Early Learning Apps

Apps are now a part of kids’ daily lives so we decided to create a list of apps that will help introduce some learning into this daily routine. These highly rated apps for Early Childhood Education are definitely favorites amongst the Best Apps team. We consider these our not-to-miss apps for early learning.

andy

App Info

Price: $19.99
AppStore User Rating:
Download on the App Store

Overview

Andy Helps You Read offers focused reading help for kids with ADHD, dyslexia, and special needs. While not as flashy as many early reading programs, the app does a solid job of helping kids learn how to read. The 20 lessons combine word recognition, letter formation, and reading practice opportunities to give kids a strong background in many of the fundamentals required to help them learn to read.

Features include:

  • 20 reading lessons
  • Word practice
  • Flashing practice
  • Reading practice
  • Developed by teachers

Quality

When kids first open the app, they’re prompted to tap on “Andy’s Helpers,” to get started. This short video tutorial features kids explaining how to use the app and offering their takeaway. It’s a solid way to introduce kids to the different components of the app. Parents are directed to the “Parent’s Place” where the creators of the app outline the overall structure of the app. This helps parents understand how the app is designed and how the design helps kids learn to read. It’s easy for kids to access the lessons. When they do, they’ll see three different activities: Word Practice, Flash Practice, and Reading Practice. The Reading Practice features narrated texts, but the narration could be improved by using an actual human voice rather than a computer. Each activity is also accompanied by calming piano music which kids can easily turn off.

Education

The creators of the app have put a lot of thought into the app and they take the time to explain their thought process to parents. Kids can go through the 20 lessons in any order, but it is best to complete them in order. In the Word Practice section, kids see a common word, and then tap on it to hear it. The Flash practice section shows kids different lines and letters to help add a visual component to reading. In the Reading Practice section, kids read along with a short text, and then answer some fill in the blank questions at the end. All of the activities move at a good speed for beginning readers and are designed to help kids feel successful from the beginning. The only real downside to the app is that the narrator for the reading passages is just a computerized voice, so a lot of the inflections and emotion that could help kids understand unfamiliar words is absent from the narration. This leads to a few awkward sentences.

Entertainment

Parents are encouraged to provide much of the entertainment factor by rewarding kids with stickers for completing lessons and printing out a certificate once kids have completed all 20 lessons. However, the app does have some entertaining components of its own such as animated icons, different speeds of flashing practice, and interesting reading passages. Andy, an airplane, also flies around at different points in the app.

Value

This app is priced higher than many reading apps, but the price isn’t entirely unjustified. Contained within the app are quality reading passages and lessons that prove to be highly beneficial to kids. While developers could add value by changing the narration, parents and teachers of struggling readers will likely find that the app comes with a lot of value, particularly if they can snag it at a lower price during a promotion.

Child Friendliness

All of the content in the app is child friendly. Kids can access the Parent’s Place and hear how the app is designed to help them, but they likely won’t sit through the entire video. The app also offers a short video tutorial that features actual kids to help motivate them to use and enjoy the app.

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

core2

App Info

Price: Free
AppStore User Rating: 5

Download on the App Store

Overview

Autism Core Skills is a comprehensive academic and social skills practice system designed for students with autism. The app employs best educational practices to provide scaffolded learning experiences in math, reading and social skills for autistic students of any age working on preschool through first grade level skills.

Features include:

  • Comprehensive skills practice available
  • Detailed record keeping system suitable for monitoring IEP progress
  • Capability to sync with a mentor’s device for continuity of learning
  • Effective, scaffolded learning experiences
  • Automatic or manual task assignments

Quality

Infiniteach: Autism Core Skills is a high quality app. The system is extraordinarily complex and detailed, and developers included many features to make the app useful to educators and parents, including the capability to choose the student’s age and developmental level, the ability to designate a mentor who can access the subscription from another device, and a system to automatically or manually assign learning tasks. The app would benefit from a more detailed usage tutorial, however, as some parts are not clearly explained, and the whole system is very complex. This would help users, particularly non-professionals, get the most from the app.


One fairly large concern is that the app seems to have several glitches that may make it a bit frustrating to use. It crashed several times at various places when I was testing it, which would be challenging if I were to be working with a real student. I found no apparent pattern with timing or activity within the app; the crashes appeared to be random to my eye. It’s possible they were even related to instability in my internet connection, but I have no way to test that theory. I just know that as I was playing different student activities I was dropped completely out of the app, and twice in the adult dashboard, it hung up and had to be closed down and restarted to proceed. There are problems with the graphics in the sports section on the numeral matching activity where the billiard balls being used for illustration do not show up, leaving the user to try to guess which of the X’s contain the correct number. The app is so large and complex that I do not know if there are similar graphics problems elsewhere, but developers would be wise to give it a thorough going-over to find out for sure.

Education

Educationally speaking, Autism Core Skills is a real find. The app is designed for use by professionals or those with a detailed knowledge of the student’s current functioning level in reading, math and social skills. Setting up a student’s profile requires some fairly detailed information, but the end result is well worth the effort. The app is capable of automatically assigning Common Core based tasks from Preschool through Grade 1 that gradually increase in complexity and will keep most students challenged. It adjusts for the student’s attention span. It has a no-fail system, where students are gently guided into selecting the correct response if needed, and the app is adaptive in that it presents just the right level of complexity of task based on the student’s performance. There is a wealth of subtopics available in each area, and it is possible to accommodate a student with an unequal set of strengths and skill deficits. There are dozens of skills covered in the three areas, with supplemental printable activities available to subscribers.


Perhaps one of the most unusual features of the app is the capability to designate a mentor for the student. This second adult can use the app on another device under the same subscription, and the activities will sync between sessions no matter who was using it. This would allow teachers to use the same program as parents or tutors, and make the experience remarkably consistent for the student.


The app also keeps extensive data on student usage and performance. The data can be aggregated and presented in a number of different ways suitable for varying purposes, not the least of which would be data collection for monitoring IEP goal progress. This feature alone makes this app incredibly useful.

Entertainment

Autism Core Skills does an outstanding job of being engaging and entertaining for a population that frequently has difficulties with attention and focus. Adults can choose favorite themes to connect the motivational and reward sequences to each student’s preferences. Themes include animals, farms, foods, ocean, pirates, school, sports, toys, trains and vehicles, and users can choose multiple thematic preferences. The themes are used to design the work tasks to add motivation. For example, a sports theme uses a sports photograph as a background for many tasks, and/or uses sporting equipment as the focus of the activity. The sports themed number matching exercises, for instance, used billiard balls with numbers to match to the target number. The animal-themed beginning sounds exercise required the student to match the correct animal picture to the target sound.


In addition to customizing the exercises with the themes, the app also offers a reward sequence after the student completes enough exercises to finish a set. These are highly motivational animated sequences or even video clips related to the chosen theme. The sports theme, for example, shows clips of football and basketball games. The toys theme shows playing cards doing an animated flip across the screen. These are overlaid with motivational messages, such as “Great Work!” The one suggestion here would be to voice the motivational messages, as many of the students in the younger age ranges and developmental levels may not have the reading skills to enjoy them.

Value

Autism Core Skills offers a free one week trial where a teacher or parent can try the app with a single student. It is free to download in the App Store. There are three subscription plans available, suitable for different situations, but all outstanding value. The Basic plan is $99.99 annually and allows for usage by one student. This may be most appropriate for a parent or the teacher of an inclusion student in the regular classroom. The Medium plan costs $139.99 annually and allows for use by five students. Developers suggest this plan for teachers or therapists with a small caseload. The Premium plan costs $189.99 annually and allows the app to be used for up to 10 students. All levels offer the mentor feature, where another adult can use the same subscription on a different device and sync student performance data.

