Even with all of the new apps for children these days, there’s very few that are actually very helpful or truly educational. Watching cartoon animals in between Candy Crush ads does not really constitute education. Older kids can learn from a variety of games, especially complex simulation games, but younger kids really don’t have much to gain from apps, no matter how much they claim to make your kids smarter.
I do know of one very old game that is exceptional, however. When I was in 7th grade they had us play Mario Teaches Typing. Now I didn’t actually do it much because I was already very fast at hunt-and-peck typing from spending too much time online, but of all the ways to learn to type correctly, this game is pretty good. Mario runs in a line and every time you press the right key, he smashes a square of bricks or stomps an enemy. Kids tend to find it rather interesting, at least for a while. You win whenever you reach the target words-per-minute goal.
The catch with a lot of typing games I have tried on iOS or Android is that that they are made with screen typing in mind, which makes little sense. Desktop PCs are still important for doing real work, and students should learn to type well on them. There are some paid apps on Steam available. Still, my 7-year-old has been doing great with Mario.
You can run Mario Teaches Typing on a new PC by finding the old software and running it on a DOS emulator like DOSBox. It’s much easier, however, to use the online version located here.
The only down side is that Mario can be a bit of a downer; he’s not very good at encouraging the kids. If you fall anywhere under the target words-per-minute, even if you did relatively well, he says, “Too bad! Perhaps you need more practice.” It’s a good idea to add some of your own encouragement into the mix: “Uh, yeah, what Mario means to say is ‘That was pretty good, keep it up!’”
“Daddy, is Mario disappointed in me?”
“Uh, no, he’s just tired from a long day of cleaning piranha plants out of pipes, you know.”
Have you found any other good educational games for the very young? Go ahead and share.