Winning Word Apps
Playing with words is an excellent way to develop vocabulary, develop spelling skills and learn new words along the way. Check out these winning word apps!
Curious Words is an exploratory app that inspires children to make connections between words and their personal surroundings. My children love to create videos on their iPad. This app works to direct a child’s learning while making videos. The app prompts children with words, and then they are to take a picture that coordinates with the word. Children can swipe to the left or the right to choose new words. The app then combines the words and pictures into a unique video for the child. If the child does not like the video they can easily deleted the video and rerecord. For young readers, the words are read aloud, so the focus of the app is word associations not learning to read the words and developing creativity and curiosity. Curious Words is $1.49 at the time of this review and is appropriate for children ages 4-7.
Word Sundae is a smart spelling game for kids and their parents or peers. Word Sundae can be played in different ways, but always involves 2 players. Play against the computer, a parent, a friend or sibling. Children are presented with Scrabble-like tiles that they must combine to make a word in their sundae bowl. KinderTown likes how scoring is different for kids and parents to level the playing field for friendly competition. A child friendly dictionary is automated within the app, so children must submit real words not nonsense words. Children earn rewards along the way such as extra turns, bonus tiles and extra points. Word Sundae is .99 and appropriate for children ages 5-8.
The lovable monsters are back! This time with a focus on reading rhyming words. The monsters travel around a map with stops along the way. Once the monster stops his mouth opens with a rhyming word. The word is sneezed out and the letters are scattered. Your child must reconstruct the word. The letter sounds are made when the letters are touched and the word is read once the word is reconstructed. The app does require the child to reconstruct the word in letter order. The words continue to be presented and all relate to a rhyming family; ran, can, pan, tan. Once a series is complete a sentence is presented with the rhyming words in context and the monsters act it out. The app is free and does have in-app purchases ($4.99) to buy more rhyming families once you complete the 3 free rhyme families. A great app for the beginning reader in your family.
Buy This, Not That: Coding Apps
This week is Computer Science Education week, and to celebrate, everyone is invited to the Hour of Code. Everyone, ages 4 to 99, are encouraged to spend an hour learning how to code. It is the basis for our heavily digital environment. There are coding exercises for preschoolers through adults. Spending an hour together as a family, learning to code, would make a great family activity. There are many coding apps out there, but I wanted to tell you about one I liked and one I wouldn’t purchase in Buy This, Not That: Coding Apps.
The Foos is a programming game geared toward the youngest coders. Right away, it was easy to tell how to proceed. Tap the play button, then choose the first level. This app is ideal for children who do not have any coding or programming experience. The app prompts you to slide the block into place to make the character walk forward in a bright and cheery town. Instantly, the character walks through the star and the child ‘wins.” The levels progress very easily and slowly in order to set up a basic understanding of programming. There are 8 different levels with each of the 3 main characters to complete. At the end, your child can earn a certificate for completing the Hour of Code. The app is free and does not include any in-app purchases. Th Foos is appropriate for children ages 3-8.
When first opened, Cato’s Hike looks old and outdated. After choosing your character, a boy or girl, a tutorial walks your child through how to start. Even after reading the short tutorial, I was unsure of exactly how to proceed. In order to help my child, I began randomly selecting button to see if I could program the character. After figuring this part out by trial and error, the app does work to move your child from easy programming to more complex skills. After choosing a level, I wanted to exit the level because it appeared too difficult. I found myself searching for a “home” button. It did appear at the top, after I tapped around the screen but I was frustrated that it just didn’t appear all the time. In addition, I found the music to be distracting, but the settings area does allow you to turn it off. The app includes a nice manual, but it is 20 pages long! This might be suitable for a teacher in a classroom with multiple days set aside for programming, but for the average parent, the guide is overwhelming. Cato’s Hike is $4.99 and does not give coding an easy start, nor a welcoming, fun feel. Choose The Foos if you are looking for that, for free, instead.
Top 2 iPad Cases for Kids
Recently, KinderTown received an email asking about the best cases for kids. I have a 3 year-old and 7 year-old that use my iPad pretty hard, and it has dropped on my tiled kitchen floor many times, so I understand the need for a sturdy case. Here are my two recommendations; these are the only cases I have bought, and they worked so well I didn’t need to try any others!
