Educational apps for kids: How Joanne Peh makes learning come alive for her children

Joanne Peh uses the iPad to supplement what her children are learning in school and books.
Joanne Peh uses the iPad to supplement what her children are learning in school and books.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - No screen time for her children under the age of two - actress Joanne Peh has been sharing this parenting philosophy in past interviews.

Now that her daughter is five years old and her son is three, Peh tells The Straits Times she has been using digital devices to support their learning.

They are not at the age where they must use them, like older school-going children. But she also does not want them to be completely detached from the devices.

"We are in a world where we rely so much on our phones. It would be weird if you tell our children, 'No, you're not allowed to look at devices'," says Peh, 36, who is married to actor Qi Yuwu, 44.

When her children were younger, she did not allow them screen time mainly because she wanted to protect their eyesight.

Her children, whose names she has not made public, now get access to the device mostly during the weekends and school holidays.

Peh uses the iPad to supplement what they are learning in school and books.

"For example, we can read about birds in a book, but they can't really hear the sound a bird makes or see how a bird moves, so I would go online and search for videos."

Peh, who is also the founder of The Dimple Loft enrichment centre, uses technology to conduct lessons with her young students. Last year, she used the Seesaw classroom app to create a 10-day online Chinese class after much experimentation.

She also does her due diligence and researches on apps and videos before showing them to her children.

Peh highlights the importance of using the device's parent control settings to restrict kids from accessing content that is not age-appropriate.

"I'm very protective when it comes to that, but at the same time, I also believe they should have free rein to explore," she adds.

"The buttons on the iPad, for example. What happens when you click on the X? What happens when you swipe or do this? They should be allowed to discover for themselves, and they have."

She makes sure she gets the children to agree to the duration of the screen time before they start.

"At the beginning, of course, there will be a little bit of protest. But I'd remind them again that if we were to always go into this struggle, it is likely I would not allow them to have the device again."

They have been very receptive to this approach, she says.

"A lot of it has to do with just reinforcing the same thing again and again, and putting that in place. Right now, my children have never really kicked up a fuss because they don't get screen time."


Joanne Peh's recommended apps

The Human Body by Tinybop

$5.98, from App Store

"This is really fun and interactive, especially the digestive system. Kids can see what happens when they eat - the food goes down the throat, to the stomach, through the small and big intestines.

"It's also a great way to demonstrate why you need to brush your teeth. Sometimes, through games, kids get more receptive to an act they were not keen on before."

Joy Doodle: Movie Color & Draw

Free, from App Store

"My children love to draw and sometimes I don't have paper on hand to give them. They can doodle on this and explore the different brushes and effects.

"They can save the pictures and hit the 'play' button to see their whole drawing process. This keeps them occupied for a long time."