So You Have an iPad and Some Kids…
Whether you just received a shiny new iPad for Christmas, or finally got comfortable with the idea of your child playing with your iPhone, you probably noticed it’s hard to pick out great educational apps. There are more than 80,000 educational apps in the App Store; no one is judging you.
You’re probably wondering things like:
• What makes an app great?
• What features should I consider?
• What is a universal app and how do in-app purchases work?
• Just tell me what the good ones are!
Okay, we hear you, which is why we put together this list of the best educational apps to get you started. You can jump straight to the list below, or, we offer up a few things we’ve learned so you can start separating the great apps from the duds yourself.
Teach Me How to Fish for Apps
So you’re a do-it-yourselfer type? You want to know our secrets for finding the best apps? Well, they aren’t secrets really, but here are a few tips that will help shorten your App Store learning curve:
Tip #1: Search the iTunes Description for Important Keywords
• “Settings” and “options” means there may be a place for customization in the app. This is good because it often allows you to adjust the app to your child’s skill level, which means not wasting money on apps that are too easy or too hard. Also, these apps can grow with your child and have a longer shelf life.
• “In-app purchases” means getting the full game will cost you more than what you’re paying at the time of download. Sometimes this is good because it allows you to try a game before committing a lot of money, other times it can feel like you’re being “nickel and dimed.” Worse yet – your child can start authorizing purchases without your knowing.
• Developers will often include in the description “reviewed by” sources or quotes from app review sites. These can be more informative than user reviews. Sure, developers cherry-pick only positive reviews to showcase, but these reviewers tend to be more thorough, and at least you can visit the source to judge their credibility for yourself.
Tip #2: One-word – Screenshots
• Note the graphics. Do they seem high-quality even to your relatively amateur eye? You can’t always judge a book by its cover. Everyone knows that. But need we remind you there are more than 80,000 educational apps in the App Store? You can be choosy. Plus, great apps tend to have great artwork.
• However, great artwork doesn’t always mean a great app. This might seem obvious, but you’ll fall for this trap at least once and be disappointed in yourself.
• Don’t just look for pretty pictures. Search the screenshots for functionality. You should get an idea of what activities your child will do with this app. For instance, does it look like a game that transforms and strengthens the learning experience or just an animated workbook?
Tip #3: Get Your Money’s Worth
• If you own both an iPad and an iPhone/iPod Touch (or aspire to), Universal apps essentially give you two apps for the price of one. What’s a Universal app? Well with a few exceptions, apps are categorized as iPad – which means they only work on the iPad, iPhone – which means they work for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad (although, “working” on the iPad means it will show up small like it was an iPhone) or Universal – which means the app was specially built to work at iPhone size and at iPad size, sometimes with different functionality depending on the device. (KinderTown is an example of this. Just look at the difference between the screenshots for the iPhone and iPad)
• We mentioned it above, but we’ll reiterate it here in the “money” section – apps with settings that allow you to adjust the difficulty get used longer and have more value than apps that are static and possible for your child to easily grow out of.
• It’s a somewhat rare feature, but some educational apps are starting to embrace the idea that multiple kids may be using the same app by allowing you to save different points in the game or multiple scores. Again, this feature essentially gives you multiple games – one for each kid – for the price of one.
The Educational App Starter Guide
It’s one thing to find apps that your kids like playing, it’s another to find apps that they like and teach them something at the same time. Until app developers stop making fun apps that also teach (they won’t), KinderTown will only ever show you the latter, which is why you don’t need to think twice about downloading any of these apps because each one…
• has a “wow” factor that will delight both you and your child
• has significant educational value as determined by KinderTown’s experts in early childhood education
• was approved for its design and ease of use