Universal (iPhone / iPod / iPad)

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Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Story Chaser offers a fun way to sharpen and improve reading skills for teens and adults. Players will build their speed reading while having fun competing with themselves and with opponents and friends.
4.7

App Info

Price: Free
AppStore User Rating: 5

Download on the App Store

Overview

Story Chaser is designed to build reading speed and accuracy for older students. Short passages of several sentences are presented with an illustration, and players must scan the text to tap the given target word within the short time limit.  Players earn coins and unlock additional levels to progress through the game.

Features include:

  • Short texts from famous works
  • Includes literal level comprehension questions
  • Points and coins to earn
  • Play well to unlock additional stories and levels
  • Hidden animations

Quality

Story Chaser is a high quality app.  It is responsive to taps that need to be accurate and in quick succession.  Developers included a helpful tutorial that will get students reading and tapping quickly, since the point of the game may not be intuitive.  There are options to turn sound effects and music on or off, to share scores and to compete with friends. It would be great if developers could incorporate a reset button somewhere in the settings, to allow new users to start the game again, and perhaps a record-keeping system that could accommodate multiple players on the same device.

Education

This app will be challenging even to the best of readers at the high school level.  It essentially is a speed reading app, designed to teach students how to take in phrases, sentences and even groups of sentences with a few quick visual sweeps while still absorbing the content of the text.  The text for the first sections is taken from The Count of Monte Christo, which is a sixth grade reading level but challenging due to the old-fashioned vocabulary and phrasing.  There are 30 levels available with the free version of this app, which will keep many students occupied for quite a while.

Players are required to keep an eye on a target word placed at the top of the screen and also to simultaneously scan several sentences at the bottom of the screen to find it and tap on it within a few seconds. The faster the tap, the more points are scored.  Every few screens, there is a comprehension question about the text that has been read, and some screens include hidden animations to find in their illustrations, as well.  Levels not passed are repeated, and passing levels opens new levels for play.

Story Chaser will challenge even good readers to become better, and will help average readers improve their speed.  It may be frustrating for struggling readers, however, so be sure to monitor its usage to make sure students are enjoying the experience.

Entertainment

Developers have worked hard to make this app enjoyable and engaging.  The story excerpts they’ve chosen to include are less common fare in many school curriculums, but appealing to the age group.  Players can earn coins that help open new levels and unlock new “skills.”  The app is also connected to the Game Center, where students can compare their standings and high scores with those of their friends and peers and even issue challenges to others.

Value

This is a free app, and one of the only ones I’ve seen that is designed to help good readers become better.  Reading quickly and efficiently is a hugely important skill for success in college and in the workplace, so nearly all students can benefit from improving their reading at an age where the educational focus shifts away from reading instruction in school.  This app really will help teens and adults build reading power that will make a huge difference in their lives.

Child Friendliness

Story Chaser does include in-app purchases that are unprotected.  The developers recommend turning off the option to support in-app purchases in your device’s settings, but it would be more “child friendly” if adult mentors could turn this option on or off for this app in a settings area. There is also unrestricted access to the Game Center, which should be controllable by adult mentors, as well.

  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • YES in-app purchases (unprotected)
  • YES rate app option on settings screen (does not access App Store)
  • YES access to the Game Center and leader board

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Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
5 Dice: Order of Operations is a great game to practice a challenging skill, especially for middle and high school students working individually or in pairs or groups.
4.7

App Info

Price: Free
AppStore User Rating: 3.5

Download on the App Store

Overview

5 Dice: Order of Operations Game offers an endless stream of individual or multi-player practice with order of operations problems at any of five levels of complexity.  Students are given five numbers and an endless array of operation and parentheses signs, allowing them to apply order of operations concepts to create equations that match the given target number.

Features include:

  • Single or multi-player over wifi (up to five devices)
  • Higher order thinking
  • Infinite problems
  • Five levels of difficulty
  • Competitive or cooperative play

Quality

5 Dice: Order of Operations is of outstanding quality.  Developers included a virtual scratch pad in the form of a white board for calculations, a help screen that explains how to play, and a step-by-step overview of how to solve each problem.  Even if a student wishes to skip a particular problem, the app demonstrates the solution before moving on.  It would be nice, though, if the app had a “home” button on every screen, including the work screens where problems are solved.

Education

This app makes an outstanding addition to math practice apps for home or classroom use.  Order of operations can be a tricky concept for some students, and nearly all students need a lot of practice to master the skill.  This game provides motivating practice in competitive or noncompetitive forms.  It was nice to find five levels of difficulty; this makes the game very useful for a wider range of age groups.  Younger users can work their way through problems using only addition and subtraction, can add multiplication and division when they are ready, and finally can learn about using parentheses to manipulate the equation and even add exponents.  Students as young as fourth grade could use the lower level of this app, and middle school and high school math students will benefit from the more challenge practice options.

The app rolls five digital dice and chooses a target number. Players use the five numerals and an endless collection of operation signs (and parentheses and exponents at the upper levels) to create an equation whose answer matches the target number.  This approach not only will help students practice and gain understanding of order of operations, but also will build higher-order thinking skills and problem-solving skills.  This makes it much more effective than traditional practice with a list of problems.

Once a player believes they have the correct equation, he or she can submit it and see it solved correctly in step-by-step fashion using order of operations.  Incorrect submissions are also solved in the same way, so students can see where their idea went wrong.  They are given the option of trying again or creating a new challenge.  The correct answer is shown before leaving the screen even if a new problem is selected, so students either solve the problem eventually or see the right answer.

Entertainment

This game’s appeal will lie in the game-like aspect.  It keeps rudimentary records for each player, so students can monitor their own progress, or players can challenge classmates, parents or teachers on other devices who are nearby over wi-fi. The game also includes the option of playing with Facebook contacts or through a system called “Game Stream.”  Older students (13 and up) who have accounts on these systems may find the game more engaging if they know they can challenge and compete with others.

It’s also very nice that players can work cooperatively on problems if they wish.  By giving one problem to two or more players, they have countless opportunities to help each other out as they work together to solve the problem.

Value

This is a free app, so it’s a fantastic value.  It offers fun, effective practice on a challenging math skill at several levels of difficulty.  The game-like format will make it fun for most students, so they are likely to play enough to improve their understanding of order of operations, too!

Child Friendliness

5 Dice: Order of Operations is not as child-friendly as it might be.  The opening screen contains an email sign-up to receive a downloadable version of the game. Players also have unlimited access to social media opponents and to Game Stream play through the multi-player section.  The “More Apps” link has directions to “press and hold” in small print, so middle school-aged players would have no trouble accessing the App Store if they chose to do so.  Due to these aspects, it is recommended that this app be used for students in grade 8 or above.  If you do not want your player to access these links, you may need to turn off your device’s wi-fi, which will also disable the multiplayer system.

  • NO in-app purchase
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • YES “more apps” (protected, but visible)
  • YES access to social media opponents and Game Stream
  • YES email sign up on opening screen

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Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child-Friendly
Summary
Mad Libs, the word game that makes learning parts of speech worthwhile, is great fun for players of all ages and stages. There’s something timeless about nonsense, and this app hides significant learning beneath a layer of fun.
4.7

App Info

Price: Free
AppStore User Rating: 4.5

Download on the App Store

Overview

The printed version of Mad Libs has taken the prize for silliness for decades, and now the fun has gone digital.  This app is an electronic version of this family favorite word game.  Fill in the blanks with the requested type of word, then get ready to roar at the crazy story that results when your words are inserted into the story you’ve never heard before.

Features include:

  • 21 free stories to choose from
  • Interactive hints and word banks
  • Stickers, badges, and other awards for playing
  • Optional connection to the Game Center
  • Solo, partner or group play

Quality

Mad Libs is a very high-quality app.  Designers did a great job of creating easy-to-use functions that simplify game play and support language arts skills and vocabulary development. Features are intuitive to use and find.  Players can use the swipe gesture to move to the next screen or tap the button on the virtual keyboard, giving options for how to use the system.

Education

Mad Libs has long been a favorite of many teachers because kids are always so excited to play.  What student doesn’t love a healthy dose of nonsense?  It’s a great way to dress up the otherwise dull and boring task of learning parts of speech and improving vocabulary.

The digital version of the game works exactly the same way as the printed version.  Players are asked to fill in blanks with words of given parts of speech that eventually will be inserted into a story.  The catch is that players do not know much about the story when they think up their words, so nearly any word they provide will lend itself to the game’s quirky humor.  And students get loads of practice providing adjectives, singular or plural nouns, verbs, adverbs, and more.  The app throws in a few benefits that the paper game does not, however.  Each requested word includes the option for a definition of the part of speech and a list of suggestions to consider if your own creativity is running dry.  This not only will help kids internalize their knowledge of English grammar, but it also makes it easier for younger students to play the game independently without constantly having to ask, “Now, what’s an adverb again?”

Entertainment

Somehow the craziness of Mad Libs never seems to go out of style.  The game has been around at least as long as I have (we won’t say exactly how old I am, but I remember playing in the 1960s).  Anything with that kind of staying power has to have lasting appeal.  I also like that this version is set up for solo, partner or group play, just like the printed versions of the game.  The suggestions are a very nice feature, as well, and will help most kids move beyond the very simple words that some are prone to using.

Value

It’s hard to beat free and fun!  Mad Libs is free to download and comes with 21 built-in stories that can be used again and again.  Players will have hours of fun, and the app is perfect to occupy kids during waiting times or car rides. There are in-app purchases available to get more collections, and developers also indicate that they are adding additional free content.

Child Friendliness

For the most part, this app is trying very hard to be child-friendly.  When users start up for the first time, they are asked to enter their birthdates, which the app uses to decide if kids are old enough to access the Game Center and the App Store on their own (13 is the magic number).  The app remembers the last age entered, so be careful if there are players of different maturity levels. If the player has entered an age below 13 years, Game Center just keeps track of private statistics and the App Store and sharing features are protected by a relatively simple multiplication problem (such as 4 x 10).  This app could use a more effective parent gate, and should protect the age entry screen so that parents do the entering to prevent mischievous kids from fibbing about their ages.

One big concern is that the “more apps” section that is located at the bottom of the story list screen is not protected at all.  Tapping one of the other apps available for purchase will trigger the parent gate, but even if that question is not answered correctly, the app still attempts to open the App Store.  The link, however, leads to a “page not found” error but the child can easily find themselves outside of the app and in an open browser.

  • NO 3rd party ads
  • YES in-app purchases (protected, but visible)
  • YES “more apps” (partially protected, but visible)
  • YES external links (partially protected, but visible)

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Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
TeleStory will keep kids of nearly any age entertained for hours on end as they take on the challenges of writing, directing and filming shows that will fire up their imaginations.
4.8

App Info

Price: Free
AppStore User Rating: 4.5

Download on the App Store

Overview

TeleStory taps users’ creativity as they create and produce television shows. With fun sound effects, theme music, and on-screen costumes, the possibilities for fun are limitless. Once the show is made, it can be viewed or saved on the device’s camera roll for later sharing and viewing.

Features include:

  • Four themes for shows
  • Over 30 scenes to mix and match
  • Write-your-own scenes
  • Digital costumes using face tracking
  • Animated special effects

Quality

TeleStory is a high-quality app that will really tap into users’ creative juices. The app is intuitive to use and has a wide array of elements to choose when creating new shows.  The face tracking feature places costumes on the user, so it takes a bit of getting used to because the digital hats, features and other props follow the central figure around the screen and sometimes lag behind just a bit as the tablet responds to movement.  Developers did a great job of creating the scenes, music and effects for the four themes provided, and also remembered to leave room for lots of creativity and even “blank” scenes and shots.

Education

It’s tough to pack much more creativity into an app than this one has.  Kids are usually fascinated with video, but this app encourages them to plan their shows carefully and gives opportunity to write the script, choose the sound effects and special effects, and even rehearse before recording.

There are four themes to choose from: TV news show, spy thriller, rock star, and action/adventure.  Once the theme is chosen, users can put together scenes by creating scripts, choosing sound effects and onscreen animations, and dressing themselves in digital costumes.  The costumes utilize the camera’s face tracking feature to show the digital decorations that move with the person’s face.  Young directors can string multiple scenes together to create entire shows, then watch them like movies or send them to the device’s camera roll to share in other ways.

Educationally speaking, this app makes a great reason to apply school skills to fun, every day activities.  The planning, reading, writing and thinking required to create movies of any length will really help kids maintain their focus on a larger project.

Entertainment

Recording yourself has an appeal all its own-what parent hasn’t seen their children grab the video or sound recorder and put on a skit or mock up an interview.  TeleStory adds fun to these intrinsically entertaining activities by adding great theme music, interesting animations and sound effects (who doesn’t love a good “POW” when hitting the bad guy in a spy show?), and great digital hats and costumes.  Kids will enjoy TeleStory for hours and they will play with it again and again.

Value

TeleStory is a great value-it’s FREE!  You’ll have to look a long way to find a more exciting way to occupy kids and get their brains moving.  Your kids are quite likely to leave the real TV or computer in favor of creating their very own shows, and it can be a true family event to view the finished products once they are done.  The shows can even be family projects: collaborations not only bring people closer; they also offer opportunities for modeling important attitudes and skills that you want the children in your life to emulate.

Child Friendliness

This app falls down just a little bit in the Child-Friendly category.  The parents’ area is not protected, and it does contain one live email link that will take kids into your email client.  It was surprising to find it live; there are numerous email and internet links, and developers seem to have taken great pains to make the others non-clickable.  It seems like this one live one sort of slipped through by accident, but it is there, and parents do need to be aware of it.

  • NO social media
  • NO in-app purchase
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • YES unprotected parent area containing a live email link
  • YES “rate app” pop-up (unprotected)

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Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Intro to Math, by Montessorium offers an important comprehensive look at foundational number concepts, including comparison, sequencing, units and wholes, even and odd, and symbols. It makes a great introduction to beginning math skills for young children.
4.6

App Info

Price: $4.99
AppStore User Rating: 4.5

Download on the App Store

Overview

Intro to Math, by Montessorium takes advantage of the iPad’s capabilities to digitalize a hands-on experience with numbers for early learners.  Young students can see numerals, hear their names, and trace them. They can compare sizes and count objects in this multi-sensory number playground.

