Apps That Promote Problem Solving
Problem Solving apps are perfect for your children to explore on a rainy day, a long car ride, or a day off from school. Check our KinderTown’s top picks for developing problem solving skills.
In Thinkrolls, rolling character balls take the stage as your child solves increasingly complex problems to allow their character to progress through the maze. There are two levels of game play, easy and hard. Easy is recommended for children 3-5, and hard for children ages 5-8. KinderTown recommends that all children begin at the easy level to understand the goals of the puzzles. Your child does not have to spend a long time at this level to be ready to move to the harder levels, but this will set them up for success. A blinking “redo” symbol flashes in the corner to assist your child when they are stuck and unable to complete the challenge. The challenge is then reset with the maze.
The challenges in the mazes come in the form of obstacles. Some unique obstacles include fire blocks, ice blocks, balloons, and KinderTown’s favorite, the jelly block. The jelly block allows your character to jump up from one area to another. Another child tester favorite was the fire block. Watch out! If your character rolls into the fire block, it will turn black and burnt, which our child testers loved! However, the goal is to not become burnt. Children eventually solved the puzzles after experiencing the burnt characters. As the levels progress, children have to use visualization skills to predict the cause and effect of several “moves” in the puzzle. Concepts about physics and chemistry are sprinkled along the way when children must make decisions about the moving gear box, figure out how to make the balloon pop and move the ice to squelch the fire. The app offers an amazing amount of content in the 90 levels of easy game play and 90 levels of hard game play. Many different players’ games are stored within the app by the labels “Player 1″ ,”Player 2.” Change the “Player 1″ to your own child’s name by double tapping to store different games for multiple children within the app. Be sure to read the Chapter descriptions in the settings section for parents in order to have a complete understanding of all the challenges presented in each level or chapter. There are nine levels of game play included so the app is long lasting! Thinkrolls is a truly unique app priced at $2.99, available for iPhone and iPad, and is recommended for children ages 3-7.
Twelve a Dozen is a game based in the town of Dozenopolis in which the number 12 must solve puzzles in order to save the town. The fictitious town is buried beneath a broken pixel on a calculator. Twelve, the main character, must progress through the world in order to save Dozenopolis by solving problems and math number sentences. Twelve is accompanied by her friend “Dot,” a helpful decimal point. The app does have a creative story line and dark graphics. Your child should have a solid understanding of addition and subtraction to use the app effectively.
As the levels progress, concepts about multiplication and division are presented and must be solved. Twelve a Dozen uses creative numblings, which are number characters that you use to solve problems. Twelve is the main character but her number screen changes when other numblings are added or subtracted from her. KinderTown likes how the app allows you to rewind or use hints, and includes checkpoints along the way. This app would be well-suited for children who are typically at the end of first grade, or at a second grade level, or ages 6-8.
2 New Creativity Apps
KinderTown loves Sophie’s Drawings because of the way it encourages drawing and art for kids who may not want or know how to draw on their own. Sophie’s drawings has 3 different categories of drawings that children can choose from: Hello, The Sea, and The Farm. In the Hello section children can trace basic shapes and make a simple person. The Sea includes more complex drawings, such as a whale, boat, or shark. The Farm section includes a house, a cow, and a pig. Once each drawing is finished, a cute animation follows as a reward for children. The help section can assist children in drawing lines. This app is a great tool for developing fine motor skills in young children, or can be used with a stylus to begin to develop their pencil grip. Sophie’s Drawings has a free version to try out before purchasing. The full version is $2.99 and appropriate for children ages 3-6; it may be especially popular with girls because of the main character, Sophie.
KinderTown loves Bubl:Draw because of the interaction between art and music in this app. There are three different modes that children can draw in while using the app: Classic, Disco, and Rumba. As children draw with the colors and shapes, a musical sound coordinates with the art, making a unique “video song” when completed. With an adult, children can share their creations with others, and replay them. With the touch of a button children can clear the screen and start again. Bubl: Draw has welcoming bright colors and patterns for young children to explore and be creative with! It is also simple enough for children as young as 3 to navigate independently. Bubl: Draw is $2.99, available for iPhone and iPad and is appropriate for children ages 3-5.