Child Friendliness

Developers did an outstanding job of making this app child-friendly for the population. It is designed to be used with close adult supervision, and the social skills activities are designed to be used by an adult and child interacting in the prescribed manner. The adult dashboard gives outstanding control over the function of the app. Once the adult pushes “Play Lessons,” the app shifts into a student mode that makes all other functions of the device unavailable. The app can be turned off using the device’s home button, but there are no other methods to do anything other than the assigned tasks. Adults can return to either the student or the adult dashboard using a pre-arranged exit code that can be entered after holding the upper right corner of the screen for a few seconds.

  • Protected parent area (contains external link to email)
  • NO social media
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • YES in-app purchase for subscription accessible only from adult dashboard”more apps”

icon-256b

App Info

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

Overview

Time for Bed Little Ted is a soothing storybook app that is a perfect bedtime story for your little one. In the story, parents and children help Little Ted get ready for bed by going through his nightly routine. With music that creates a calming feel and simple to use interactive activities on each page, children are going to love reading this sweet tale before bedtime.

Features include:

  • Text highlighting
  • In-story activities
  • Voice Record
  • Read to me/Read to myself

Quality

Time For Bed Little Ted is a cute storybook app that is sure to help little ones begin to wind down for the night. In addition to the easy to use interface and brightly colored images and illustrations, the developers have included soothing music and narration to help create a calming feel for the app overall. The activities included within the story are simple and help readers move through a bedtime routine which may be especially helpful for parents who have bedtime struggles with their little one. Overall, the app is very well done.

Education

For many children getting into a bedtime routine can be difficult, but this storybook app walks children through the various tasks that need to be done before bed. As readers help Little Ted clean up his toys, put on his pajamas, wash his face, and brush his teeth, they too are learning the necessary steps they must complete before bed. The developers have also included text highlighting and a variety of narration options for children to follow along and practice their reading skills which is great.

Entertainment

In addition to the already entertaining story, readers will be happy to find short, interactive activities throughout the story. By helping Little Ted put his toys away, put his pajamas on, wash his face, brush his teeth, and read his own bedtime story, children are not only able to stay engaged in the story, but they are also learning their own bedtime routine. The developers have also included a coloring activity for little ones to enjoy in addition to the story.

Value

Priced at just under three dollars, this app is priced well for what you get. When you consider the narration options, voice record, in-story activities, and the coloring pages, this app is a steal. Both parents and children can agree that this is a great bedtime app that won’t break the bank.

Child Friendliness

In addition to having an excellent, soothing story with fun activities for children to enjoy, Time For Bed Little Ted is incredibly easy to use and safe too. With simple tap and drag functioning throughout and arrows at the bottom of each page to follow along with this is a great app for children of all ages. The developers have also done a great job making this app free of ads and other distractions.

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

image (5)

App Info

Price: $1.99
AppStore User Rating:

Download on the App Store

Overview

Drew Meets Boo is another installment in the story of Drew and his drum. In this story, Drew meets a friend he can truly admire. The book has a healthy, positive message for young children as they learn to get along with one another.

Features include:

  • Highly interactive pages
  • Three languages (English, Chinese, Spanish) available
  • Colorful, engaging illustrations
  • Optional narration
  • Rhyming text

Quality

Drew Meets Boo is an excellent quality ebook designed for young children. It is easy to navigate and highly interactive. The pages that have text are not read automatically, but can easily be activated by touching the words. The language can be changed between English, Spanish and Chinese. It would be nice if there was a way to “tone down” the background music, though. As it stands, the choices are only a toggle on or off. The music is very nice, but frequently overbalances the sound effects and the narration.

Education

Drew Meets Boo is the second book in a series about a young boy who enjoys his drum so much that he takes it everywhere. He sometimes struggles with teasing and bullying because of this. In this story, he meets Boo, a girl with such bright red hair that people tease her about it. She handles the teasing very well, and Drew is impressed. She sets quite a good example for not letting bullies upset her. She and Drew form a lasting friendship as they accept each other for who they are. The app also does not include any games or puzzles like many in this category, which could extend the educational value.


The storyline in this book is a little thin. It relies fairly heavily on knowing Drew’s history with his drum for meaning, and readers who did not read the first book may be just a little bit lost. The book also does not suggest possible strategies to handle the bullies and the teasing, as the first book did. Drew learns that Boo doesn’t let teasing or meanness get to her, and she even invites the bullies to her birthday party, where they all have a great time. If only things were that easy in real life!

Entertainment

Drew Meets Boo is very entertaining. The book is one of the most interactive e-books that I’ve seen, with nearly every object on each page activating a hidden animation or sound effect. Some touches trigger random effects that change each time you activate them. It can get quite frantic if readers touch rapidly and get many effects going all at once!


Though there is a lot of busy-ness, the interactions don’t support the story very well. In fact, the story manages to go from beach scenes to circus scenes to snow scenes to outdoor birthday party scenes in thirteen short pages. Developers may want to consider a few less interactions that are more related to the story, as the present array can get quite distracting.

Value

Drew Meets Boo is $1.99 in the App Store, which is a great value. The story is uplifting, the interactions are fun, and young children will be quite entertained. They are likely to use this ebook again and again, which always improves the value!

Child Friendliness

This app is very child-friendly. It does include an advertisement for another app by the same developer on the navigation page, but it is not a live link.

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

Springagain

App Info

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

Overview

It’s Spring Again is an artistic, educational app that teaches children about how the seasons change. This interactive uses narration, coupled with gorgeous illustrations to teach young children about how the seasons change and what happens within each season.

Features include:

  • Artistic images
  • Narration
  • Easy to use

Quality

The first thing users will notice about It’s Spring Again are the lovely images and interactive illustrations that are quite artistic. The images are brightly colored, and engaging especially for younger audiences. The narration the developers have included share the information about the seasons in a way that makes it sound more like a story, without the words to follow along. The developers have also included an easy to use interface that only requires children to simply tap and touch their way through the app in order to play.

While the majority of the app is of excellent quality, there are some transitions that could get a bit frustrating for children as it isn’t quite clear what else needs to be done to move forward. For instance, when tapping the trees to allow fruit or flowers to pop up it would seem that everything has been tapped, yet there is more to be done. Making this a bit more evident for users in this section would be helpful.

Education

While this isn’t your traditional educational app, it does teach children about each of the seasons and how nature changes with each new season. Through interactive animations and narration, users learn a bit about each of the seasons while tapping the trees, ground, and sky to watch weather changes before their eyes. The app also sounds a bit like a story, making it both educational and entertaining.

Entertainment

While It’s Spring Again doesn’t include any specific games for children to play, it his highly interactive and requires users to tap and touch their way through the app to make it come to life. As they tap the trees they will find flowers, leaves, and fruit appear or fall to the ground. There are also a wide variety of other interactive animations that are entertaining and engaging for young children to enjoy.

Value

Priced at just under three dollars, this app is priced well for what it entails. When you consider the artistic illustrations, narration, educational value, and the easy to use interface, the value is clear. Parents will certainly appreciate all that this app has to offer for a price that won’t break the bank.

Child Friendliness

Parents will be happy to know that It’s Spring Again is completely safe for children to use. With no external links, social media or advertisements, this app is perfect for children of all ages. The developers have also included narration and a simple tap and touch functioning so it is quite intuitive for young children to enjoy.

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

kprep

App Info

Price: $4.99
AppStore User Rating: 5

Download on the App Store

Overview

Kindergarten Prep offers skill-building activities for young children in the areas of alphabet, fruit, colors, animals, counting, and shapes. Each section includes a learning activity, a writing/drawing exercise, a guessing game, and a related play activity.