I would avoid flip-type covers, such as the standard cases designed by Apple. Flipping the cover doesn’t seem to work well for children, or it gets caught on things and aids in dropping the iPad rather than working to protect it. Try these instead:
My #1 favorite is:
M-Edge - I have used this case from the very beginning of my iPad ownership, and it has been worth every penny. It has lasted five years now, and has bounced off the tile floor, been dropped on the sidewalk, thrown on the ground, and probably a handful of other typical kid behaviors, without any damage to my iPad. The reason I love it so much is that it does not have a plastic cover on the screen, so I can see graphics perfectly, and there isn’t any hindrance to the touch screen. It also wipes off really nicely with a mild soap and cloth. Mine is blue and I’m known for carrying it everywhere and even had a student affectionately draw a picture of me with the big blue case around the outside of my iPad. If you wanted a stand to work with this case, you could purchase it separately. Or, a school shortcut is to use a library book display stand, they work perfectly for iPad stands as well.
My #2 choice:
GumDrop Cases - I used these cases extensively with a school, and we really liked them. They do have a plastic cover to protect the screen, and they have styles with a stand. The outside is a rubbery consistency that is very similar to the M-Edge and is easy for little hands to grip. They come in a ton of sizes and colors, so there are lots of options with their cases. These also clean up really well with a mild cleaner if you remove it from the iPad. You will want to clean your iPad really well before putting the case on the iPad, because it really secures the iPad tightly. Removing the case is tough, so be sure you won’t be removing it from the case often.
Do you have a case you love? Leave a comment and tell KinderTown about it.
I’m excited to share Tiggly Christmas with our fans. KinderTown loved Tiggly Shapes this year, and the Tiggly Christmas app is equally exciting. Thanks Tiggly! In order to use Tiggly Christmas, KinderTown recommends that you purchase the Tiggly Shapes. They are rubbery 3-D shapes that interact with the iPad, perfect for toddlers. Tiggly Shapes are appropriate for children ages 2-4. They make a unique gift for the techy toddler. The shapes are made to interact with iPad and the iPad mini. Tiggly Shapes also work with the free apps, Tiggly Safari, Tiggly Draw, and Tiggly Stamp.
Decorate your very own tree using the Tiggly Shapes. The app prompts your child to match the Tiggly Shape with the outline on the screen. Once the correct shape is placed on the outline, the app says the name of the shape and shows the word as well. Voilà! It becomes an ornament on your tree. Next, presents are shown and children must match their handheld shapes to those of the presents. Many of the shapes combine to make a toy that children can play with in the Christmas scene. Children can send their creations to friends with the assistance of an adult. Children are developing their spatial understanding using circles, squares, triangles, and stars as they play. Tiggly Christmas is $1.99 and available for iPhone and iPad. The app can be played without the Tiggly shapes, as in the iPhone version, but KinderTown recommends the use of the manipulatives to maximize your child’s learning experience. KinderTown also really enjoys the Tiggly blog. The blog includes educational math activities to complete with your child offline. Check out this post about creating a countdown garland for Christmas. This would help with the question many toddlers ask “How many days until Christmas?”
Educational Apps for the Holidays
12 Days of Christmas is a delightful holiday app that gives kids an opportunity to experience the traditional song, and also creates a custom video of themselves singing. You have two options for game play: sing-along or play-along. In play-along, your job is to follow along with the song and tap the number that goes along with the song patterns. In sing-along, your child records him- or herself, both video and audio, singing along. Create your own family’s 12 Days of Christmas. The app is $1.99 and appropriate for children ages 3-6.
First Words Christmas will support your beginning reader in building winter 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 paired with colorful pictures for young children, and options for parent customization, are what make this app a success. The app is $1.99 and appropriate for children ages 3-6.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas! brings the classic holiday story to your device. The original story, text and illustrations, are easy for your children to listen to or begin to read themselves. The interactivity in this text is timed to not disrupt or distract from the story. The best part is that you don’t have to read the story aloud day after day if you use the “read to me” feature. We enjoy the apps for the family to listen and share together in the car or as a bedtime routine. The app is $4.99 and appropriate for children ages 3-8.