Top “Learn to Read” Apps
Learning to read is a skill that evolves over a long period of time. Watching kids develop their reading skills is especially fun as they grow in confidence and become excited about books they can read by themselves. Remember that learning to read is a journey and not a race, so enjoy your child’s development along the way. These apps work best as one of a few approaches to reading, including reading aloud to your children, and listening as they read aloud: a perfect recipe for success! Check out KinderTown’s top rated Reading Apps!
Learn with Homer is a full “Learn to Read” series of lessons for kids. The app features letter-sound instruction, sight word introduction, read-aloud stories, and a mixed review of concepts. The app introduces a letter and through game play children must identify the sound in the beginning, middle and end of words. This is a essential skill for developing phonemic awareness in preparation for learning to read. Also included in the progression through the lessons is the introduction of sight words. Sight words are words that can not be “sounded out” but rely on more instant recognition to develop fluent reading skills.
The app does a nice job of mixing instruction with a review of previously-taught concepts and the reading aloud of real books, which are all key components of learning to read. This app would be appropriate for children who are learning their letter sounds and are just beginning to read, or who need a review of the letter sounds. In addition, the app encourages children to record their voice saying the letter sounds, and reading the books and words included in the app. Children are most often at this developmental level during kindergarten and first grade. In addition, the developers of Learn with Homer conducted research using their app on children who were beginning to read and showed that the use of the app 15 minutes a day led to an increase in their beginning reading skills. KinderTown agrees that working 10-15 minutes on apps focused on reading skills into your beginning readers’ routine will encourage their development in this crucial area. Check out their website for a free 1 month trial. Read with Homer is free to download but does include in-app purchases to buy additional lesson content.
Reading Raven is a self-paced, phonics-based reading instructional app for emergent (beginning) readers. This app does a wonderful job of creating a variety of phonics instruction activities that will keep children interested. Parents and teachers are thoughtfully given in-app tools for customizing their children’s learning experience. Throughout the app, children are learning about letter sounds and word parts. Make sure to read the parent & teacher guide in the app and visit their website at www.readingraven.com for videos and more information. Reading Raven Vol. 2 expands on the content learned in Reading Raven such as long vowel patterns and blends. Reading Raven is appropriate for children beginning to learn their letter sounds, and Reading Raven 2 is appropriate for children who have learned most of their letter sounds and are ready to identify patterns in words. Most children are at this level when they are ages 4-7. Reading Raven is $3.99 and Reading Raven Vol. 2 is $2.99.
Montessori Crosswords creates a valuable learning environment for children to practice identifying individual sounds in words. The activities are leveled and the app will grow with your child who is just starting to identify letters, to when they are reading and writing words at a first/second grade level. The app uses color coding and chunking to reinforce spelling concepts. Families will find interacting together with the movable alphabet to be quite enjoyable. In addition, the movable alphabet could be used with children to practice spelling words or sight words they are learning. Check the settings to set a time limit for the beautiful and fun sensory rewards. They can be distracting to the overall learning if not limited, but our child testers loved playing with them as a quick reward. Montessori Crosswords is appropriate for children ages 4-7 and is $2.99.
Unique E-book Apps
Kids Discover is a jammed packed non-fiction learning experience for kids. Kids Discover has a variety of topics that they offer in magazine/book styled apps. Each topic contains pages with information and interactive elements. The app does contain a large amount of text, which is not read aloud. Parents read aloud the text to your child, or help define the topic specific vocabulary words your child may not be able to read themselves. The apps contain great real pictures, drawings, diagrams, and areas to learn more. At the end of each app there are activities that relate to the topic of the magazine, and multiple choice quizzes with an answer key. Check out their website for excellent parent guides. They also have a teacher area with free lesson plans to accompany each of the apps. Choose from interesting topics such as Cells, Plants, Incas, Simple Machines, Extreme Weather, Antarctica, or Washington D.C. Visit their webpage to see all of the app magazine topics. Each one is $2.99 and appropriate for children ages 6-8.