Features include:

  • 6 skill areas with 4 types of activities each
  • Child-centered, friendly environment
  • Fun, low stress games
  • Quality narration and voiced directions
  • Intuitive and easy to use

Quality

Kindergarten Prep is a high quality app that will help young children practice some important skills. The developers did a good job of including scaffolded activities, i.e., activities that teach and gradually require more thought from players. Four of the skills addressed (colors, numbers, alphabet, shapes) are intricately wound into standards for kindergarten students and will directly help kids be more successful in school. The animals and fruits sections are also valuable in that they expand vocabulary and give kids a chance to use words.

One concern is that there are a number of obvious misspellings and grammar problems on the app, including the word puzzles spelled “puzzels” on the title of the game in the Animals section where kids can see it. The Alphabet game instructs, “Pop the balloon to know its alphabet” which is sort of an odd way to phrase the concept. Directions on the Fruits game say “Catch the fruits in basket” and the Counting game instructs “Catch the counting.” Errors such as these set a poor example for young children who are just beginning to sort out the finer points of grammar.

Education

This app does a good job of providing an array of skills practice for preschool children. Most of the sections offer valuable beginning practice with recognition and find motor skills such as writing letters and numbers. The Learn activities in each section introduce the various items within the group and give examples. The Draw activities provide a selection of virtual colored pencils and dotted lines to trace items such as letters and numbers. The section does not seem as related in the Colors area, as children are tracing various items of different colors, but the color names are not mentioned. It is also quite difficult in the Fruits and in the Animals areas, where the dotted figures are far too intricate for most preschoolers’ skills. The Guess section in each area provides children with an opportunity to check their skills, such as counting items 1-20 and selecting the matching numeral. The font used in this area, however, is a poor choice for young children, as the 6s and 9s in particular are very difficult to read. The Play area of each section is a simple game to apply the skills learned. Several sections use a “pop the balloons” type game where kids tap the balloons to hear what they represent. There is a simple jigsaw puzzle in the Animals section, a catching game in the Numbers section, and a drag and drop game in the Shapes section.

Entertainment

Young children will have fun playing Kindergarten Prep. The app provides a nice array of different tasks, so there is some good play value. The illustrations are generally clear, but many are designed to look like a child drew or colored them. For example, there are stray color marks outside of the shapes in the Shapes section, as though a child colored outside of the lines. It’s a matter of opinion, but I would prefer to see a bit more professionalism in the artwork.

I am concerned that children may tire of this app relatively quickly, after going through each of the sections one or two times. It would be nice to see a bit more variety in the games across the sections, or perhaps a randomly-selected game format so that users could not be certain what type of game will come up next.

Value

This app is $4.99 in the App Store, which seems a bit pricy. If the app will be used by multiple children, as in a family setting or a classroom setting, then the cost would be worthwhile. For one child, however, I don’t believe there’s enough play value to keep kids using it long enough to be worth the price.

Child Friendliness

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

image

App Info

Price: $3.99
AppStore User Rating:

Download on the App Store

Overview

Elastic Alphabets for Kids is a comprehensive look at the ABCs and their most common sounds using engaging animations and memorable sound effects. Each letter is presented by name and sound with a demonstration of how to write it, and then three key words beginning with the target letter. Each key word has cute animations that will keep children in stitches, activated by a simple tap to the screen.

Features include:

  • Choose letters or go in alphabetical order
  • Includes demonstration of writing
  • Vowels use short sounds
  • At least three engaging animations per keyword
  • Intriguing sound effects

Quality

Elastic Alphabets for Kids is a high quality app that children are sure to enjoy. It is intuitive to use. Young children simply tap the screen to initiate the animations. The navigation controls are in the form of clear icons, with arrows to move forward and back and a home button. There is also a way to choose letters instead of simply working through the alphabet in order.

One possible drawback is that the animations of the keywords are randomized, but there is no protection against seeing the same animation over and over again. There are at least three animations per word (sometimes four, but it’s difficult to tell with the randomization active), but because of the randomizing, the same animation may appear again and again. Some children may get a bit bored by this. In some cases, it took me fifteen to twenty taps to reveal all three animations, which is too many.

Also, developers should examine the grammar in the Parent’s Area and in the App Store description. There are missing words, missing affixes, and words used incorrectly. The text seems to have been translated, which makes the errors understandable, but they detract from the overall professional presentation of the app. In addition, there are some claims that are not very clear and may be misunderstood, such as the assertion that the app uses “short vowel phonics and words,” by which they mean that the key words for the vowels all begin with the short sounds. Other words in the app do not necessarily follow short vowel phonics patterns, such as “octopus” and “airplane.”

Education

Elastic Alphabets is a great way to introduce young children, students learning English as a second language, or special needs students to the 26 English alphabet letters and their sounds. The app presents the letters in order, though there is a mechanism to choose to view whichever letter is desired. For each, it shows the letter (choose capital or lower case in the parents’/settings section), repeats the name and gives the sound. If the user taps the letter, the app shows how to write it with an animated pencil. Tap the arrow on the lower right side of the screen, and the app begins a slide show of three words that begin with the letter. Each word is shown with a vivid illustration. When users tap the screen, they are shown an animation involving the focus word. For example, the app shows “egg” for the letter E. In one animation, the main character, Gigi, paints a funny face on the shell. In another, the egg cracks open and is fried. In a third, the egg is duplicated across the screen, then hatches out a row of chicks. Some letters have more than three sequences. The animations are engaging, quick and quirky, and they are sure to please the target audience. The sound effects are priceless! The animations are also randomized, so the user won’t know which is coming next.

A few of the letter sounds are not made correctly. For example, the short A sound is represented more as a schwa sound instead of the more typical /a/ as in cat. Some of the key words for A are not typical short a sounds, either, such as arrow and airplane. These words have an R-controlled long a sound instead of a short one. But on the whole, this app does an amazing job of representing the letters and the sounds they make.

Entertainment

Children will absolutely love this app! Many of the animations for each word are very funny and some are downright strange, such as the goat’s horns that turn to tree branches and sprout leaves. Giggling Gigi (the main character) is involved in many sequences, and it can be fun to try to guess where it will turn up next. Some of the animations even tell a little story across pictures, such as the frog that eats the fly for the letter F, then spits it back up again in a burping bubble in another sequence.

Value

This app may seem a bit pricy, but if you work with children who need to be motivated to go through the alphabet and learn the sounds, it will be worth the money. It costs $3.99 in the App Store. It would be particularly nice for students with special needs, or those who are having some difficulty mastering letter sounds, since it is highly motivational. Developers may want to consider a sample version with a few letters animated so that parents and teachers can see what fun the program can be, and so be encouraged to purchase.

Child Friendliness

Elastic Alphabets is child-friendly. The parents/settings area and a link to more apps by this developer are on the main page, but they are protected by an effective parent gate

  • Protected parent area (contains external links, ratings link & social media)
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • NO in-app purchase
  • YES “more apps” (protected, but visible)
  • hangman2

    App Info

    Price: $2.99
    AppStore User Rating: 5

    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Spelling Bug Hangman provides over 900 built-in spelling words and the capability to add your own words to a hangman game. Users can play alone or with a friend. Players also earn coins to use to purchase hints and other helps to improve their play.

    Features include:

    • Over 900 words provided in three categories
    • Capability to add words with recorded voice clues
    • Choice of three levels of difficulty
    • Earn coins to purchase various hints
    • One or two players

    Quality

    Spelling Bug Hangman is a high quality app that is versatile and easy to use. The app includes options for several levels and over a hundred different word lists, as well as the capability to add words of your own choosing. Game play is rewarded with coins that can be used to purchase various types of hints to use as the game gets more difficult.

    Developers should consider improving navigation through the app. There should be a way to return to the main page and a way to exit games that are not yet completed. As it stands, there are several places where users cannot return to the starting point if they wish, and if a user accidentally begins a game with an incorrect level or word list, the round must be played through.

