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With an abundance of cartoons and funny videos (and who knows what else) readily available at a simple touch of your kid's tiny fingers, Youtube has become a double-edged sword masquerading as a babysitter tool for most parents.  

 

We understand the allure of it, though. Having your kid's attention absorbed elsewhere for 45 minutes can allow you to finally sit down and get that piece of work you need done. Considering the recent surfacing of tons of harmful Youtube videos that were somehow flagged as recommended for kids, though, it might be a good idea to consider safer babysitting alternatives to occupy your kids while you focus on that report you have to submit.

To make things easier for you, we scoured the two major app stores and found 3 educating and interactive apps that encompass the STEAM philosophy while being fun for your child at the same time. Find out more about these apps below.

3 Interactive Apps To Replace Youtube Time on iPad For Your Pre-schoolers

- By Rong Xin & Wei Xuan

1) Code – a – Pillar by FisherPrice

This app developed by Fisher-Price consists a series of puzzles in which children are expected to help direct a path that leads the main character – Caterpillar – to its destination.

The game introduces the underlying basic concept of coding and computational thinking by having children give logical sequencing instructions to complete puzzles. Your child might need a bit of guidance at the start, but it should become a breeze after a few tries.

The app is free on Google Play and App Store and appropriate for children from 4 to 6 years old.

2) ScratchJr

Developed by MIT Media Lab, ScratchJr is a visual programming app that allows children to create their own stories.

Where Code-a-Pillar helps children to understand the grammar and punctuation of coding language, ScratchJr allows children to express using this language fluently. Unlike Code-a-pillar, ScratchJr is not puzzle based. Instead, it focuses on open-ended projects. 

In this app, beyond learning and practicing the concepts of logical sequencing, children can also tell a story and communicate an idea using their interactive platform. This allows your child to not just reason systematically but also think creatively. 

 

Due to the app's open-ended nature, it might be challenging for children at the start. One way we recommend for your child to start with this app is as an extended activity after reading a story book. Creating a short animation to re-enact a favourite scene in the story makes for an engaging and memorable starting project.

The app is free on Google Play and Apple Store, only available on tablets, appropriate for children from 5 to 7 years old.

3) QuiverVision

 

 

Developed by a New Zealand team, QuiverVision brings colouring to a whole new immersive experience using Augmented Reality (AR) technology. When we mention AR, the first thing that comes to mind is often the popular game Pokemon Go. Similar in terms of concept, QuiverVision turns your children’s colouring pages into engaging animated characters and images through AR, bringing learning experiences to the next level.

 

The app is free on Google Play and Apple Store. Some of their colouring sheets are free while some require you to pay. Appropriate for children from 4 to 8 years old.

 

When it comes to screen time, quality is often more crucial than quantity. We live by our mantra of ‘learning by doing and making’ and have recommended a group of apps that we believe allow children to ‘create’ instead of just ‘consume’. At Explorer Junior, we believe that new technologies are tools for expression and should be integrated into learning experiences in meaningful ways. 

 

Like how crayons are embraced and adopted as new ‘technology’ for children to draw, create and express themselves decades ago, integrating today’s high technologies into learning is also imperative to allow children to create in new and fun ways!

3 Fun Activities to Play and Bond with your Preschoolers this June Holiday

- By Wei Xuan & Yi Yun

The June holidays are finally here! If you didn't manage to sign up for a holiday program with us in time, fret not, for we have compiled a list of fun and simple activities to do with your preschooler. 

 

Between CCA activities and TV time, these activities are a good way to bond with your kids by having fun and learning together at the same time.

 

In the true spirit of STEAM education, the following list of activities require minimal materials, including things that can be obtained from your friendly neighborhood stores.

1. Build a Mini Catapult

Ever wanted to play a real-life battleship game with your son? As far as mini-weaponry go, this catapult works just as well (if not better) than any toy you can buy off a Toys'R'us shelf. 

 

Materials Needed:

7 Ice-cream Sticks

4-5 Elastic Bands

1 Bottle Cap

Tape/Glue

Pompoms (or any soft and light material for ammo)

How to Build:

  1. Stack 5 ice-cream sticks and tie them together using an elastic band at each end respectively. This will form our bulk body.

