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!

 

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

PuppyPreschool

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 – Give kids an ear for music

easymusic

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.

 

Grandpa’s Workshop

grandpa'sworkshop

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.

 

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S.T.E.M. Toys for All Ages

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is a hot topic right now for children of all ages. Check out these STEM toys for children ages 3-8.

kindertown-tech-toys

Snap Circuits® 300 Experiments 

snapcircuitsAs the name indicates, Snap Circuits helps children understand basic concepts about electricity using pieces that all snap together. The set can appear complicated at first, and it requires active adult participation and guidance in completing the projects for your child to understand how the pieces work together before being able to play independently. The kit comes with a complex manual (45 pages long), which helps in understanding the toy if you have a basic understanding of electrical parts. The kit has loud sirens and alarms, so be aware of the potential noises it can make in your house; however, the sound effects do increase the motivation and interest for kids to achieve the goal of making a circuit. The kit does provide a nice foundation and understanding of electrical concepts and is appropriate for children ages 6-12.

 

Educational Insights® GeoSafari Jr. Jungle Crew Lab Set

Geosciencekit

This super science kit is super-friendly for little hands. Preschoolers can experiment by mixing liquids with the animal-themed test tubes, funnel, and flask. The kit comes with cards to give you ideas for experiments without having to search online. The supplies you need are all items you probably already have in your kitchen. The kit is open-ended enough that you can design your own experiments as well. The kit is appropriate for children ages 3-6.

 

Osmo Pizza Co.

osmo pizza

This game combines math, money skills, and critical thinking skills to run your own pizza shop. The game system works with the original Osmo system. The Osmo Pizza Co. game comes with all the money pieces needed to run your cash register as well as pieces to create your pizza with various toppings. The game walks you through buying toppings for your pizza, creating the pizza, cooking it, and serving it to the customer. Be sure to watch the customer’s facial expressions to see if they enjoy your pizza. Afterwards your child flips the pizza board over to process the payment from the customer and calculate the change. In addition, at the end of the day, the game calculates the total profit made (if any), and children have the opportunity to reinvest the money in the pizza business. This game also works well with multiple children who needed to work cooperatively to attain the goal. The game develops the mathematical concepts of addition, subtraction, fractions, and mental math. This is a wonderful simulation game for the budding entrepreneur. The game is appropriate for children ages 6-10.

 

From connecting circuits to make noise to measuring liquids to tossing pieces to make a pizza, these toys are sure to provide some extra educational stimulation at your house.

 

 



Top 2 Toys for Hands-on Play!

At KinderTown we love high-tech toys for the youngest learner but we are also passionate about hands-on play. So, put down your device and try out the top 2 toys for hands-on play for children ages 3-6. We beat you’ll have some fun as well!

 

Coding is the latest craze among tech lovers and their kids. Consider these toys if you want to develop your kid's coding skills.

Gears, Gears, Gears

gears gears gears

Gears! Gears! Gears!, by Learning Resources®, invites children to practice their engineering skills by combining pieces to make them move with one another. The play is open-ended, and children can create endless combinations of gears. The gears do go together easily and can be repositioned and changed without frustration, and taking them apart and rebuilding develops a real understanding of how gears work.  I appreciated the frustration-free packaging that Learning Resources used. The package was simple to open and easy to get right into playing with the toy. The gears do not require batteries; just turning one of the gears makes all of them move. Learning Resources does have a variety of gear sets with other interesting themes and pieces.  The basic gear set is appropriate for children ages 3-6.

Magformers® Walking Robot

magformers robot

Magformers Walking Robot High Tech Set combines traditional Magformers magnetic blocks (45 pieces)  with a walking robot to inspire your child to build creative robots. There is a nice booklet of instructions that will give you and your child eight ideas for how to create interesting robots. The robot piece does require batteries and has two different walking speeds for the robot as well as options for the hands to spin. Planning out how to make the robot walk forward and knock over other toys was a hit at my house!  The robot is compatible with other Magformers pieces. Overall, this is an engaging set for children to play with, and it is appropriate for children ages 3 and older.

