Wednesday, April 25, 2012

14 Great Educational Apps for Children

Regular readers of this blog will know that I've reviewed apps for iPad and android devices a number of times. My posts have included reviews of picture book apps (here), story apps of varied kinds (here) and apps that stimulate literacy, learning and creativity (here). In this post I review a number of educational apps that support children's learning in varied ways. I have grouped them into 5 categories for convenience. Some could well fit into more than one of these categories. Because the apps are so varied I have used a simpler rating scale than I typically use. In this post I attribute a single score from 1 (Poor) to 10 (Outstanding) to indicate the extent to which they meet these simple criteria:

  • The app is enjoyable to use
  • Children learn new things because of the app
  • The app makes it easier for children to learn
  • The app interactive elements don't distract from the key learning goals
  • The app is well designed, attractive and engaging
  • The app represents good value for money

1. Word & letter recognition, vocabulary & sounds

Purpose: Apps in this category help children to learn to read words, letters, understand sounds and improve memory.

Giraffe’s Matching Zoo for iPad
Tomato Interactive LLC
Price: Free, the deluxe version costs $0.99
Rating: 6

In this app the traditional game of memory has been adapted for the iPad using animals as the topic of interest. It requires the user to match pairs of cartoon animals. Each animal makes a unique noise when tapped. It has 25 different animals and a selection of backgrounds; it's fun for kids aged 3-6.

Peekaboo Barn
By Night and Day Studios
Price: $1.99
Rating: 6

This is a very cute word and sound app for preschoolers (1-4) who are just starting to learn to read words or for children with special needs. A toddler speaks the words. It teaches them the names of animals, the sounds they make and shows the word. The child taps the doors of the barn that open to reveal an animal. A voice tells you what it is; you hear the animal's sound and the name is displayed. You can also buy Peekaboo Wild and Peekaboo Forest that have a similar format.

By gdiplus
Price: $2.99
Rating: 7

This is primarily an app to help children learn to write letters, but in the process it teaches letters and simple words. The app is quite intuitive and easy to use. It encourages the child to form the script letters using the accepted order of stroke making (this varies from one educational system to another). Each letter sounds is given and the word when it is completed. A child drawing then appears to illustrate the word.  The letters can also be drawn automatically with the surrounding screen acting as a type of simple xylophone. This reinforces the child's attempts.

3. Writing apps

Purpose: These apps encourage the development of writing (as opposed to simply handwriting as for the last app).  

Scary Story Kit
By Comicorp
Price: $1.99
Rating: 7

The 'Scary Story Kit' is an aid to enable you to add special effects to oral storytelling and assist any scary storyteller, giving them some tools to make their scary story truly come to life. It includes visual and audio effects. The tools include a reactive light which responds to sound, and adds to any torchlight storytelling. There is also an image creation, editing and manipulation suite. This has paintbrush, a camera function, filters and effects to create scary images. There is also a soundboard that allows you to develop customised sounds. While it is designed to support oral storyelling this can be extended by requiring the creation of a written story to be presented to an audience. Suitable for children aged 6-15 years.

BY Root-One Inc
Price: FREE
Rating: 7

StoryLines is an award-winning game of 'telephone' with pictures. You can begin a StoryLine in lots of ways. For example, you can start with a common saying that is then added to. Or it could start with an opening line "One dark, dreary night in Detroit..." (no offence intended to friends in Detroit!). You can then pass the device around your friends, use Facebook, send it by email or open it in a browser to share with others. There is an option for a friend to illustrate it, give it a title and so on until completed.  You can save your favourite completed StoryLines in your Gallery, and share them on Facebook.

3. Animation & Art Apps

Purpose: Apps in this category introduce children to some basic fundamentals of animation. In some ways they could be classified as art apps as well. I have written a post on animation apps previously (here) that has some more sophisticated apps.

PlayTime Theater
By Make Believe Worlds, LLC
Price: $2.99
Rating: 9

This has to be one of the best animation apps around for children aged 3-6 years. It is so easy to use and enables children to feel successful almost immediately as animators. The app allows kids to create, record and playback their original puppet shows. It offers a castle as the puppet theatre setting and everything you need to put on and record your own shows. The stage has moving parts, its own set of customizable cast, costumes, action props, sound effects and a library of original cinematic music. Every child I've introduced this app to can use it within minutes and love it.

