Now that summer's about to arrive in earnest, Web sites and mobile apps for kids are probably the farthest thing from your mind. There will come a time in the coming months, though, when it will rain, or the kids'll need a break from the heat, and you might find yourself reaching for the iPad. We're seeing some new and promising trends in kid-friendly media these days, and at the top of the list is storytelling. Here's a look at a few new options that are ideal for downtime from summer fun.
Start at Common Sense Media, a great family-centric site that provides reviews and recommendations for movies, TV shows, books, games, music, and mobile media. The site has a section called Digital Fun for Creative Kids that offers a ton of ideas for games, interactive tools, and apps based on a child's age, and it includes an entire area devoted to digital media that helps boost storytelling skills. Common Sense Media gives you learning ratings for each of its featured storytelling tools, along with information on where to find them.
If your child likes art, head over to Storybird. This site helps improve literacy by encouraging kids to write stories and poems inspired by artwork that's curated from illustrators and animators across the globe. Choose the story format for children interested in typing their stories freestyle, or the brand new poetry option for younger kids, as it only involves dragging and dropping words (it's not unlike those magnetic word kits you use on the fridge).
There's a basic free version of Storybird that will do the trick for most, but you can also choose to upgrade to a premium one that lets kids make custom covers and download their stories for $59/year.
New to the Toontastic Jr. series of apps is Toontastic Jr. Shrek. This one lets kids create their own movies using characters from the DreamWorks animated film Shrek (you can watch a demo here). While it comes with a price tag of $2.99, it has a nearly endless roster of options for creating a story, and even lets kids record their own voice.
Users start by choosing a beginning, middle, and ending, and then customize the characters' movements and the accompanying music. The movie-making process takes a little time, but the app is easy to use and the end result is pretty impressive.
Digital storytelling tools like these can engage, boost creativity, and even help mitigate that dreaded out-of-school "summer slide." And hey, if anyone has a story to tell, it's kids.