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3 Gift Ideas for Kids Who Want to Code

Coding is the latest craze among tech lovers and their kids. Consider these toys if you want to develop your kid’s coding skills.

 

Coding is the latest craze among tech lovers and their kids. Consider these toys if you want to develop your kid's coding skills.

Fisher-Price® Code-a-pillar™ Review

Code-a-pillar is a toy aimed at the youngest learner.

Code-a-pillar is a toy aimed at the youngest learner. It is intended to introduce 3-6 year-olds to the concepts behind coding. Right out of the box, the caterpillar comes with batteries installed and is ready to play with, a big win for children in this age group.

You will need a large open space with a hard surface. The goal for your child is to connect the pieces of the caterpillar in order to make it move in the intended direction. A picture showing the intended move appears on the top of each caterpillar piece. Children can rearrange the pieces and see the effect on the caterpillar’s movement. There is a delayed reaction to the initial movement, which could be frustrating for some children. Also, if you do not have a large enough area for the caterpillar to move, it ends up running into furniture or other objects, which can lead to frustration or a lack of understanding of how the caterpillar is intended to work. To reduce frustration, remove some of the caterpillar pieces so only 3-4 directions are used to guide the caterpillar. Parents, be sure to guide your child in this process of discovery because the cause-and-effect relationships of the symbols to the caterpillar’s movement may not be apparent. After your child understands the idea of the toy, see if they can navigate the caterpillar around a single object or multiple objects.

 

Code-a-pillar comes with colorful circular cards that can serve as obstacles. Overall, the Code-a-pillar is easy to use and does introduce the foundations of coding, but children may need guidance to make a secure connection between their play and the coding signs. Also, the toy is noisy and does not have a volume control button. Code-a-pillar also offers expansion packs, which include additional caterpillar pieces that move the caterpillar in different directions or make additional sound or light actions.

 

Scroll to the bottom to enter a giveaway for the Code-a-pillar that was reviewed for this blog post.

 

Osmo Coding Review

The Osmo Coding system works with the Osmo base and stand.

The Osmo Coding system works with the Osmo base and stand. Once opened, the Osmo system does require about 20 minutes for set up. The steps are easy to follow. You must set up the Osmo stand and mirror on your iPad, download the coordinating app, and create an account to get started. The account lets you create multiple profiles for different children in your household and track their progress.

 

The object of Osmo Coding is to move a friendly blue monster through the woods by using the hands-on pieces to help him move in the direction of his favorite fruit, strawberries! Children must use the pieces to tell the monster the correct code to obtain the desired strawberries. The app does a very nice job of visually showing your child which pieces to use to obtain the desired code in the beginning. As your child progresses, the codes become more challenging, but the app does provide support and hints for children along the way. The game is designed in a virtual world with stops along the way for coding challenges. The game does take some tenacity to complete the challenges and may frustrate some children without parental guidance. There is a pink bar that pops up along the way to show how far along in each challenge your child has progressed. The only obstacle we had while using Osmo coding was keeping the pieces within range of the camera. As children change the pieces, it is easy to move out of range of the camera. Be sure to keep the pieces close so the mirror can read each piece.

 

Scroll to the bottom to enter a giveaway for the Osmo Coding system that was reviewed for this blog post. (You’ll need the Osmo base and stand to use this toy.)

 

Wonder Workshop Dash Robot Review

The Dash Robot is not for the faint of heart.

This robot is not for the faint of heart. A basic knowledge of coding on the child and/or parent’s part is helpful in having a successful experience with the Wonder Workshop Dash robot. There are so many capabilities of the robot that initially using it can be overwhelming. Dash does come ready to play without the box; simply charge the robot, and your child can begin interacting with it via the coordinating apps. The robot is not compatible with all generations of iPads, so be sure to check their website to be sure your tablet is compatible. The app does support both Android and Apple products. The robot does appear to be well made and works well on hard surfaces or carpet. You will need a large space to be able to use the robot easily.

 

First download and open the app and begin to navigate the robot with your child. The apps do not provide much support in getting started, so be sure to help your child and be ready to experiment to figure out what works well. The robot does have exciting capabilities such as recording your own voice, dancing, singing, or avoiding obstacles. There are several apps that work with the robot: Blockly for Dash & Dot Robots, Go for Dash & Dot Robots, Wonder for Dash and Dot Robots, and Path for Dash robot.