Me Books is a children’s library app. The app has a nice selection of books. In the Me Books app, when the books are read aloud, the words are not highlighted and the books are not interactive as created. However, children can create their own interactive components in the story. Children can highlight a character and make a recording to be read when tapped during the story. Me Books offers a variety of books to choose from to download into your Me Books library. Each book ranges in price from $.99 to $4.99. Me Books does offer a variety of comics as well which can be motivating for some reluctant readers through a separate app called Me Comics. Also, be sure to visit their website and sign up for their newsletter to receive a 10 offer to jumpstart your library.
Boombons is an interactive children’s magazine made for Preschoolers. Max, Lola and Oscar are the character’s that lead the learning in the interactive magazine. KinderTown loves the 60 interactive scenes that provide different learning activities that address different early learning skills such as noticing differences, sorting and matching objects, spatial awareness, numbers and colors. The change in scenes and virtual pages of the magazines keeps young learners interested in the app. Boombons comes with one free interactive magazine. An additional issue is available for purchase for $.99.
This unique e-book attempts to explain cancer to children. This book would be a good way to start a conversation with a child about cancer. The book does not have a lot of interactivity, but the graphics are engaging for children. The story is a bit lengthy about a destructive builder named “Kanser” that comes to town. “Kanser” eventually ruins the town and the town people leave to a new town and are able to start over again. The author wrote the e-book after having a child with a form of cancer as a way to help kids connect with the concept of cancer.
Celebrate Fall with Apps
Pumpkins, Costumes, Hay rides, Jack-o-Lanterns, and Scarecrows; Children love this time of year. Enjoy the season with these educational fall apps!
First Words Halloween will support your beginning reader to build Halloween holiday words, sound by sound. For children already blending sounds, First Words becomes an app for practicing spelling. Parents can set up the appropriate environment for their child by adjusting the variety of settings. Thematic words with “spooktacular” pictures for young children and more control for parents makes this app a success. First Words Halloween is $1.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-6.
Little Critter Trick or Treat is a cute story about preparing for Halloween. The words are highlighted as they are read to your child. Each page has a few interactive elements. The story includes many activities that your family may be doing to prepare for fall such as searching for a costume and choosing a pumpkin. The Little Critter characters make the story lovable and one you can reread throughout the season. The app is $.99 (normally $1.99) and appropriate for children ages 3-6.
KidsMag takes the traditional children’s magazine and makes it come alive with thematic interactive games, teaching moments, art and music. For Halloween, KidsMag has a special holiday issue that has your child playing spot the difference, putting together puzzles, reading spooky stories and dressing up Teo and Bianca (the main characters) for Halloween. KidsMag integrates vocabulary lessons with meaningful Math, Science and Language activities, created in a learning environment where kids thrive. Fifteen pages of activities refresh with a new game or look at the shake of the iPad. Your child will be absorbed in KidsMag. This app provides an engaging learning environment for children. Kids Mag Halloween is $1.99 and appropriate for children ages 4-7.
Creepy Crawly Apps
Kids are fascinated with bugs, some love them, some hate them, but all kids seem to be curious in some way about these little creatures. Check out the best creepy crawly apps.
The Little Bug offers a pleasing story about a caterpillar who is fascinated with all of her bug friends. The story has calming background music and would be ideal before bedtime. The story offers many facts about bugs and has interactive pages to hold the youngest child’s interest. Children can make the grasshopper move, highlight the segments on a bug or make the bee buzz. The art on each page is well done and communicates the story in an effective way. In the story, key words are in bold that children can tap on a have repeated to them. KinderTown likes the parent section that includes questions to ask your child before, during and after reading the story. In addition, visit their website for printable activity sheets. The Little Bug is $3.99 and appropriate for children ages 3-6.
Meet the Insect apps are packed with information, videos, pictures and an observation journal. The app includes an Insect Story section which provides diagrams and narration in a storybook format with interactive areas for kids to learn about insects. The See Insects section provides detailed information regarding each type of bug. The scientific name is used and real pictures and facts are read aloud to children. The quiz section offers two different types of interactive quizzes. KinderTown’s favorite section is the observation journal. This would be a great tool to study insects around your home environment, at the park or over a period of time. Children can add their own photos of the insect and record the location, weather and notes about the insect. There are three different editions of Meet the Insects; Forest Edition, Village Edition and Water and Grass Edition. These apps would be an excellent addition to a study on insects or a resource for writing a report on insects. Each individual Meet the Insects App is $4.99 or you can purchase the app bundle for $9.99. Meet the Insects apps are appropriate for children ages 5-8.
