I recently got a sneak peak of the Parent Toolkit app for Apple and Android.
The purpose of the app is to “help you navigate your child’s growth and development from Pre-K through 12th grade in the classroom and beyond.” For each year the app offers clearly written out benchmarks for academic growth as well as health and wellness for your child.
The app is the brainchild of the NBC education initiative called Education Nation. Why on earth did a television network like NBC want to get into education? Turns out, it was a passion of NBC’s President. Education Nation aims to engage citizens in a solutions-focused conversation about the state of education in the United States. The initiative was launched in the fall of 2010 and continues to be a key feature of the NBC news division through local events and on-air programming across the network’s shows and platforms throughout the year.
How could this app help me?
Generally I don’t pay too much attention to developmental milestones because I found that (especially during the infant stage) milestone tracking can be a source of needless anxiety. Unless there is a glaring gap in my child’s abilities compared to his peers or the doctor says something, I tend to trust that my kids are just fine. The current drumbeat, at least in parts of the blogging world, stresses that kids have their own internal clock for development so our job as parents really is to make our kids feel loved, valued, foster their creativity and curiosity so that they know the world is their oyster.
Nevertheless, I was interested to see what the benchmarks for pre-K were. Upon opening the app I was asked to create a login. You can also opt to receive emails from the app creators. Then I created a profile for my son which simply states that he is in pre-K. Once the app knew that “Big Bro” is in fact a pre-K student, it led me to a series of academic, health & wellness benchmarks. The benchmarks were developed by roughly 100 experts in child education, child development, nutrition, as well as parent advisors. Social/emotional benchmarks will be added to the app in October.
For me, it was reassuring to read the pre-K benchmarks and realize that my son is on track and already meets many of the academic benchmarks. There were others that he hasn’t done yet so I was able to mark them as “priorities” to work on, which really personalizes the app. Each benchmark offers tips to help you help your child work on skills–at the pre-K level its simple things like counting as you go up the steps to work on numbers, or modifying a game of “I Spy” to include looking for words that start with a certain letter (early reading). There is also a place where you can write notes to record your thoughts, ideas, or concerns about your child’s progress on a certain benchmark. The app also offers tips and guides on how to talk to your child’s teacher and doctor. There is even a place to input your child’s teachers contact information.
The health and wellness section had benchmarks for making sure your child is eating a balanced diet, getting enough physical activity, limiting screen time, sleeping enough, etc. Once again, it reassured me that we are on track. Yes, there were areas there that I marked as “priorities” to work on too, but overall we’re doing pretty well.
On the main navigation bar there is also a benchmarks tab where you can sneak ahead and see what your child will be expected to know in higher grade levels. I think this will app will become even more helpful as my kids get older and school gets more complicated. There is also a button for the latest news which connects you to the blog and expert articles on ParentToolKit.com.
When my daughter enters school in a couple years I can create a profile for her too. I like that I will be able to easily track both my kids’ development as they go through their school years.
The app provides the same information that I would normally need to glean from countless articles and books and puts it at my fingertips.
I can browse the app for 5 minutes while waiting to do preschool pick up, or anytime, and get suggestions on how to help my kids succeed in school and in thinking about future careers. It’s a great tool for busy parents who are seeking some useful guidance through the school years. It considers the whole child too: academics, health & wellness, and coming soon, social development. Check it out and let us know what you think!
The Parent Toolkit app is available as of yesterday, August 26, 2014. It is FREE and available for Apple and Android smartphones in Spanish and English.
Download it from the App Store or Google Play, or Text “TOOLKIT1” to 33733 to get the app on your mobile device now. If you don’t have a smartphone you can download the desktop version of the app or visit ParentToolKit.com