 

The app, Go for Dash & Dot Robots is the easiest to use with Dash, and I would recommend starting with this one. This app would be appropriate to use with children ages 4-8. The app allows you to immediately control and move the robot in a simple way. Use the joystick to move it forward and back, turn its head, change the light color, and play a set of preset sounds. Next, use the Path for Dash robot app. This app provides children with an arena to experiment with the controls used with Dash but in a more purposeful way. Children can complete a maze on a racetrack and add fun noises, such as wheels squealing and honking horns, or move the robot around the farm while making animal noises. This app would be appropriate for children ages 5-8. Finally, Wonder for Dash and Dot Robots and Blockly for Dash & Dot Robots provide a more structured and in-depth look at coding. These apps are appropriate for children 8 and older. Also, check out Dash’s additional extensions, including Dot, a compatible smaller robot, Wonder Workshop Xylophone for Dash Robot, Wonder Workshop Launcher for Dash Robot, and Wonder Workshop Build Brick Extensions for Dash and Dot Robots.

 

Wonder Workshop Dash robot is a complex robot that would be valuable for families with a high interest in learning coding skills, small education groups, after-school learning, and summer camps. The robot is long lasting in that it offers a variety of levels of learning in the area of coding and has multiple extensions that can be explored with children.

 

KinderTown Tech Toys Sweepstakes

Make learning coding cool with one of these tech toys. You can even win one of the toys mentioned in this blog post. You’ll get our gently-used review copy in the original packaging – they’re as good as new! Check below to make sure you’re eligible to win, then register by entering your email address.

 

 

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High Interest Math Fact Apps

Memorizing addition and subtraction facts is an essential part of math instruction. Having your child practice the facts on the iPad can provide an engaging experience and increase their time spent practicing them. Check out these high-interest math fact practice apps.

 

Having your child practice math facts on the iPad can provide an engaging experience and increase their time spent practicing them.

 

Squeebles Addition & Subtraction

squeebles

The goal of the game is to free the “squeebles” from the mean math monster. There are four different ways to play the game, which makes it interesting for kids. The modes include addition, subtraction, random, fill the gaps (3+_ = 8) and tricky questions (questions answered incorrectly previously).  Be sure to check the settings for difficulty levels and find one that best suits your child. Multiple children can be registered in the game, so it is suitable for multi-children households or classrooms. Children enjoy the quest to save the squeeble. Squeebles Addition & Subtraction is available for iPhone and iPad and costs $1.99.

 

Fruit Ninja Academy: Math Master

fruit ninja

This app provides an engaging theme of the quest to find stone tablets through searching in jungles, ancient ruins, and temples, all while practicing math facts. The main character in the story is a ninja who likes to swing and slice and dice the correct answer to math problems. Kids are in control of the slicing and dicing, which keeps the interest high throughout the game. Parents, you may want to have your child use headphones or turn the sound off because the background noise can be distracting, as sound effects are used for all of the movements and complex scenes. The app does also offer practice with number concepts, multiplication facts, and shapes. The app costs $4.99 and is available for iPhone and iPad.

 

Math Evolve: A Fun Math Game for Kids

Math Evolve

Math Evolve is an arcade-style game that encourages children to solve simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, or advanced division problems quickly. Soar through different environments, zapping numbers while dodging all kinds of obstacles. The challenging game play was highly motivating for our app testers. This app is a long-lasting app for building number fluency because it covers facts through division. Math Evolve is for the child who is already adding and can handle a fast-action game play app. Math Evolve costs $1.99 and is available for iPhone and iPad.

Whether your child is freeing a squeeble or pretending to be a ninja, these apps will make practicing their math facts more enjoyable.

 

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3 Apps about United States History and Government

Election season is upon us, and this may have your child asking questions about United States history or government.

 

Election season is upon us, and this may have your child asking questions about United States history or government.

 

Your child may be learning about the election in school or at home, and these apps would be a great complement to those learning experiences.