Elmo's Monster Maker HD
By Sesame Street
Price: $4.49
Rating: 8

This is a fun app that children aged 2-6 years will find easy to use and will love. This delightful animation features the Sesame Street character Elmo who wants you to make a monster friend! You get to choose a monster body and then touch its face to give it eyes, nose and a hat. There are lots of options. When you finish, Elmo dances and plays with your monster. The app encourages artistic interest, creativity and in its own way might raise interest in other more sophisticated animation or art apps. 

Kid Art for iPad
By GP Apps
Price: $0.99
Rating: 8

There are lots of art apps for kids on the App Store, but 'Kid Art' stands out from the crowd. With its engaging backgrounds, bright colours and ability three different themes, it offers plenty of opportunities for your child to explore their artistic side. It enables them to create great images by dropping in images, painting etc.

Play School Art Maker ABC
By Australian Broadcasting Commission
Price: Free
Rating: 10

The Play School Art Maker app is a fun way for kids to freely create pictures, animated movies and story slideshows using their favourite 'Play School' toys and craft items. They can add their own audio narration, upload their own photos as backgrounds, and save photos of their art.
 Children can select Big Ted, Little Ted, Humpty, Jemima and their friends and choose from 6 backgrounds to create an animation with up to 8 slides. It is perfect for children aged 2-6 years and will encourage creativity and artistic ability.

By Invocore
Price: $1.99
Rating: 7

This is an app that makes it easy for children aged 2-6 years to create images using an animated sticker book. Children can interact with a variety of characters while learning about fish, airplanes and many animals. Each sticker character can be scaled, rotated and dragged onto each imaginary scene. It includes scenes and stickers covering varied themes like the ocean, aviation, space, dolls, and safari scenes. Kids as young as two will love this app.

4. Games

Purpose: Apps in this category use a game format to develop varied skills including memory, perspective, fine and gross motor skills, maths and language.

Pirate Puzzles
By Ayars Animation
Price: $0.99
Rating: 9

This has to be one of my favourite non-story apps. Kids get to enjoy completing nine pirate puzzles. But there's more. When completed, the puzzle is followed by an animated interactive surprise. Complete all puzzles and enjoy a fully animated, fully interactive mystery pirate song. The catch is that you must complete the puzzles to see the fantastic animations. This motivates the users to complete each puzzle.

How to Train Your Dragon
By Glu Games Inc.
Price:  $ 0.99
Rating: 9

This app is based on the movie of the same name. The user can take to the sky as Toothless, the sleek, stealthy, fire-breathing dragon, with his new friend, Hiccup, the Viking teenager. The child manipulates the iPad to fly Toothless through an expanded world from the Viking home Island of Berk to the sea and the beautiful but forbidding lands beyond. The game has unlockable extras such as film stills and cheat codes. Children aged 4-8 will love this app. It is beautifully animated and is easy to use. A feast of imaginative exploration of the world of Toothless.

5. Knowledge Apps

Purpose: Apps in this category focus on specialised knowledge in some field of study.

Star Walk for iPad
Vito Technology Inc.
Price: $5.49

This is a stunning app for anyone interested in astronomy. You can encourage your children to discover the wonders of the stars with the high definition version of Star Walk. By using the camera in the iPad 2 or iPad3, you can point the tablet at the sky to view the constellations, discovering their names and history. It identifies satellites, lets you search for specific planets or stars and offers amazing images from deep space, to satisfy the astronomer in every child. The app also offers new photos each day and other features. But without a doubt the main attraction is the Augmented Reality mode, which lets you find constellations by pointing your iPad at the sky. Great for children aged 5-adults.

Frog Dissection
By Emantras Inc.
Price: $4.49
Rating: 10

This is an amazing app. As the name suggest it leads you through a virtual dissection of a frog. It is a 'greener alternative' for teaching dissection in the classroom and many children will find it a much easier experience to handle (no blood!). It offers an amazing introduction to anatomy and is suitable for children aged 8-16 years. It is ideal for children already learning about organs and organ systems as part of their life science curriculum. As well, younger gifted children interested in animals will find it fascinating. It allows children to dissect the specimen with clear step-by-step visual instructions and audio commentary. It allows 360 degree rotatable close ups of organs, additional information on every part of the body and the frogs’ life cycle. It also offers an anatomical comparison of frogs with humans, an interactive quiz and detailed descriptions of the organs. Brilliant!


Michelle said...

You should check out

They have so many great apps for children!

Mithun said...

Do check out splash math apps. They are fun interactive and aligned to common core standards. One of the best feature is that it sends weekly email reports to track the progress of my daughter.

Carol said...

Have you looked at Reading Raven, which teaches reading to young kids, step-by-step?

Trevor Cairney said...

Thanks for the extra suggestions.