Features include:

  • Concrete experiences in number recognition and tracing
  • Concrete experiences in quantity and sequencing
  • Concrete experiences in understanding even and odd
  • Active participation in each of six levels
  • Available in thirteen different languages

Quality

Intro to Math, by Montessorium is a high quality app that will help young children build foundational understandings about our number system.  Children can tap, drag and swipe their way through interactive experiences reinforced by a narrator and supportive sound effects.  The app is intuitive to use and very responsive.  Developers also included a parents’ section that explains some of the philosophy and meaning behind the Montessori-like experiences they provide.

Education

This app is a great example of how to translate some of the experiential nature of Montessori learning to the iPad.  If students play the six games in order, they will build a really solid foundation for understanding numbers, quantity and relative size, as well as sequencing, number recognition and even how to write the numerals.  The first level uses number rods to encourage children to arrange them in order of length.  The second game adds the unit distinctions and begins the process of teaching children how to count.  The third level introduces the numerals and gives children the opportunity to trace them, and the fourth level works with the rote counting sequence. The fifth activity set in the sequence reinforces rote counting and adds concepts of quantity, and then even introduces the concept of odd/even.  The final exercise allows users to choose and trace numbers, then remove the guiding path to see the results of their efforts.  The parents’ section includes a digitalized space to record observations about the child’s progress, as well as a short explanation of the general philosophy of the program and why it is effective.

Like other Montessori materials, this app provides as much of a hands-on experience with numbers as is possible with a digital tool.  Children are encouraged to touch, to shake, to drag, and to play with the items on the screen.  The narration offers clear suggestions about what to try next, and gentle reinforcement of success.  Incorrect responses simply do not work, so every child will feel successful.

Entertainment

While this app is not really intended to be entertaining, children are likely to really enjoy using it.  It would be a good idea for beginners to go through the exercises in order, but once students are familiar with the concepts, review of any will help them deepen their understanding of the ideas. The developers did a good job of incorporating the various capabilities of the device, making the exercises varied and fun to use.

Value

Intro to Math, by Montessorium is a good value for young children who are just beginning to understand that math is a whole lot more than memorizing numbers.  It’s designed to show number patterns and so much more!  The app really covers the bases and is a good tool to get children thinking about numbers, quantities, sequencing and many other vital early math skills.

Child Friendliness

In spite of having a very young target audience, this app has some disappointing flaws that may worry parents.  The Parents’ Section is not protected at all, and contains links to social media, email, ratings, and other links.  Developers seem to be relying on the fact that the section is “hidden” in the horizontal lines that usually symbolize menus on many modern apps.  The links to the App Store in this section that lead to purchases are protected by a parent gate that requires following written directions for swiping, but other links are not protected at all.  Inquisitive youngsters can easily stumble into email, social media or the internet, so parents should turn off internet access in the Settings section of their device before allowing little hands to play with this otherwise outstanding app.

  • NO 3rd party ads
  • NO in-app purchases
  • YES “more apps” (protected, but visible)
  • YES “rate app” link in parents section (unprotected)
  • YES links to social media in parents section (unprotected)
  • YES links to email in parents section (unprotected)

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Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
JumpStart Preschool Magic of Learning is a great, all-purpose app that will entertain kids for many sessions and help them develop some of the skills they’ll need later for success at reading, math, and critical thinking.
4.7

App Info

Price: $1.99
AppStore User Rating: 3

Download on the App Store

Overview

JumpStart Preschool Magic of Learning offers 15 different early learning activities designed to help young children gain better understanding of letters, numbers, shapes, sequencing and other readiness skills.  The games are colorful, animated and fun, with themes that will appeal to preschoolers.

Features include:

  • Fifteen learning games
  • Over ten math, reading, and critical thinking skills
  • Intuitive interface
  • Familiar themes like farm, stars and monkeys
  • Matching, sorting, sequencing and more

Quality

This app is very high quality. Young users will have no trouble at all understanding and using the various interfaces on the games.  The narrated instructions are clear and child-friendly, and all aspects of the app work as promised.  The animations and sound effects are smooth and clearly connected to the theme of the game.

Education

JumpStart Preschool Magic of Learning offers a comprehensive preschool readiness package, with fifteen different learning games to help children practice a host of readiness skills they will need for school success.  In addition to the standard letter and number recognition, beginning sounds, and matching, the app will have kids listening to stories then sequencing, putting numbers into the correct order, sorting shapes and colors, and much more.

The games are short and sweet, perfect for the target age group. They also seem to appear randomly, so kids will never know exactly what’s coming next when they are in the “play” mode.  For those that need a bit of extra practice on specific skills, there is a mechanism to intentionally choose games, which is very nice.  Even the games that are familiar to most kids, such as Memory, are given a new twist.  In this app, players flip rubber duckies instead of cards to make matches, then correct pairs are rewarded visually as they reveal extra pieces of a picture.

Entertainment

This app will be highly entertaining for most preschoolers.  The themes will be familiar, but the action will intrigue kids for many rounds of play.  For example, the barnyard is a familiar scene that most kids already love. In one game, the cows pop in and out carrying letters to tap, similar to the old game of “Whack-a-Mole.”  The pace is appropriate for young minds processing new concepts and young, not-yet-fully-coordinated hands.  All in all, it’s very well done.

Value

JumpStart Preschool Magic of Learning is a great value.  For less than $2, you can provide your preschooler(s) with a very comprehensive and engaging set of activities that they will enjoy and that will help them learn in the process.  The activities are fast-paced and entertaining, so kids will want to play.  All in all, it’s a good investment!

Child Friendliness

This app is mostly child friendly, but there is one large concern.  The home screen contains unprotected access to the App Store where additional products from this developer can be purchased.  There are also occasional pop-ups that encourage users to purchase other apps in the series that are not protected.  Developers need to put an effective parent gate on this link to protect young children from accidentally accessing this content.  In the meantime, parents can turn off internet access in the settings of their device when kids want to play.

  • NO social media
  • NO in-app purchase
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • NO external links
  • YES “more apps” (unprotected and visible on home screen and in pop-ups)

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Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Alphatots is a fun ABC app with 26 interactive games. It is unusual among ABC apps and alphabet books because it uses verbs instead of nouns for the letter sound key words.
4.9

App Info

Price: $2.99
AppStore User Rating: 4.5

Download on the App Store

Overview

Alphatots is an unusual alphabet app that uses verbs instead of nouns for key words. This means that each letter has an associated action that kids can do instead of just look at.  There is an opportunity to play and interact with each letter!

Features include:

  • Capital or lower case letters
  • Sing-a-long ABC song
  • 26 interactive mini-games
  • Focus on verbs for key words
  • Choose letters to practice

Quality

Alphatots is a high quality app with some very creative ideas about letter practice for young children.  The interactive games are intuitive and easy to use, and the directions are clear.  Each letter’s interaction focuses on an action instead of on a noun, so young learners will be able to act out the verbs in the real world as well as complete the app’s interactions.

Education

The focus on verbs instead of nouns for key words to represent each letter of the alphabet is a wonderful change of pace considering that most alphabet books and apps use nouns for their keywords.  The use of verbs will help children understand that other kinds of words can begin with the target letters, and will also engage them in every day activities that they can perform even when they are not playing with the app.  In other words, kids will start to see that those letters are not confined to traditional ABC book favorites, since R not only can stand for “rabbit,” but also for “recycle.”

Developers of this app were thoughtful enough to include both vowel sounds (the long and the short) for vowels.  The directions for the games also focus on the target sounds, either by demonstrating them again or even by using alliteration to force focus on them.  For example, the letter A game instructions say, “Can you add candles to the cake?”  The words containing the short and long A sounds are stressed just a bit, so the young users will hear the target sounds right before they play.

The mini-games in Alphatots are great learning experiences in and of themselves, as well.  Kids will be sorting, matching and practicing other important readiness skills as they play, which makes this app do double duty in the learning department.

Entertainment

Most ABC picture apps have fun illustrations, but it’s tough to DO something with that apple that stands for the letter A.  Alphatots is full of things to do.  Each letter leads to a different interactive game that young children will enjoy.  It’s very good that these games are not simply dressed up versions of the same activity where the illustrations are focused on each letter while the interaction remains the same.  Some have kids placing items where they belong, some have them sequencing, and there are even a few that challenge the users to react quickly by touching pictures that appear and disappear.

Value

Alphatots is a good value for families or classrooms with young children who are ready to practice beginning alphabet skills.  It’s priced at $2.99 in the App Store.  The interactive nature of the game will make it a favorite for little fingers since the app offers so much more than a passive viewing experience.  Repetition is one key to learning these concepts, and this app will definitely see repeat uses.  It’s not as fancy as some apps, with bells and whistles, but it is a good solid way for kids to practice their ABC skills.

Child Friendliness

Alphatots is very child-friendly.  The additional apps available for purchase are protected by an effective parent gate, and there are no other connections to the internet.

  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO in-app purchase
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • YES “more apps” (protected, but visible)

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Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Bob Books Reading Magic Sight Words is an engaging and fun look at thirty common words that will help kids learn to read and spell while they enjoy the familiar characters and scenes from a favorite series.
4.9

App Info

Price: $3.99
AppStore User Rating: 5

Download on the App Store

Overview

Bob Books Reading Magic Sight Words presents ten stories about characters from the Bob Books series that will be familiar to many young readers. Learners arrange letters to spell common sight words, tracing and spelling the words, and even placing them into the sentences to complete the story.

Features include:

  • Four games
  • Ten stories
  • Thirty sight words
  • Colorful, animated rewards for success
  • Pleasant, uplifting stories

Quality

This app is very high-quality. The illustrations match the printed series, so children will find many familiar faces if they’ve already been using other Bob apps or books.  Developers included several types of interactions, including drag and drop, tracing, and a letter spinner.  Every aspect is very responsive, and the usage is intuitive which is perfect for the young audience. And developers have included a “reset” button in the parents’ section, so users can start the activities over again if they wish.

Education

Bob Books Reading Magic Sight Words helps young readers learn 30 very common words that every young reader needs to master early in the process. Sight words are notoriously difficult for some children to master because they often do not follow phonic rules.  There is no way to “sound out” many sight words.  For example, words like “come” and “said” simply do not follow the usual rules.  This app tackles 30 of these most common words and since each word is presented in many ways, it will help your child by engaging many modes of learning (seeing, hearing, tracing, and more) and through repetition.

The app presents the focus words in short stories with a single sentence on each page. The target word jiggles until the student taps it, then it breaks apart into its component letters scattered around the page. Children drag the letters back to the blanks to respell the word, then the page will change from a black and white line drawing to a colorful animated scene from the story.  In later levels, kids can trace the words, spin letters to spell the words, and finally put the words into the correct place in the sentences to finish the story.

With so many types of activities, this app will really help most children learn these thirty words backwards and forwards, so they stay learned.  And as with all of the Bob Books products that I have used, developers did an outstanding job of presenting the words and offering practice in easy, comfortable steps that will be very effective for most learners.

Entertainment

While this app is not really intended to be entertaining in its own right, developers did a great job of motivating young users to keep going.  Each page of the story begins as a black and white line drawing. After the activity is completed, the page becomes brightly colored and animated to match the sentence on the page.  Other levels include several different types of interactions, which will help hold young learners’ attention.

Value

Bob Books Reading Magic Sight Words is a good value for families or classrooms with multiple children who are learning these basic sight words.  The app costs $3.99 in the App Store, but with its ten stories and four levels, it thoroughly teaches the thirty sight words targeted.  The activities are fun and engaging, and best of all, they are effective.

Child Friendliness

This app is very child-friendly.  The parent gate requires fairly high level reading, so the young children in the target audience are not likely to be able to bypass it.

  • Protected parent area (can contain external links & social media)
  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO in-app purchase
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • YES “more apps” (protected, but visible)

nok
Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Syllable counting and word building app challenges kids as they build early reading skills.
4.4

App Info

Price: $2.99
AppStore User Rating:
Download on the App Store

Overview

How many syllables are in the word honey? You could clap it out or you could head to the factory in Learn to Read Nok – Syllables. This beginning reading app helps kids practice counting out the number of syllables in a word, connecting words with phonemes, and building words. In order to fully benefit from the app, kids must have a basic understanding of what a syllable is and how to determine the number of syllables in a word. Those who do will find that the app is a great option for helping them to build their early reading skills.

Features include:

  • Four syllable games
  • Factory-like setting
  • Visual and written representation
  • Early reading skills

Quality

After hitting play, the doors on the main screen open and kids enter a word factory. There they can choose from four different word-building games to help build their early reading skills. Each time kids open one of the games, they’re given a basic set of instructions. A star shape and progress meter helps them keep track of how much they’ve completed. To play each game, kids simply drag and drop items into tubes or select the correct choice. A robotic voice tells kids exactly what to do at each step of the way and repeats itself until kids act.

Education

The app contains four different games designed to help kids build early reading skills. The first game has kids select how many syllables are in a given word. This requires kids to have a basic of knowledge of syllables before they play. In the second game, kids must select the object with the given number of syllables. The remaining games have kids put together words based on their different syllables. In all of the games, visual representations of the word are included to help kids connect the visual object with the written word. While the syllable counting games will not pose much of a challenge for kids, the word building games offer a mix of words designed to make kids think. However, some of these words may be too challenging for the younger set.

Entertainment

Kids will find that the game is more about education than entertainment, but they will still enjoy working through the different challenges. The words are varied enough to keep kids interest. In one game they may be asked the number of syllables in the word salt, while another challenge may have them putting together the word saxophone.

Value

There are not many strictly syllables-based apps available for kids. This app offers a good mix of words to keep kids challenged, but some of the words may be too challenging for the main group of kids who need to build this skill. For kids who just need extra syllables practice, this is a good choice. For those who are at the beginning stages of syllable counting and word building, it may be too challenging to be a good value.

