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
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.
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.
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.
Tags: control, features, music, settings, speech
iTikes Map Review & Guide
iTikes has created a nice hybrid product for early learners.
The iTikes Map is compatible with your iPhone but can also be a stand-alone toy (although that sounds a little sad, doesn’t it?). The map offers several ways to interact with different types of maps. The map comes with interchangeable card maps of different subjects: dinosaurs, world facts, music, solar system, world cats, and world dogs. Each of the maps use three different levels of difficulty on the topic in order to engage a wider age range of children. When playing with the map, use the pen to tap on the pictures around the map to hear fun facts to learn about the region. The dogs and cats map of the world was especially of interest to my daughter. If using the iPhone, the app will provide additional tidbits of information in the form of 3D interactive images and animated facts. The iTikes map is a great way to introduce children to different topics around the world while building map-reading skills. The toy is easy to use for young children, and teaches a wide variety of topics.
Where to Buy: Amazon, Wal-Mart
Who is iTikes Map For?
It’s great for children ages 3-6 with an interest in other cultures and places around the world.
What’s the Educational Value of iTikes Map?
The interactive maps provide many different types of educational information on topics around the world using videos, music, 3D diagrams, and interactive features in the free app. The toy offers many options: different maps, use with or without the iPhone, and three different levels of play. It’s more than a toy; it’s an educational experience.
Platform: iOS for iPhones
Tags: guide, hybrid, interactive, music, space, toy
Magnificent Musical Apps
Monster Music has developed an app in which the youngest child can compose a song using movable monsters. Each monster represents a sound in a song and is placed in a composition area, where it can be moved around to create a song with other monsters. The app is simple enough for a 3-year-old to compose their own song. The playback shows the bar sliding across the screen and the monsters making their corresponding music as the song plays. Experimentation is at the heart of this app, and the app provides a place to save all the musical creations. Monster Music Pro costs $2.99, is available for iPhone and iPad, and is appropriate for children ages 3-8.
Jelly Band is the rock band stage for kids. Jelly Band uses monsters who appear in color and a black-and-white stage as the musical playground for kids. There are two different stage areas in which kids can create their own rock band. The monsters play a wide variety of instruments from drums to electric guitar to flute. The main focus of the app is experimentation and creation of different combinations of sounds into a song. Songs can be replayed or mashed together to create a longer piece of music. The app costs $1.99 and is appropriate for children ages 4-8.
This app focuses on teaching children about the orchestra. After a short introduction, a picture of a full orchestra is shown with several touch spots for children to select an area that they would like to learn more about. After choosing an area or instrument, the app goes to an interactive learning page, which contains a diagram, picture, musical examples, related composers, and a short paragraph that can be read aloud. There are 40 different pieces of music integrated into the app. The app costs $4.99 and is available for iPad only. My First Orchestra App HD is appropriate for children ages 4-8.
Tags: creative, kids, music, musical, parenting
Celebrate Fall with Apps
Pumpkins, Costumes, Hay rides, Jack-o-Lanterns, and Scarecrows; Children love this time of year. Enjoy the season with these educational fall apps!
First Words Halloween
First Words Halloween will support your beginning reader to build Halloween holiday words, sound by sound. For children already blending sounds, First Words becomes an app for practicing spelling. Parents can set up the appropriate environment for their child by adjusting the variety of settings. Thematic words with “spooktacular” pictures for young children and more control for parents makes this app a success. First Words Halloween is $1.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-6.
Little Critter Trick or Treat
Little Critter Trick or Treat is a cute story about preparing for Halloween. The words are highlighted as they are read to your child. Each page has a few interactive elements. The story includes many activities that your family may be doing to prepare for fall such as searching for a costume and choosing a pumpkin. The Little Critter characters make the story lovable and one you can reread throughout the season. The app is $.99 (normally $1.99) and appropriate for children ages 3-6.
Kids Mag Halloween Special Edition
KidsMag takes the traditional children’s magazine and makes it come alive with thematic interactive games, teaching moments, art and music. For Halloween, KidsMag has a special holiday issue that has your child playing spot the difference, putting together puzzles, reading spooky stories and dressing up Teo and Bianca (the main characters) for Halloween. KidsMag integrates vocabulary lessons with meaningful Math, Science and Language activities, created in a learning environment where kids thrive. Fifteen pages of activities refresh with a new game or look at the shake of the iPad. Your child will be absorbed in KidsMag. This app provides an engaging learning environment for children. Kids Mag Halloween is $1.99 and appropriate for children ages 4-7.
Tags: art, blending, fall, halloween, interactive, magazine, music, reader, spelling, young