Monday, May 27, 2013

Our Favorite Educational Apps

I talk a lot about apps that we use on our iPad.  We use our iPad a lot around here for all sorts of purposes, although it was bought to be an educational tool.  There are so many really cool apps out there and I have downloaded and tried tons of them, both free and paid.  Lydia is autistic, and the iPad has been wonderful and has helped her quickly learn concepts or vocabulary that she might not have learned as well without it.

Since she is still only 4 (almost 5!), these are mostly at a preschool or young elementary level.  There are several things I look for in an app.  The first being that it isn't cluttered.  By cluttered, I mean that there is too much on the first page, or all sorts of ads and banners that can accidentally be clicked by young children.  I love an app that is intuitive in its navigation.  I also don't want an app to be loud and flashy.  Finally, my daughter doesn't really respond that well to stories, especially verbal ones, so most of our app choices have very little talking in them (although not all).

I will probably add to this app list as time goes on and my other children get older and we discover new things out there, but for now, here are our winners.  Oh, and I'm not getting paid for any of this, these are my honest opinions about these apps.

This is probably Lydia's most favorite app right now.  It is a very simple handwriting app that is so simple it is almost deceiving.  Before this app, we tried several handwriting and tracing apps, but all of them were flops.  This one has the child do the letter three times in different ways that focuses on strokes without being frustrating.  And it lets you pick which handwriting font you want it to teach!  It is programed with Handwriting Without Tears, D'Nealian, and Zaner-Bloser fonts.  Lydia's handwriting has drastically improved in the month or so that we've been using this app.

Tally Tots
I simple game that teaches the numbers 1-20.  Each number has a mini-game to play that reinforces its number value.  It is uncluttered and the games are fun and cute.

Alpha Tots
This app is by the same people as the Tally Tots app.  It is the same premise, except it teaches all the letters and their sounds.

Logic of English Phonograms App
When I decided to teach spelling with a phonograms-based method, I was a little worried because I never learned them myself.  I bought this app, hoping that it would help reinforce sounds to my daughters so that I wouldn't have to spend tons of time drilling them.  And it works.  It isn't flashy or incredibly fun, but both Lydia and Eleanor have learned a lot and enjoy playing it for short periods of time.

Pepi Tree
This app was a surprise winner.  It was free when I got it, and has some repetitive music in it that I have deliberately chosen to believe is cute rather than go out of my mind, but the girls love it and it has sparked several life science conversations with them.  They learned where butterflies come from, what owls eat, and how spiders catch their food.  The other morning, on the way to therapy, Lydia was listing off all the food that owls eat to me.  So it is a winner in my book.

Dr. Panda's Veggie Garden
This game is like Harvest Moon for little kids.  It walks them through how to grow and take care of lots of different kinds of plants.  I find it a bit redundant, but they play it over and over again.  It is cute and uncluttered and the child doesn't need to know how to read or even understand language to play it.

Barefoot World Atlas
I probably love this app more than my girls, but I can't help it.  It is so beautiful.  It is also the largest app I own as far as memory it takes up.  It is an illustrated globe you can explore that has factual tidbits you can click on and read or have read to you.  It is an awesome app and I hope my girls will enjoy it more as they get older.  As it is, Lydia still plays with it fairly regularly, although she mostly looks for the train, airplane, and car related facts.

Map Puzzles for Kids
OK, I'm a little reluctant to post this one.  It is obviously fairly low budget and tends to freeze a little, but it is the best app I've found that is simply a puzzle of countries and continents of the world.  My daughters love puzzle apps, so I got this one in hopes that they could put that to good use.  It says the name of the country when you place it, and really, how much more complicated does it need to be?  Lydia has learned where tons of countries are located by playing this app alone, so it is definitely a keeper for us.

Make a Scene
These probably won't be considered educational by most of you, but they are for us, so I'm posting it.  There are several apps that Make A Scene creates that are themed: farm, arctic, jungle, etc.  We have all of them and buy new ones as soon as they come out.  Lydia has spent so much time with them, and while they are not obviously educational, they have been very good for her.  She has learned so much vocabulary and she has used her imagination in many of her scenes.  It is a simple sticker book app that is very well thought out and well done for small children.  While not an original concept, the execution is the best I've seen for our purposes.  Oh, and the voice that names each "sticker" is British, so Lydia has developed a little bit of a British accent with several words she learned on it.  Particularly with the dinosaurs, which is adorable.

We have lots of other apps that we enjoy, but these are our highlights and the ones I consider most educational.

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