Child Friendliness

The app contains a small credits screen that appears when kids tap the gear on the main screen. Beyond that, the app is child friendly and easy for kids to navigate.

  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • NO in-app purchase

tinybuilder
Quality
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Tiny Builders is a cute app for soon to be engineers and children who love everything construction related. With loads of machines to explore and a free play environment, this app will quickly become a family favorite!
4.5

App Info

Price: $1.99
AppStore User Rating:
Download on the App Store

Overview

Tiny Builders is a cute, interactive app that allows children to pretend to be little builders and construction workers. With lots of fun machines to explore, players get to experiment with diggers, cranes, dump trucks and so much more in a free play, easy to use environment. Perfect for natural born builders and engineers.

Features include:

  • 12 Machines to explore
  • Customizable builders
  • Free play environment

Quality

Tiny Builders is full of great interactive illustrations and images that children will love. As players naturally explore the various machines including diggers, cranes, dump trucks and so much more, they are going to love the sound effects and animation that is used throughout the app. The developers have done a great job of creating an app that is easy to use too, with simple tap and touch technology to interact with each tiny builder. Overall the artwork, images, sound effects and free play environment of Tiny Builders is very well done and children will absolutely love it.

The only thing that might need a little work in the functioning is when you first open the app. There seems to be a bit of a delay when opening the app, however it doesn’t effect the main play area.

Education

Not rated for education.

Entertainment

There is no doubt that children are going to love Tiny Builders especially if they are partial to building already. What this app offers by way of interactive play in a self-guided environment is fabulous, especially for younger users. As children explore the various diggers, drills, cranes and trucks, they are going to love some of the things they get to do like building towers, pushing boulders, and digging in the dirt. There are also tons of fun sound effects and interesting interactive bits to explore that little ones will never be bored. Players even have an option to customize their builder with different colored clothes and prints. Lots of great entertainment in this app.

Value

Priced at just under two dollars this app is priced very well. Parents are sure to be impressed with all the interactive illustrations and the flurry of activity on the Tiny Builders job site that children will absolutely love. Not to mention all that at a price that won’t break the bank.

Child Friendliness

The developers have done a great job overall creating an app that is easy to use with simple tap and touch functioning through out. Children of all ages are going to have no trouble playing and if they do, there are yellow arrows that pop up to guide children through the interactive illustrations.

  • Protected parent area (can contain external links & social media)
  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO in-app purchase
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • YES “more apps” (protected, but visible)

MrGlue_LOGO
Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Mr. Glue Stories puts a unique spin on the traditional storybook app by allowing readers to customize each story with their own sound effects, characters, narration, and illustrations to be saved and shared. A very creative app, great for children who love a good adventure.
4.7

App Info

Price: Free
AppStore User Rating:
Download on the App Store

Overview

Mr Glue Stories is a unique storybook app full of imagination, character, and loads of creativity. With four stories to personalize, record, add sound effects, and illustrate, this storybook app provides readers with a ton of creative freedom to build, change, and create fun stories at will. The amazing narration and sound effects throughout are highly engaging and the freedom to add your own flair makes this app one of a kind.

Features include:

  • 4 Customizable stories
  • Great sound effects
  • Voice record

Quality

Mr Glue Stories has a very distinct style of illustrations and wonderful sound effects and narration to go with them. Children are going to be immediately drawn to the unique style that the developers have added to this app and are going to find it quite easy to customize each story to their liking. The intuitive user interface makes it easy for children to select their characters, villains, record their voices for narration, and illustrate various pages as they see fit. Overall this app is very well done all the way around.

Education

While this app isn’t specifically aimed at teaching children basic educational skills, it does allow children to practice their reading skills as they become the narrator for each story. Reading aloud can be a challenge for many children and this app provides a fun and creative way for readers to practice their skills.

Entertainment

This is by far, one of the most creative and entertaining storybook apps that I have ever seen. With four stories for children to enjoy and customize, countless characters, sound effects, and the opportunity to illustrate and add their own voice, this app has so many options readers will love. Once the stories are customized, they can be saved and shared with family and friends. The developers also have plans to add additional stories so kids can create their own collection of stories with their own creative flair added to them.

Value

It’s hard to believe that you can get all of the customizable options, sound effects, and four stories at no cost to you! Mr Glue Stories has a ton of entertainment value at no cost at all which is something parents are going to love!

Child Friendliness

The developers have done a great job overall keeping this app easy to use and safe too. With narrated guidance to help children get used to how the app works and a help option under the main menu, children will quickly learn how to create their own story with fun characters and their own narration and illustrations. There is also a ‘settings’ button that explains how the app works which is helpful for parents to take a quick glance at.

  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO in-app purchase
  • NO 3rd party ads

prontoplay
Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Race against another player to be the first to dress Fredo and Dressa while answering basic math problems at the same time.
3.8

App Info

Price: $1.99
AppStore User Rating:
Download on the App Store

Overview

Fredo and Dressa need helped getting dressed. Pronto Play has kids compete to see who can dress them first. The app can be played as a simple “find the missing card” game or combined with basic math practice where kids must answer a question correctly to place the item of clothing on a character. While developers should be commended for including the math practice in the app, it seems more of a secondary focus, making Pronto Play a fun app for kids, but not necessarily the ideal app for building math skills.

Features include:

  • Two modes of play
  • Three levels of difficulty
  • Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
  • Play with or without math
  • Dress up characters

Quality

From the main menu of the app, kids can opt whether to simply play the game or to play the game with numbers. They’re also invited to create their own cards with photos to include as part of the matching game. In the settings section kids can select from three levels of difficulty, choose the intervals including in problems (0-10, 0-20, 0-100, and 0-1000) and decide whether the problems should include addition and subtraction or multiplication and division. Once all of the settings have been determined and a game has been chosen, kids can opt to play against another human using the same device or play against the computer. The game lacks instructions for kids, so it can take a bit of time to figure out how to play. However, once kids get the hang of it, they will enjoy racing to see who can collect all of the articles of clothing first.

Education

The focus on mathematics is definitely a secondary component to this game. Kids simply have to answer a math question correctly to complete each turn. There are three levels of difficulty. At the easiest level, kids are given the correct answer to the problem and must simply tap on it to continue. The second level adds a small amount of difficulty by introducing two answer choices and the third level is the most difficulty, although still not very challenging, by providing kids with three answer choices. It’s good enough to help kids review some basic math while they play the game, but not difficulty to be a really impressive math app for kids.

Entertainment

What Pronto Play offers that many apps do not offer is the chance for kids to play against each other using the same tablet. In this game, kids can choose to dress Fredo or Dressa and take turns drawing cards to see who can dress their character first. The game can also be played against the computer instead of another human. Kids will find that drawing the correct items of clothing is actually somewhat tricky and can take a fair amount of time. Kids can enhance the game by purchasing a winter clothing pack or creating their own lucky card to add to the draw pile.

Value

Considering the fact that the app contains two in-app purchases and that the math component is not its primary focus, Pronto Play is priced higher than you might expect. It is a fun game, particularly for parents looking for an app to entertain two children at once, but it is not a great value at its current price.

Child Friendliness

The app loses child friendliness points for failing to protect its in-app purchases. Kids can easily access the buy screen for both the winter clothing and lucky card IAPs. Setting up a password to prevent undesired IAPs will prevent kids from making an actual purchase, it is still disappointing that the app allows them to get to that point.

  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • YES in-app purchase (unprotected)

quickmath
Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Unlimited player profiles and a large selection of high quality, Common Core-aligned activities make Quick Math Jr. a must-have app for early elementary classrooms.
4.8

App Info

Price: $6.99
AppStore User Rating:
Download on the App Store

Overview

Whether you want a Common Core-aligned app or are just looking for a solid math app to help kids build their basic math skills, Quick Math Jr. is a solid choice. This high-quality app allows kids to build their counting, number recognition, sequencing, and addition and subtraction skills through a series of fun activities. As kids play the activities represent each skill in a variety of ways and gradually increase in difficulty to help kids gain a well-rounded understanding of the concepts they are learning.

Features include:

  • Nine math games
  • Multiple player profiles
  • Customizable characters
  • Progress tracking
  • Common Core aligned

Quality

When kids first open the app, they’re greeted by peppy music and a brightly colored background. Squares in the middle of the screen invite them to select their name or add a new player. Once a player is chosen, the app then moves kids to the game board. There they can hit the play button to start making their way through a series of activities. Non-verbal instructions are provided before each game and kids hear light cheering as they successfully complete an activity. The games move smoothly and increase in difficulty as kids play. All of the elements appear to have been created with ease of use and quality in mind.

Education

As kids make their way through the app, they’ll encounter games of increasing difficulty. For example, the first game has kids add the last number to a sequence. As they continue with the game, however, they must fill in missing numbers throughout the sequence. Kids also see numbers represented in different ways. For example, in one game, numbers are written traditionally and said aloud. In the next game, numbers are represented as dots on dice and by silly monster characters. These different representations of numbers and other concepts help kids develop a fuller understanding of what they are learning. This understanding is furthered increased whenever kids complete an activity. At the end of each activity, kids are shown a list of skills and the skill they just covered is highlighted to help reinforce the skill they just learned.

Entertainment

The variation in the way numbers and skills are represented adds to the entertainment factor of the game as well. Kids are not completing the same activity over and over again. This helps keep the game interesting. The cute monsters found throughout the game also help increase its entertainment factor. After completing many of the activities kids get the chance to customize their own monster characters.

Value

While priced slightly higher than some of its counterparts, Quick Math Jr. is a quality app that covers a range of basic math skills in many different ways. It also allows users to create unlimited player profiles which means that it works well for a large classroom of kids. Using the report card feature, teachers can easily track each student’s progress and see what skills they have mastered.

Child Friendliness

The app does not contain any parent info sections, in-app purchases, or other icons designed to take kids away from the app. A small report card section appears on the main screen, but may not look interesting enough for kids to select it. The only drawback to the app is that kids have the option to delete player profiles which could cause them to delete the progress other players have made.

  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • NO in-app purchase

catinhat
Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
The iconic Dr. Seuss story, The Cat in the Hat, gets an educational makeover in this fun read & learn app.
4.2

App Info

Price: $4.99
AppStore User Rating: 4.5
Download on the App Store

Overview

Oceanhouse Media has taken its traditional version of The Cat in the Hat and has turned it into an educational experience. As kids go through this iconic story they can build a variety of early learning skills including letter recognition, spelling, rhyming, and reading comprehension skills. These simple activities help enhance kids’ experience while they read and make the whole thing more entertaining.

Features include:

  • Highlighted narration
  • 31 learning activities
  • 2 reading options
  • Fun sound effects and images

Quality

Oceanhouse Media is known for creating high-quality ebooks and this new read & learn version of The Cat in the Hat is no exception. The book features an easy-to-navigate format and the option to skip ahead to a selected page. A settings section allows kids to choose from two different reading options. They can also turn off the music, sound, picture words, and learning activities. As kids read through the story, they’ll hear clear narration and fun sound effects, along with slightly animated pictures.

Education

As kids read through the book, they’ll find many of the same educational features found in other Oceanhouse Media books. The text features highlighted narration with the “Read to Me” option and also provides a “Read it Myself” option for more confident readers. Parents can track minutes and pages read in the parent info section. Kids can also tap on individual words to hear them read aloud.

In addition to the standard ebook features, this version of the story includes 31 learning activities. These activities come in the form of basic multiple-choice questions with a few drag-and-drop activities thrown in. They cover a wide range of skills, from phonics to reading comprehension. Kids can find the activities by tapping on different images to reveal hidden stars.

Entertainment

The story of The Cat in the Hat alone provides a wealth of entertainment for kids. Adding in the narration, animation, and hidden learning activities only increases the entertainment factor. Kids will also be entertained by fun sound effects throughout the story and positive phrase when they correctly answer the questions throughout the app.

Value

This ramped-up version of The Cat in the Hat comes with 31 learning activities hidden among the pages. This extra focus on learning increases the value of the app. However, the simple nature of the activities and the advertisements for additional developer apps may make parents wish the app was priced lower than it is.

Child Friendliness

The app has been designed to make it easy for children to navigate and enjoy. All of the parental areas are protected. This includes a link to the Dr. Seuss bookshelf and a basic parental area. Unfortunately, one of the protected elements also comes in the form of a pop-up ad for the Dr. Seuss Treasury that appears when children open the app.

  • Protected parent area (can contain external links & social media)
  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • NO in-app purchases
  • YES “more apps” (protected, but visible)
  • YES pop-up ads for developer apps (protected, but visible)

jackbeanstalk
Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Jack and the Beanstalk is a cute storybook app with a coloring twist where children can read, color, and enjoy this classic story in a unique way.
4.3

App Info

Price: $2.99
AppStore User Rating:
Download on the App Store

Overview

Coloring Storybook-Jack and the Beanstalk is a fun storybook app with a twist. Not only will children get to enjoy the classic story of Jack and the Beanstalk, but they also get to enjoy a bit of fun coloring throughout the story as well. With narration throughout and lots of interactive images to add a bit of interest, this coloring storybook is a great app for children of all ages.

Features include:

  • Narration
  • Coloring option
  • Animated illustrations

Quality

Coloring Storybook-Jack and the Beanstalk is full of wonderful, brightly colored images that children are going to love. The set up is quite intuitive and easy to use for children of all ages as it includes arrows to move through the pages as well as a brief ‘how-to’ introduction for children to follow. With narration through out, interactive images, and the words of the story included for children to follow along, this app is lots of fun.

Education

As with most storybook apps there is generally always an opportunity for children to practice their reading skills as they move through the story and Jack and the Beanstalk is no exception. This app includes not only narration for children to enjoy, but also an option to follow along with the words of the story by tapping the bean at the bottom of the page. The only downfall is that text-highlighting is not included and it requires children to continually tap the arrows to see all the text as they follow along. Adding the text highlighting option is ideal as it would create an opportunity for children to be able to learn new words and practice their reading skills as they follow along.