2. Tie 2 ice-cream sticks together at one end using an elastic band and place the bulk body from step 1 in-between the two sticks. The rubber band might fall off at this point, but don't worry, simply try again placing the bulk body further from the bands. 

3. Secure the catapult by tying with an elastic band at the conjunction.

 

4. Glue or tape the bottle cap on the end without any rubber bands and your catapult is ready!

Tips to Encourage Experimenting and Creativity:

  • Try out different types of ammo and see how far each one shoots

  • Have a competition with your kid to see who can build the catapult that shoots the furthest

  • Go crazy designing the catapult - Paint, stickers, anything goes!

  • Explore different ways of building the catapult - Where can you add another launcher? How about a pocket to hold ammo? Perhaps if you use one more ice cream stick for the launcher...

 

Learning Points:

  • The catapult is a simple example of energy conversion, from stored energy to kinetic energy. When you release the catapult, energy stored in the elastic band and ice cream stick is being converted to kinetic energy for the ammo to fly.

  • Different materials (size, weight, shape, etc.) can have vastly different flying abilities - too heavy and the ball will fall too quickly (gravity), too thin and the paper will barely fly (air resistance)

  • Fun fact - Catapults that launched heavy boulders were most commonly used as siege breakers in ancient war times because of their destructive capabilities!

2. Build a Clothespin Car

Next time your child asks you to spend money buying him/her a toy car, try suggesting you build one with him/her together instead.

 

Building this toy car not only saves you money, it also helps your child learn about the way wheels work. With just simple materials, you can build a few cars and have a race together.

 

Materials Needed:

1 Clothespin

2 Short Pipe Cleaner

1 Straw

4 Big Buttons

Tape

How to Build:

  1. Cut the straw and pipe cleaner to the desired length. Slot the pipe cleaner into the straws

2. Secure the pipe cleaners to the buttons. Each pair of wheels should look like dumbbells.

3. Attach the pipe cleaners to the clothespin and the car is ready to go! 

 

Tips to Encourage Experimenting and Creativity: 

  • Vary different parts about the car - Size of wheels, number of wheels, length of straw etc. - and see whether it affects the speed of the car

  • Allow your child's creativity to run wild and let him/her decorate the car as much as they like

  • Try creating a racing track using everyday items (books, rulers, bowls – anything goes!) to see who's car can go the fastest!

 

Learning Points:

  • The invention of wheels made it possible to transport heavy objects across long distances - which was crucial in the days where farms were far apart from each other

  • A simple way to think about wheels is to compare between a flat piece of cardboard and a cardboard roll. Both have the same texture and weight, but because of the shape, the cardboard roll can move a lot faster than the flat cardboard when it's pushed.

  • Fun fact - The wheel was first invented in 3500 BC (nearly 5500 years ago!), but rather than being used for transport, it was used first as a potter's wheel, to create pottery! It was only 300 years later that someone figured to use it to create the chariot.

2. Bouncy Egg Experiment

Warning: This one might get a little messy. But trust me, it's worth it.

 

Remember those colourful bouncy balls we used to get from the gachapon machines at like 20 cents from our neighbourhood grocery store? 

 

Well, the end product from this experiment is similar, albeit much less bouncy, and with a huge catch: it's actually an egg.

 

If you don't believe us that an egg can bounce, try out this experiment with your kid and find out for yourself!

 

Materials Needed:

1 Egg

Vinegar

Container/Jar (Almost twice the height of an egg is a good size)

Experiment Steps:

  1. Place a raw egg in a container. Pour enough vinegar to cover the egg. Observe and see what happens as you add the vinegar. Bubbles should appear on the surface of the egg.

2. Let the egg rest for 24 hours in the vinegar. After 24 hours, carefully remove the egg and drain the vinegar from the container.

 

3. Put the egg back in and add fresh vinegar into the container. Let the egg sit for at least 2 more days in the container. Observe and see what happens to the egg.

