3 Apps to Build Story-Writing Skills
Story-writing is a complex process that begins in early childhood as storytelling. Check out these apps that encourage storytelling and ultimately composition.
Prior to writing a great story, children must develop an idea, formulate multiple sentences, and have the ideas and sentences come together to make a story. This app, Tell About This, works with the very beginning stages of creating a story but limits the parameters to focusing on verbalizing the ideas. The app has created a bank of visual and auditory prompts for children to respond to. The pictures provide a prompt for children to generate ideas, think out loud or tell a complete story. All of the pictures in the app are real photographs and many include young children doing many of the things your children probably enjoy doing, such as jumping in a bounce house, playing in leaves, swinging on a swing, or playing an instrument. There is surely something that you child can connect with in the app. The app is $2.99 and appropriate for children 4-6.
Write About This is meant to be a next step for children after they’ve used the Tell About This app or are more adept in creating stories and are ready to write words to accompany their ideas. The app has a similar setup but includes an area for children to write directly in the app. The app allows the child to record their story as well. Sometimes children are able to verbalize a story more effectively than writing one, so parents could use the recording feature with their child first, and then the child could play it back to write their story. There is also a Quick Write section for children to take their own picture and create a recording and/or writing piece. The app costs $3.99 and is appropriate for children ages 5-8.
Story Dice is an open-ended experience that sets the stage for storytelling and language to develop. The app is simple. Tap the screen, and a set of picture dice (choose from 1 to 10) appear on the screen. Use these pictures to create a unique collaborative story, play memory games, or inspire your child’s next composition. Check out the “More” section of the app for even more ideas. This is a great app to inspire children with creative ideas.
Check out more apps for writing here.
Tags: collaboration, composition, dice, memory, recording, sentences, story-writing
Apps for Learning Letters and Sounds
When parents think of early learning skills, learning letters is one of the first skills that comes to mind. The apps discussed in this blog post will help your child learn about letters. Remember that learning the sound of a letter is just as important as being able to identify the letter itself.
Montessori Letter Sounds– Phonics in English, Spanish, French, German & Italian
This app gives parents and children a progression in early literacy skills. There are four levels in the app that start children with playing with sounds and increase in sophistication to building words. The app provides a fun “I Spy” section, which challenges children to choose picture cards that coordinate with the letter sounds given. The “Letter Sounds” section gives the letters and sounds to listen to while tracing the letters. Children can record themselves saying the letter sounds as they learn them in the app. Writing the letters is incorporated into the learning, and a Montessori- inspired sand tray is in the “Toolbox” section of the app to help practice letter formation.
Duck Duck Moose Reading is a solid phonics practice app for your beginning reader. Children quickly progress through five varied phonics activities, each focused on a specific set of letters. Games are entertaining to play and are designed to focus on individual sounds, letters, or both letters and sounds in the context of words. Kids earn animals to add to their zoo after each series of activities. Parents are given a progress report for multiple kids who log into the app. Duck Duck Moose Reading is perfect for children at the kindergarten or first grade level and costs $2.99.
Starfall ABCs brings each letter to life with pictures, animation, games, songs, and stories. Using a clearly articulated voice, each letter is identified by name, sounds, and words. Children interact with each letter by tapping, sliding, sorting, and dragging objects through five or more screens of engaging phonics learning. Many of the letters include real pictures as well as animations. The most exciting part of this app may be the sign language animations from the bottom menu. Starfall ABCs is a must-have app for children learning their letters, letter sounds, and beginning reading skills.
Interactive Alphabet ABC’s makes every letter a toy. Tap on brightly colored letters to hear the letter name, sound, and a word. Enjoy each unique letter environment that is created about the letter word. Tap, drag, and pinch the screen to tickle dinosaurs or feed olives to ogres. The baby mode feature is especially nice, with each screen progressing to the next letter after 15 seconds of play. A variety of music options will help parents who get tired of hearing the same old tune repeated over and over again. Interactive Alphabet ABC’s is a lot of fun and reinforces phonics at the same time. This app is great for children who are just being introduced the letters of the alphabet.
KinderTown has many more apps to help your child learn their letters. Check them out here.