Entertainment

I love storybook apps that include interactive illustrations and additional activities for children to enjoy and this app does that with the added coloring component in addition to the story. As children follow along, there are various images that when colored come to life and create a bit of interest and engagement for young children as they read. By simply moving their finger back and forth on the image, the appropriate colors fill in and the image jumps to life.

While the added coloring aspect of the app is fun for children, it would also be nice to have a few coloring pages for children to enjoy in a separate section of the app to increase engagement.

Value

Priced at just under three dollars, this app is priced well for storybook apps. The narration, interactive images, and the coloring aspect of the app makes it one that children will enjoy and get a lot of playing time out of and it is at a price parents will certainly appreciate.

Child Friendliness

With brief instructions at the beginning of the app, narration through out, and arrows to indicate when to turn the page, the developers have created an app that is very easy and safe to use for children of all ages.

  • Protected parent area (can contain external links & social media)
  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO in-app purchase
  • NO 3rd party ads

CoverPage1024x768
Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Duh Color Stuff is an exciting mystery storybook with lots of additional activities and clues to follow for the adventure lover in your home. Fun and easy to use, this app is sure to quickly become a family favorite!
4.5

App Info

Price: $0.99
AppStore User Rating:
Download on the App Store

Overview

Duh Color Stuff is an adventure-filled mystery with lots of plot twists and added activities for children to enjoy. Follow along as the Neighborhood Watch Kids save the neighborhood by following intricate clues and working together to solve the very strange mystery. With options to choose the direction of the story and lots of interactive activities throughout, this app is far more than just another storybook app. It is an exciting and mysterious journey for children to enjoy.

Features include:

  • Interactive puzzles and games
  • Narration options (Read to me, Read to myself)
  • Multiple story options

Quality

There is no doubt that Duh Color Stuff is a high quality app, not just because of the great illustrations and interactive bits throughout, but because the story is very intricate and entertaining for children. Add that to the easy to use interface with arrows and narration options throughout, this app is one that children of all ages can enjoy. The developers have done a really great job making this app fun, easy to use, and highly engaging.

Education

What’s great about this app is that it not only encourages children to follow along with the narrator and work on their reading skills, but it also encourages them to use their logic and problem solving skills as they decide which direction the story should go. With a variety of choice points in the story that children get to select, they can use their problem solving skills to determine which is the best way to go in order to solve the mystery. There are also puzzles and clues to be found throughout the story that help children engage their problem solving skills too.

One thing that would add to the educational value is if the developers included text highlighting to the story. This would allow early readers to be able to more easily follow along with the narrator and enjoy the story while they learn new words and practice their reading skills.

Entertainment

Duh Color Stuff is a creative story that includes mythical characters and a team of very smart kids who are trying to save their neighborhood. By working together to find clues and piece this puzzle together, they are able to do what the adults could not and save the day. With a story like this, there is no doubt children are going to be highly entertained and engaged as they read. Not only that, but they will also really enjoy the many activities included within the story.

The developers have also included an option for children to make choices about the direction of the story to dictate various outcomes which is a lot of fun for kids. Unfortunately there are some selections that don’t allow readers to move all the way through the story and instead lead readers back to the original choice point to select a different direction. This can get frustrating for kids as they select their own direction and then are guided back to make a more ‘correct’ choice. If there is freedom in selecting the direction of the story, then it should allow kids to move all the way through instead of leading them back again. With that said, the rest of the app moves quite smoothly and is highly entertaining for kids.

Value

With so many fun options and activities for children to enjoy in addition to the story you might expect this app to be priced quite high, but the developers have kept the price very reasonable at just under two dollars. With the option to have various story profiles to save your progress and lots of activities, options, and narration throughout this is one app children are going to absolutely love.

Child Friendliness

Overall the developers have done a nice job keeping Duh Color Stuff easy to use for children of all ages. Not only have they included narration options, but also arrows to indicate when to turn the page and an auto flip option for little ones. By adding a bit of text highlighting they could increase the child friendliness quite a bit especially for early readers.

  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO in-app purchase
  • NO 3rd party ads

Panda_Icon_512_rund

Teddy the Panda

Quality
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendliness
Summary
Come hang out with Teddy the Panda and guide him around his bedroom to discover the fun activities and other surprises hidden inside.
3.9

App Info

Price: $1.99
AppStore User Rating:
Download on the App Store

Overview

Come to a play day at Teddy the Panda’s house. Teddy is ready to show kids his room and all of the fun activities they can enjoy while there. Kids can dress Teddy up, play with his toys, and even watch him jump on his bed. They use their fingers to tell him where to go and what to do. The app moves a little slowly at times, especially when loading activities, but kids will still enjoy exploring Teddy’s room.

Features include:

  • Follows child’s finger
  • Multiple activities
  • Cute panda bear
  • Happy background music

Quality

When they open the app, kids are introduced to Teddy the Panda. He is a friendly panda who waves to kids. A button with question marks in the left-hand corner directs kids to use their fingers to move Teddy in different directions. The app responds quickly to a child’s touch, but is a bit too sensitive. At times kids may struggle to move Teddy exactly where they want. They’ll also find that when they tap on an object, such as the wind-up mouse, giant ball, or stairs, that the app lags a little. Kids will keep trying to get Teddy to move while the activity is loading, leading to a bit of frustration. Once the activities load, they work fairly well and it is easy to tap on the x to end the activity and move on to something else.

Education

This app is not being rated for education.

Entertainment

As kids move Teddy the Panda around the room, they can interact with him in a variety of ways. In addition to simply poking and tickling Teddy, kids can dress him up, flip through his photo album, and even watch him jump on his bed. A few activities are more interactive than others. For example, kids can send Teddy up to his bed and watch him jump, which is not very interactive, or head to the closet where they can dress Teddy up in different shirts, hats, mustaches, and other accessories. Some of the activities are a bit hard to find, so kids will have to spend some time exploring the app to discover all of the fun little tricks and fun activities Teddy has to offer.

Value

Teddy the Panda does not have any real educational value and lacks a bit of the quality adults might expect from an app in this price range. It is, however, somewhat entertaining for kids.

Child Friendliness

A “For Parents” button appears at the bottom of the app when it is first opened, but it disappears once kids start playing with Teddy. This section, which is protected by a parental lock, contains a link to the app’s Facebook page and more apps. The parental content requires an Internet connection, at times it fails to load even when one is present.

  • Protected parent area (can contain external links & social media)
  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • NO in-app purchase

tocallifecity
Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendliness
Summary
There's one city where parents can set their kids free and let them explore all on their own -- Toca City.
4.5

App Info

Price: $2.99
AppStore User Rating: 4.5
Download on the App Store

Overview

Another Toca Boca gem, Toca Life: City is part of Toca Boca’s series of apps designed to help kids explore the world around them. The app has a similar structure and feel to Toca Life: Town, but offers kids the chance to interact with the popular Toca Boca characters in a bunch of different places. They can head to the barbershop, the coffee shop, food stands, and other places that you’d find in any major city around the world. With no time limits or other constraints, kids are free to explore to their hearts’ content.

Features include:

  • Customizable characters
  • Free play
  • Hidden treasures
  • Urban locations

Quality

At first glance, Toca Life: City appears to be a bit busy and it may be difficult for parents to figure out how to interact with the characters in the various settings. Kids, however, seem to pick up these skills quickly and are able to maneuver the characters and objects without too much trouble. The app is full of small objects and tiny details designed to enhance the atmosphere and make every element extra fun for kids.

Education

Toca Life: City is focused more on exploration than education. However, as kids interact with the characters in the various settings, they can learn a lot of important lessons. For example, parents may engage their children in conversations about whether the characters are making good choices. Is it okay for a character to just toss an item on to the floor? To steal something from a store? Eat large amounts of junk food? While parents shouldn’t focus on pointing out all the “bad” or unhealthy choices kids make as they play the game, it can serve as a way to bring them up in conversation.

Entertainment

Kids love to have control and Toca Life: City gives them that control. They can customize the characters, transport them to a variety of locations, and engage in all kind of activities. The freedom to take money out of an ATM, visit food stands and order whatever they like, or leave items all around town makes for a very fun app for kids. There are also a lot of hidden treasures throughout the city that will delight kids as they find them.

Value

Because Toca Life: City does not come with a lot of constraints, it offers endless hours of entertainment for kids. There are multiple characters for kids to customize and plenty of locations for them to visit, making this app a good value for the price. The price is also consistent with other Toca Boca apps.

Child Friendliness

Parents will see the standard info section and more apps button on the app’s main screen. Both are protected by parental locks, but the more apps section is still visible to kids. Access to the parent info section requires an internet connection as well. Parents do have the option of turning off the additional apps, parent info section, and background music through their device’s settings menu.

  • Protected parent area (can contain external links & social media)
  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • NO in-app purchase
  • YES “more apps” (protected, but visible)

connect
Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Connect-O-Dot is a fun app with lots of great pictures that teaches children their numbers and letters in a variety of fun connect-the-dots games. Great for children of all ages.
4.6

App Info

Price: $1.99
AppStore User Rating:
Download on the App Store

Overview

Connect-O-Dot is a great educational and entertaining app that children will love. With some unique twists to the traditional connect-the-dots game, this app helps children practice their numbers and alphabet while connecting the dots to reveal fun animals and shapes. Great for practicing hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills this app has a lot to offer young children.

Features include:

  • 8 Themes
  • 3 Difficulty levels
  • Alphabet & Number recognition

Quality

There is no doubt a lot of time and thought went into this app as the images and illustrations are very well done. With 8 themes to explore and a wide variety of animals an shapes to explore, children are going to really enjoy playing in this app. The added sound effects, realistic backgrounds and music add to the overall experience making it one of the higher quality apps I have seen. And when you add to that the very intuitive user interface, Connect-O-Dot is the perfect app for children of all ages.

Education

I love how the developers were able to add some educational value in what can traditionally be more of an entertaining type of activity. In addition to learning how to connect the dots via numbers, children also have an option of connecting the dots with upper and lower case letters. Once the picture is complete an illustration of the picture is revealed along with the actual word describing the image. This allows children to start putting words and pictures together as they move through the app.

One thing that would add a bit more value to this app is having a narrator read the word as it pops up. This would further help little ones make the connection between the word and the picture to help support their reading skills down the road. With that said, the app still has quite a bit of educational value that parents will appreciate.

Entertainment

In addition to the fun shapes children get to create with their connect the dots skills, there are also three levels of difficulty to choose from to challenge players even more. This added challenge can be a ton of fun for children as they move through the various pictures and themes included. Children are also going to love the fact that there are 8 different themes ranging from sea creatures to fantasy shapes that they can explore and enjoy.

Value

Priced at just under two dollars this app is priced very well. Parents will certainly appreciate the educational value along with the engaging activities that children will love. With lots of variety in the shapes and difficulty levels, this is one app children will get a lot of playing time out of.

Child Friendliness

Connect-O-Dot is easy to use and safe for kids too. The developers have created a user interface that is very intuitive and doesn’t require any instructions to get started which is great for young children. I also love how they worked in the parent’s section without being too flashy or distracting for children. Overall a very child friendly app!

  • Protected parent area (can contain external links & social media)
  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO in-app purchase
  • NO 3rd party ads

achoo
Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Achoo Gaboo is a cute storybook app about a fun elephant with a sneezy problem. Loaded with beautiful illustrations and fun sound effects this app is great for children of all ages.
4.5

App Info

Price: $2.99
AppStore User Rating: 4.5
Download on the App Store

Overview

Achoo Gaboo is a whimsical and entertaining storybook app with gorgeous illustrations and fun sound effects that children will love. This storybook app tells the tale of Gaboo, a sneezy elephant who tries everything to stop his sneezy ways only to find one surprising cure. Overall a great storybook app for young children.

Features include:

  • Narration
  • Whimsical illustrations
  • Cute sound effects

Quality

The first thing you notice about this awesome app are the wonderful illustrations that are simple, yet very well done. With lots of bright colors, simple animations, and fun sound effects to add to the cute story, this app is both engaging and very professionally done in a way that will really appeal to young children. Overall, very well done.

Education

While this app doesn’t include any specific educational elements, it does allow young children to follow along with the reader as they move through the story. The app does not offer text highlighting which would certainly add a bit more educational value to the app overall and help early readers add new words to their vocabulary.

Entertainment

There is no doubt that Achoo Gaboo is a highly entertaining app for young children. The story itself is quite engaging and a fun read and the pictures, animations, and sound effects really help add a bit of interest to an already cute app. This story is sure to become a family favorite.

Value

Priced at just under three dollars, this app is a bit more than you might expect to pay for what you get, however the quality and time that went into creating the beautiful images etc. is obvious. The narration is a nice addition, however adding another activity and text-highlighting would definitely increase the overall value of the app.

Child Friendliness

The developers have done a great job making this app easy to use and fun for kids. With gorgeous, engaging images and simple tap and touch functioning, and arrows to help guide readers through, this app is quite intuitive. It’s also completely safe for children of all ages, which parents can certainly appreciate.

  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO in-app purchase
  • NO 3rd party ads

image (3)

Find Adventure, Alfie Atkins

Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Young users will love exploring the amazing world of Alfie Atkins! With cool DIY vehicles, friendly creatures and people, and interactive animations around every bend, this app will keep kids busy for a very long time.
5

App Info

Price: $2.99
AppStore User Rating:

Download on the App Store

Overview

Children help Alfie build vehicles that take them on an imaginary journey through Alfie’s interesting world. They can help build cars, boats, and even spaceships, then take a hand in washing and painting the vehicles. Once ready, it’s easy to take off and explore a new path in this huge animated world that is full of interactive surprises just waiting to be tapped.

