night roasting marshmallows over a fire in the backyard. Sometimes we even give the kids glow sticks to play with in the dark. A word of caution – make sure there is plenty of adult supervision, a water hose on the ready, and the weather has not been too dry!
  •  Create a Meal – OK, maybe when you think of family activities, cooking together might not be the first idea to pop into your head; but why not? After all, if your family is like mine, we spend a lot of time hanging out in the kitchen anyway. Since you’re already there, how about creating something delicious together? The fall season is the perfect time to get out the soup and stew recipes and enjoy a warm meal together!
  •  Visit a Farm– There are a lot of great fruits and vegetables in season this time of year. Do a little investigating and find out if you have a local apple orchard, pumpkin patch, or farm that has seasonal vegetables. Your kiddos will enjoy seeing where these yummy foods come from and how they are grown. If you don’t have access to a local farm, find a farmers market in your area to visit!
  •  Make a Scarecrow – Even if you don’t have a garden, building a scarecrow is a fun fall project for the whole family. Visit HGTV Gardens for great step-by-step scarecrow construction instructions! Afterwards, display your finished product on the porch for everyone to admire.
  •  Have a Block Party – Autumn is a great time of year to gather the neighbors together for a neighborhood block party. The children can enjoy outdoor activities such as bobbing for apples and carnival style games while the adults visit and eat hamburgers and hot dogs.
  •  Read a Book – Any time of year is perfect for reading! Fall is an especially good season to enjoy reading outdoors. So bring a basket of books, pitch a blanket in your yard or local park, and spend an hour reading to your little ones.

We would love to know how you enjoy spending a fall day with the family. Leave a comment below sharing your favorite autumn activities.


Best New Children’s Books (and Where to Find Them!)

Best New Children's Books - Red Apple Reading ExpressThere’s nothing like cracking open a new book! Walking into the public library or bookstore and spotting a brand new book by one of my favorite authors really makes my day. If your kids are like mine, they feel the same way as well. Most of us probably have “classics” such as Little House on the Prairie, Curious George, and The Hardy Boys in our home library. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with falling back on an oldie but goodie, there are several new children’s titles worth exploring. So, what are some of the great, new books available to children this year? I did a little research and found some new titles that are bound to bring a smile to your little one’s face!

For Younger Children
Many of you with younger kids are probably familiar with the popular book, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker. Rinker’s next book, Steam Train, Dream Train, was just released in April. Amazon has this listed on its website as one of its Best April Kid’s Books. For those of you who have little ladies at home, Tea Time With Sophia Grace and Rosie, by Sophia Grace Brownlee, Rosie McClelland, and Shelagh Mcnicholas (Illustrator), is sure to bring a smile to your little girl’s face. Not Your Typical Dragon (By Dan Bar-el) is a great pick for any kid who has ever felt different. If your child is between the ages of 4-8, these books would be good titles to add to your collection.

For Middle Readers
When I came home from the library several months ago with Storybound for my 11-year-old, she quickly became absorbed in its exciting plot. Author Marissa Burt has recently released Storybound’s sequel, Story’s End. In this follow-up book, readers join the main character, Una, as she seeks to ensure the land of Story’s survival. HarperCollins, publisher of Storybound and Story’s End, has a great website from which you can view all this publisher’s new releases. James Patterson fans will be excited to read the third installment in his Middle School series, Middle School: My Brother is a Big Fat Liar. This Middle School book is told from the character Georgia’s point of view. Finally, Big Nate is back in Big Nate Flips Out, by Lincoln Peirce.

For Teens
If your teen was a fan of the popular Hunger Games series, they are bound to enjoy Marie Lu’s Legend series. Prodigy, the second book in this series, was released in hardback in January of this year. The first book, Legend, is also available in paperback nowSpeaking of sequels, this is a good month to buy one! Light: A Gone Novel, by Michael Grant, and Inferno, the fourth installment in the Chronicles of Nick Series (author, Sherrilyn Kenyon), are two new books that have recently been released.

It’s not difficult to track down the best and newest children’s books out there. Sites such as Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Books-A-Million, and others have lists of new releases ready for you to view. It is also beneficial to visit book publishers’ web sites and see a list of their recently published material. And let’s not forget our good friend, the public library! Most public libraries have a special section for new titles, and your librarian is a great resource as you search for new books for your kiddos. Summer is almost here! In honor of new beginnings, go find that great new book for your child.

Too Much Screen Time or Not Enough?