KidsMag takes the traditional children’s magazine and makes it come alive with thematic interactive games, teaching moments, art and music. For the holiday season, KidsMag has released a special Christmas issue that has your child dressing up Santa and a Christmas tree, spelling Christmas words and playing with shadows. KidsMag integrates vocabulary lessons with meaningful Math, Science and Language activities, created in a learning environment where kids thrive. Kids Mag Christmas Edition is $1.99 and appropriate for children ages 4-8.
Wubbzy’s The Night Before Christmas takes your child through the beloved Christmas poem with a few new twists and turns. Features include options to use the app as a book with no hotspots, or with full interactivity while the story is read aloud or with just word support. In the app you’ll find flying sled games, coloring pages, and a few other surprises. At the end, parents are supported with questions for talking and thinking about the story. Overall, Wubbzy’s The Night Before Christmas is a fun, colorful story that kids love to listen to. The app is $2.99 and appropriate for children ages 3-7.
Thinking About Purchasing an iPad?
Thinking of purchasing an iPad for Christmas? iPads are becoming increasingly popular with children and parents. What does the iPad have to offer children ages 3-8?
Image by Leslie Flickinger, via Flickr [https://www.flickr.com/photos/56155476@N08/6660077207/] (CC By 2.0) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/]
Many say that the iPad has the best collection of apps to offer, and here at KinderTown we agree. Want to develop creativity? Work on Math facts? Gain assistance with reading? Learn the letter sounds? The iPad has a vast selection of educational apps available. Download KinderTown onto your device so you’ll always have a handy guide sorted by age group, device, and subject area.
The iPad allows creativity to the youngest learners. Apps that include pictures, drawing, creating stories and movie making are available for students as young as 3. Check out Draw and Tell for the youngest iPad user, and Toontastic for older children. Have your child create their own book with easy to use apps. You will be amazed at what they will create. Many iPad apps encourage exploration such as Bobo Explores Light and Monster Physics, which explores the use of gears and pulleys.
The iPad offers a great portable tool for kids. As our lives become increasingly mobile, so are our kids’ lives. In my house, we use the iPad everywhere. Try a great recipe in the kitchen, take pictures or your favorite toys and family members in the living room, and curl up with a digital book before bed. Time yourself in the bathroom while you brush your teeth. Take pictures of the changing leaves outside. The possibilities are endless. And, of course, take it along in the minivan while you wait to pick a sibling up from soccer practice, or turn any waiting room into a classroom.
Access to wi-fi seems to be everywhere now, potentially putting the world at your child’s fingertips. With the iPad, children can reach across cultures and discover new types of people and places without ever leaving their house. Our lives are all now global in nature with most jobs and work opportunities expecting people to work with people all over the world. Read about a few global apps that your child may enjoy.
Easy to Use
Most appealing to many parents is that the iPad is easy to use. Guidance and troubleshooting are rarely necessary. Most 3 year-olds can pick up the iPad and are ready to use apps designed for their age level. They may even discover how to use the apps more quickly than adults.
While KinderTown recommends children use iPads as a learning device, it is a wise move to have a dinner time conversation about the use of the iPad, the responsibility associated with it, and your personal family values related to media. This is time well spent and may decrease conflict over the use of the device in the future. Ask questions like these: Who does the iPad belong to? Is it a family iPad? When and Where can children use the ipad? What do we do if a pop-up box appears? Where is the iPad stored? How long can kids use the iPad?
Share your experience with us. Does your child want an iPad for Christmas?
Top Global Apps for Kids
One of the greatest advantages of having an iPad for your child is the ability to reach around the globe and access different cultures. Check out these top apps to learn about other cultures.
