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BrainPOP is the best reference app for kids .
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A classic reference re-imagined for touch screens
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Wikipedia goes offline for safe surfing

About the Apps


Elementary school is the time when children are expected to start learning independently. Once students are capable readers and writers, it’s appropriate to start introducing reference books. Admittedly most aren’t for lower elementary, but certainly by third grade kids ought be able to start looking things up on their own or with minimal guidance.

But the information age often presents a terrifying prospect for parents and teachers of young children. Great places to find information like Google, Wikipedia and YouTube are full of inappropriate images and links. Almost as troubling, they can get inundated with uncertified opinions posing as facts. These opinions deceive even adults into thinking the information is credible.

It's best, then, to start with self-contained reference apps. Some come in familiar forms and others harness the best of the web. All of our selections not only serve as great research tools for young learners, but come in kid-friendly formats.

Now's the time to throw away 500 word picture book dictionaries and teach kids to use the real thing. offers two solutions. Dictionary & Thesaurus for iPad is a traditional dictionary with a modern, if not particularly kid-centric, interface. Word Dynamo by – Word games + Study Help is a wonderful supplement for grammar school students to put their new vocabulary to the test in a UI designed for them and to give educators and teachers feedback on progress.

Encyclopedias are traditionally the main reference books elementary students are expected to consult when making their first presentations or preparing their first papers. Encyclopaedia Britannica has taken their well-respected guide to everything mobile and interactive. On the other end of the spectrum, Articles takes all the information and images from Wikipedia and puts them into magazine style entries free of links that lead outside the app.

And finally we have BrainPOP. It’s an extraordinary bank of animated educational videos that are made to exacting standards, yet still engage and entertain.

With these five apps your elementary school child will learn how to do basic research and learn fundamental skills that will prepare then to use more sophisticated sources like Khan Academy and even the O.E.D. down the line.

Comments & Suggestions Have a suggestion for an educational app for this category you think we should feature? Let us know.

  • tattyn:

    encyclopedia for elementary school now that sounds worth having

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