Education News

Holiday App Guide: Kids, Families Can Learn Together

The guide comes from the Harvard Family Research Project.


To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

<iframe src="" style="height: 115px; width: 100%;"></iframe>

free images

Download the app Bug Art.

Elementary-age kids can design their own crawling critters and play games with those bugs.

This app is one of more than 20 that made a Harvard holiday list for families.

“I like the ones that spark creativity in young children.”

That’s Julie Wood, a consultant with the Harvard Family Research Project. She and Nicole Ponsford of TechnoTeachers evaluated apps and digital media for the guide.

“The art itself becomes an entry point for rich discussions about what they’re doing, what they’re thinking about.”

Creative apps for older kids include one for comic books like Strip Designer and another for programming from MIT.

For young toddlers, there are interactive games from PBS Parents and a way to practice early phonics from Star Fall.

“A, Astronaut!” 

Woods says most of the apps are free or cost just a few dollars.

She looked for apps that let children and families discover new ways to explore.

“The ones that I think are the richest to me are the ones where kids are really engaged in a meaningful way. You know, I would steer away from any drill and practice [digital media].”

This is the first time the Harvard Family Research Project has put out a holiday app list.

Heather Weiss with the project says they hope families will spend time together on digital media in a different way.

“Where everybody’s not on their own smart phone or their own device, but people are together, playing with a particular thing on one device, so it goes from being an individual to a collective and shared opportunity for a lot of fun.” 

Here are four rules of thumb from the Harvard Family Research Project for selecting digital media for children:

  • Is the activity engaging to the child?
  • Does the activity encourage rich exploration?
  • Does the activity stimulate language development?
  • Does the activity offer children a new way of experiencing the world?


Here’s the complete list of recommended apps and digital media from the project:


Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required