Bug Art provides an informal environment for children to learn and play with bugs. The free paint area allows children to paint and use stickers to depict a bug scene. The bug designer area allows children to choose a basic stencil and then design a unique bug around the stencil. Pictures can be saved in the app and shared with friends. The app also has free play areas where children can race bugs or use the iPad to make them fly through pathways. This app is a fun creative experience with bugs. Bug Art is $2.49 and appropriate for children ages 3-5.
ABC Bugs brings learning through research and discovery to the youngest learners. Traditional encyclopedia-style presentations combined with videos, interactive activities and quality images makes the ABC apps from Peapod Labs truly special. The pictures are extremely captivating and appropriate for young learners. The app is organized with pictures of bugs in ABC order. Your child will be learning letters and words along with interesting facts about bugs. ABC Bugs is appropriate for children ages 3-6 and is $2.99.
Bug Mazing – Adventures in Learning covers four important preschool skills; Letter, Numbers, Colors and Tracing. All of the games are designed with bugs as the central characters in the game play. For the letters and numbers activities, children must guide the bug through mazes choosing the correct letter or number that comes next. For the color activity, children must guide the bugs through the maze while only using certain colors. The tracing activity allows the children to trace a path and the bug will follow the path. Children earn gems for completing activities correctly and can play with the bugs in the adventure section. The app is $1.99 and appropriate for children ages 3-5.
What are App Bundles?
This week I have noticed app bundles popping up in the kids section of iTunes store. App bundles are groups of apps sold together, up to ten, developed by the same developer. The app bundles are purchased with a single tap and all downloaded onto your device at the same time. It is similiar to buying 3 children’s books by the same author together. App bundles also must offer a discounted price to the consumer, and include in the icon the first 4 apps in the bundle. Here is what KinderTown thinks you should know as a parent about app bundles.
A list of things to consider:
1. Apps are cheaper bundled. They are cheaper, but is it still cheaper if your child only uses 1 of the 3 apps bundled together? Be sure to read about each app carefully, check the KinderTown review and consider if all the apps in the bundle are of the highest quality. The app bundles must be made by the same developer, but that doesn’t mean that each app is right for your child. For example, a math bundle may include apps that practice adding and geometry. This may or may not be appropriate for your child.
2. Consider the content of each app. Again, the bundles are provided by the same developer, so there is a good chance that the bundled apps may all look and feel the same to your child. This can be a positive or a negative depending on your child and the look and feel of the app. Consider purchasing one of the apps prior to purchasing the bundle.
3. Purchase apps based on the needs of your child, what educational goals you are working towards, and what is motivating to your child. Consider these qualities above a conveniently bundled group of apps. Another benefit may be that apps bundled together may be appropriate for multiple children in your household at a discounted price.
4. Bundles do inform the consumer easily of other apps made by the same developer that you may not have been aware of before. If you have an app that your child loves, this will allow you to easily find apps made by the same developer by looking at the Bundles section of the App Store.
5. If apps are in a bundle, does that mean they are better? Not necessarily; only paid apps and developers who offer more than one app are eligible to create a bundle. There are many high quality apps out there that are not in a bundle.
Here are a few KinderTown approved App Bundles:
TinyBop Explorers 1 and 2
TinyBop’s apps are based on exploration and provide helpful parent guides to learn about plants and the human body. Read KinderTown’s review of TinyBop’s Plants and The Human Body before purchasing.
Avokiddo Preschool Bundle
Avokiddo has unique characters to offer in their apps. If you love these characters you may love all of their apps which focus on early childhood skills. Read the review of Beck and Bo, ABC Ride, and Avokiddo Emotions.
Artgig Family Math Pack
This math bundle includes 6 apps and would be great for a family who has children at multiple different stages of learning in math. The six apps include: Marble Math Junior, Mystery Math Town, Drive About: Number Neighborhood, Alien Buddies – Preschool Learning Activities, Marble Math, and Mystery Math Museum.