4. Take the egg out and let your kid hold the egg and observe. Try bouncing the egg a little (we suggest doing this in a small basin or in the sink, just in case) and see what happens.

Tips to Encourage Experimenting and Creativity:

  • Try adding food colouring to the vinegar to see what happens

  • Try placing a balloon over the container to collect the air formed from the air bubbles - this can show your kids that a gas was formed during the experiment

 

Learning points:

  • This experiment was a simple example of the corrosive property of an acid - vinegar. When placed in the vinegar, the egg shells (made up of calcium carbonate) reacted with vinegar and was removed, leaving behind the raw egg wrapped up in the semi-permeable membrane. 

  • In all experiments, recording is crucial to the experimental process. You can also use this experiment to introduce your child to the habit of writing down observations. Place a small notebook by the side of the jar and have your child write down or draw anything that he or she thinks is an interesting observation. 

  • The egg has two protective layer - the outer shell (removed by vinegar), and the inner membrane. 

  • Fun fact - The chemical that makes up the egg shell (Calcium Carbonate) can also be found in some cleaning agents used in your household!

 

Regardless of which activity you’re doing, remember to keep to the STEAM principles of creativity and experimenting to truly maximize your kids’ learning. And above all else, don’t forget to have fun!

How STEAM Learning Prepares Your Kids to Excel in Today's World

- By Wei Xuan

Hands-on STEAM programs at Explorer Junior

It's not a typo, that's STEAM, not STEM learning we're talking about here.

 

What is STEAM learning? Another new fancier acronym? You ask.

 

Well, here's the thing. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Learning was first developed to prepare our children for a workforce that demanded these specialisations. These learning programmes taught our children the technical skills needed to function in the current workforce.

 

It was, however, lacking in one category that is highly touted today.

Holiday STEAM enrichment class in Singapore

Creativity.

 

Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. That's STEAM. STEAM Learning builds on what STEM Learning set out to do, then adds an element of the arts to it. With this addition, this new approach aims to help prepare our children for the future. Here are two ways it does that:

 

STEAM Encourages Creativity

 

The integration of arts practices and design principles replaces traditional technical top-down pedagogy with exploration, critique, and revision. Like all design principles, it encourages learning as a process, rather than rote memorisation of knowledge. It encourages reflection and improvisation as a way of improving. 

 

In STEAM learning, deviation from traditional methods are encouraged. When children fail while experimenting, they are taught to question why they failed, rather than immediately being taught 'the right way' to complete an activity. 

 

This approach rewards children for their natural curiosity, which makes them more motivated to learn on their own. 

 

Plus, there's no arguing that sometimes experimenting can be really fun to do (my inner kid agrees), and it makes for an enjoyable and enriching experience for your kid. Two birds with one stone!

Technology related activities at explorer junior's wokshops and holiday camps

STEAM Promotes Individuality

 

Traditional education has long been critiqued for its industry-style approach. Think "square peg, round hole".

 

STEAM Learning seeks to tackle this problem of robotized students by injecting an element of arts into the learning process. There are two main parts to all forms of art: function, and form.

 

Function is shaped by design principles and reflection, while form is shaped by personal expression. The experimental approach that STEAM takes encourages children to take the road less travelled, and to explore new and different ways to solve problems, building individuality in the process. In doing so, it also gives our kids a sense of ownership. 

 

When children know that they came up with their own solution to a certain problem, it provides a sense of satisfaction that nothing can really replace, and this goes a long way in building self-confidence in children. 

Our parent-children activity

You Can Teach STEAM Yourself!

 

Here's the beauty of STEAM: you don't need to spend a huge sum of money to send your kid for some STEAM Learning Programme. You can do it on your own, in the comforts of your own home.

 

Unlike the usual formal classroom settings, most STEAM approach-based activities can be taught using ordinary items. If you want to learn more about the kind of STEAM activities you can do with your child at home, we're working on a new article with a bunch of easy and fun activities. To be notified when the post comes up, simply subscribe to our newsletter below.

 

Who said learning and fun can't co-exist?