We know that too much screen time can be problematic for kids, but we also know that not all screen time is bad. There are plenty of educational options available that can keep the kids entertained and teach them a thing or two at the same time.
We’ve scoured the internet for games and apps that will fill your weekends with fewer video-zombies and more education! So next time they ask for screen time, check these out weird and weirdly educational apps.
Does your kid like money? Mine does. By the time she was 5 she could add, subtract, multiply — all you had to do was put a dollar sign in front of the numbers.
If your kid is the same, take their fiscal responsibilities to the next level with Bankaroo.
This free app allows your family to keep track of who gets what allowance; it also gives your kid the ability to track and save their money. Instead of just begging for the $180 Lego set, Bankaroo can teach them how to save for it and buy it themselves.
Math still a bit of a challenge? Try Sushi Monster by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It's a quick math learning game where the players must feed the hungry monster plates of numbers that create a math equation. It’s fun, fast and more educational than your child will ever admit.
After your kid’s money game is on point, pump up their financial knowledge with Stockpile.
Designed like the old Sharebuilder or E*TRADE investing sites, Stockpile allows parents to set up a custodial account for their kids to invest as little as $5 at a time by purchasing fractional shares of stock in companies they already know like Time Warner or Mattel. Then they can watch as that money grows (or shrinks) with the fluctuations of the stock market.
But what about those kids that want to just zone out? For kids who prefer cutting rope or throwing birds everywhere, you might try the quick logic puzzle fix Circuit Scramble.
Like Angry Birds or Cut the Rope, Circuit Scramble introduces more complicated rules every few levels. Unlike those other games, as you progress through Circuit Scramble the rules introduced are based on real-world circuit board logic. Your kid can learn how to shoot the yellow bird that drops a few bombs or they can learn how gating works on a circuit board.
Stray Cat Doors
For a more in-depth logic puzzle game, try Stray Cat Doors by Pulsmo, Inc. This game combines subtle pattern recognition, non-linear thinking and problem-solving skills.
Each level has a door which the player must unlock. Each lock has four to six pieces to find. To find the pieces, the player must search the manipulative parts of the scene for secret codes and hidden pictures. And when you finally find all the lock pieces? The door opens and a stray cat gets to come inside.
And for little kids, try Cooking Mama!
Alas, most of these games are set up for older kids. Maybe you have a little one and you need something to keep them occupied for an hour while you’re editing papers. How about cooking? Specifically, Cooking Mama! By Office Create.
In Cooking Mama, kids prepare food and then sell it at their restaurant. When they make money at the restaurant, they can buy more recipes to expand their restaurant’s menu.
The delightful thing about this game is that each recipe is surprisingly accurate in its steps. The first step to making a Salisbury steak is cutting onions. The game walks kids through the basic technique of how to cut an onion and players must repeat the process carefully. If you cut it all wonky, Mama gets angry and yells nonsense.
In all honesty, this game is a bit of a flashy-flashy nightmare but don’t let it fool you. This is one of the few clickbait games for which I’ve been tempted into buying downloadable content. Mainly because every level demonstrates real cooking techniques.
When my daughter played this game, she’d finish a level then turn around and ask to do some real-life cooking. She learned how to make an omelet from Cooking Mama and it was pretty tasty.
Or give Good Pizza, Great Pizza a spin
For a simpler resource management game with less flash, try Good Pizza, Great Pizza by Tapblaze.
Players own and operate a pizzeria and advancement depends on how well and quickly those pizzas are made. Make a good enough pizza quickly and customers tip more. The more tips, the more you can trick out your restaurant and the more customers will visit. The more customers you get, the better tips you make.
And when screen time is finally over, and you've finally wrested the phone away from your kid for two minutes, they can make pita pizzas for everyone for dinner. Don’t forget to tip!
This story originally published in July 2018 and was updated in March 2020.