Too Much Screen Time or Not Enough? | Red Apple Reading ExpressWe live in an age in which it is nearly impossible to escape interacting with electronics. The time spent in front of these electronic devices, sometimes referred to as “screen time,” is increasing with each passing year. As adults, it’s not unusual for many of us to spend the majority of our working day using a computer, not to mention constantly checking our cell phones throughout the day. Likewise, our children’s use of electronics is increasing, and they’re starting earlier and earlier these days. Therefore, it is useful to weigh the benefits and disadvantages of “screen time” for our children.

What Is Screen Time Replacing?

For many parents, limiting our kid’s time in front of a screen each day is a constant challenge. Keep it up, though! Remember, too much time spent with electronic devices cuts into other activities that are beneficial to your child. For instance, part of a healthy lifestyle includes plenty of physical activity. Is your kid spending so much time in front of a computer that he is missing out on much needed exercise? What about homework? Is your son or daughter failing to complete assignments or rushing through them in order to have more time for video games or social media? We must also consider how well our child handles relationship with others. Does he play and interact well with other kids, or does he spend so much time texting that he struggles to express himself appropriately in “real” conversations? Technology is wonderful, but as with any good thing, when taken to the extreme it can be harmful.

Don’t Throw out the Baby with the Bath Water!

While there’s plenty of potential for negative when it comes to digital devices, don’t forget the many benefits that time with technology brings! Our kids are being raised in an age and a society that revolves around technology. The more time children spend interacting with electronic devices, the more familiar and comfortable they will be with them. When our children enter college and later the work force, we want them to have marketable skills. Adequate time spent with technology will help with this transition. So the question becomes: “Does my kid’s screen time consist primarily of entertainment (e.g. TV, video games, etc.) or does it include an educational component?” For instance, if your daughter is learning how to put together a Power Point presentation on turtles, that is altogether different from spending hours watching cartoons. If your kindergartener is learning how to read on an educational program like Red Apple Reading, then the benefits are great indeed!

The Bottom Line

So is technology a blessing or a curse? The answer is both. When left to their own devices (pun intended!), most children will tend to give themselves too much screen time. However, with appropriate monitoring and boundaries, time spent in front of a laptop or iPad can be a source of great benefit to our kids.

What’s your opinion? How much is too much when it comes to screen time?

3 Strategies for Helping Your Visual Child Learn to Read

3 Strategies for Helping Your Visual Child Learn to Read If you’ve been following the blog lately, you know that we’ve been talking about how important it is to know your child’s learning style so that you can help them learn best at home and advocate for them at school as well. We’ve also discussed some specific strategies for those kids who, in my opinion, are the most underserved in school: kinesthetic learners.

What if you have a visual learner, though? What can you do to help her reach her full potential by using her natural talents? Well, first, it’s important to know that visual learners learn by seeing, and they often think in pictures. Because so much of reading instruction depends on listening, visual learners may have difficulty acquiring early literacy with traditional teaching methods. The good news is that according to, once they learn to read, visual learners often become avid readers. Plus, today’s educators are usually well-versed on the different ways their students learn, and they intentionally differentiate their instruction to accommodate the differences in learning styles amongst their students.

Even so, knowing what to do to help your visual learner at home can help him reduce frustration and progress more quickly than he would otherwise. Here are a few tips:

Give Examples
Visual learners sometimes have trouble following verbal instructions. Therefore, instead of telling your child how to write a letter, show her instead. Furthermore, if she has to circle certain letters for homework, don’t just read her the instructions, but do the first one for her as an example. I promise her teacher won’t mind!

Provide Visual Cues
As I mentioned, visual learners like to think in pictures. Can you conjure up a mental image of what a sound looks like though? It’s difficult, right? Help your little one associate sounds with pictures by creating or providing flash cards that associate sounds with objects or animals that start with the sound. For instance, for the sound /p/, draw a picture of a pig on the back of the card. For the sound /ch/, sketch a wedge of cheese. Use the cards routinely for phonics practice.

Emphasize Word Families
Word families that end with the same letters like “cat, hat, bat, rat,” etc. are fundamentals of reading instruction, and the good news is that they provide a great way for visual learners to “see” the relationships between sounds, letters, and words. Visual learners love patterns, and word families are similar to simple patterns. Use letter magnets on a cookie sheet to provide a colorful example of word families, and let your child experiment with changing the first letter to create new words.

Instructional games and software are also great tools for visual learners as well. Just remember, if they can see it, they can achieve it!

Not sure if your child is a visual learner? Take this online learning styles quiz to find out!