Early Math Apps for Multiple Skills
The following apps provide practice with multiple skills in the area of early math. These apps can provide the parent insight into skills their child may need additional practice with or provide a review of previously learned skills. In addition, changing the skill keeps the attention of children as they practice what they have learned.
Marble Math Junior offers an engaging maze for kids to roll their marble around as they solve problems. Kids who like to physically move around can use the motion controls of the iPad to tip it and turn it to make the marble move, allowing themcollect the given items. Each time a maze is presented, the directions tell children how to collect the items(for example, “collect from first to last” or “collect numbers that multiply to make 8”). The directions can easily be read aloud to the students as they tap on the words. If children answer incorrectly, they can easily try again using the Replay button or tap the Show Me button to see the answer. There are three levels of game play to make the app long-lasting for kids. Children will enjoy collecting the extra surprises hidden in the maze, such as the flashlight that turns your marble into a special spotlight. The app presents a number of early elementary math skills including telling time, addition and subtraction, comparing numbers, multiplication, and beginning fractions. Parents can easily control what skills are presented to their child by using the checkboxes under Skills on the main screen.
Mathlandia provides 6 early learning number games for your child to enjoy. Experience content that takes your child through the simplest counting games to a subtraction experience that is so supportive we think a 4-year-old would benefit from playing. Each game is paced slowly with purposeful animations and illustrations. There aren’t any distracting noises or overly stimulating graphics in Mathlandia. Your children will enjoy the number play and counting games.
Bugs and Numbers is the third in a series of early learning, playful math apps from Little Bit Studios. The app touches on a variety of math concepts that span a wide age range, including counting, sorting, patterns, measurement, time, money, and fraction activities. The games are beautifully designed and completely fun for kids. There is even a bug reward area for some free play. Our only note is that some of the games advance quickly, so you might want to choose the games carefully so as not to frustrate your child. Join in on the play when you first start Bugs and Numbers; this is app you’ll enjoy playing, too!
KinderTown has reviewed many math apps. Check them all out here.
Tags: counting, early math, fractions, free play, math activities, math concepts, math skills, measurement, money, numbers, patterns, problem-solving, subtraction, time
Science Enrichment Apps for Elementary Students
This app delves into the most fascinating inventions in history. The app was created from exhibits in the Science Museum in London. There are 80 objects from the museum to explore. The app does have a fair amount of complex reading, so, parents, you should read along with your child. Rotate the 3D replica of the first battery or a model steam engine or the first supercomputer. The pictures and 3D objects are captivating in this app. Many of the objects have corresponding videos or pictures of historic documents that relate to the object. Everyone is sure to learn something new! The app costs $9.99 and is appropriate for children ages 7 and up.
A fascinating learning tool for your kids, Star Walk™ for Kids brings the solar system to life. Each planet has a fact card and a short video to explain key facts about the planet. There are extra movies as well that explain space-related ideas, such as the Hubble Spacecraft. A wide variety of constellations and stars turn the sky into an imaginative area for kids. The most amazing feature of Star Walk™ for Kids is that children can take an iPhone or iPad outside and point it to the sky to guide their exploration, and the app will map the stars seen from your location. This is a great activity for parents and children to do together. The app does not collect any personal information but is able to use the location features of your device. This app would be a great complement to any unit of study on the solar system. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 5-8; also, itis available for iPhone and iPad.
The Human Body by Tinybop is an app made for exploring and asking questions. There is animation to accompany the 6 different body systems. Encourage and answer your child’s questions while exploring, and they will direct the learning that occurs. Tap different parts of the brain, and an animation appears, depicting what that area of the brain controls. Also note that the app does perform functions of the body that may make some children say “yuck,” such as burping and throwing up. The app is not narrated, so parents need to provide the support for the learning. In addition, the app offers a parent section and an option to set up multiple profiles for different children. Children can record questions while using the app, and parents can respond to them. Tinybop has even made a helpful parent guide to accompany the app, which we highly recommend downloading and using it with your child. It’s perfect for answering the tough questions your child may ask. In the parent’s section, the urogenital section is available for separate purchase so that you decide when that is right for your child. This app is brilliantly designed for scientific discovery.