 

Geography Drive USA

Geography Drive Icon

Geography Drive USA tests your child’s geography knowledge of all fifty states, with a few history questions thrown in. Kids travel the highways while answering questions to unlock airports and gas stations, which are essential to stay in the game. Bonus games allow them to visit the state fair to take the capital and state shape challenge and earn trophies and headlines. Overall, this is a fantastic app that encourages kids to study independently while incorporating a dynamic game to motivate and make learning meaningful.

 

Constitution by KIDS DISCOVER

Constitution

Constitution by KIDS DISCOVER is an interactive digital magazine that delves into the creation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The magazine includes sections on The Father of the Constitution, To Ratify or Not to Ratify, and Making Changes to the Constitution.  The magazine explains the creation of the Constitution in reference to the election of a president and a few tidbits about voting over the years. There are four interactive activities included in the app, which involve a Constitution fill-in-the-blank, a game matching the items in the Bill of Rights to their corresponding numbers, a jigsaw puzzle, and a quiz. Overall, the app does a nice job of providing information about the Constitution in a kid-friendly layout.

 

Stack the States®

stackthestate

Stack the States uses motivating gameplay to help kids learn about geography and state facts. Questions are presented unvoiced, and you need to choose from 1 of 4 states to answer the question. When you answer correctly, you earn a state; in “tippy tower” style, the goal of each level is to stack the earned states up to a set line. The game play is motivating enough to keep kids (and adults) answering questions about location, national parks, capitals, and major cities. Children enjoy watching the backgrounds change with iconic pictures of our nation.

 

Related Blog Post:
Civic Engagement Series (Demme Learning)

 

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Best Apps for Handwriting

Handwriting is an essential skill for early childhood development. Learning to hold a pencil or marker and then construct meaningful lines is a process that leads to learning letter and number formation.

 

Read our recommendations for apps that help with handwriting and other skills associated with reading development.

 

Many of the following apps work not only for handwriting, but also for other skills associated with reading development. Learning to name letters, form them correctly, and associate the correct sound with the letter are all processes developed during the pre-reading stage of development. Try out these apps to develop early handwriting skills. If your child is able to hold a pencil, try a stylus for easier transfer of the skill from the iPad to paper.

 

abc PocketPhonics: letter sounds & writing + first words

abc PocketPhonics app icon

abc PocketPhonics: letter sounds & writing + first words brings several important language skills together into one app. In abc PocketPhonics, children learn to recognize letters, hear letter sounds, form letters by tracing, and use the letter sounds to build words. Parents are able to create multiple users, control the font and letter types, choose the letters their child will work on, and determine how skillful the writing needs to be. The app introduces letters in small groups and works on each individual letter before moving on to the next group of letters. As each letter is introduced, the app gives the letter sound and tells your child to repeat it. Encourage your child to say the sound out loud as they play the app. Parents can opt into a weekly email that provides an update on your child’s progress. The app tracks the user’s answers and does not advance them without first demonstrating mastery of the basics. This app is appropriate for children ages 4-6 and costs $6.99.

 

LetterSchool- learn to write letters and numbers

letter school

LetterSchool learn to write letters and numbers is another best app to add to your child’s collection of letter and number writing experiences. Letter School clearly introduces each letter, sound, or number (1-9) with an additional 3 levels of interaction that supports your child from tracing a line to forming the letter all on their own. A variety of animations keep the content fresh and interesting for kids. Use bubbles or railroad tracks to trace over the lines. The positive, motivational feedback encourages your child and will keep them wanting to use this app! Check out the lite version to try out some of the content for free. The app is appropriate for children starting to use crayons and markers for the tracing portion of the app and should last up through mastery of the letters, approximately ages 3-5. The app costs $4.99.

 

iTrace – handwriting for kid

iTrace

iTrace – handwriting for kids provides a simple approach to practicing handwriting. The main menu offers clean choices of practice with uppercase letters, lowercase letters, or numbers. In addition, there is word section that has an area to practice writing your child’s name, thematic words, or a customizable word list. The app has a few distinctive features, such as left-hand friendly modeling and individual tracking, and it supports multiple users.