Features include:

  • Explore countless paths and even outer space
  • Get creative with vehicle decoration
  • Touch and tap the screen to find new interactions and friends
  • Enjoy numerous, child-friendly interactions
  • Meet and greet small creatures and friends

Quality

Find Adventure, Alfie Atkins is a very high-quality app.  The interface is intuitive and perfect for the very young.  The app is loaded with what the developers call “small surprises” that are perfect for young learners. It only takes a little experimentation to learn to push the levers that lower the drawbridges or tap on the piles of building materials to discover a new friend.  The app has just the right amount of responsiveness, and the world that Alfie can explore is huge.

Education

This app has a load of educational punch, even though it has nothing to do with learning ABCs or 123s.  It will fuel imagination and language skills with just a little encouragement from parents or other adults, and each scene invites story-telling.  Get the creative juices flowing by building and then decorating Alfie’s vehicle, then jump out into the wide world and drive over a multitude of pathways and bridges that pass different kinds of homes, fruits and berries to pick, and more.  Try touching some of the plants, and they bloom with musical notes. Pet the cat and be rewarded with cat sounds, and the list goes on.

Find Adventure, Alfie Atkins is designed to encourage exploration and interaction. Sooner or later, the path leads to a bridge, and the young explorer will quickly learn about cause and effect as he or she discovers the levers that raise and lower the drawbridges.  The paths twist and turn, and to keep Alfie rolling along, youngsters must trace the path with their finger (building fine motor control as they go).  When users pick fruits, they land in the basket and an automated counter keeps track of how many have been plucked.

Entertainment

The sheer size and variety of Alfie’s world will keep kids entertained for hours, since there’s always a new path to explore.  Best of all, every once in a while, Alfie will stumble upon a gift-wrapped box.  Tap it, and begin to build Alfie an entirely new vehicle that can be decorated all over again.  Sooner or later, you will get to build Alfie a rocket ship that will carry him (and your child) to the stars and beyond.  Even out in the farthest reaches of outer space, there are homes and friends to find, celestial bodies to tap that sing the music of the spheres, and more.

Beneath the fun, there are some really important and basic ideas being implanted in young minds.  All of Alfie’s vehicles are created from recycled materials, which just may prompt your own young inventors to figure out what can be built in their back yard with wood scraps and old bottles. And Alfie travels around his world making his own fun.  He doesn’t need electronics or even traditional toys, just his imagination, and most children could use a healthy dose of that kind of independence.

Value

This app will keep your kids playing for a long, long time.  There is just enough interaction in each scene to keep them guessing about what they will find around the bend, and who doesn’t love a road trip to who-knows-where?  As children wind down the many pathways and work their way across the bridges, they will be a long time exploring and learning.

Child Friendliness

Find Adventure, Alfie Atkins is very child friendly.  The parents’ section is challenging to open even for adults (requires holding the screen in the corner for a period of time), but it is worth the effort because developers did a good job of explaining their goals for the app, which will help parents of young users get some great ideas for extending the fun and learning.

  • Protected parent area (can contain external links & social media)
  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO in-app purchase
  • NO 3rd party ads

sagominiboats
Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Pack a bag, choose a boat, and send kids out to the open sea where they can explore the depths of the ocean and find some fun surprises along the way.
4.4

App Info

Price: $2.99
AppStore User Rating: 4
Download on the App Store

Overview

Anchors aweigh! It’s time to pack a bag, grab a boat, and head out on the open sea. In Sago Mini Boats, kids have the ocean at their disposal. They can fly up above the water, dive deep down to explore its depths, and stop at deserted islands. As they head to their destination, kids will also get to load their boats up with a lot of fun items — or not. How the game to play is up to them.

Features include:

  • Popular Sago Mini characters
  • Multiple boats
  • Fun destinations
  • Numbered signs
  • Free play

Quality

Sago Mini Boats gives kids total control. They get to choose the destination, pack a suitcase, and select the perfect boat. Once they’ve chosen a boat, it’s up to them to get the boat to the destination. Kids can grab the boat to pull it up in the air or down into the water, or swipe their fingers to help it sail to their destination. The app is very sensitive so any small movement of kids’ fingers can pull the boat in a different direction. Kids will have to practice a bit to figure out how to get the boat to move where they want.

Education

Creativity is the name of the game. Kids are encouraged to create their own adventure. In the water they’ll encounter a random variety of items, such as balloons, cupcakes, and buoys, that they can choose to ignore or collect in their boat. The game does incorporate a bit of counting practice through signs counting down the journey to the final destination, but beyond that the focus is really on getting kids to explain the story they’re creating as they sail.

Entertainment

By giving kids control over so many variables, the app hooks kids and creates an entertaining experience. First kids get to choose from a series of three destinations. Next, they fill a suitcase with the clothes of their choice. After that, they select from a large number of boats, including some silly boats, such as a banana, dill pickle, and a shark. Finally, they hit the open sea where they encounter all sorts of objects, from cupcakes they can eat to balloons they can pop.

Value

Sago Mini Boats features high-quality graphics and is very entertaining for kids. It lacks a bit of educational focus which reduces its value a little, but is still a solid choice, particularly for kids who enjoy Sago Sago’s other apps.

Child Friendliness

On the main screen, kids will see icons for protected parent info and more apps sections. Parents can remove these icons through the settings screen on their device.

  • Protected parent area (can contain external links & social media)
  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • NO in-app purchase
  • YES “more apps” (protected, but visible)

358
Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Toddlers Musical Tunes is a cute musical app for young children that allows players to explore a variety of sounds and instruments. Easy to use and fun!
4.3

App Info

Price: Free
AppStore User Rating: 3.5
Download on the App Store

Overview

Toddlers Musical Tunes is a cute app full of music, instruments, and fun games to keep little music lovers interested. With various musical homes to explore with a variety of sounds, children are going to learn lots of new instruments and fun songs. This is a great app for the littl music lover in your home.

Features include:

  • 4 Fun houses to explore
  • Instruments
  • Musical quiz

Quality

Toddlers Musical Tunes is a cute and colorful app with lots of musical homes to explore. Children are going to love the various songs, musical notes, and fun instruments they get to explore within each home as the developers have done a great job with the sound effects and music throughout the app. The graphics are brightly colored and with some bouncing images are sure to keep children engaged and exploring as they play. The user interface is also pretty intuitive as children can simply tap and touch their way through the app to explore the various houses.

Education

One of the great things about this app is that it teaches children about a variety of musical instruments and their sounds. Within the various musical houses players can view new instruments. As they tap each image, they get to hear what that particular instrument sounds like as well as learn the name of each. Combining visual and auditory learning is great as it allows children to learn in a variety of ways.

Entertainment

In addition to the educational elements within the app, the developers have done a nice job of incorporating a few fun activities for children to enjoy. The Clown House includes a few fun musical toys for children to explore and enjoy while The Puzzle House offers a musical quiz for children to test their knowledge of the various instruments. The Rhymes House offers some classic nursery rhyme songs that can be played using a variety of instruments. These added bits of entertainment are great for children of all ages as it keeps them engaged and having fun.

Value

This version of Toddlers Musical Tunes is absolutely free with the option to upgrade to the pro version. The free version includes a few activities within each musical house which allows players to get an idea of what the app is all about. For what you get with the free version, this app is a good value with many more options if you decide to purchase the full version.

Child Friendliness

While Toddler’s Musical Tunes is easy for children to use, it does have a lot of (protected) buttons that can get a bit distracting for children as they play. There are various locked activities throughout the app that when tapped take you to the upgrade page. For young children this can get quite frustrating as they then have to close out the window in order to get back to their playing area. Simply using a pop up that is protected to allow for the upgrade might be a better idea so it’s easy for children to continue playing.

  • Protected parent area (can contain external links & social media)
  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • YES “in-app purchase” (protected, but visible)

image (2)

Mini Prep

Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Mini Prep is a low-key, gentle app that will help the very young practice basic skills of color matching, number matching and number order, letter matching and letter order. The app is simple to use and will help the young users feel very successful.
4.3

App Info

Price: $0.99
AppStore User Rating:

Download on the App Store

Overview

Mini Prep offers very basic games and instruction in each of three areas of early learning: color recognition, numbers 1-10, and alphabet.  Each activity includes a teaching mode and a more challenging mode to test skills.  The action, sound effects, animations and corrections are all very low-key and relaxing.

Features include:

  • Three learning activities
  • Scaffolded presentation designed to ensure success
  • Simple, intuitive controls
  • Provides vital repetition of skills
  • Gentle, non-disruptive correction for mistakes

Quality

Mini Prep is a high-quality app that is well-suited to its intended audience of toddlers and preschoolers.  The app is simple to use and does a nice job of reviewing concepts then providing opportunity to practice them.  Developers did an outstanding job of making characters diverse and of keeping the app low-key so it is soothing to play.

Education

This app features three learning areas: colors, numbers 1-10 and alphabet.  Each activity begins with a review of the concepts and then moves into a randomized challenge where children have the chance to apply what they have learned.  The color activity presents a color and names it out loud, then has children find and pop bubbles of the same color on a randomized board.  The numbers activity has users place numbers onto a number line, first in order, then presented randomly.  The alphabet activity is similar, sharing letters, sounds and key words/pictures first in alphabetical order, then in random order.  The narrator sings the ABC Song between rounds.  The numbers and letters activities use a drag-and-drop action to place the figures into the correct positions.

Mini Prep seems almost too simplistic.  It would be improved by the addition of a few more challenging activities that users could unlock as they master the beginning skills.  For example, the alphabet activity could continue on by having children find the letters requested orally or by having users match letters with the given key word pictures.  The number activity could be extended by presenting the numerals without the guiding number line and having users put them into their proper places.  As it stands, the activities are limited to simple matching exercises, which are fine for the very young or those having difficulty, but the app is not likely to “grow” with users in any way.  Another slight drawback is that the activities are presented in the same order over and over again.  For example, the color matching exercise always begins with green, then moves to blue, and so on.  It would be better if it were not so predictable.

Parents should also be aware that the app is narrated in British English, so the letter Z is called “zed” and the zebra is called a “zeb-ra” (with a short e).  Some children may find these differences to be a bit distracting or confusing.

Entertainment

In a world of noisy, demanding apps, Mini Prep is quite the opposite.  It’s very low-key and quiet.  This will appeal to some young learners, and bore others to tears.  On the plus side, the avatars available for children to choose to use are ethnically diverse, which is a nice change of pace.  The gentle buzz that indicates incorrect responses is also nicely done-it’s noticeable enough that children will realize that they have made a small mistake, but there are no penalties or other obvious problems when they do so.  The item simply resets so they can try again.  Correct responses are rewarded with recorded applause and limited movement of the avatar that simulates jumping up and down as best an immobile character can.  In fact, it seems that the variation in narration and the reward sequence are the only reasons to have avatars at all-they don’t do much.

Value

Mini Prep is inexpensive, but not quite free.  Most children are likely to work through it fairly quickly, perhaps in as little as under 30 minutes.  It would be a good investment for a family with several kids in the right age group, or for a group setting.  It would also be a good app for students with special needs or those who are struggling with these basic concepts.

Child Friendliness

Mini Prep is extremely child-friendly.

  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO in-app purchase
  • NO 3rd party ads

image (1)
Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Herbie the Hedgehog is a cute story with read-to-me, read-aloud and auto-play options to make it suitable for young children in a wide variety of situations. The easy choice of languages makes it a great way to introduce or expose youngsters to other ways of speaking.
4.1

App Info

Price: Free
AppStore User Rating:
Download on the App Store

Overview

Herbie the Hedgehog is a pleasant and engaging ebook intended for young children. It includes interactive illustration, narration, and three modes of play. The story is also available in four different languages with optional text boxes on each page.

Features include:

  • English, French, Spanish and German narration available
  • Interactive images hidden on most pages
  • Optional auto-play, narration, and read to myself modes
  • Show or hide text on each page
  • Expressive narration to aid comprehension

Quality

Herbie the Hedgehog is a high quality app that is responsive and performs well.  The gesture used to turn pages is reliable and intuitive, as readers swipe from the corner of the screen with an image of a curled page corner.  The narration is clear and well-paced.  Animations hidden in the illustrations are varied and well-connected to the story.

Developers should make it easier for users to find the “Home” option included in each scene.  Presently, it appears only when the text is revealed by activating the “text” button on each screen.  There should also be an option in the settings to show the text automatically instead of requiring users to reveal the text manually on each page.  Finally, there is a glitch in the ninth scene (just before the part where Herbie finds the apple) that causes the text to be duplicated four times, which covers the illustration almost completely and could be quite confusing to young readers.

Education

Herbie the Hedgehog is a fun ebook with several educational aspects.  Most scenes contain hidden interactions that are hinted at by the narration.  Children who listen carefully and follow directions will find them more quickly and easily than kids who simply tap and swipe at random.  The app does include printed text that can be shown on each page, helping early readers cement the relationship between printed and spoken words in much the same way as reading aloud does.

Herbie the Hedgehog offers users an excellent opportunity to see and hear several other languages in the narration.  Parents should be aware, however, that the English version of the app is presented in British English, so there are some unusual usages and accents.

Most of the interactive animations are well-connected to the story, such as when the narrator describes how Herbie can curl into a prickly ball, a tap on the hedgehog causes him to do so.  The app does seem to miss several opportunities for game-like interactions, however.  There is a nice scene where users tap the hedgehogs that appear and disappear to score points that I’m sure children will love.  There is another scene, though, where Herbie hears a voice before he sees its owner, and that seems like a great chance to build in a hide-and-seek game where users could look around the forest scene by moving leaves and the like.  More game-like interactions would definitely increase the educational power of this app.

Entertainment

This app will engage and entertain young children in much the same fashion as a storybook.  If the child latches on and decides it is a “favorite” that should be read again and again, it will see a lot of use.  On the other hand, some children are likely to use it a few times and then quickly grow tired of it once the hidden animations are fully explored.  The story is not particularly gripping, which will help it appeal to kids with a strong desire for security and predictability, but the lack of a serious problem for the main character may seem boring to more adventurous readers.