    There are some minor glitches in the program, as well. There are times when the animation of the hatching cocoon (the reward for correctly-chosen letters) shows two stages at the same time, which some children may find a bit confusing. The instructions about game play could be made much more clear; I had to do a lot of experimenting to discover just how to use each feature. And finally, developers should clean up the errors in the parents area and in the app’s description online. There are some grammar mistakes that a bit of proofreading would eliminate, and in the parents’ area, reference is made to the words being presented in phonetic families “such as ‘one, done, gone and none.’” These words are actually in two different phonetic families due to the differences in their pronunciation, though they do have similar spellings, and are definitely not the best example of the phonics principle.

    Education

    Spelling Bug Hangman is an outstanding app for basic spelling practice. The game is motivating, and it’s wonderful that parents or teachers have the capability of entering individualized spelling lists and recording the spoken cues as desired. This really extends the app’s usefulness. The included words are all from the early grades of elementary school, and with this feature, more challenging words could easily be added.

    The game is played like the traditional paper-and-pencil hangman game, but has a few unique twists of its own. The goal is to hatch a cocoon into a butterfly. Incorrect letter choices cause a hungry bug to munch on the leaf holding the cocoon, and correct letters help the caterpillar to grow until it finally hatches and flies away. The levels of difficulty seem to affect the number of incorrect letter guesses allowed. Correctly spelled words (or even attempts!) earn coins that can be exchanged for various types of hints including a spoken version of the target word, picture clues, additional guesses, and more.

    The game includes access to a “casual” list of easy words (14 levels with ten words each) and phonetically organized word lists from first or second grade curriculums (40 lists of ten words each at each grade level). When combined with the capability to add individualized word lists, the app is quite versatile. It also keeps minimal records for students, showing which word lists and which levels have been accessed and accomplished.

    Entertainment

    This app is quite entertaining, especially for the target age group of young elementary students. The use of purchased hints will be a great motivator for most students. It would be nice if additional hints, changes to the avatar bug, or other rewards could be unlocked after many points are accumulated; it is quite possible to build up lots of coins with nothing interesting to use them on.

    The leaf-munching bug that endangers the cocoon on each turn might get a bit mundane, as well. Developers may want to consider adding a few other scenarios where the main character is in jeopardy from incorrect letters and freed or empowered by correct letters just to liven things up a bit.

    Value

    Spelling Bug Hangman is an excellent value. It is $2.99 in the App Store, and will be very useful for general spelling practice, phonics review, and individualized spelling practice for young elementary students as well as those with special needs or students learning English as a second language.

    Child Friendliness

    This app is very child friendly. The parent area is protected by an effective parent gate.

    • Protected parent area (contains external links, social media, and rating)
    • NO 3rd party ads
    • NO in-app purchase

    ride

    App Info

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

    Overview

    Help kids learn the names of animals and vehicles with RIDE, Learn language, vocabulary puzzle. This simple and silly app gives kids phrases and asks them to find the pictures to match the phrases. Dolphins drive tractors, toucans drive bulldozers, and kids build their vocabularies as they put the pictures together.

    Features include:

    • Available in 8 Languages
    • Learn the names of animals
    • Learn the names of vehicles
    • Make silly pictures

    Quality

    When kids first open the app, they see a large question mark in the middle of the screen, a smaller question mark in the upper right hand corner, and a flag in the lower right hand corner. The quality of the game would be improved by offering kids a few basic instructions to get started. Instead, they must tap on and swipe the question marks to figure it out for themselves. The game could also be improved by enhancing the quality of the images. Some, such as the flamingo, sit tall in the vehicles, while others, such as the eagle can barely be seen. The eagle has other issues as well as many kid will not immediately recognize it as an eagle.

    Education

    The app is designed to help kids improve their vocabulary in eight different languages: American English, British English, French, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, and Russian. For each language, the game is essentially the same – kids hear a description and must find the pictures to match the description. For example, if the phrase is, “The toucan is driving the bulldozer,” kids will have to find the picture of the toucan and the bulldozer. Most of the images are fairly recognizable. If kids do not know the words, they can simply try arranging different pictures until they get the right combination. While this game is somewhat unique and does reinforce vocabulary skills, it would be much improved by adding the words to the screen along with the audio. This would help kids build multiple layers of vocabulary recognition.

    Entertainment

    For kids, the game is fairly entertaining. They hear a silly phrase and arrange the pictures to display that phrase. As they successfully complete phrases they earn more animals and vehicles so they can create even more silly pictures. Even if kids do not know what the words are saying, they can scroll through the pictures and come up with their own combinations of animals and vehicles to enjoy.

    Value

    Parents and teachers who want to encourage kids to learn animal and vehicle names or are just looking for a fun free app should give this one a try. It may not be the most educational, but kids will enjoy it.

    Child Friendliness

    Aside from the game screen, the app only contains one other screen. Kids can select from different languages. They’ll also see a button to view more apps from the developer, but it is protected by a parental lock.

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

    image (6)

    App Info

    Price: $5.99

    AppStore User Rating: 5

    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Kids Sound Lab Pro is designed for parents, teachers, or other adults to provide letter sound and articulation practice to young learners or ESL students. The app presents consonant sounds in the usual order of acquisition, with options to hear and produce the sound in isolation, in syllables, and in words. Vowel sounds are presented separately, and the app provides practice games for all letters.

    Features include:

    • Recording and playback feature included
    • Interactive games included
    • Description of how to produce each sound
    • Sounds introduced in order of typical acquisition
    • Intuitive and easy-to-use

    Quality

    Kids Sound Lab Pro is a very high quality app that will help parents, teachers and care givers provide sequential and effective articulation practice activities to students. The app is easy to use and easy to customize to the needs of the learner. It includes the capability of setting up individual user accounts to keep track of multiple students. All of the phonemes are represented on the home screen, so it is easy to choose (or allow the student to choose) which ones to practice. Developers have obviously done extensive research before designing, and have collected data from users of the app to document its effectiveness.

    Education

    This app is an outstanding example of an articulation practice app. One caution is to not confuse it with a phonics program-the app deals primarily with letter sounds and how to say them, not how they are likely to be spelled in key words. For example, the sound /m/ is paired with a picture of an ice cream cone, because the character is making the “Mmmmmm mmmm” sound to indicate pleasure in the taste. The sound /b/ is paired with a drum because the phoneme sounds much like the sound of a drum beat.

    Each of the 24 consonant sounds is presented by showing the capital, lower case, and finger spelling form of the letter with a related animation and a short narration. Users can tap an icon to hear a description of how to make the sound with lips, tongue, mouth and voice. Some of these descriptions are quite clear, such as “put your lips together and make your nose and throat vibrate” to make the sound of M. Other descriptions, however, leave just a little bit to be desired, such as the explanation for the sound of W, which is described as “hooting like an owl.” On the whole, the feature is helpful, but adults should prescreen each one to make sure the explanation makes sense to them.

    After the introductory sequence, users can pop balloons that voice the consonant with each of the five long vowels, then can see and hear a collection of illustrated key words beginning with the target sound. Finally, there are three interactive games to reinforce each sound.

    The section dealing with the vowel sounds explains the long and short sounds of each of the five vowels, and then provides similar interactive games to reinforce the learning. Both the consonant and the vowel sections have a feature that will allow students to record and play back their attempts to make the sounds. This will be very helpful for teachers or adults working with multiple students, to help monitor progress.

    Entertainment

    While this app really isn’t intended to be entertaining, children are likely to find it engaging. And while the app is intended for younger learners, it is not babyish, and could be useful for older ESL students, as well. Each picture is animated, and there is a nice narration for each sound. The pictures are clear and colorful, and each depicts familiar items or scenes. The interactive games are easy to use. They include activities such as sorting words by initial sound, playing a matching game, and popping balloons on the screen. There is a nice variety of types of responses that will keep the app interesting.