 

Related Blog Post:
Does My Child Still Need to Learn Handwriting? (Demme Learning)

 

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9 Features Found in the BEST Educational Apps for Kids

I have accumulated a short of list of app features that I feel are most appropriate for a successful learning experience.

 

I have accumulated a short of list of app features that I feel are most appropriate for a successful learning experience.

Having played with countless educational apps for kids, I have shared about these features through this blog, as well as list of features I’d like to see occur more often. I’m sharing these with you here so that you know what to look for when choosing an educational app for your child.

 

Breaking Down the App Features

 

Settings for Appropriate Leveling

Kids tend to lose interest when they have to go through levels that are too easy to finally get to the part of the game that is right for them. When apps are being used in the classroom or for home learning, it is important that both parents and teachers are able to set the app according to the child’s needs easily and quickly. One way to do this is to look for an initial assessment of placement that goes beyond the student’s age or grade to ensure proper placement within the app. In addition, listing the skills the child is able to practice in the game helps parents and teachers easily set up the game to engage the student. You should expect this type of customization when using technology with children.

 

Speech

If you are looking for an app for children in second grade and below, narration should be a feature. At these ages, kids are generally not fluent readers. Giving the option to have the text read increases success and motivation to keep using the app. Directions or introductions should be read aloud to the child with the text highlighted as the narration occurs. I recommend that apps for older students have the option for them to tap to hear the text read aloud. Giving this choice creates a nice balance between encouraging independent reading and providing support. Children who are English language learners or who are on a lower reading level benefit from speech support.

 

More Than Questions to Answer

Learning is more than recalling information. There are a lot of popular apps have children answer factual questions but do not utilize other skills, such as creativity or problem solving skills. Instead of having kids focus their energy on activities to memorize and recall information quickly, add in activities that promote depth of understanding, creativity, critical thinking, real-world applications, or problem solving. Creating a virtual model, making a recording, playing a strategic game, or building something new are all ways to add depth.

 

Good Music AND a Mute Button

The music in the app should be more than eight bars that repeat. Kids may not balk at the repetitive electronic background music, but it’s fair to say they don’t always enjoy it, and I’m fairly certain you don’t, either. Quiet, melodic music produces a pleasant and calm energy, something that both you and your child will enjoy. The mute button should be obvious as well so that you can easily turn the sound off.

 

A Settings or Parent Page That Locks Everything That Isn’t Part of the Child’s Activity

In-app purchases don’t trouble me as much as they do many other reviewers, parents, and teachers because I have seen them done very effectively. What I do find distracting are ads, pop-ups, links, social media, or other unrelated visual components that distract the learning in the “kids’ space.” My suggestion is make sure these are locked up on a page that is only accessible by someone who knows how to multiply or follow advanced touch directions. (Remember, though, that children learn to multiply between ages 6-9, so if the app targets that age group, there should be another method to access the locked area.)

 

Bonus Material on the Settings Page

Inside the Settings section, you should be able to find valuable tools to help your child navigate the app. For example, helpful settings include the ability to check a child’s progress or customize the material, bonus material, and tips for how to extend the learning away from the app.

 

Accurate Information about the App

The app should focus on the content and skills it consistently promotes instead of skills it doesn’t primarily offer. Just because you have one small problem solving game in the app doesn’t mean it should be marketed as a problem solving app. Be cautious when reading the claims a developer makes about its app. Trusted review services, such as KinderTown provide an unbiased option about the educational features found in the app.

 

Good Flow to the App

Kids lose focus when they are encouraged to jump around between pages or have to tap Back buttons three times. Within the app, the buttons should be easily designed for going back and forth between pages, using home icons or arrows, for example. These icons help non-readers to navigate the app independently. If the app contains interactivity, make sure it is relevant to the content. If there are have hot spots or interactivity, make sure it is relevant to the content. If kids are practicing their letters, the app should avoid meaningless interactions such as having them tap the cow and listen to it moo over and over again. A more relevant interactivity would include saying the correct letter name and sound. Additionally, the app should lead kids in the direction they should go in the app. Offering too many choices means there may be less focus on the direct activity in which the child should be engaged.