Value

The first twelve scenes of this story are offered without charge from the App Store, then parents will need to purchase the remaining 8 or so scenes for $3.99 as an in-app purchase.  The first part of the story may not be exciting enough to intrigue young users into requesting purchase, and the price tag seems a bit steep considering that there are few extra features or games in the app besides the animated interactions.

Child Friendliness

Herbie the Hedgehog is very child-friendly.  The required in-app purchase to finish the story is obvious to children, but it is protected by a random multiplication fact that should be beyond the comprehension of the target audience.  The settings for language selection, speakers, and background sounds are all accessible to children from the home screen.

  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • YES in-app purchase (protected, but visible)
  • YES “more apps” (protected, but visible)

IMG_0585

LAMI find notes: Children's Ear Training ! Music for kids

Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Adorable musical notes introduce kids to pitch through a variety of musical sounds and challenges.
4.3

App Info

Price: $2.99
AppStore User Rating:
Download on the App Store

Overview

Adorable musical notes help kids learn to enjoy music and develop their ear for sound in LAMI find notes, an ear training app. As kids move through the app, they’re introduced to new musical sounds and combinations of notes. Throughout the app, they’re encouraged to earn stars and complete challenges. They can also compose their own tunes with a fun “Play Music” section which helps them understand the notes even more.

Features include:

  • Three Modes of Play
  • Increasing Levels of Difficulty
  • Adorable Singing Notes
  • Beautiful Background Music

Quality

From the moment kids open the app, they’re exposed to the adorable cartoon notes who immediately break out into a song of “la”s. They dance and laugh as they sing, getting kids excited about the app. Across the top kids can see the three modes of play: Find Notes, Play Music, and Scoring Game. To access the scoring game, kids must first complete all of the Find Notes section. On the bottom of the main screen, kids will also find a short credits screen and an icon that leads to an explanation of the characters within the app. The sound in the app is crisp and clear, but kids may want to have the volume turned up as they play to help them clearly hear the notes and complete the challenges.

Education

This app focuses on part music education and part memory. For most of challenges, kids hear notes as they appear on the screen. Then they hear a single note or series of notes and must repeat what they hear by tapping on the notes. The goal is to help kids learn to identify pitch in many different ways. The app does a good job with this by incorporating different series of sounds and different notes. Each note is also a different color which may also help kids, although most will be focused on listening to the sounds rather than noticing the colors of the notes.

Entertainment

It’s not the Find Notes challenges, Scoring Game, or Play Music option that make this app fun. It’s the cute notes that appear on the screen throughout the app. Kids are introduced to each note’s personality in a “meet the characters” section. They also get to see the notes interact with one another during short animations that play before each Find Notes section. In addition to the fun characters, kids also get to enjoy silly sounds. For example, they hear the notes as cows, cats, and xylophones.

Value

LAMI find notes is a quality app that has clearly been carefully designed to help children learn to distinguish pitch. Its price is comparable to the other ear training apps for kids, but its a lot more playful than some of the other apps out there.

Child Friendliness

Parents won’t find any in-app purchases, ads, or social media. The app does contain two inactive links to developer websites in the credit section. It also connects with your Game Center account to help encourage kids with challenges.

  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • NO in-app purchase
  • YES connects to Game Center
  • applogo
    Quality
    Education
    Entertainment
    Value
    Child Friendly
    Summary
    Imagination Playground is a virtual 3D building app that is designed to allow children to build anything their amazing minds can come up with. Great for future engineers or little ones who love to build.
    4.4

    App Info

    Price: Free
    AppStore User Rating: 5
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Imagination Playground is an interesting 3D building app that allows children to create and build anything their imagination can come up with. With a variety of pieces of all shapes and sizes, the ability to rotate pieces and a gravity function to knock things over, this app is sure to be a future engineers dream app. Based on a real world product that consists of large foam-like pieces of all shapes and sizes, this digital playground is a fun way for children to play on the go.

    Features include:

    • 3D images
    • 14 Building pieces
    • Endless playing time

    Quality

    While the overall concept is simple in nature, the developers have added various ways children can use the app to bring their ideas to life. The app consists of a 3D platform where various pieces can be dropped, flipped, and rotated in various directions to build fun creations. The 14 building pieces that are included are quite diverse, with various notches and holes to piece together which is great.

    The downside is that the functioning of the app takes some getting used to. While it’s simple to add, delete, and rotate pieces on the 3D platform, it’s not quite as easy to piece things together and use the gravity function to roll the ball down the track etc. The concept is great, but the execution in terms of ease of use could definitely be improved.

    Education

    While there aren’t any specific educational elements included in the app, Imagination Playground does give children the opportunity to use their creativity to build fun forts, buildings, tracks and anything else they can imagine. Watching the ball roll down various tracks is also a great illustration of gravity and physics in general which might be a good tool to use in the classroom. The app also inspires children to use their problem solving and logical skills to fit pieces together like a puzzle as they bring their imagined projects to life.

    Entertainment

    For children who love creating, building, and crafting their own creations, this app is a ton of fun and has lots to offer. It is definitely geared toward older children who will likely have a bit more understanding of how the 3D effects and rotations work, but smaller children are also likely to enjoy playing with the pieces as well. The free play nature of the app really provides a ton of freedom to build and create as much or as little as they want which is great for children who are naturals at it.

    One of the things I think would add a bit more value to the app is to have specific shapes or templates for players to try and replicate. It would help children get a feel for the user interface and provide lots of ideas for creating their own creations in the free play area.

    Value

    For children who are natural creators and love building things, this app is perfect and it’s absolutely free which parents will certainly appreciate. With the 14 pieces and free play set-up, it’s a great app to use in the classroom and one that is perfect to try at home.

    Child Friendliness

    The developers have done a nice job making this app safe for children to use. While the user interface does take some getting used to, it does include instructions on what each button and option does within the app to help guide children as they get started.

    • Protected parent area (can contain external links & social media)
    • NO social media links
    • NO in-app purchase
    • NO 3rd party ads
    • YES “external links” (protected, but visible)

    OutdoorAppsForKids

    From ebooks to apps that include hands-on activities we have gathered a variety of reviewed and recommended apps that encourage kids to get out outside to explore and learn about the great outdoors.

    diylake2
    Quality
    Education
    Entertainment
    Value
    Child Friendly
    Summary
    Science activities, videos, and simulations encourage kids to explore the lakes and other bodies of water around them.
    4.4

    App Info

    Price: Free
    AppStore User Rating: 4.5
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Instead of sitting inside and playing on their electronic devices, DIY Lake Science encourages kids to explore lakes through indoor and outdoor science experiences. The app was developed by UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science and funded by the National Science Foundation, so there’s no doubt that the information and activities contained within are of the highest caliber. While it may not be the most interactive app, it offers some interesting videos and engaging experiments to help kids learn more about the environment.

    Features include:

    • An Under the Lake simulation
    • Multiple activities kids can complete
    • A collection of water-based videos
    • A focus on research and investigation

    Quality

    The app is organized into three main areas: Under the Lake, Activities, and Videos. Each section is well-organized and all of the components are clearly labeled. In the Under the Lake and Activities sections, information is organized by tabs that detail each step, making it easy for kids to navigate through the information and instructions, as well as quickly find the takeaway. The videos section features videos organized by categories. All videos are embedded from YouTube, so an internet connection is needed to view them.

    Education

    Developers of the app took special care to make sure kids understand the science behind the different activities and the Under the Lake simulation. While the “Explanation” and “Learn” tabs are a bit text-heavy, they are chock-full of information for kids. In the activities section, all of the activities are laid out in a step-by-step format and each step includes a picture to help kids understand what is going on. The activities are also clearly labeled by age level and the time they take to complete so kids can find something appropriate for them. Most activities are designed for ages 7 or older.

    Entertainment

    The app itself feels like a textbook or an informational website. Kids can interact with the Under the Lake simulation a bit, but this activity, while educational, is still a bit dull. The videos contained within the app are a mix of videos designed for kids and adults. Some are fun to watch while others may not capture the attention of a lot of kids. They’re definitely great resources for parents and teachers who want to help kids connect science to real life.

    Value

    Considering it is free, DIY Lake Science is an exceptionally high-quality app with a lot of educational material for kids. It is worth a download for parents who are looking to help their kids learn more about the outdoors and for teachers who want to bring lake science into the classroom.

    Child Friendliness

    The activities and videos in the app have largely been designed for kids ages 7 and up. All of the videos come from YouTube, but kids do not have access to additional YouTube videos while watching them. Many of the videos were also designed for adults, so while kids might be safe watching them, there may be a bit of content that is over their heads.

    • NO external links
    • NO social media
    • NO 3rd party ads
    • NO in-app purchase

    Icon512
    Quality
    Education
    Entertainment
    Value
    Child Friendly
    Summary
    My Shapes & Colors Farm Puzzles has so much to offer in education and entertainment. With loads of puzzles that include sorting shapes, sizes, colors, letters, numbers, and much more, it is the perfect early learning app for the little one in your home.
    4.4

    App Info

    Price: $2.99
    AppStore User Rating: 4.5
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    My Shapes & Colors Farm Puzzles is an incredibly educational and engaging app that will teach young children how to sort by color, shape, type, and size in a variety of challenging (and fun) puzzles. With lots of vegetables, fruits, numbers, letters, and many other farm items to complete, this app has so many amazing early learning opportunities that are perfect for the little one in your home. Not only are children going to be able to use their problem solving skills throughout the app, but they are also able to work on their hand and eye coordination as they move each item to the appropriate place. Overall this is a fantastic early learning app for kids.

    Features include:

    • 15 Puzzles
    • Bonus game
    • Sorting shapes, sizes, letters, numbers
    • Problem solving

    Quality

    The developers have done a nice job of creating an app that is not only educational and engaging, but very easy to use as well. With little to no instructions, children can jump right in, select their puzzle of choice and begin playing. With brightly colored images and simple background music, this app is one that children can enjoy and learn from without getting too distracted from what they are doing. Parents can also appreciate the simple drag and drop functioning that is used within each puzzle making the user interface very simple.

    Education

    My Shapes & Colors Farm Puzzles is full of amazing educational material and is almost a one stop shop for early learning. There are 15 puzzles in total that vary a bit. While all of the activities are puzzles and they are set up the same way, the items and sizes of the images are a bit different. Children can go from sorting vegetables by shape and size to sorting letters and numbers or vice versa. The further you move into the app the higher the difficulty of the tasks which is a great way to keep children challenged as they play.

    In addition to practicing their sorting and problem solving skills, players also have an opportunity to really practice their hand and eye coordination as well as hone their motor skills with this app which is great. The truth is, this is probably one of the best early learning apps that I have seen that incorporate both educational material and engaging activities.

    One thing that would add a bit more value to the app would be to add a narration option where children can hear the shapes, colors, letters, and numbers as they play. This would allow children to also learn their colors, shapes, letters etc. in addition to everything else that is included in the app.

    Entertainment

    The main concept of this app is puzzles and sorting the items and pieces that come down the conveyor belt appropriately. For children who love puzzles and are naturally challenged by them, this app is a lot of fun. There is also a bonus game that children have access to once they have earned 200 stars by playing the other puzzles that provides access to a memory match activity. This not only provides a goal for children to achieve, but also adds a bit more entertainment value to the app as a whole.

    Value

    Priced at just under three dollars this app is a steal. When you consider all the activities including the bonus game and the amount of early learning skills children will have access to, this app is a no-brainer. Parents will certainly appreciate all that they get for this awesome price.

    Child Friendliness

    The developers have done a good job of keeping this app easy to use for kids. With little to no instructions needed to get started, children can jump right in and start playing with the various puzzles and learning as they go. The parent area offers difficulty and music options, but there is also a link to rate the app that isn’t protected that parents will want to be aware of. Protecting this button is ideal especially since the parent area isn’t protected either.

    • NO social media links
    • NO in-app purchase
    • NO 3rd party ads
    • YES “more apps” (protected, but visible)
    • YES “rate this app” (protected, but visible)

    image (14)
    Quality
    Education
    Entertainment
    Value
    Child Friendly
    Summary
    Inventioneers opens the door to creative and inventive play by challenging users to solve problems. Users can position objects and tiny helpers called Inventioneers to accomplish each goal while learning about physics concepts.
    4.8

    App Info

    Price: $2.99
    AppStore User Rating: 5

    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Each chapter of Inventioneers presents a clear problem, such as moving a cat from the tree into its owner’s basket. The interface is intuitive, allowing nearly anyone the ability to experiment and create until the problem is solved. A resource bank of invention parts and small “helper” characters is provided at the bottom of the screen, and users must arrange them to accomplish the given goal.

    Features include:

    • Realistic object movement
    • Creativity, persistence and problem-solving
    • Engaging format
    • Create and share inventions with friends
    • 14 inventions to create in free version of the app

    Quality

    Inventioneers works like a well-oiled machine, providing a nearly perfect environment to experiment. The app is fully responsive, using the drag function to allow users to set up their creations to solve the given problems. Some of the small characters need a bit of figuring to determine how to activate them, though. It would be nice if there were a more explicit set of instructions tucked away in the parents’ area to allow adults to help children when they get stuck without the adult having to learn the game completely. The full version of the app does include the option to “unlock” the solutions to all levels, but that seems a bit extreme. How about a hint system?

    Education

    It’s difficult to overestimate the value of problem-solving and creativity, and Inventioneers more than does justice to nurturing both skills. Players (young and old) will be challenged by the tasks set forth. How can you use a swinging boot, a funnel, an apple, and “Windy” (a small helper with a blow dryer) to move a cat out of a tree and into its distraught owner’s basket? This and fourteen other puzzles are offered in the free version of the app, and the full version opens up a whopping 98 more inventions. The action is reminiscent of “The Incredible Machine” that fascinated my children for years, and still does today, on a desktop computer.

    Best of all, children will be learning about a lot of important physics concepts as they play. This app’s designers did an outstanding job on the physics engine that makes it work. Objects bounce realistically, they teeter precariously if not balanced correctly, and they fall just the way they are supposed to. In addition, players learn a lot about prediction, cause and effect, and many other fundamental skills that we usually take for granted.

