Cooling-Down during a heatwave: STEAM APPS that kids and parents will both love

Remember Miss Frizzle’s amazing field trips on The Magic Schoolbus?  Where taking chances, getting outside (and sometimes inside someone’s intestines or other odd places) are the orders of the day?  It’s summertime, what better opportunity is there to go on adventures, “make mistakes” and “get messy.” But, summertime also means scorching temperatures and when a heatwave rolls in sometimes there is no choice but some downtime indoors.  Time indoors and time on their technological devices doesn’t have to be a total loss for tweens and teens. Here are some amazing STEAM-inspired apps allow your kids to cool off, have some fun, and best of all—learn and grow, when going outdoors and getting messy aren’t an option.

  1. Starry Night Interactive – If your kids love Van Gogh’s Starry Night, they will love this interactive app where they can manipulate a masterpiece and relax to some enjoyable music at the same.
  2. Robot School Programming for Kids – A multileveled game where kids help R-obbie the Robot who has crashed his spaceship. Kids learn how to “learn procedures, loops and conditional instructions” to help him get home.
  3. Math Versus Zombies – Kids are part of a team of scientists who are helping to save the planet from zombies by using their super-human math skills.
  4. NASA Visualizer – This is a great app for kids excited about space by presenting the latest research in an “engaging and exciting format.”  Users can see images of Earth that have never been seen. 
  5. Frog Dissection – This is an iPad app for tweens and teens to learn about organs and organ systems in an eco-friendly way.  
  6. The Everything Machine – This app will blow your kids’ and maybe your mind!  “Create something as simple as a light switch or as complex as a kaleidoscope, a voice disguiser, a stop-motion camera, or a cookie thief catcher!”  But watch out, your kids can use their inventions to play a joke on you.
  7. Swift Playgrounds – A great coding tool for novices.  Users solve puzzles to learn Swift, a coding program used by expert coders to build many of “today’s most popular apps.”
  8. Thinkrolls & Thinkrolls 2 – This puzzle slash physics app with 26 fairytalish characters is “100% irresistible for kids 3-8.  Get it now and let your little geniuses amaze you with their reasoning and problem solving skills!” 
  9. Busy Water – This is another critical thinking leveled puzzle game that uses paddle wheels, water, blocks etc… to help Archie get back into his tank.  Logic and reasoning are developed as users work their way through the levels.
  10. Simple Rockets – What kid doesn’t get excited about becoming a scientist who designs his/her own rocket ships and helps them blast off into space?
  11. Noticing Tools – This is a “ground-breaking suite of iPad apps that make learning math and science irresistible through play, creative design projects, and collaboration.”
  12. World of Goo – Another puzzle game, this one requires users to move the goo.  They must find ways (by building bridges, towers, etc…) to get the goo to a pipe that will suck it up. 
  13. Odd Bot Out – This robot is the odd one out.  Tossed into the garbage for not “being good enough,” Odd the robot has to escape over a 100 unique rooms to find his way out.  
  14. Inventioneers – This app teaches “realtime physics and the science behind different features like air, fire, magnetism and (of course) jumping bunnies.”
  15. Attributes – Users play around with attributes and patterns to solve puzzles and complete various levels.  

Also try:  Move the Turtle; DragonBox; The Land of Venn

As parents, we will always encourage our children to get out and explore the outdoors, and to “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.” But, there are times when being indoors and having some downtime on our devices is necessary and doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.  So, when the heat index is 115 degrees, and you have to get that project done without interruption, allow your children to play one of these great STEAM apps. And, while it isn’t as good as time with you or trying out the latest science experiment, at least you know they will be learning and doing something that is a win/win.  

DIY: Your Own Crossword Puzzle

Need something fun and engaging for your children during those hot days of summer?  Have them create an “all about me” crossword! Not only will you be able to catch up on work, but you can have fun trying to complete their puzzles. You might even learn something new about them.  Who knows, when you get your big work project completed, your beach towels washed, and the mowing caught up, you might want to create one yourself.  

There are a number of cool sites where your children can go to create their puzzles electronically:

Crossword Hobbiest
Puzzle-Maker.com
Tools for Educators
Crossword Maker

If you want it to be a more authentic (and time-consuming process) and more of a puzzle to create a puzzle, you can print out a free crossword template, and then give your kids these directions:

  1. Make a list of clues/hints
  2. Create the list of answers
  3. Using the answers, start placing them in pencil on the crossword grid and give them a number (don’t forget to number the clue as well) interlocking them with previous words if you can. Try to make a somewhat even number of across and down.
  4. Outline the words with a dark box.
  5. Now create a carbon copy on an empty template, and of course, don’t write in the words. 
  6. Optional: Shade in any boxes that are unused.
  7. Make copies so everyone in the family can solve your puzzle.

Here is a list of possible clues that you and your children can use to get started.  They are sure to get your creative juices flowing.  

  • Nickname
  • Favorite food
  • Favorite holiday
  • Last book read
  • Favorite invention
  • Movie favorite
  • Famous idol
  • Game I most like to play
  • Where I want to go most
  • Favorite beach activity
  • What I love most about summer
  • My least favorite chore
  • Best friend
  • Worst enemy
  • Favorite subject
  • Hardest subject
  • Dream job
  • Job I would hate
  • Favorite soda
  • Favorite pizza topping
  • Favorite candy
  • Favorite ice cream
  • What makes me cry
  • What makes me laugh
  • Fave mode of transportation
  • Fave musician
  • Fave sci-fi movie

Enjoy this ‘stay at home’ activity, and if you get a crossword craze going on in your household, they can have a go at some of the fun science crosswords at whenwecrosswords.com!