We usually don’t let Plumster use electronic devices, opting for old-fashioned pencils and books. But being that I like to be prepared for a rainy day, I did download a few kid-friendly apps on my iPad. I have this iPad game app called “Stack the States” that I downloaded awhile back. It was recommended by some parenting magazine as a good educational app for kids. I got it thinking that I really need to learn about U.S. geography before long, since I had entirely skipped that part of education curriculum as I immigrated to the U.S. at the age of fourteen.
Plumster found the game on my iPad during her spring break and started tapping on it. “Woa, hey, aren’t you a bit too young to be playing a U.S. geography game?” I thought to myself. After letting her explore for a moment, she casually asked, “Which state is nicknamed ‘The Garden State?'” Oh I know that one! I am from the East coast after all! Before long, we sat there trying to solve questions like “Which state has the nickname ‘The Peach State’?” or, “Which is the state that borders Tennessee?” Let me humbly say, my knowledge of the U.S. geography is not that terribly advanced compared with a 5 year-old. I can tell you where the pterygoid plates are on a human skull, or draw the Ohngren’s line on a lateral radiograph, and can readily tell you the half life of synthetic radioactive isotope Cobalt-60; but I confess, the middle of America is an amorphous blob to me.
The shape of Wyoming and Colorado look the same to me; which state is Sioux city located? Humm… let me think about this. The question I’d like to know is, does every state need their own state flag? The easiest state flag is Alabama: it has a giant red cross on a white background.
This afternoon, she discovered that the app has a “Learning” section. It has a U.S. map on it. You just have to tap on the state, and it gives you a flash card with all the important trivia about the states. The two of us were giddy with such a delightful discovery! “If we remember everything on the card, we’ll be able to get all the questions right!” she pointed out to me. She forced us to study, in alphabetical order, starting from Alabama. She had us taking turns being the examiner and the examinee. When it was her turn to be the examiner, she patiently waited for me to read the flash card, then finally asked, “ok, are you ready?” Then launched to quiz me, systematically, all the knowledge to be gained from the flash card. “What are the major cities in Arizona?” she demanded. Oh gosh, I remember there were nine: Phoenix, Tucson, Scottsdale, Flagstaff, Mesa. But that’s all I remember. I’ve always hated memorizing. Unrelentingly, she pushed on with hints and bigger hints, as in, “It starts with Y!”, right, Yuma, until I got them all.
This brings me to re-evaluate MK and my contempt towards electronic gaming devices. True, children should spend time outdoors and get lots of exercise and imaginative play. They should read books, draw pictures, swim, bike, and play soccer, basketball and do ballet and all those good stuff. And because we subscribe to this belief, we have been dutifully taking her to all these activities. She still does not watch TV, and only watches movies occasionally. But now that I see how much we learn from just a few round of games, I am hummm…. game for more games! Instead of shunning all electronic gaming devices, I am going to allow them, in small doses of course.
Two days later, a copy of National Geographic Kids United States Atlas that I ordered from Amazon arrived at our door. We were both ready to dive into another mind-boggling quizzing session. And I learned that learning and memorizing geography is actually fun, especially if your study partner is very patient and small :)