Homes is the newest app from Tinybop, a developer focused on play and the natural curiosity of children. In this app, they have developed interactive homes across the world for kids to play in and discover new facts about other cultures. There are four different homes across the globe represented at the time of this review: United States, Guatemala, Yemen, and Mongolia. Once a location is chosen, a child can begin to explore the house. A sliding window bar allows you to peer inside the home. Tap on areas of the home to zoom in on the room. Once inside the individual rooms, children can play with the objects. For example, a room in a house in Yemen has a musical instrument to play with, tea cups and a pitcher to serve tea, and pillows on the floor to rearrange. The app begs kids to ask questions like “How do others live?” “What makes up a home?” The app can easily be changed to several different languages, encouraging children to listen to other languages and learn new words. KinderTown would like to see more information attached to some of the objects to further educate children (and parents). For example, a wash basin in Guatemala is used to wash clothing and prepare food. When talking with the creators, KinderTown learned about the extensive research that went into creating authenticity in the app. In addition, check out the Homes Handbook, which provides lots of facts and questions to ask your kids. The app is based on free exploration, so children can explore at their own pace and follow their interests as well. This app is a great way to learn about other cultures through the home environment which is familiar for young kids. The app is $3.99 and appropriate for children ages 3-8.
News-O-Matic is a news magazine for kids. This magazine contained within an app includes interactive activities and videos. News-O-Matic features 5 daily stories covering the United States and International news, sports, arts, science and more. The articles are written by their staff of journalists, including educational experts, and reviewed by psychologists to ensure age-appropriate content. The content of the articles is designed for young readers to understand. The app is also ad-free so the distractions are limited. News-O-Matic also features complete playback of the articles via a Read-to-Me function, making the information accessible to younger students and struggling readers. Definitions and pronunciations are provided for difficult words within articles. A few games are featured as they relate to the news of the day. The app also offers a Spanish translation. A special school edition exists for classroom settings or homeschool environments. KinderTown’s favorite feature that is only included in the school edition is the ability to change reading levels within the app from a 1st grade reading level up to a sixth grade reading level. In addition, the school version includes assessment questions for students. News-O-Matic is a very complete educational news magazine for kids and lots of features for educators and parents. News-O-Matic is appropriate for children ages 5-8.
Barefoot World Atlas will completely mesmerize all members of your family. Open to a globe dotted with images that just beg to be tapped. Read and listen to fun facts by touching the images on the screen. Looking for more depth? Search by country and region to learn facts that give you a look into the lives of people and places around the world. It is completely worth the price and will be appreciated by both the adults and kids. We see this app becoming one that the family sits on the couch and uses together. The app is $4.99 and appropriate for children ages 5-8. A KinderTown personal favorite!
Buy This, Not That: Word Games
KinderTown reviews lots of apps for kids that never make it to the KinderTown store. This week I thought that I would share an app I didn’t choose, and why, and recommend a better replacement that exists, but may not be on a banner ad in the iTunes store right now. This will be the first in a series of posts called “Buy This, Not That App.”
This week: Word Games
Futaba Classroom Games for Kids comes highly recommended as a multifaceted game to use with your family or in your classroom. The app is completely customizable for what you want kids to learn and play. This is one of the few apps designed completely for social play. Either play with the provided content or create your own. Up to four players can sit around the iPad. Tap “start” and the game begins. One game might have the center showing a picture of a pig. The first player to tap the word “pig” on their panel scores a point. After winning three rounds, the child is awarded a Futaba which is a small seedling. Futaba comes with several learning sets, but what makes this app exceptional is the fact that you have complete control of the content. Design your games by using the camera on your device or add your own text. The latest update provides an option to use Dropbox to upload images. The amount of customization allows both parents and teachers to get creative. The options seem limitless. Futaba is free, but KinderTown recommends the in-app purchase for $2.99 to unlock all the features.
At first glance, Mad Libs appears to be an educational app for kids. I remember playing Mad Libs as a kid, so I assumed that today’s digital version would be even better. I assumed the app would read aloud directions to children, give them feedback on the words inputted, make suggestions for nouns, and detect whether the words inputted fit the grammatical category. These are all the things my mother did for me as a child to create a learning experience. I was disappointed to learn that it did not include these features, and appeared as sadly lacking in interaction as it was when I was a kid. When the app opens, the words and graphics appeared fuzzy on the iPad. To get started, children choose a theme for their story, for example, bowling. The app assumes children know what to do, and can easily begin adding nouns, adjectives, etc. in the appropriate blanks. The app also accepted non-words typed in by children (tlsdjgs), and the app does not evaluate if the word is actually a noun or not. The app does provide a sliding bar at the top to define what a plural noun is, and give examples. This was the best feature I encountered.