Faces I Make Bundle
If you are looking for apps to boost your child’s creativity, these 2 apps would be a great place to start. Read the review of Faces I Make – Right Brain Creativity, and Faces iMake ABC.
Developing Social Skills with Apps
All children develop their social skills at different times and at different rates. Some children need extra support or direct instruction in the area of social skills in order to aide in the development of age-appropriate behaviors. Check out these apps to assist you in working with your child on social skill development.
A Little Book About Feelings is an eBook to help your child understand and learn to express the emotions they are feeling. The book is a great introduction to the concept of feelings or a study on different types of feelings. This app was created with the popular “Ruby Studio” that has a line of children books and activities that encourage development of emotional literacy. The story is filled with cute, fuzzy characters that express and share their emotions. The story book pages are created with intriguing artwork and colorful pictures. Ruby narrates a story that helps children understand that emotions change often and how important it is to talk about the emotions we are feeling. There are some interactive elements in the app but mostly it is a story that children will benefit from hearing over and over again. The book is appropriate for children ages 3-5, and is $.99.
Avokiddo Emotions opens with Avokiddo’s artistically created characters. Tap on the zebra, sheep or giraffe to play with the character. Next, objects fall onto the screen, and your child gets to choose which ones to attach to the character. For example, a big straw hat turns the character into a beach loving animal. With each object and scene, the characters display emotions associated with the scene and objects. Decide which foods to feed the characters to see how they will react and if they will like pumpkin, watermelon, or a sandwich. You can save your picture to your camera roll while playing or pull the lever to have all new objects come into the scene. Through this type of play, young children are learning about emotions, cause and effect, and body language. Sit with your child and discuss the emotions portrayed. Enjoy the artistic characters and play with their emotions and fun props. Avokiddo Emotions is appropriate for ages 3-5, and is $2.99.
Feel Electric supports children by helping them to learn about emotions. Games encourage children to describe how they are feeling, read facial expressions and provides vocabulary to help express themselves. There are three main areas for students to choose from; My Life, My Games and My Stuff. In the My Life section, children can make their own Mood Dude, Mood Tale or Moodosphere based on their own experiences. The My Games area allows for game play based on emotions with three different games. The My Stuff area is a personalized center for pictures, videos and music within the app. The app is based on the PBS show The Electric Company and uses the characters from the show within the app. Spoken text supports this text rich environment. Real, energetic people narrate the app with lots of expression. This app is excellent for children who struggle with their emotions or need help understanding the emotions of others. The app is free and appropriate for children ages 4-8.
First Words: Feelings supports readers to build feeling words by letter and sound. A lot of support is provided for children starting on the journey to becoming a reader and ultimately will help with writing through increasing vocabulary and providing spelling practice. Each feeling word is shown with a corresponding picture to describe the feeling. Parents can set up the appropriate environment for their child by adjusting the variety of settings. 38 feeling words paired with vibrant faces and options for parent customization is what makes this app a success. The app is $1.99 and is appropriate for children 4-7.
Moody Monster Manor addresses different feelings in a fun, less direct way. This app would lead a discussion on feelings and includes fun games and characters around the theme of feelings. Some of the delightful characters include Wonda Worried, Confused Carl, Hungry Hand and Scared Sam. The app is filled with bright colors and different areas within the manor for kids to enter. For example, Wanda Worried is worried about finishing her homework. Children have to identify the monsters who are displaying a particular emotion during the game. There is also a “Meet the Monsters” area where you can see the emotion associated with each monster. Parents, this app would open a conversation about emotions with your youngest learner. The app is free and is appropriate for children ages 3-4.
KinderTown Flips Over Osmo!
My Osmo product arrived this week, and KinderTown was giddy with excitement! Osmo is a unique game system for iPad. Osmo comes with a stand and a mirror that attaches to the iPad and allows for the integration of real objects into the play associated with the iPad. There are 3 apps that can be used with the Osmo system. When you open your Osmo system, assemble the red mirror device onto the iPad, and the iPad on to the stand. Download the free apps and you are ready to begin.