 

Thoughtful Feedback to Support All Learning

If the app only provides positive feedback for the right answers, kids are not able to practice learning from their mistakes. The app should use incorrect answers as part of the learning process. For example, there should be a visual aid to help comprehend a math problem, such as a grid that coordinates with the multiplication problem. The activities should be structured to have a broader learning goal. Kids love challenge and will spend much more time on an app that delivers an engaging experience. Providing challenge in a structured, supportive environment will be an ultimate win for the child and his learning experience.

 

Overall the app market has become very competitive, and only apps with the greatest features and child-friendly design tend to make it to the top. Use these features as guidelines to help you choose the best apps for your children and trust KinderTown to help you find the apps that meet these criteria.

 

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3 Creation Apps to Try with Your Kids

Try these creation apps with your kids; creative play and activities play a central role in a child’s learning and development.

 

Try these creation apps with your kids; creative play and activities play a central role in a child’s learning and development.

 

These type of learning experiences help build connections in the brain that foster problem solving and communication skills. Often when kids are actively involved in the learning process they are more likely to remember the learning behind it. For example, you may remember the details of a volcano model that you made and how it erupted because you were actively engaged in the creation experience.

 

Duckie Deck Trash Toys

Duckie Deck trash toys

Create something new with virtual trash. Use the spray paint tools to decorate a tin can, a plastic cup, or an old jar to produce a new look. Then use springs to create arms, buttons for eyes, or silly string for hair. Save it to your camera roll when you are finished. Unleash your creativity and then let your child try some offline creative tinkering with similar objects. This app is easy to navigate and it’s easy for kids to work together to make creations. Duckie Deck Trash Toys is appropriate for children ages 3-6 and costs $2.99.

 

Art Maker by ABC’s Play School

Art Maker

Art Maker by ABC’s Play School offers an engaging scrapbook-style environment for children to create, narrate, and imagine. Children can choose from a variety of backgrounds with characters and objects to which they can add, resize, and manipulate. Each picture can be assembled into a storybook or transformed into an interactive video as your child narrates and moves the images. His creation can then be saved in the app to view again. A very informative “for parents” page gives tips and ideas to help you get started. Art Maker is $2.99 and appropriate for children 3-6.

 

Toca Builders

toca builders

Toca Builders is a virtual 3D playground where kids use characters to build and create their own unique world. Each character has a different way of contributing to creations in the virtual world. For example, Jum-Jum loves to spray paint (a favorite feature of our child testers) and Connie can lift and move blocks. Your child can create several different play-based worlds within the app that he can add to or adapt later. The app does not include any words or dialog so be sure to take some time to discuss the characters and their abilities, or perhaps create a story about the characters as your child manipulates their world. Toca Builders is a Minecraft inspired app but appropriate for children ages 4-8. Children can demonstrate their creativity as well as spatial relationships within a 3D environment. Be sure to check out their “for parents” section within the app for more ideas. The possibilities are endless for your child’s imagination in the Toca Builders world.

 

Related Blog Post:
3 Top Book Creation Apps

 

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The 7 Types of Educational Apps

Many educators and parents are searching for educational apps that provide the best virtual environment for learning to take place. Generally, this means apps that deliver meaningful content with an in-depth experience incorporating discovery and challenge.

 

Many educators and parents are searching for educational apps that provide the best virtual environment for learning to take place.

These apps are often “free-play” or “choice-filled” games that encourage kids to engage in their own learning. Apps that integrate depth of content and choice empower learners and construct understanding. These apps have activities designed to support the child as they progress and master tasks. This keeps your child in the ideal zone for learning , building on past concepts and challenging them to try something new. Feedback is often provided for parents or teachers through email to let you know how your child is progressing.

 

However, a lot of educational apps don’t fit this ideal or only offer one of the types of learning experiences listed above. Often they don’t offer children independent choices, and they stay on the surface of educational subjects instead of diving into deep thinking. Is there value in these types of apps, or should parents and teachers not use them? Just because an app doesn’t meet the ideal doesn’t mean there isn’t value in the other experiences. Completing math drills, reviewing grammar skills, or playing puzzle games can support your child’s overall development, too.

