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Hitting the road? Apps to pack to avoid summer brain drain

(BPT) - Warm weather and sunshine are putting families across the country in vacation-planning mode. Whether traveling by train, plane or automobile, mobile devices are typically the first thing parents and kids pack.

In fact, American families take more than 100 million leisure trips a year and the average family juggles up to six devices - ranging from smartphones to tablets to laptops. It's no surprise that summer is the most popular family travel time, and for many kids the school break can result in a measurable brain drain. Studies show students lose about a month of learning during the summer break. Concerned parents can dial up the learning quotient with a few well-packed apps that keep little ones engaged whether traveling far or settling in for a summer staycation. -

With more than 300 new apps unveiled every day, finding the right-sized app for your child can be daunting. Skip the exhausting mind-meld. Smart parents use trusted sites like Common Sense Media to search for apps by age, theme and ratings, or pop onto a family-friendly network like Fingerprint to peruse a library of apps that parents approve and kids love.

By doing a little homework, parents can find an app for every kind of kid - world traveler, animal lover, nature explorer or inquisitive preschooler. --

For your budding world traveler

Learning a second language at a young age is linked to higher test scores, greater confidence and enhanced critical thinking skills. In fact, mobile apps are one of the easiest (and most accessible) ways for kids to learn a new language - any time, any place. For example, the Kids Learn Mandarin app takes kids (ages 3 to 8) on a magical journey through 12 playgrounds with nearly 100 interactive games where kids learn to read, speak and write 240 Mandarin words.

For your amazing animal lover -

Have a little one with a soft spot for animals? Indulge their pet passion with an app that stars two English bulldogs in the vibrantly animated storybook Lola & Lucy's Big Adventures. With 29 interactive pages, 17 mini games and more than 300 interactive surprises, Lola & Lucy's Big Adventure (for kids 4+) promotes reading readiness, geography know how and even fun trivia related to dog breeds. -

For your nifty nature explorer

For nature explorers, travel time can be tortuous. Keep them busy with Minuscule - a thrilling racing app that follows the story of a mischievous ladybug, an angry fly and an army of red ants through four life-like minuscule worlds. This app (for kids 6+) is a sure-fire backseat boredom buster. Plus, the kids will be ready to hit the hiking trail and "wow" you with insect fun facts after a few games. -

For your inquisitive preschooler

Playful preschoolers love mobile devices and this is where pre-packing pays off.- Choose a couple of new app titles staring a character your preschooler loves (Sid the Science Kid, Caillou, VeggieTales) and download before you leave. Many of the preschool apps are both fun and educational, including Franklin Talk & Playset (for ages 3 to 6), which transports kids into the woodland world of Franklin & Friends to solve puzzles, perfect rhyming skills, practice shape recognition, and even talk to Franklin.

While parents can download new apps on the go, it's definitely worth doing your homework and downloading a few fan favorites before you depart. For the cost of a couple Frappuccino's, parents can buy a handful of premium apps that ensure the summer journey is both entertaining and educational for their kids - and maybe even a bit more harmonious too.




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