The Osmo Tangram kit comes with tangram pieces that interact with the iPad. Download the free Osmo Tangram app to get started. Osmo offers a nice “getting started” section to familiarize your child with the use of the pieces and their interaction with the screen. The child must arrange the tangram pieces to match the on screen arrangement. While constructing the pictures, your child is developing important visual spatial skills. After your child completes the “getting started” section, the app offers different pictures for your child to choose from to construct with the tangram pieces. The app also indicates the level of the pictures from easiest to hardest by color coding them yellow, orange and red. The yellow puzzles offer color clues and the orange puzzles offer black and white shapes. The app does offer a hint button if needed to complete the puzzles. The hardest level offers just one solid black outside line. Arranging the tangram pieces was challenging, engaging and also fun to complete with a friend.
Osmo Words is played with the letter tiles. One set of letter tiles is blue and the other is red. To play, you can either play alone or with a friend. To compete with a friend was challenging and loads of fun! Osmo Words shows you a picture and the number of coordinating letter tiles. For example, a picture of a tree and 4 blank tiles. You must race your competitor to see who can throw the correct word tiles out first. The letters can be tossed into the playing space in any order. KinderTown really likes how more than one child can play with the tiles and the iPad to develop cooperative play skills. One suggestion KinderTown has is that the letter tiles are all in capital letters. Most words when written in text are lowercase. It would be great to see both upper and lowercase forms of a letter on a tile, maybe one on the front and one on the back. Children need exposure to both forms of the letters, especially when learning to read.
Osmo Newton uses the Osmo system to reflect the space, and the players choose which objects they use from around the house to affect the space. Osmo Newton drops balls from the top and supplies targeted areas that the balls should reach. KinderTown used blocks, paper clips, pencils and drawing lines on the paper in the space to change the movement of the balls to reach the targeted areas. Osmo Newton was challenging and does require persistence on the part of the player to solve the puzzles. As you continue to play, the number of targets increases and objects around the targets are added to increase the challenge. KinderTown recommends using 3D objects to affect the space. The drawing of lines was helpful but more difficult to change (erasing) when we wanted to change the direction of the moving balls. This app uses your child’s thinking and problem solving skills to interact with the screen in a challenging way!
Super Why’s ABC Adventures and Base Ten Bingo
Base Ten Bingo is appropriate for students developing number sense, counting skills and place value understanding from approximately kindergarten through second grade or ages 5-8. Base Ten Bingo begins with child creating a personalized avatar. Then your child may choose from Bingo, Practice, My Bugs or Home. In the Bingo section, children can choose to play with ones, ones and tens, or ones, tens and hundreds. Next children choose how large of a grid they would like to play on. Then a split screen appears with the numbers on the bingo board on the left and the ones, tens and hundreds counters on the left. In the practice section, students must read and make the number that appears with the ones, tens and hundreds blocks. For each section your child completes correctly a playful bug is added to their “My Bugs” section. Parents please be aware that this app only focuses on the concept of creating and counting numbers using the ones, tens and hundreds counters. Base Ten Bingo is appropriate for students developing number sense, counting skills and place value understanding from approximately kindergarten through second grade or ages 5-8. The app is $1.99 and is available for iPad.
Super Why ABC Adventures is hosted by the characters on the show Super Why! on PBS. The app does a nice job of providing multiple different ways to practice letters and their sounds. KinderTown likes how the letter sounds are repeated often to reinforce your child’s learning. Each of the five characters has a unique game to play with your child to practice the letters. Each time your child may choose upper case, lowercase or a mix of upper and lowercase letters. The games offer a high level of engagement for children. For example Alpha Pig helps your child take pictures of the correct letter, K, and then children get to see what the camera turns the letter into; a koala picture! Your child can help Princess Presto swim to the correct letter bubble underwater, or help Super Why! construct his treasure map to find the missing treasure. Students can earn souvenirs for completing activities correctly and decorate their map of the world. The app also includes 4 videos from the show Super Why! The app is appropriate for children learning to identify all of their letters both upper and lower case, approximately ages 4-6. This skill is most often introduced in preschool and mastered in kindergarten and first grade. The app is $3.99 and available for iPad.