    One highly intriguing feature of this app is the capability (even in the free version) to design your own invention puzzles.  After viewing the tutorial and creating a user file, you can create new puzzles and share them. Imagine the possibilities! Are the given puzzles too tough for your child right now? Make some easier ones. Has your child completed all of the puzzles? Challenge him or her to make a new one and let you give it a try.

    Entertainment

    Inventioneers is highly entertaining. The small helpers that make each invention work are adorable, and the other graphics are captivatingly detailed. The sound effects are very realistic, as well. Balls rolling through pipes sound exactly like balls rolling through pipes, so even though the action is invisible, your mind fills in the gaps and there is no surprise when the ball pops out of the other end.

    Value

    The full version is well worth the price. It includes eight chapters, more than 100 levels, over 40 objects to use, 10 more characters to help with tasks, and 7 additional “inventioneers” that players can use to help the contraptions work. Characters such as “Blaze,” “Zappy” and “Freezie” add even more fun and flexibility to the app in the full version.

    It’s always nice when developers provide a working, self-contained free version.  There are enough puzzles to find out if your youngster will enjoy the app before you plunk down the purchase price, and the capability to make your own puzzles is an unexpectedly nice feature.  Even the 14 free puzzles in the first chapter will keep most kids busy for quite a while.

    Child Friendliness

    Inventioneers is somewhat child friendly. The app is intended for elementary school children, most of whom can read well enough to bypass the parent gate, which calls for swiping two fingers in a random direction.  The Parents’ Area contains outside links, social media links, email newsletter sign up and the privacy policy.  There is also access to the “unlock” button that will reveal the answers to all of the puzzles. Developers should strengthen the parent gate.

    • Protected parent area (can contain external links & social media)
    • NO external links
    • NO social media
    • NO in-app purchase
    • NO 3rd party ads

    moppa
    Quality
    Education
    Entertainment
    Value
    Child Friendly
    Summary
    Who doesn't love a cool ice cream treat in the summer? Moppa Ice Cream is a fun app that allows players to get creative as they craft unique cool treats for their monster friends!
    4.4

    App Info

    Price: $1.99
    AppStore User Rating:
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Moppa Ice Cream is the perfect app for kids to explore and enjoy during the summer months. With endless creative monster ice cream combinations to create and a cute back story to enjoy, this app is perfect to keep little ones engaged for hours. It’s ice cream fun, without the drippy mess!

    Features include:

    • 18 Fun containers
    • In app story
    • 25 Ice cream toppings
    • Easy to use

    Quality

    Little ones are going to love Moppa Ice Cream not only for the brightly colored images and fun characters, but also for the never-ending ice cream creating they can do. The developers have done a very nice job incorporating fun graphics, music, and a theme all children can appreciate (ice cream) into a creative app that is easy to play. With no instructions at all, children can dive right in and satisfy the silly monster’s sweet tooth with their wacky ice cream creations.

    Education

    While this app isn’t specifically an educational app it does have some potential to incorporate a bit of reading and early learning skills with a few tweaks. The story that is included in the app currently does not offer any narration or text highlighting, but by adding these simple details it could certainly open the opportunity for children to practice their reading skills as they play.

    As it is now, the app encourages children to get crafty and creative as they put together fun ice cream creations varying in color with lots of options for different decorations and sprinkles. While not exactly educational in nature, it does bring out the more creative side of young children.

    Entertainment

    There is a ton of fun to be had in this app especially for young children. To start, children can read the story that illustrates what the Moppa Ice Cream fun is all about and then the fun begins. Players are provided 18 fun containers to house their ice cream creations where they then get to select various ice cream colors and flavors. After they are satisfied with their chosen scoops, they get to decorate it to their hearts content. Every thing from works, hats, funny lips, spider sprinkles, and gumballs are included in the 25 topping options which provide lots of creative opportunities for players. Once their ice cream is complete they can then feed it to one of 6 hungry monsters.

    The concept of this app is very creative and the never-ending playtime makes for a great experience for young children. This has quickly become my 5 year old’s favorite app and it will likely be your child’s favorite too.

    Value

    Priced at just under two dollars this app is priced well. With lots of great options and creative toppings for each creation and the story that is included, children will be getting lots of playing time out of this app which parents will certainly appreciate.

    Child Friendliness

    Moppa Ice Cream is not only safe for children to use, but it’s easy too. Without any instructions at all, children can jump right in and start creating their fun ice cream treats. The only thing that would make it a bit more user friendly is by incorporating a bit of narration and text highlighting for the story portion of the app. Other than that it’s great for children of all ages.

    • Protected parent area (can contain external links & social media)
    • NO external links
    • NO social media
    • NO in-app purchase
    • NO 3rd party ads

    plum
    Quality
    Education
    Entertainment
    Value
    Child Friendly
    Summary
    Plum's Photo Hunt is the perfect app for the nature lover and little explorer in your home. With a variety of photo missions and a field journal to add notes, kids are going to love this app.
    4.4

    App Info

    Price: Free
    AppStore User Rating: 5
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Plum’s Photo Hunt is a simple, yet fun app that encourages children to get outside and explore nature by taking photographs and notes on what they observe. With a variety of categories to explore including, clouds, water, animal life, plants, etc. this is a great app to keep children engaged and active especially during the summer months. This is a great app that the entire family can enjoy.

    Features include:

    • 15 Photo Missions
    • Field Journal
    • Photobombs

    Quality

    The developers have done a great job making Plum’s Photo Hunt easy to use for children of all ages. With three simple activities, children can find a variety of interesting items, animals, and plants out in nature and log them in their field journal or add a special animated character in the Photobomb section very easily. With fun illustrations and characters within the app, Plum’s Photo Hunt is of good quality for what it does.

    Education

    While children aren’t learning specific facts about what they find from the app itself, they are putting their observation skills to work as they explore. It also encourages children to get outdoors and inspires them to ask questions about the things they find. As children find various plants, clouds, and animals out in nature and log their findings, they are also given the opportunity to learn lots of great information in a hands on way.

    Entertainment

    Plum’s Photo Hunt is designed to get children outdoors and exploring their surroundings by providing specific photo missions to complete. There are a variety of categories including, water, clouds, animal life, plants, etc. for players to find and document. There is also a field journal that allows children to include their notes on what they have found and any additional observations they may have. For families that love the outdoors and love exploring nature, this app can be lots of fun. Children are also really going to enjoy the Photobomb section that allows them to take pictures with fun characters included in the background.

    To add a bit more entertainment value, it would be nice to have a reward system or an additional activity for children to enjoy along with the photo hunt activity.

    Value

    Parents will certainly appreciate the price of this app as it is completely free. With lots of things to explore in nature, and fun photobombs they can enjoy, this is an app that is likely going to be a favorite for the entire family.

    Child Friendliness

    The developers have done a great job of making this app safe and easy to use for children of all ages. With simple tap and touch functioning and the ability to type observation notes the user interface is quite intuitive and easy for kids to enjoy.

    • NO external links
    • NO social media
    • NO in-app purchase
    • NO 3rd party ads

    image (15)

    Say Word

    Quality
    Education
    Entertainment
    Value
    Child Friendly
    Summary
    Say Word is a perfect tool for students in middle to upper elementary on up to use for practice with difficult homophones and easily-confused words. Most will find the vocabulary and concepts challenging and interesting.
    4.1

    App Info

    Price: Free
    AppStore User Rating: 5
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Say Word presents players with a list of several homophones (words that are spelled differently but sound the same) and sentences with blanks. Users drag the correct word into each sentence to score points and win stickers. The app ranges from grade 1 through collegiate level, and offers a score card when each grade is completed.

    Features include:

    • Ten free levels and nearly 100 levels all together
    • Colorful drag-and-drop interface
    • Provides practice on sets of two, three, and four word homophones
    • Earn stickers and points for successful responses
    • Unlock level after level to keep the fun going

    Quality

    Say Word is a quality app that will help middle elementary students and above learn to distinguish homophones like “here/hear” and “purr/per.” The interface is simple to use; users just drag the correct word to the blank in the corresponding sentence. There is an optional timer to add an element of speed, and levels can be replayed for a better score or for review.

    However, parents and teachers should be aware that the app has a decidedly British English flair that may confuse some American students. For example, one sentence in an early level talks about a teacher giving a naughty pupil a “knap” on the head. This usage of “knap,” meaning a sharp rap, is not at all common in the U.S., and may confuse some students.  There are also some sentences that use poor grammar.  For example, one sentence reads “The elderly patient was very weak and ail after receiving her medication.” The word “ail” was the supposedly correct response, even though it was not grammatically sound.  Another example of a poorly constructed sentence, also found in the early levels of the game, was “The stuntman performed a def defying feat.”  Developers should consider revising these items and check the rest of the levels for similar problems.

    Education

    Say Word is very educational and will help students practice choosing the correct homophone from sets of confusing words.  Most students need nearly constant review of these sets of words, and mastering them is extremely important, because errors with homophones are frequently missed by spell-check systems. Nearly everyone needs to present writing with sound spelling and grammar, and mistakes on these seemingly simple words look very careless.  Practicing with Say Word will help minimize these kinds of mistakes.

    However, the app does have a few drawbacks. Though the early levels claim to be for grades 1 and 2, the vocabulary and concepts in the sentences are far too challenging for young elementary students. For example, one sentence in the second grade questions reads, “ ‘Who knows?’ is an example of a rhetorical question, because it is a statement that does not ask for an answer.”  The homophone needed for the response is well within the second grade reading vocabulary (knows), but the other words in the sentence, such as “rhetorical”, and the entire concept, are far beyond the understanding of most second graders.  So, while the app claims to reach all the way down to first grade material, a better age range might be at least middle to upper elementary level to introduce it.  The levels do claim to go past collegiate level, as well, so the app is likely to be a good practice tool for older students.

    Also, the app presents the target words in a word bank with the words colored apparently randomly against a colored background. Most of the color combinations are fine, but a few of them are very low-contrast, which could be very challenging for some readers.  Any student with visual impairment could have serious problems seeing the words.  Also, many struggling readers make a lot more errors when reading with low contrast.  App designers should ensure that the words are always in high-contrast combinations against the background color.

    Entertainment

    Say Word is not very flashy, but most learners will find it engaging enough to keep playing if they have a goal of mastering these challenging homophones.  The game moves fast, and feedback is provided for each grade level in the form of a performance “grade” as well as a number score.  Players also can earn stickers for strong performances, but this may not prove very motivating for students beyond middle elementary school.  The app uses positive comments to affirm correct responses, but these are highly repetitive and somewhat difficult to understand.  Incorrect answers will cause the sentence to drop to the end of the list, so there is little negative feedback. This helps lend an overall positive feeling to the app, even for students who struggle.  However, after three missed items, the app closes the activity and puts a “failed” message on the screen. It would be good to refocus that onto a less negative response, such as “sorry” or “let’s try again.”

    Value

    Say Word is free to download and comes with the first 10 levels built in.  This covers homophones through part of the third grade level.  There are 66 additional levels that can be unlocked through in-app purchase.  Users can choose to spend $1.99 to unlock all of the additional levels or can purchase the next 20 levels for $0.99.  The free levels will give users a good sample of the app’s workings and capabilities, but may seem fairly easy to more mature users.

    Child Friendliness

    This app is child-friendly, but has a few negative features that developers need to redesign.  It is a concern that the in-app purchases are visible on the level choice screens, though these are protected by an effective parent gate as well as the user’s App Store credentials.  It is also a concern that there is a link to share scores on Facebook presented with the completion of each grade level.  Both of these items should be protected in a Parents’ Area where they would not be visible to younger players.

    • NO external links
    • NO 3rd party ads
    • YES in-app purchases (protected, but visible)
    • YES Social media links (protected, but visible)

    pete
    Quality
    Education
    Entertainment
    Value
    Child Friendly
    Summary
    Join Pete & Mike on their adventure to help and save the townspeople from an angry dragon sleeping in a nearby mountain. With lots of adventure, interactive illustrations, and clues to follow, children will love this app!
    4.4

    App Info

    Price: $2.99
    AppStore User Rating: 5
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Pete & Mike is an adventure filled interactive story that children will love. With whimsical illustrations and lots of animated bits throughout, this app combines unique storytelling, problem solving and adventure to keep players engaged as they help Pete & Mike help a small town of people who are afraid of a nearby dragon. Children are going to love being the hero in this interactive fairytale app as they save the day!

    Features include:

    • Interactive illustrations
    • Problem solving adventure
    • Unique user interface

    Quality

    Pete & Mike is unlike any other adventurous game-like app that I have seen. With a very unique user interface, children must use their problem solving skills to follow the clues to solve the mystery and help the townspeople with their problems. While the set up isn’t exactly linear and takes some getting used to, players must get creative and follow the clues provided to know where to go next. Overall the quality is very good with great illustrations and interactive bits and the developers have done a great job of creating a helpful guide with flashing indicators for players in the event they get stuck.

    Education

    While Pete & Mike isn’t focused so much on educational features, it does provide children with a fun way to use their problem solving skills to move through the adventure and help the townspeople. Since the set up isn’t linear and players must follow the clues, it creates a fun challenge for children and creates an opportunity to really use their logic and reasoning throughout the app. Parents will also want to know that this app is designed for children between the ages of 6-8 and the text and story does not have a narration option which makes it a bit more difficult to play for younger children. Adding a narration option would definitely enhance the app and allow younger children to not only enjoy the app, but also practice a bit of their reading skills as they play.

    Entertainment

    Since this app is designed to be a bit of a puzzle, children who love that sort of thing are going to really enjoy this app. As players follow the clues to solve the mystery, they are guided to help specific people in the town and they must do it in a specific order. This unique set up can be a lot of fun for puzzle lovers and children who love a good challenge. With that said, it seems that the actual play time of the app is a bit short and adding some sort of bonus round or additional activity would add a bit more entertainment value for players.