To check out more apps about science, click here.
Tags: anatom, astronomy, enrichment, inventions, planets, science, stars
Free Math Apps for Subitizing – Games & Activities
Subitizing is the skill of knowing how many items are in a group without directly counting them. Subitizing helps to develop overall number sense and lays the foundation for counting by 2’s, 10’s, and 100’s; adding numbers; and computing mentally.
Each of the apps featured on the blog today are free and have been supported through funding by the National Science Foundation. The apps have been researched and tested in learning centers and have been proven to improve early learning math skills when compared with students who didn’t use the apps. All of the apps have a simple interface and have a repetitive nature to the activities presented–a compelling reason to add them to your child’s collection! After using the apps with your children, check out their hands-on activities to support your child’s learning.
This app creates every kid’s favorite party scene–a birthday party–to learn about subitizing. Children arrange the friends in the app at tables and distribute items to celebrate.
Help your child ride their skateboard through the city and jump to catch the groups that represent a specific number. There are twenty different levels on the skating adventure. The skating is easy to navigate.
Pop bubbles with your child in this two-person app. The goal of the game is to only pop the bubbles that represent the given number. Each person can lengthen and shorten their rope to pop or avoid the bubbles falling from the sky. An engaging way to learn about numbers!
Play with robots and add stickers to their bellies to make numbers. Then children make the robots hang from a rope, matching them up to make all the robots that contain like numbers hang together from the rope. The best part is shaking the app to make all the robots fall and then starting over again!
There’s no reason not to try these excellent early math apps.
Tags: counting, early math, number sense, numners, subitization, subitize, subitizing
Develop Phonemic Awareness with These Educational Apps
As parents, we all want our children to be successful in the process of learning to read. There are many things parents can do prior to that point in order to set their children up for success. One of the most important is to develop your child’s phonemic awareness. Research shows that phonemic awareness is the number one predictor of a child’s success at reading. It makes sense to approach the development of this skill in many different ways, including apps! Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in words. This is done through activities that help the child break those sounds apart, identify the individual sounds, and then change a sound in a word (cat to bat). Check out these apps that help your child develop phonemic awareness.
This app was designed by a speech language pathologist and covers the different parts of phonemic awareness through activities in a room that looks like a science lab. The activities cover skills such as rhyming, blending sounds, and counting syllables; however, the app does not provide any type of reward or entertainment value. Even when children successfully complete the activities, there are no rewards or free play. The app would be great as an assessment tool for parents or teachers, and the app does record your child’s scores and progress. The app also allows for tracking of multiple students. The app costs $19.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-6.
Dora ABCs Vol 3 takes your child to a frog fiesta while helping them blend and change sounds to make words. The phonics games have your child blend simple three-letter words together by themselves or with the support of tapping the letters to hear the sounds. Drag and drop the matching picture next to the word. Then the app gives you a new word, and you have to change the initial sound to build the new word; for example, change car to jar. The frog games that your child can play after the phonics practice keep children interested in the app. This app is not very long but practices important early pre-reading skills. The app costs $1.99 and is appropriate for children ages 4-6.
Monkey Word School Adventure uses mini-games to help kids get started on the road to reading. Games include spelling, letter identification, rhyming, and much more. Kids love the fast-paced and engaging activities. Children are rewarded with special pieces to add to their own terrarium. Parents get so much value out of the descriptive settings page that break down the learning in each mini-game. The app auto-adjusts based on your child’s play or gives the controls to the adults for customizing the app. Either way, you will know what your child is working on! The app costs $1.99 and is appropriate for children ages 4-6.
If you are looking for more apps to support your child in pre-reading, check these ones out.
Tags: activities, assessment, blending, games, matching, phonemic awareness, Reading, rhyming, tracking
5 Sweet (e)Books to Read for Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and it is a fun time to enjoy some books related to the holiday. These books make great Valentine’s Day gifts for your special Valentine.
