With families around the world spending time at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, some parents are turning to learning apps to keep their kids occupied.

Last year, we conducted a study to find out what parents look for in a learning app for their kids. For this qualitative project, we spoke to parents of kids aged 6 months to 8 years across 7 countries (Australia, Brazil, Mexico, China, Germany, Spain, and the UK). Here’s some of what we learned:

Parents want a mix of soft skills and culture in a learning app – not academics. In a learning app for kids to use at home, parents want to supplement areas not covered in school. They are most interested in soft skills like building confidence, enhancing social/emotional skills, and encouraging independence. There is also a desire for apps that allow kids to explore culture – their own local culture, the cultures of other countries, and foreign languages.

Kids differ more by age than by geography. Around the world, kids of similar ages have similar learning needs. Apps have the potential to be relevant anywhere, so long as they steer away from curriculum-based topics.

Parents feel that age 3 to 5 presents the biggest opportunity for a learning app. Age 3 to 5 is where kids’ learning becomes more self-directed and exploration is most varied. Parents think this age group is overlooked in the learning app space and that many current apps aren’t pitched at the right level. For kids in the under-3 range, parents favor real-world experiences and don’t want to rely too much on apps. For kids aged 6 to 8, schools influence learning scope as well as platforms – and often pay for them.

Parents aren’t looking for apps to “assess” their child, they want enrichment that teaches kids in unique and compelling ways. While parenting today can be competitive, parents feel the idea of an app that assesses their kids’ knowledge or abilities could provoke anxiety in kids and parents alike. Parents also don’t believe that a standardized benchmark could credibly evaluate their kids – there is a general perception that every child is different and there is no common standard. They also believe that pediatricians and school staff are assessing their kids to their satisfaction.

Apps that can customize a child’s learning and entertain kids while parents are busy are of interest. An app that could address kids’ individual needs through mixed modes of engagement, progress with the child, and feature a breadth of topics would be appealing to parents. Parents also expressed interest in an app that could help their child learn in a fun way while they’re busy with other things.