    Value

    Priced at just under three dollars, this app is priced well for what it includes. The illustrations are very well done and the interactive features throughout make it engaging and fun to play. Both children and parents will be happy with what this app has to offer and at a price that won’t break the bank.

    Child Friendliness

    While it takes some getting used to at first, the developers have done a good job of making Pete & Mike easy to use and child friendly. The help features are well done and are perfect for younger users who might be playing and get stumped. One thing that would help make this app even more child friendly especially for younger users would be to add a narration option.

    • NO external links
    • NO social media
    • NO in-app purchase
    • NO 3rd party ads

    charliejumped
    Quality
    Education
    Entertainment
    Value
    Child Friendly
    Summary
    Charlie Jumped out of the Clock is a great app that teaches children to tell time by incorporating educational lessons into an interactive story.
    4.5

    App Info

    Price: $2.99
    AppStore User Rating:
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Charlie Jumped out of the Clock is a cute storybook app that teaches children all there is to know about telling time in a fun way. Following Grandpa throughout his day, readers learn to set the clock to specific times so Grandpa doesn’t miss his daily chores. Along the way readers also have a great opportunity to learn to tell time as well.

    Features include:

    • 17 Interactive scenes
    • 9 In-story quizzes
    • Practice mode

    Quality

    The developers have done a great job of making this app not only educational, but highly interactive in an easy to use way. The user interface is very intuitive with simple drag, drop, and tap functioning throughout. The graphics and simple animations also give a bit of interest to the app which is great to keep children engaged as they learn. Overall, Charlie Jumped out of the Clock is a great app for children of all ages.

    Education

    Learning how to tell time isn’t always easy, but this app makes it not only easy to learn, but fun too. Readers simply follow along with the narrated story as they learn all there is to know about telling time. Everything from learning what the hour and minute hands are used for to understanding the significance of AM and PM are covered in this app. Children are definitely going to get a lot of practice telling time as they complete each sequence with the additional quiz to test what they have learned all while helping Grandpa stay on task with his daily chores.

    Entertainment

    While not all educational apps are entertaining too, Charlie Jumped Out of the Clock is one that allows children to learn how to tell time while staying engaged and entertained. The story about Grandpa and Charlie the cogwheel is a good way to keep children engaged as they learn. Adding a bit more to the story or adding an additional fun activity or game would increase the entertainment value, however as it is now, it’s still a good app for kids.

    Value

    Priced at just under three dollars, this app is a very good value. With lots of great educational material to learn and a fun story to go along with it, children are going to get a lot of playing time out of this app. Parents will also appreciate the educational value for a price that won’t break the bank.

    Child Friendliness

    The developers have done a great job of keeping this app easy to use and safe for kids too. With simple tap, drag, and drop features to move through the app and narration throughout, players can easily learn to tell time with little help from parents.

    • Protected parent area (can contain external links & social media)
    • NO external links
    • NO social media
    • NO in-app purchase
    • NO 3rd party ads

    mysterywordtown
    Quality
    Education
    Entertainment
    Value
    Child Friendly
    Summary
    Head to the Wild West and practice spelling sight words as you search for gold and explore Mystery Word Town.
    4.5

    App Info

    Price: $2.99
    AppStore User Rating: 5
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Put on your cowboy boots and spurs and head to the wild, wild west. Mystery Word Town is full of shady characters and it’s your job to find them. How will you do it? By collecting letters, amassing gold, and spelling common sight words. There won’t be any duels, but there will be plenty of big personalities and a lot of words to get through.

    Features include:

    • Multiple player profiles
    • Three levels of difficulty
    • Two modes of play
    • Customizable characters

    Quality

    Mystery Word Town is home to a collection of buildings such as a general store and a circus tent. These buildings make up the town shown on the main screen. As kids travel from building to building (or level to level), a little ghost and a series of arrows guide them. The game moves smoothly from room to room in each building, but on the more involved levels has a tendency to crash occasionally. Fortunately, the game knows right where players left off when it is opened again. The game also allows multiple user accounts so different kids can play at different levels or progress at their own pace.

    Education

    While the game focuses on common sight words, it expects kids to have some familiarity with those sight words. There are two different modes of play. One mode allows kids to enter any letter in the blank to make a real word. The second mode says a word and kids must insert the correct letter in the blank. As kids get further into the game words increasingly feature more than one blank and require kids to search around for the appropriate letters. Kids can choose from three different word lists to use while they play. While the word lists appear to be at different levels, all seem to present an equal level of challenge with the design of the game.

    Entertainment

    Developers worked hard to create a realistic wild west town. Each building contains a series of wanted posters that introduce the various characters in the game. Kids can tap on the posters to hear each character’s story. The stories and the setting in general add an extra bit of entertainment to the game. Kids also have to explore each building to find the gold which often becomes the main focus and spelling the sight word is a secondary focus.

    Value

    Kids gain access to three extensive word lists featuring common sight words. Adults get access to the ability to add multiple player profiles, making it ideal for a classroom or family with multiple children. These features alone make it a solid value and worthwhile purchase.

    Child Friendliness

    The app allows kids and parents to adjust the level of word list to play and the mode of play. A more apps button is visible at the bottom of the front screen, but otherwise the game is very safe for children, a feature that is also highlighted in the parent section.

    • Protected parent area (can contain external links & social media)
    • NO external links
    • NO social media
    • NO 3rd party ads
    • NO in-app purchase
    • YES “more apps” (protected, but visible)

    mathlab
    Quality
    Education
    Entertainment
    Value
    Child Friendliness
    Summary
    Young kids can build early math skills in 17 different ways as they make their way through this engaging math app.
    4.4

    App Info

    Price: $1.99
    AppStore User Rating: 5
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    MathLab for Kindergarten gives four to six-year-olds a math app that’s focused entirely on the basic math skills they need. This app combines number, shape, and pattern recognition with concepts such as more or less to help kids gather the building blocks they need for more advanced instruction in school. Two modes of play allow kids to review individual concepts or practice them all together. As they practice, they’re rewarded with cheers, peppy background music, and other positive support to help make learning math very fun.

    Features include:

    • Multiple player profiles
    • 2 modes of play
    • 17 different skills/concepts
    • 4 different languages

    Quality

    On the main screen kids see two main options for play: Trip and Lab. They can also change the language from English to French, Spanish, or German. A small button above the logo allows kids to select their player profile or create a new player profile. Once kids have chosen a profile and start to complete the activities in the app, things move smoothly. The app does not include verbal instructions to help kids understand what to do. To play, kids must simply look at the picture and tap the correct answer out of two choices. They’re then quickly rewarded with a cheer or a shaking screen to indicate a wrong answer.

    Education

    The app focuses on the basic skills every kindergartener needs to know and it addresses each skill from multiple angles to help make the learning more interesting and to help kids gain a thorough understanding of the skill. Skills covered include number recognition, pattern completion, comparing the size of items, comparing numbers, naming shapes and counting their sides, skip counting, reading a number line, and basic addition. The app also includes color recognition which seems a bit out of place, but is helpful when completing patterns. It lacks basic subtraction practice which is part of Kindergarten standards in the U.S., but is understandable since the app was originally designed to fit Canadian standards.

    Entertainment

    The activities found in MathLab for Kindergarten all follow the same pattern. Kids see a problem and must choose the correct answer out of two choices. While this may seem like it would get boring, the content is varied so much that kids will still enjoy going through the problems. Kids can also play in two modes: Trip and Lab. Trip mode allows kids to travel to 20 different levels by bus, answering a variety of questions that increase in difficulty. Lab mode allows kids to focus on a specific skill and see how many questions they can answer correctly at one time. The game offers a small amount of progress tracking by showing how many questions have been answered correctly in both Trip and Lab modes, but it would be much more motivating and helpful if it tracked progress by skill or activity.

    Value

    With MathLab for Kindergarten, kids get access to basic math skills represented in 17 different ways. They’ll see numbers represented backwards, upside down, and in dots. They’ll fill in patterns by color and by shape. These different representations of each skill help increase the value of the app.

    Child Friendliness

    Everything found in the app is appropriate for children. Parents won’t find a parental dashboard or info screen. They also won’t see any in-app purchases, ads, or other safety concerns. The sole focus is on math.

    • NO external links
    • NO social media
    • NO 3rd party ads
    • NO in-app purchase

    stargurus
    Quality
    Education
    Entertainment
    Value
    Child Friendly
    Summary
    Star Gurus is a great app for young children that will help them practice important counting skills which are foundational to learning math in early elementary school. The dot-to-dot game is rewarding in its own right, and the teaching is so gentle and unobtrusive that kids will not even know they are practicing important skills.
    4.7

    App Info

    Price: $0.99
    AppStore User Rating:

    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Star Gurus is designed to help young children master rote counting from one to twenty, number sequence, count odd and even numbers, and skip count by tens to ninety. Players touch stars in sequence to connect them with lines in similar fashion to other dot-to-dot games, and create simple constellation pictures.

    Features include:

    • Designed for young children to play independently
    • Optimized for visually impaired players
    • 30 unique constellation pictures
    • Correct pronunciation of numbers and picture names in ten different languages
    • Helps children master important early math skills

    Quality

    Star Gurus is a high quality app that will appeal to children who are learning to recognize numbers and count. The dot-to-dot format is a perennial favorite of children, and the interface is intuitive. The simple illustrations are bright and easy to see, and the app responds quickly when stars are touched. It is possible to touch the stars a bit faster than the narration, however. This results in the voice saying “eight,” for example, when the user has touched the ten.

    Education

    Star Gurus offers a great opportunity to play with numbers in a relaxed atmosphere with guaranteed success. Parents or other adults can adjust settings to control the difficulty of the task, ranging from counting from 1 to 10 all the way to counting odd or even numbers only or skip counting by tens to ninety. The star patterns, like real constellations, are somewhat vague, so young children will often be surprised by the picture they have made. The pictures are intriguing, as well, including a brontosaurus, a sugar-glider, and a snail among other things. The narration is clear and crisp, and easy to understand, which will help children name the numbers. It’s very cool that the app can be used in any of ten different languages; with young children’s ability to pick up words in foreign tongues, this is a great opportunity to learn a few new words.

    The developers did a good job of making the game failure-proof. The next star in the sequence begins to pulsate after a few seconds, and parents can control the timing of this hint system in the settings. If a child taps an incorrect number, the line appears briefly, then disappears immediately. Every user is nearly guaranteed success.

    Entertainment

    Dot-to-dot pictures fascinate most young children, so this app will quickly become a favorite. Currently, there are thirty different “constellations” so even though the pictures seem to stay in the same order, there are enough of them that youngsters are not likely to be able to predict which will be coming next even if they’ve cycled through several times.

    The app’s illustrations are simple, yet detailed enough to be interesting, and the range of things depicted is wonderful. In addition to real world, common animals such as dog and cat, children are also treated to unicorns, octopuses, centaurs, and mermaids. The app will expand most children’s vocabulary!

    Value

    This app is a great value at ninety-nine cents. It covers a range of skills that most children learn between the ages of 3 and 7 years. In addition, kids have the opportunity to learn to count and say a few words in many other languages. Developers also indicate that they are adding more pictures with the updates, so it will be interesting to see what comes next.

    Child Friendliness

    Star Gurus is very child friendly with one glaring exception. The app presents a ratings pop-up after a few uses that is unprotected and takes the user straight to the App Store rating system. This really should be in the protected area to prevent young users from accessing it.

    • Protected parent area (can contain external links and social media)
    • NO external links
    • NO social media
    • NO in-app purchase
    • NO 3rd party ads
    • YES “rate app” pop-up (unprotected)
    • YES “more apps” (unprotected and visible by default, can be hidden in device settings)

    backsoon
    Quality
    Education
    Entertainment
    Value
    Child Friendly
    Summary
    The parents head on vacation and leave the kids behind in a cute story that teaches kids how to handle their time away.
    4.3

    App Info

    Price: $2.99
    AppStore User Rating: 5
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Most parents need to get away every now and then, but leaving the kids for a few days can evoke a range of emotions. Back Soon – Parents Vacation uses a cute rhyming story to help kids learn about the emotions they may experience when their parents go away. Even though Anna and her little brother Dan have their grandparents to entertain them, they still miss their mom and dad. By learning from the experience of Anna and Dan, kids will be more prepared when their parents take a vacation of their own.

    Features include:

    • Cute rhyming story
    • Interactive illustrations
    • Read to Me option
    • Read to Myself option

    Quality

    Back Soon – Parents Vacation gains points more for the lessons it teaches than the quality of the story. The story is narrated with an engaging child’s voice, features a fun rhyme and is illustrated with colorful pictures. However, at times the rhyme seems a bit forced and the illustrations, while interactive, are very simple. Still kids will enjoy read through the story which they can do easily using the arrows and the page selector to help guide them from page to page.

    Education

    When it comes to teaching kids about emotions, the story does a good job. It accurately captures the way many children feel when mom and dad go away. The story is also good for encouraging kids to read as it is written in a fun rhyming format. What the app lacks is text highlighting which it could use to boost its educational value, especially because some of the words are a little advanced for the lower end of its age group.

    Entertainment

    Anna has a fun voice that will hook kids from the beginning of the story. Kids will also enjoy meeting her little brother, their parents, and grandparents. As kids read, they’ll have the opportunity to interact with the illustrations. Most of the illustrations don’t do much, but in a few instances kids can complete tasks such as packing a suitcase or matching toys with their shadows. These activities will appeal more to the preschool and kindergarten set, while older kids will enjoy more of the story itself.

    Value

    While priced similarly to other interactive eBooks for kids, the app’s value comes more from the story’s lesson and less from the features it contains. If parents are planning to go on vacation, it’s worth a download, especially for the longing chart at the end of the story.

    Child Friendliness

    Kids will be very safe within the app. Aside from a credits screen which contains information about the people who created the app and an inactive link to the developer’s website, the sole focus of the app is on the story.

    • NO external links
    • NO social media
    • NO in-app purchase
    • NO 3rd party ads