First Words Valentine is a sweet app that reviews common words associated with Valentine’s Day. The words are presented, and the letters are scrambled for the kids to arrange correctly. A picture accompanies each word to help children understand the meaning of the word. There are options for parents to turn off the letter clues, to turn off the sound, to change from lowercase to capital letters, or to change the font. The app is fairly simple but a fun way to enjoy Valentine’s Day. The best part is that the app is free! The app is appropriate for children ages 3-6. If you enjoy this style of app, the creator has several others designed in a similar way, such as First Words Animals and FirstWords: At Home.
Valentine’s Day is a great time to enjoy stories about love and kindness. This story is about the beloved character Biscuit and how he celebrates Valentine’s Day. The e-book has options for Auto Play, Read to Me, or Read by Myself. The app also includes a coloring book, sticker book, memory book, and puzzle section. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-5.
For additional book ideas for Valentine’s Day, check out these books at your local library.
Valentine’s Day Thematic Read-Alouds
George and his friends celebrate Valentine’s Day and, in his traditional mischievous style, causes trouble with balloons, glitter, and frosting.
Little Critter’s class is celebrating Valentine’s Day. Pull back the flaps and discover all the fun Valentine’s Day surprises.
Cornelia Augusta couldn’t believe her eyes as this unusual downpour began. Each heart was special, and she knew just what she wanted to do with each and every one of them. The simple and gentle text is kept to a minimum.
Enjoy these books with your little Valentine and check out our other ideas for celebrating the holiday here.
Tags: Reading, reading aloud, valentine's day, words
Apps for Developing Number Sense
Learning how to count is part of what young children need to begin laying a foundation for early math skills. However, learning to count is really just one of several concepts that develop in early childhood. Beyond counting, children need to develop an understanding of numbers. For example, children need to be able to look at a set of objects and know without counting that there are 4 and begin to understand that 9 objects are more than 5 objects. Developing these concepts in early childhood will lay the foundation for later mathematics.
KinderTown loves the app Quick Math Jr. by Shiny Things. It’s uniquely made to capture kids’ attention and help them learn about counting, ordering numbers, adding, subtracting, and writing numbers. The app is centered on colorful and playful monsters. One of five different game areas is randomly selected when the game play begins. The areas are represented by a bus, a light bulb, a pair of eyes, a house, and a train. One of the greatest features of the games is that they automatically adjust to your child’s learning level so they are appropriately challenged as they learn and progress through the app.
These games are combined together to create Hustle Bustle Island. The app has 3 different islands available for purchase, each of which provides 3 new games for children. Parents can also elect to receive report card notifications on their child’s progress via email.
Throughout the game, children can earn different facial features for the monsters, which then appear within the app. Our child testers liked this feature and the ability to personalize their own monsters. The app allows for multiple students to have profiles, so if you have a classroom or multiple children at this level, the app will support each child’s individual development. The app is appropriate for children who can recognize numbers and number concepts, starting around age 4, although the ability to add and subtract numbers and memorize the facts usually occurs later. Parents, also read the parent section to find different examples of age-appropriate number games that can be played offline to support your child’s learning and development of numbers. The app is free, but additional content costs $4.99 for each island.
Motion Math: Hungry Guppy provides a delightful aquarium environment for children to work on developing number sense. The app provides easy explanations of how to drag bubbles with dots together to make a new bubble with the combined dots. Then, children match the dots on the bubbles to the dots on the fish. Your hungry guppy is designed to eat only the correct number, but there is no losing in this app. Learning is reinforced every time your fish gobbles up the correct number. Numbers that are greater than requested quietly disappear off the screen. The app moves from dots to written numerals quickly. The app practices subitizing (instantly recognize “how many”) dots and recognizing written numerals to match given quantities your fish wants to eat. The app works to build number sense and pre-addition understanding by dragging smaller quantities together to build a larger amount. Hungry Guppy is a prequel to the app Motion Math: Hungry Fish.
Other apps that incorporate number sense along with other early childhood math skills include Bugs and Numbers, Monkey Math School Sunshine, and Bedtime Math. Enjoy working with your child as they develop number sense.
Tags: adding, concepts, early math, number order, number sense, numbers, subtracting, writing
Fun E-books to Read Aloud with Your Child
E-books add variety and interest, making them great for read-aloud times with our child.