    Value

    This app costs $5.99 in the App Store, but it is worth the investment if you are working with students who need articulation practice or students who are learning English sounds. It is a professional tool that is easy enough for parents to use, and robust enough that therapists and teachers will appreciate its capabilities.

    Child Friendliness

    Kids Sound Lab Pro is very child-friendly. There are sections designed for adults, such as student records, links to ratings and websites, social media, email contact information, and so forth that are all protected by an effective parent gate (solving a multiplication fact with some text-dense directions). The only possible trouble spot is that the settings area which contains percent settings for passing and other options, is unprotected.

    • Parent area (contains protected external links, social media, and app rating)
    • NO in-app purchase
    • NO 3rd party ads
    • NO in-app purchase

    2015-12-18 (1)

    App Info

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

    Overview

    Something terrible has happened to Peepo and the elves in Christmasland. Instead of preparing for Halloween, the witch has to head to Christmasland to save Christmas. This delightful animated story combines fun characters, music, and games to create a magical holiday learning experience for kids.

    Features include:

    • Interactive story
    • Educational games
    • Fun characters
    • Three languages: English, French, German
    • Feature 4

    Quality

    Kids will find that the app is well-organized and easy to navigate. Once in the story, they’ll find a page navigation bar on the side, as well as arrows to allow them to turn the individual pages. As kids are reading through and interacting with the story, dots appear to tell them where to tap, making it easy to figure out what is going on. The story itself features clear narration and different voices for each character. Those voices, along with the sound effects and animations, help make the story enjoyable.

    Education

    While the story does not feature text highlighting, it does offer other elements to help kids understand the text. Each character’s dialogue is displayed in a different color. Dialogue is also set off from the regular text with a small icon. Throughout the app, kids also get to participate in different learning activities. For example, in one of the first scenes, they must use their number recognition skills to build a snowman. The story also includes an alphabet game and multiple activities designed to help kids use their fine and gross motor skills.

    Entertainment

    The premise of the story – a witch who has to leave her Halloween preparations to save Christmas – is an amusing one. While kids will enjoy all of the games and other interactive elements of the story, they’ll also find that the story itself is very entertaining. The entertainment factor is increased by the fun character voices and sound effects within the app. As kids read through the story and complete activities, they also get the chance to unlock a few surprises.

    Value

    Kids can download the app and read the first part of the story for free, but access to the entire story must be purchased within the app. The price of the entire story is comparable to other animated ebooks and includes a set of educational games and other fun surprises for kids. If kids are interested in the first part of the story, it’s worth a download to keep reading on.

    Child Friendliness

    The app does contain an in-app purchase. It also displays a “More Apps” button on the main screen and a “Rate Us” button in the credits. However, all of this content is protected by parental locks.

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

    movingbooks

    App Info

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

    Overview

    Moving Books is a quality addition to the animated storybooks app field. This app lends its own unique style of animation to classic songs and stories. Seven free songs and stories are included with the app and parents can opt to purchase and download additional titles. Chances are kids will love the animations and beg their parents to download more for them to enjoy.

    Features include:

    • 4 free stories
    • 3 free songs
    • Cute animations
    • Fun sound effects 4

    Quality

    When kids first open the app, they’ll find that it takes a bit of time to load. When parents open the store, they will also find that it takes a bit of time to load and they cannot leave the store until the download is complete. Aside from this, Moving Books is a quality app. It features fun background music and really cute animated characters that have a style all of their own. Each of the songs and stories is well-animated and plays clearly so kids can enjoy without any frustration.

    Education

    The stories and songs contained within the app include the text displayed at the bottom of the screen. The app lacks text highlighting, but the text is presented in simple sentences displayed in a large white font, so it easy for kids to follow along. The words are accompanied by fun animations that help kids connect with the text. These features make this a good app to get toddlers, preschoolers, and other beginning readers interested in reading.

    Entertainment

    All of the stories and songs are accompanied by fun sound effects and animations. The animations have their own distinct style and are really enjoyable to watch. Listening to the stories is also entertaining, as the different characters all have their own voices. The songs contained within the app are catchy too.

    Value

    Just for downloading the app, kids get access to four animated stories and three songs. These include classic stories such as “The Three Little Pigs” and songs such as “The Other Day I Met a Bear.” This content alone makes the app worth a download. Parents can also select and purchase additional songs and apps. These selections are reasonably priced.

    Child Friendliness

    Both the store and menu are protected by a parental block. In the settings area, parents can opt to turn specific stories on or off, allowing them to choose the content they want their children to see.

    • 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)

    screen640x640

    App Info

    Price: Free
    AppStore User Rating:

    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Drew’s Dancing Drum tells the story of a young boy learning to be himself in spite of criticism from others. The book promotes a number of positive values, such as seeking guidance from parents, handling bullies, and more.

    Features include:

    • Highly interactive pages
    • Three languages (English, Chinese, Spanish) available
    • Colorful, engaging illustrations
    • Optional narration
    • Rhyming text

    Quality

    Drew’s Dancing Drum is a good quality e-book with a positive message that will appeal to many young children. The pages are loaded with interactions; nearly every picture on each page does something when tapped.  Some interactions are very appropriate, such as animating a hug between father and son at a touching moment.  Each page also has a hidden gingerbread cookie for children to find.  Some of the interactions seem quite gratuitous, though, such as trees that grow and shrink or Christmas stockings that bounce.  While they may be fun to find, they add little to the story.

    There are some concerns with the mechanics of the book.  Some children may find it difficult to turn the pages, since the page forward arrow is hidden. Users must first use a different arrow to open up the navigation on each page, then tap the arrow to move forward or backward in the book.  It would be nice to have an option to tone down the background music, especially for children who have difficulty concentrating.  The app plays an assortment of Christmas carols, but all at a fairly frantic pace and at a higher volume level than is necessary.  Also, there are a few pages where some text is hidden until the user taps the text to have it read aloud.  There is no indication that there is more to know on the page, so children who are trying to read on their own may miss a few key points in the story.

    Education

    Drew’s Dancing Drum has a theme of learning to love yourself with subthemes related to managing outside criticism or bullying and listening to parents.  It sends some very positive messages, especially to young children.  It is always nice to find ebooks that build up character!

    Drew, a young boy full of the joy of life, has a drum he loves and takes everywhere. In the middle of his happiness, another child makes fun of his drum and sucks much of the joy out of his world. His father helps him see that others’ words don’t need to affect how we feel about ourselves, and Drew resumes his happy outlook on life.

    While the book does have a very positive message, it could be improved by making the message more clear. Young children, particularly those who are struggling with bullying, sometimes have difficulty with subtlety. The bullying depicted in the story is extremely gentle, and only comes from one person.  The solution was simply Dad reminding Drew that the other boy was wrong to make fun of the drum.  It might be important for young children to hear a stronger message that they should be themselves and not allow outsiders to influence their self-worth.

    Entertainment

    This app is very interactive. Each page has numerous animations and sound effects, almost to the point of overwhelm.  Lights can be turned on and off, fires in the fireplace change color, trees grow and shrink, and animals jump and gyrate.  It might be better for developers to focus on five or six interactions that better support the story and theme than to have so many (some pages have dozens) that seem a bit out of place.

    Many ebooks also have short games to reinforce the main ideas of the story, and this one would benefit from a greater selection of activities.  As it stands, each page has a hidden gingerbread cookie to find, but no other games that I could see.

    Value

    Drew’s Dancing Drum is a free app, so it’s a great value even if your child only reads through it a few times.  It’s got a very positive message and might help a child who is struggling with negativity from others consider asking a parent or teacher for help. That alone is important, and when you throw in the fun of tracking down the interactions on each page, it’s well worth your investment of time to download.  I wouldn’t use it as bedtime fare, though!  The background music is very fast-paced and is quite likely to wind children up instead of helping them relax.