Once the story was finished, the children had to read the story themselves, and most of the time the story didn’t make any sense based on the words that children picked. The app congratulated the child for their work with the words, “Word, Playa!” regardless of the quality of words inputted. This is not how I think children should be given feedback. The bottom line is that Mad Libs does not aid in a child’s comprehension and understanding of language skills, so why not spend your money on an app that does? Don’t fall for the nostalgia you associate with the name Mad Libs.
Apps for Thanksgiving
I’m sure your family is preparing for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Why not download a few apps to get you in the spirit as well?
This digital book app by Sandra Boynton is a classic story to be enjoyed again and again by your youngest child. The story is about animals getting dressed in human clothes. The turkey in the story can’t quite put the clothes on the right part of his body, indicated with the word “oops” each time. Your toddler is sure to giggle over his mistakes! The story has two options: I want to read it myself, or The big guy reads it. There is delightful background music that can be turned off from the home screen if desired. This book is appropriate for children ages 2 and 3, and is the most fun when you read it with your child and prompt them to join in on the simple story after multiple readings. Another great way to enjoy the book with your child is by trying echo reading. Choose the option “I want to read it myself.” Then read the text yourself and have your child repeat the text read back to you. Blue Hat, Green Hat fits this activity well because of the short phrases and repeated words. The app is narrated by a calming voice, and highlights the words as they are read. A great story to enjoy before nap-time! Check out the other digital books by the author Sandra Boynton; again, they are a perfect fit for 2-3 year olds. The app is $3.99.
The app opens with the classic “Peanuts” music and each page has a hidden leaf for children to discover. The story has the options “Read to me” and “Read myself.” The words are highlighted as the narrator reads, and the characters on the page are animated like the classic “Peanuts” shows. In the story, Charlie Brown is not feeling thankful. His friends invite themselves over for Thanksgiving, and Charlie Brown is upset about preparing a Thanksgiving meal. Woodstock and Snoopy save the day by helping Charlie Brown prepare a Thanksgiving meal. The story does include nice interactive features on each page, but it is quite long and feels almost like you are watching a Peanuts movie while reading the story and turning the pages. This app is appropriate for children ages 4-6 and is $5.99.
The Berenstain Bears are a beloved family in my house; my children often select Berenstain Bear books at the library, and to read before bed. As a parent, I really like how they have a message, and often give me a chance to talk to my kids about things we share in our life. It’s funny that some of my children’s favorite Berenstain Bear books were: The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies, and The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food. Both of these addressed issues we were having in our family, but my children selected the books again and again to read for pleasure. I think the characters are easy to relate to, and that’s what has made them so popular for so long. The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks is about their days leading up to Thanksgiving day, and includes the bear children learning about the first Thanksgiving day. The book does talk about being thankful and includes a coordinating Bible verse at the end. The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks is a part of the Living Light Series by Oceanhouse Media. Check it out here, and be sure to download the free book The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule. The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks is $1.99 and appropriate for children ages 3-7.
Hip Hop Hen Hits the Mark!
If you have a budding pre-schooler at home just learning to write their letters, Hip Hop Hen is for you! Hip Hop Hen is a delightful app to practice writing letters and learning their sounds too.The app opens with pleasing, calming music and cute graphics. When your child hits play an adorable alphabet appears. Click on one of the letters to practice writing the letter. The letter appears on lined paper and children can choose which color crayon to write the letter with. KinderTown really likes how each letter is presented in conjunction with the coordinating sound and shows the letters in lower-case. Lower-case letters are most often seen in print, so children should learn to identify them first in preparation to read. As the children correctly write the letter they earn balloons on a board to pop once the letter is completely written. Our kid testers loved popping the balloons and KinderTown loves that the letter sound is made each time a balloon is popped. KinderTown would like to see the letter name stated as well as the sound when the letter is presented. Both the letter name and letter sound are important early literacy skills. There is also a “free draw” area for kids, when children need to take a break. This app is designed for pre-schoolers (ages 3-5) who are learning their letters and is $2.99. Hip Hip Hooray for Hip Hop Hen!