I am frugal (aka cheap) when it comes to apps – since I know that kids lose their fascination with most games pretty quickly. I also limit daily screen time, so anything they play has to be fun enough that they are willing to choose it over television or other computer games.
So, when I make a list of apps, you better believe they are educational, affordable, require little time to learn AND are kid-approved. Here goes:
1. Eli Explorer
Available for: Apple devices
Perfect for: Kids 2-4 with parental support. Learning vocabulary in English and/or 9 other languages, relating sounds and sights, exercising personal choice, understanding cause and effect.
We love: Sweet and well-choreographed animations, cute bunny with propeller ears, easy to navigate for young children, ad-free and no in-app purchases, tons of vocabulary for children learning one or more languages
We would change: There’s a bit of gross humor when something that may or may not be Eli bunny’s poo gets thrown from the bushes.
2. Super Why! from PBS Kids
Available for iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, Android
Price: $2.99 to $3.99
Perfect for: Kids 2-5 learning letter names, letter sounds, rhyming and the concept that changing words in a sentence changes the meaning of the sentence.
We love: Earning stickers, singing along with AlphaPig, and making nursery rhymes ridiculous with Wyatt.
We would change: The rhyming games can bee too difficult for 2-4 year olds, and the Princess Pea letter tracing sometimes gets “confused” when too many grubby fingers have been on the screen.
3. Wee Alphas
Available for iPad only at this time
Perfect for: Kids 2-6, letter names and sounds, shape recognition, tracing letters/building fine motor skills.
We love: The enchanting animation, animal stories, and hide-and-seek letters in the illustrations.
We would change: Would love to see this on more platforms, since Daddy takes the iPad to work.
4.Don’t Let the Pigeon Run this App by Disney
Available for: Apple devices
Perfect for: Mo Willems fans from 1-100, but mostly those preschool and kindergarten kids who are going to get a huge kick out of changing the stories – and learning to draw that precocious pigeon.
We Love: recording our own voices into the narration, choosing from a host of wacky options to make the story new and different.
We would change: Not a thing. Yes, it’s one of my pricier favorites, but it’s well worth it and gets played over and over and over again!
5. Musical Me by Duck Duck Moose
Available for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
Perfect for: Kids 2-6, learning rhythm, listening skills, matching and memory
We love: the adorable animations and multiple styles of game play that introduce kids to patterns, matching, rhythm and more through familiar songs.
We would change: Seriously, nothing. This is a great, easy to navigate app that can be played for short or long stretches of time without boredom and “sneaks in” tons of skills that apply to literacy. (For more on how music and literacy are linked, check out this post.)
6. Match2Say from Smarty Ears
Available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Perfect for: Kids 5-9, especially those having trouble with phonological awareness, spelling, recognizing and pronouncing letter sounds and blends.
We Love: that this game was developed by speech and language specialists to help kids identify beginning, middle and end sounds in words, that there are multiple levels of game play with increasing difficulty, and that the graphics and rewards keep kids motivated – even when they are challenged by the game.
We would change: it’s a high priced game – primarily because it was originally designed to be used in therapy. But if your kid (like mine) never seems to hear the “r” in the middle of words, or constantly confuses “th” and “f” sounds, this game is a life-saver.
7. FreeFall Spelling from Merge Mobile
Available for: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android
Perfect for: Kids 4-8 learning basic word construction and spelling, or practicing spelling words for school
We love: winning fish and trinkets for our virtual fish tank by spelling words correctly, adding our own spelling lists with our own pictures and voices, lots of levels and hints so anyone can be successful
We would change: We’d add a multi-player option so each user has a separate fish tank (reward page) and a record of their previous performance. We’d also like it to be less time consuming to add our own spelling lists.
8. Opposites from Mindshapes
We love: the fast-paced play, wide range of words, and great faces the kids in the app make as they shout out words
9. Strip Designer by Jens Engeblad
Available for: iPad, iPod, iPhone
Perfect for: Kids 7-15, building storylines, creativity, and more.
We love: incorporating our own pictures, clip art, icons and decorative touches to make comic strip tellings of real or fictional events, easy-to-navigate from day one.
We would change: our eldest would love a better tutorial or even video to talk us through the more complex effects.
10. StoryLines from Root-One, Inc.
Available for: iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone
Perfect for: Families with a variety of ages and abilities who love to play and create together.
We love: how this app encourages us to pass it from person to person, turning lines of text and drawings into a story built bit by bit.
We would change: the optional Facebook connection, because we worry about privacy.
I’ve included apps my family truly enjoys. I’m sure many of you have other favorites, so please, share your experiences and links here, and keep up the great work #RaisingReaders!