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PBS Kids steps up interactive education opportunities with mobile app

Public Broadcasting Service has launched its first parent-facing mobile application as a tool for building literacy and math skills with children.

The PBS app is aimed at children aged four years-old and younger. The Parents Play and Learn app is available for free download on iOS, Android and Nook devices.

?We know that parents are looking for ways to support their kids? learning, but it can be tough to figure out how to get started,? said Sara DeWitt, vice president of PBS Kids Digital, Arlington, VA. ?Our goal is to help parents realize that any time can be learning time with their kids.

This is all part of a larger effort that we announced recently called It All Adds Up, which aims to boost math and literacy learning at home ? and everywhere ? by providing resources and tips for parents,? she said. ?From mobile apps that your kids can play in the car, to simple hands-on activities that you and your child can do together while you?re waiting at the doctor?s office or cooking dinner, all of these little things can all add up to make a big difference.?

PBS claims to be the No. 1 educational media brand for children. The company creates television, online, mobile and community-based programs.

Learn on mobile
The Parents Play and Learn app is part of a bigger program from PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting?s Ready to Learn Initiative. The program is funded by the United States Department of Education and helps children aged 2-8 years old with their literacy and math skills.

The app is aimed at making education less intimidating for parents.

For example, a recent study from PBS found that 30 percent of parents felt anxious about teaching their children math skills. However, 84 percent of parents surveyed believed that it was important for children to learn with at-home activities.

The app includes 13 themed games for parents to play with their kids. Scenes in the games are meant to help children recognize a specific location that they are familiar with, such as a restaurant or home.

Four activities are available for each scene that serve as a resource for parents to teach children.

Additionally, there is a sticker section with 83 stickers that let children customize their own scene.

Math information that can be learned via the app includes basic counting, measuring and estimation. On the literacy side, the app focuses on vocabulary, letter recognition and rhyming.

Additionally, the app leverages push notifications that offer parents teaching tips. Parents who opt-in to the program will receive messages three times per week.

Content is available in both English and Spanish.

Since rolling out the app earlier this month, PBS claims that the app has been downloaded more than 162,000 times.

Mobile learnings
PBS is no stranger to mobile, especially with apps.

Most recently, the educational media brand rolled out a storybook app for science exploration (see story).

Additionally, PBS also launched out two mobile game apps last year to help children learn (see story).

As parents increasingly turn to mobile devices as an interactive tool to help children learn, the key for marketers will be to develop age-specific content that builds on skill sets to drive repeat usage.

?As kids are using mobile devices more and more, our goal is to make sure we are offering content for those devices that is educational, research-based and engaging, so that we can help families use these tools to make anytime a learning time,? Ms. DeWitt said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York