    Child Friendliness

    This app is very child-friendly, but might be a bit difficult to use due to the placement of the navigation tools.  There is an advertisement for another app from this developer in the page selection area, but it is not a live link.

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

    image (3)

    App Info

    Price: $1.99
    AppStore User Rating: 3.5

    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Planet Lettra is a playground for word-building. Users are magically transported to the mythical Planet Lettra where letters float in bubbles in the sky. When the bubbles bump, the letters combine, and sooner or later, make words. The beings on the planet eat letter groups of various types. Together, the activities set the stage for productive letter play for prereaders, emergent readers, and experienced readers alike.

    Features include:

    • Support for English, French and Spanish play
    • Over 100,000 possible words in each language
    • Emphasis on 1,000 high frequency words
    • Stress-free play environment with soothing sounds
    • Simple play designed for young children

    Quality

    Planet Lettra is a very high quality app that performs exactly as expected.  Developers put a lot of thought into the mechanics of the game, making it easy enough for young children to use and intriguing enough to interest older players. There is a tour of the app included that is suitable for parents and children alike, narrated in rhyming verse that sounds like it was written by Dr. Seuss.

    Education

    This delightful app encourages exactly the type of letter play that young children need to develop a firm grasp of phonics and word analysis skills as they grow into readers. Users have a screen full of floating bubbles that show one or more letters. When the bubbles bump, they can combine in various ways and with varying degrees of ease. It’s even possible to change the settings of the bubbles’ borders to control how they interact. The bubbles change color, depending on what is inside. Single letter bubbles are white, multiple letter bubbles (which usually make real letter clusters) are yellow, real words are orange (the app recognizes over 100,000 English words), combinations that do not lead to real words turn blue. Players can have hours of fun simply bumping bubbles into each other to see what will happen.

    The planet also has creatures living on the surface that like to eat bubbles. Spin the planet to find more residents, each unique in its own way. Some seem to eat nearly any bubble while others only want to eat orange bubbles that contain real words. It takes the game to a whole new level to try to figure out which types of bubbles each creature prefers.  There are some creatures that “get dressed up” when they eat their favorite bubbles by sprouting clothing, beards, antennae, and other details.  At least one will actually eat non-word letter groups, then spit the letters back out one at a time as if they tasted bad!

    Planet Lettra also supports learning with a variety of auditory cues as well.  Letters can be named, letter combinations can be pronounced, and words can be read out loud.  A few of the letter combinations are not pronounced correctly, though, such as “im” being pronounced “I am” and “un” being spoken with a long u sound instead of a short one.  However, most of the bubbles seem to have correct and predictable pronunciations, so these small lapses are quite forgivable in such a complex system.

    The app supports play in three languages (English, French and Spanish), and even incorporates a few regional accents that can be changed by the user.  So if an English-speaking player wishes, the app can speak American English, Australian English, Irish English, or in the tones of Great Britain.

    Entertainment

    This app is as entertaining as it is educational. It’s perfect for young users, encouraging play in a non-competitive and relaxing manner.  It’s also intriguing for more mature readers, since there are several levels of complexity to explore.  The animations and sound effects are loads of fun, and the game play is outstanding.

    Value

    It’s tough to beat the value of this app, especially for beginning and emergent readers. It’s suitable for all ages, and adaptable enough to meet the educational needs for a wide array of students. The app is priced at $1.99 in the App Store, and it will provide hours of fun for preschoolers, young readers, special education students, and more.

    Child Friendliness

    This app is very child-friendly.

    • Parent area (contains no external links and is suitable for children or adults)
    • NO social media
    • NO in-app purchase
    • NO 3rd party ads

    Zoop-Apple-icon-1

    App Info

    Price: $0.99
    AppStore User Rating: 5
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Zooper ABC Animals is a cute early learning app that helps little ones practice reading and writing the alphabet while learning new words they can add to their vocabulary. With great pictures and interactive illustrations, this app offers a fun environment for children to learn and play.

    Features include:

    • 3 Educational activities
    • Great interactive images
    • Easy to use

    Quality

    Zooper ABC Animals is full of great interactive images that are brightly colored and visually appealing. The added sound effects and narration that are included help to bring the app to life in a way children will really enjoy. The user interface is very easy to use and only requires simple tapping and dragging motions to move through each of the educational activities which is perfect for young children. Overall, this app is very well done.

    Education

    In addition to practicing the alphabet, players have the opportunity to practice writing each letter in both upper and lower cases. The tracing exercise is very easy to use and guides children through the strokes (if necessary) using numbers. Players also have the opportunity to learn new words that begin with each letter. This activity shows a variety of shadowed pictures that when tapped show up in full color with the word listed above (and read aloud if narration is on). Overall the developers have done a great job making this app easy to use and educational without making it confusing or hard to follow.

    Entertainment

    While this app doesn’t really focus on the entertainment value, it is one that children will enjoy playing. With the narration on, children have the chance to read and hear fun rhymes with each letter and interact with various images associated with each letter. The sound effects and simple, yet entertaining interactive images create a bit of fun while children learn. While it would be nice to add another game or activity for entertainment value, this app is really more about the educational features.

    Value

    Priced at just under three dollars, this app is a great deal. With three educational activities to enjoy, great images and sound effects, and narration options included, children are going to get a ton of value out of this app.

    Child Friendliness

    The developers have done a nice job of creating an app that is educational and easy to use for kids. The tap and drag model used to move throughout the app is great for younger users, however moving between the activities with each letter may not be as apparent for younger users. With that said, the developers have done a great job overall making this app safe for children of all ages to use.

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

    dragonbox

    App Info

    Price: $7.99
    AppStore User Rating:
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    An app with the name DragonBox Numbers may seem like a simple counting app for kids, but this app is anything but. In fact, while the app focuses on basic counting, addition, and subtraction skills, it is very appropriate for a wide group of ages. To play the app, kids solve puzzles to earn coins. They must correctly place the nooms in the empty spaces in the puzzles, subtly learning facts about addition, subtraction, and geometry at the same time.

    Features include:

    • Count the Nooms
    • Add and subtract
    • Learn place value
    • Earn and spend coins

    Quality

    Developers have created a fun and educational app for kids. They have also created a high-quality app for kids. The peppy background music and silly Nooms give the app a highly energetic and exciting tone. The extensive selection of puzzles and multiple ways to solve them add another dimension of quality to the app. After setting up an account, parents will find that kids can easily navigate through the puzzles. To complete a puzzle, they must spend their coins, which are displayed in neat place value piles at the bottom of the screen. The place value piles and other small details are what really make the app stand out for its quality.

    Education

    While the math lessons contained within this app may be subtle, they are done well. To kids, the focus of the app is on learning puzzles, although learning how to count, add, and subtract is clearly the main goal. To complete puzzles, kids must create groups of Nooms to correctly fit the empty spaces. For example, they may have to stack three Nooms to fit a spot or cut a Noom by one to get it to the right size. After kids successfully complete a puzzle, they earn coins. These coins add another dimension to the educational value of the app. Their coin total is displayed according to place value on the bottom of the screen. As kids purchase new puzzles, they must drag their coins to purchase the puzzle. The coins are counted out as they go.

    Entertainment

    At first, the app seems a bit frustrating since kids can only complete three puzzles before earning more coins. Thankfully, kids amass coins quickly and will soon be completing the puzzles they want. The more difficult the puzzle, the more coins it costs and the more coins it awards. Kids can opt to spend all of their coins on harder puzzles or complete easier puzzles to build up enough coins to play the most expensive puzzles.