 

To help me make sense of the different types of educational apps and the learning experiences they provide, I have created 7 overlapping categories. Sounds like a lot? It is. Keep in mind that many apps fit into two or three different categories because each provides something a little different to a child’s learning experience.

 

Breaking Down the 7 Categories

 

1. Playful Learning

These are the apps that I tend to enjoy the most. They are silly, funny, and open-ended. Just because the educational content doesn’t take the center stage doesn’t mean that your child isn’t learning through play. Play is primary mode of learning for most young children. These apps mirror the free play your child enjoys at home, such as pretending in the kitchen, driving trucks, building with blocks, or playing dress-up. You want these educational apps for your kids because they encourage creativity and lead to more creative, playful experiences away from the app. For example, after playing with a virtual science lab for kids, my daughter asked if she could freeze soap bubbles to see what would happen to the solution. Good examples of this type of app would be the apps made by Toca Boca and Dr. Panda. Try out Toca Lab for a playful science lab your children will love!

 

2. eBooks

When reviewing an eBook for educational content, not just a good read, I look for the experience to encourage learning through listening and observation. eBooks that use meaningful interactivity (not just tap to see what happens) for extra practice and play also fall into this category. It is always exciting to find stories that use interactivity to connect learning experiences and vocabulary to real life. Your child benefits from hearing stories read aloud in order to develop vocabulary, an understanding of story lines, and a love of books, especially during the pre-reading years. Auryn HD- Teddy’s Day, Cinderella by Nosy Crow, and Goodnight Moon are some of my family’s favorites.

 

3. Workbooks/Worksheet

These apps usually generate a question and ask the child to choose between three or four choices. I wouldn’t encourage this kind of app for play time, but why not use them for homework and extra practice? Especially if you are replacing the time your child is spending with sheets of paper and pencils, the use of these apps can have many more benefits. They’re great for fluency, test prep, and direct one-step content practice. Be present when your child uses this type of app because often they can choose the wrong answer several times, which creates a less beneficial learning experience. Try out Todo Math and Bluster! Deluxe as examples of workbook/worksheet types of educational apps.

 

4. Puzzles and Traditional Games

There are now many puzzle, memory, matching, and other classic early learning games available in app form. These apps have the potential to support cognitive development in the same way as traditional games, such as encouraging reasoning skills through a game of Go Fish or developing spatial skills through a classic puzzle. I still believe it is beneficial to dust off the traditional puzzles once in a while, but these apps are really fun for kids, too. There are extra benefits of developing social skills when they include multiple children. Try these apps made for more than one child.

 

5. Theme Experiences

These apps let your child delve into themes that really interest them. If your child can’t get enough of dinosaurs, why not grab a few dinosaur apps and let them explore? This is similar to going to the library and grabbing a few books. Your child is absorbing so much of their passion that it is hard to keep up, so include iPad apps in their quest for new knowledge. Check out the Science and Social Studies categories in KinderTown to find apps that correlate to your child’s current interests. Barefoot World Atlas, appropriate for ages 4-8, and Geography Drive USA, ages 6-8, are favorites in my house.

 

6. Interactive Encyclopedias

This one is easy – you get to see videos and images and even play games right in the app. Do I need to say more? These are beneficial because your child is exploring topics of interest. For example, if your child is struggling with understanding the life cycle of plants, an app like this might be the way to make the connections to the content they need. ABC Aquarium is an excellent example of this type of app, appropriate for the youngest learners.

 

7. BYOC for Kids – Build Your Own Content

These apps are less game-like in structure and have more of an open design that allow kids to create their own unique activities from scratch. The benefit of these apps is building what you want instead of only using pre-made offerings. Create your own machine, design your own work of art, or build a virtual world. These apps are beneficial for parents who want to create a special experience for their child above and beyond traditional learning. Try out Pettson’s Inventions Deluxe, Faces iMake – Premium!, and Toca Builders for engaging experiences that are sure to tempt you to jump in and create alongside your child.

A variety of app options provide an opportunity to search for what is going to suit each child best. There is much more out there than the “gold standard” that gives a valuable learning experience for your child. KinderTown can help you discover the latest and best educational apps for your child.

 

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