Every month, hundreds of new apps and digital games are released for kids — some beneficial, some harmless and some your child is definitely better off without. How do you choose?

Connecticut Children’s Child Life Specialist Christine Tatem shares tips. 

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1. Decide on a goal.

Do you want something that promotes learning? Expands creativity? Helps your child relax, or just be entertained for awhile? Starting with a clear objective will help you narrow down the tens of thousands of options.

2. If the goal is learning, consider these best practices.

According to research on the science of learning, a good educational app meets four criteria: It actively engages the child; doesn’t include distractions (like ads) that interrupt the learning experience; is personally relevant to the child or builds on their past knowledge; and includes social interactivity.

With this in mind,

  • Look for apps that require some planning, thinking or problem-solving skills. Word and puzzle games are good for this, as are matching, counting and sorting games.
  • For younger children, consider apps that require color, number or letter identification.
  • For older children, look for games that require building towns, farms or “worlds” that they must support and navigate (think: Mine Craft, which involves problem-solving and spatial skills).
  • Consider apps that promote creativity, like those that engage your child in building, drawing or music.
Two young girls hide under a blanket

3. Pay attention to the recommended ages.

Although the categories tend to be broad, they can be helpful when you’re unfamiliar with the app.

4. Be on top of new account and passwords.

If your child is old enough to download apps, create accounts and establish passwords, make sure you’re in the loop.

5. Read the reviews.

When you’ve narrowed your options down to a few choices, take time to read the reviews, including the negative ones. Inform yourself.

Finally, parents, check out Connecticut Children’s mobile app.

Download  Connecticut Children’s mobile app, available by searching “Connecticut Children’s” in the App Store or Google Play. (While you’re there, activate MyChart so you can access your child’s health records anytime, anywhere, all from your phone.)