The most useful apps for your expat child
In a world where almost everything can be achieved digitally, from ordering a takeaway to keeping in touch with family and friends, our children are becoming increasingly tech-savvy, and this can be a useful tool. The trick is knowing when, where and how to facilitate their fascination for all things technology – and how to keep them safe while they explore!
To help you out, here’s my list of top apps for expat kids to help them learn, keep in touch with people and stay safe. The links I’ve included are to the official websites so you can check out their offerings, but the apps can be downloaded from iTunes or the Google App Store. And I’m not affiliated to any of them, so they are genuine recommendations.
We all understand that children pick up new languages more quickly and easily than adults – and that the earlier they start the more proficient their linguistic skills become – but that doesn’t mean that learning always needs to be a serious business. Check out these apps for a fun learning experience that your child will enjoy and that you can share.
“Earn points for correct answers, race against the clock and level up”
Duolingo makes learning languages fun and competitive – a winning combination – through bite-sized lessons with appealing gameplay. There are more than 20 language options, even including the fictional language of Klingon (a must-do for star-trek fans) and each level includes word jumbles and quizzes, making it suitable for older children who can read fluently. Go to official website.
Stories by Gus on the Go & Gus on the Go (free)
“Learn a new language by diving into a classic story with a silly twist”
Currently available in Spanish, French, Greek and Hebrew, Stories by Gus on the Go is a fun and engaging story telling app for younger children with interactive game play at a pace that is carefully structured to optimise learning opportunities. Rated by elearningindustry.com as the number 1 language learning app for kids. Go to official website.
The original app, Gus on the Go is available in 30 different languages each offering 10 interactive lessons, engaging vocabulary reviews and fun games.
Little Pim ($4.99)
“Winner of over 25 awards with International Press coverage”
A subscription to Little Pim means you instantly receive access to all videos in 12 different language options, giving you more than 30 hours of downloadable content, plus the parent/teacher guide, printable lessons (perfect for some off-screen time) and fun on-screen activities. Go to official website.
Being away from friends and family is probably the thing we all find the hardest about an expat lifestyle and children find security in being able to chat to (and see) their loved ones regularly.
Free to register and use, Skype provides a quality face-time connection on the go – just be aware that the data usage if you’re not on Wi-Fi is significant.
We’ve scoured the internet for other apps that might help children with keeping in touch but most of the child-friendly social media out there (like What’s What and Scuttlepad) is firmly based on building a new online community and restricts adults from signing up. That’s not our focus here; we’re talking about keeping in touch with people at ‘home’ and for that Skype is clearly the best option. Go to official website.
Allowing your children to use the Internet is often viewed as an important life skill in a modern society – but let’s face it, there’s a lot of unsuitable content out there that you don’t want them to be able to access.
K9 Web Protection
“Puts you in control of the Internet so you can protect your kids”
K9 eb Protection lets you view browser history, control access times and block certain sites as well as having an advanced keyword filter that prevents other sites from being visible. There’s even a sound alert if your children are trying to access things they shouldn’t. Go to official website.
Sygic Family Locator (free)
“See the real time location of your kids on the map and stay in touch with instant messages”
With this app you can track the location and battery levels of your family’ smartphones, so you’ll always know where your children are. You can set an alert for ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ areas that will let you know when your children enter those zones. There’s an SOS button too, so if your child needs you they can send an alert directly to your phone that lets you know their exact location. Go to official website.
Google Maps (price varies by location)
Going back 10 years, reading a map was a complex skill requiring a certain degree of study – but Google Maps has changed that for the better. Teach your children to use Google Maps and they can use unique satellite technology to plan their route before they go anywhere – or to find a new route if they’ve wandered too far. It can be expensive to download new location data – but knowing exactly where you are at all times, and being able to set routes to walk, cycle or drive offers valuable peace of mind. Go to official website.
I can’t produce an exhaustive list – there are so many apps to choose from – but our advice is read reviews, play them yourselves first and install an additional app to enhance your family’s cyber security. Other than that, have fun exploring!