    All of the puzzles are entertaining and feature the silly Nooms. Kids can bounce them, throw them, build them up, and cut them down. They make fun sounds and move so quickly that they prove to be a delight to kids.

    Value

    One of the only negatives of DragonBox Numbers is the price. This app contains a lot of puzzles and is a great way to help kids build both basic math and logic skills. However, there many other awesome math and logic apps available at lower prices, making it difficult for parents to decide to purchase this one at its current price.

    Child Friendliness

    In order to access the app for the first time, parents must set up a child’s profile. The app requests an e-mail address so parents can track a child’s progress, but the step can be skipped (although not without some pushy requests to set up an account afterwards). However, once kids are logged in to their profiles, the app is completely safe and free from unwanted content.

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

    samplaysax

    App Info

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

    Overview

    Plays Saxophone is an animated e-book that tells the story of Sam the Squirrel and his quest to make his music sound just right. He travels halfway around the world to find just the right something that is missing.

    Features include:

    • Animations and sound effects on every page
    • Highlighted words as they are read
    • Read aloud or read-to-me options
    • Extra activities to build comprehension and other skills
    • Professional narration with differentiated character voices

    Quality

    Sam Plays Saxophone is a high-quality e-book app. The default setting is narrated with sound effects, but users have the option of turning these off if desired. Each page has animations that are marked by a blue dot or a set of orange arrows. The key is explained before the story starts, but I think many children would rather explore the page to find hidden animations.  In addition, I think that many children might skip over the oral directions completely in their rush to get to the story itself.  The home screen includes two links for parents, privacy and information, but these are somewhat challenging to access, even following the printed directions. The device did not seem to be responding to my “swipe right” that indicated access.

    Education

    This app is educational for young children. Sam the Squirrel takes a trip “down under” to find just the right musical friends, and children can infer that he makes a long ocean voyage from California, stops at New Zealand, and finally Australia. Many of the characters, like the kiwi, dingo and kangaroo, provide adults with a great opportunity to talk about these animals that are not native to the United States. The illustrations are outstanding, and also will provide teachable moments as they show famous rock formations in Australia, cave drawings and more. It’s a great chance to help young children learn a bit more about a faraway land.

    The story is told in rhyming verse, so it presents a chance to work with rhyming words and other phonemic awareness skills. Each line is highlighted as it is read. This would likely be more effective if the words were individually highlighted instead of the entire line.

    Sam Plays Saxophone includes several activities after the story has been read. These can also be accessed from the home page if desired. The first is likely a bit too challenging for preschoolers and kindergarteners. Users are presented with a map showing the United States, New Zealand, and Australia and challenged to place the characters along a progress line in the order in which Sam encountered them.  Three overlap and would likely be quite confusing for young learners. There are two comprehension questions on this page, as well. Both can be answered orally, then users can hear the correct responses. They also are a bit difficult for the young users in the target audience. One asks users to recite the instruments played by Sam’s new friends, and the other asks for names of the two rock formations in Australia.  The names of the formations were not mentioned in the story; they were simply indicated by signs in the illustrations.

    The other two activities are great. One is an outline of a saxophone that children can assemble like a jigsaw puzzle. Complete the puzzle, and you will hear a brief history of the instrument. This is pitched at a fairly high language level, and is likely to mostly go over young children’s heads. The final activity is a music score of the melody played by Sam throughout the story. Touch each note to hear it individually, or press the “play” button to hear the entire piece.

    Entertainment

    Sam Plays Saxophone is a fun e-book that will entertain young children. It’s always intriguing to explore the animations on the pages of an e-book and the story itself is engaging and interesting. Though some of the extra activities are pitched at too high of a level for the audience likely to enjoy the story, most have some play value even if they are too difficult, and children will feel successful even if they do not understand all of the information.

    Value

    This e-book is priced at $3.99. The story is fun and the activities are enjoyable, but neither are likely to capture most children’s attention for the kind of repetitive play that one would expect with an ebook.

    Child Friendliness

    This app is very child friendly.

    • Protected parent area (contains no outside links)
    • NO social media
    • NO in-app purchase
    • NO 3rd party ads

    Orchardtoys

    App Info

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

    Overview

    Orchard Toys is a great compilation of fun activities for children to play on the go. With jigsaw puzzles, memory games, and shape matching, children have the opportunity to play a variety of fun activities with varying difficulty levels. This all in one app is perfect for children of all ages and offers hours of entertainment and practice with problem solving skills.

    Features include:

    • Jigsaw puzzles
    • Memory activity
    • Matching activity
    • Multiple difficulty levels

    Quality

    While the concept is quite simple, Orchard Toys offers lots of easy to use activities for children of all ages. The developers have done a nice job of creating an app that is visually appealing with brightly colored images and illustrations as well as simple sound effects that help bring the app to life. The user interface is designed with easy tap and drag functioning so children of all ages are able to play on their own without a ton of instructions or assistance from parents. Overall, this app is well done.

    Education

    For children who need a bit of practice using their problem solving skills, this app is perfect. Each activity allows children to use their logic in completing jigsaw puzzles, memory games, and shape/color matching games. Each activity also offers three difficulty levels (easy, medium, hard) that allows players to test their skills at varying levels making it more challenging. This progressive difficulty levels provides a great opportunity for children of all ages to test their skills with each of the activities making it perfect for families with multiple children.

    Entertainment

    For children who love a good challenge, this app is equally entertaining as it is educational. With the varying difficulty levels and the many activities included within the app, players will have no problem staying engaged and entertained for hours. With 8 jigsaw puzzles, and the multiple options for matching colors, shapes, and patterns in the matching activity, Orchard Toys offers lots of concepts for children to enjoy and explore.

    Value

    Priced at just under one dollar, Orchard Toys is a great value. With 8 jigsaw puzzles, matching games, and a memory activity, plus three levels of difficulty for each activity, this app offers hours of fun for children. Parents can rest assured this app is worth every penny.

    Child Friendliness

    Easy to use and safe too, the developers have done an excellent job creating an app that is great for children of all ages. With a simple to use interface that doesn’t require any instructions to begin, children can play independently. Parents will also be happy to know that this app is perfectly safe for children to enjoy as there are no external links to be concerned about.

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

    mylittleplace

    App Info

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

    Overview

    My Little Place gives toddlers and preschoolers their own little place on their devices. Designed to look like the main screen on an iPad, kids can select from their favorite “apps”, customize the background, and have a lot of fun playing around. The app features 8 fun games, a musical keyboard, and a fun drawing/sticker canvas for kids to enjoy. All of the games are simple, but they’re super fun for toddlers and preschoolers.

    Features include:

    • Customizable background
    • Customizable sounds
    • Fun games for kids
    • Keyboard to play songs
    • Blank canvas for creating art

    Quality

    The app is designed to remind kids of an iPad. The main screen features a large button the mimics the home button. Tapping it takes kids to their own screen with simple apps they can play. There’s also a preferences screen where kids can select the background image and music. Kids can easily navigate within the app and move from game to game. There is a slight lag when switching between games, but it should not keep kids from enjoying the app. Kids can also access the app in four different languages.

    Education

    While the focus of the app is more on entertainment than education, it does offer a few educational games. Kids can match rubber duckies as they swim by, count fish, and sort shapes into the proper holes. These games are perfect for toddlers and young preschoolers. All of the games contain nonverbal instructions, which are ideal for this age.

    Entertainment

    Kids will find plenty of ways to entertain themselves within this app. They can spend hours dialing numbers on a telephone, popping bubbles, and driving the happy train. The app also features a musical keyboard with 8 different sounds and a blank canvas that kids can use for stickers and painting.

    Value

    The app is priced comparably to other kids apps. The design of the app also adds to its value as it offers many different activities to keep young kids entertained.