Reading aloud to children is a vital activity for building vocabulary, a love of reading, and an understanding of what reading “sounds like.” Also, reading aloud to children is the most important activity to build their eventual success in reading. Did you know that reading a book aloud is two times richer in vocabulary than watching a typical TV show?
Also, children’s listening abilities develop ahead of their ability to read, so it is important to continue to read aloud to children even when they start to read on their own. These skills do not level out until children are in approximately eighth grade, so continue the habit beyond the early years.
Oceanhouse Media has created a treasury of Dr. Seuss books. Here you will find the e-book versions of many of the classic Dr. Seuss books your child may already know and love, such as Hop on Pop, Horton Hears a Who!, Green Eggs and Ham, and The Cat in the Hat. Check out the rest of the books and read a new title with your child. The e-books include interactive and engaging features such as reading aloud to your child, highlighting the words, and looking for fun hidden treasures by tapping the scenes. The app is subscription-based, which gives your family access to 55 digital Dr. Seuss books.
Dragon Brush is so beautifully designed that parents and children will love interacting with this e-book. The background music is soft and calming, and the illustrations are beautiful. The narration is provided by a male voice. There are hidden interactive features on each page and special inkpots hidden in the story that unlock artistic features in the special painting area of the app. The story is about a young artist, Bing-Wen in China, who was poor and lacked the tools to create art that he loved. He helps a lady whose giant cart has overturned, and she gives him a paintbrush. He discovers that the paint brush is magic and everything he draws comes to life. The end of the story has Bin-Wang cleverly using his paintbrush to solve problems. The story is based on a traditional Chinese folktale and has a moral that you can discuss with your children at the end. Dragon Brush costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-6.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a delightful story that the whole family will enjoy. Mr. Morris Lessmore ends up in a magical world of books. He falls in love with each of these books and shares little tidbits with the reader through quotes and games. Kids get to immerse themselves in language and letters with mini-games and thoughtful interactivity. This is a wonderful app for sparking a love of reading. We highly recommend it for talking about the variety of books and purposes for reading with your child.
Also, try out some other KinderTown approved e-book favorites: The Monster at the End of This Book…starring Grover!, Fancy Nancy Dress-Up, and Goodnight Moon. Enjoy these interactive experiences with your child!
Tags: ebook, read aloud, Reading, vocabulary
New Year, New Apps
Whether you have had an iPad for a while or you are just starting out with a brand new iPad, check out these apps for some educational enjoyment!
Sago Mini Puppy Preschool is an engaging app that balances play and educational value for the youngest learners. The app is very easy to use and is appropriate for children ages 2-3. The app has friendly, happy characters who appeal to boys and girls alike. The characters invite your child to learn about numbers one through 10, matching, shape recognition, and musical play. Pile all the different types of dogs into the bathtub as the app counts up to 10, or take them out of the bathtub and see and hear the number decrease. Match shapes and colors to make the animals happy with their toys and food. Sago Mini Puppy Preschool costs $2.99.
Easy Music is an easy introduction to the theory of music that is educational while still being playful. I appreciate that the app gives children direction in learning the concepts of rhythm and beat while still providing opportunities for open-ended creation of musical sounds. Other musical concepts that are covered through playful interaction are recognizing notes, pitch, and melody. This app does rely on the sound of the iPad, so you may want to have your child enjoy it with headphones or be prepared to enjoy the added noise. Easy Music provides a unique approach to music development that I haven’t seen in other apps– a delightful experience! The app costs $3.99 and appropriate for children ages 4-6.
If your child has ever spent time with a grandfather in a garage or working with tools, they are sure to love Grandpa’s Workshop. The characters developed in the Fairlady Media apps are welcoming and certainly do feel like you are interacting with your own grandparents. In this app, the focus is on working with tools, but the app creatively weaves in educational elements such as cutting a board into quarters, putting puzzle pieces back together, and watching educational videos about a specific tool (such as a chisel) and how it is used in woodworking. The app costs $2.99 and appropriate for children ages 3-5.
Tags: matching, music, numbers, preschool, puzzle, rhythm, shape recognition, tools