    Child Friendliness

    The main screen contains a protected parent area and a protected “rate us” icon. The parental lock could be a bit stronger, as many kids will figure it out on their own, but it’s still enough to prevent most kids from accessing the content intended for grown-ups.

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

    image (3)

    App Info

    Price: Free
    AppStore User Rating:

    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Letter Cross-Tracking shows groups of commonly-confused letters and those that frequently cause issues with reversals and inversions on tic-tac-toe-like grids with four to nine spaces. Players need to look at a model showing two or three letters and choose the matching grids from the field of four to sixteen elements.

    Features include:

    • Three levels of play
    • 150 puzzles in the free version
    • 450 additional puzzles in the in-app purchase
    • Cute animated monsters and points to reward success
    • Keeps score for up to three players

    Quality

    Letter Cross-Tracking is a very high quality app.  Developers created a clean-playing activity that is intuitive to use. The three sets of puzzles are nicely divided by complexity, and within each of these sets, there are four levels of play in the full version of this app. Teachers or parents can set up three different players to keep score. One drawback, however, is that the app does not keep specific records of student performance on various subtasks, such as discriminating b’s and d’s or noticing the letters’ position on the grid. This sort of information would be helpful to teachers, in particular, who are trying to diagnose student weaknesses or areas of concern for remediation.

    Education

    Letter Cross-Tracking provides a thorough practice activity that will help young students learn to discriminate easily confused, reversed or inverted letters as well as learn to pay close attention to detail about position in space.  All of these skills are vital for reading success. This app provides vital practice and repetition that will help students who are struggling with these skills.

    The easiest game in the app, “Simple Cross,” offers a four-section grid with two letters in random quadrants of the figure. It presents a model, and four similar figures, one of which matches the model exactly. The second level has a selection of eight similar figures and multiple matches to the model. The third level has twelve similar figures, and the fourth level has sixteen. In this way, developers increase the complexity of the task.

    The middle game is called “Complex Cross (2 Letters),” and uses a nine section grid similar to a tic-tac-toe board with two letters in random positions. Again there are four levels within the game, ranging from four selections up to sixteen.  The final game is called “Complex Cross (3 letters)” and increases the difficulty by using three figures in each model with from four to sixteen selections.

    The feature that puts this app head and shoulders above most reversal/inversion practice apps is the twist of using the grid to help children scan for position in space.  This skill will help them in many other academic tasks, since it trains the eye’s ability to scan left to right and top to bottom of the page, to notice small differences (on one puzzle, for example, the letter n is in the top left section with a u in the middle left section, and distractors include a grid with a u in the top left section and an n in the middle left section), and to attend to the letters’ position relative to other letters, which helps build sequencing and spelling skills.

    Entertainment

    This app tries to be entertaining, and while kids might be intrigued for a few rounds, it would get quite repetitious after the lengths of practice required to actually improve the skills involved.  After each puzzle is presented and an answer chosen, a monster makes a brief comment on the effort, either responding with a positive word such as “Awesome!” for a correct response, or a negative sound or word for an incorrect response, such as “Oops!”  The app keeps a running score for a player’s performance (even across levels and games) that increments by ten points for a correct response and decreases by 5 points for an incorrect response.

    Developers should consider dressing up the entertainment factors for this app if they want to be more engaging.  Some suggestions include having a goal for the points, such as mini-games that become available after ten or twenty correct responses, varying the reward sequence (the monsters changing color, voices, and phrasing won’t hold children’s interest for long), or unlocking additional reward screens that tell part of a story at various point intervals.

    Value

    This app is a good value.  The free download includes 50 puzzles at the easiest level of all three games, so parents and teachers can get a good idea of how children respond to the activity.  That’s a total of 150 puzzles, and for many students, that will be sufficient to practice the skills involved.  There is an in-app purchase that unlocks another 450 puzzles for a total of 600 (50 more at each level in each of the three games). This costs $3.99 before tax which may seem a bit pricy to many families.  When combined with the somewhat bland rewards and motivational strategies, it may be tough to get kids who need this kind of practice to actually go through all 600 puzzles.

    Child Friendliness

    This app is child-friendly. It does contain an in-app purchase, but there is a parent gate that will be effective for emergent and struggling readers that the app is designed for.

    • Parent area (contains no external links or social media)
    • NO external links
    • NO social media
    • NO 3rd party ads
    • YES in-app purchase (protected but visible)

    spellnow2

    App Info

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

    Overview

    Parents and teachers looking for a quality spelling app for kids in first or second grade will want to consider SpellNow Year 2 Challenge. This high-quality, entertaining spelling app contains 400 different spelling words organized into 40 different lists, with each list group by a specific word skill or type kids need to master. Six entertaining games help kids master each word list and help create a wonderful learning tool for kids.

    Features include:

    • 40 spelling lists
    • Over 400 spelling words
    • 6 spelling games
    • Aligned with the Common Core

    Quality

    This app is full of quality features designed to get kids’ attention and make it easy for them to learn their spelling words. On the settings screen, kids can choose their favorite background music to play throughout the app. In the actual spelling section, the spelling lists are organized by term and number. When kids select a game to play, the instructions are displayed on the screen and read aloud. As kids play, the app tracks the number of questions answered correctly and incorrectly and how long it takes them to complete each game.

    Education

    The developers of this app were very thoughtful in how they put it all together. The spelling lists are grouped into four terms, with ten sets of words in each term. Each set of words follows a common theme. For example, one list contains words with the long /a/ vowel sounds, while another focuses on compound words. Developers have aligned the word lists with the Common Core, but even those who are not fans of the Common Core will find that their kids benefit from the app.

    After kids review a given spelling list, they can practice the words on that list through a series of six games: Word Jumble, Word Hide, Word Spin, Word Spell, Word Check, and Dictation. For each activity, kids hear the word aloud and can hear the word in a sentence. Little tips, such as “Use a capital letter,” are given throughout the game as well.

    Entertainment

    While many of the games in the app are more educational than fun, they are still designed to be entertaining. There are six different games for each spelling list and each one engages kids in a different way. For example, in Word Check, kids tap on frozen words that are spelled incorrectly, but in Word Spin, they spin a wheel to receive a random spelling word from the list. Animated characters pop up throughout the app to reward kids for a job well done and to encourage them to keep trying.

    Value

    The app offers 40 different spelling lists organized by category and six different games to play with each list. It is a quality educational app that is priced competitively and worth a download for parents or teachers with kids at this level.

    Child Friendliness

    One of the few negatives to this app is that kids have access to external links and additional apps on the “About” screen. protecting this section of the app with a parental block would help kids focus on the spelling words and games found within the app.

    • NO social media
    • NO 3rd party ads
    • NO in-app purchase
    • YES external links
    • YES “more apps”

    readytoprint

    App Info

    Price: $9.99
    AppStore User Rating: 5
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    When it comes to learning how to write, little hands need a lot of practice. Ready to Print offers kids a series of practice opportunities designed to not only teach kids how to write their letters and numbers, but to also help them learn the motions and shapes they’ll need to get those letters and numbers down on paper. As kids tap images, trace lines, and connect the dots, they’ll pick up the key skills they need to master basic writing tasks. Kids will love the fun pictures and tracing activities, while parents and teachers will love the ability to set up multiple user profiles and track each child’s progress as they build their beginning writing skills.

    Features include:

    • 10 Touch and trace activities
    • Multiple user profiles
    • Progress tracking
    • Completion certificates and positive praise

    Quality

    Developers have created a quality app. Parents and teachers have the ability to create multiple user profiles or to allow kids to complete the activities without a profile. They can also turn on voice prompts and a spoken menu to make the app easier for kids to navigate. Each activity in the app has its own help button that explains how to complete the app and gives a bit of the reasoning behind the activity, so it is always clear what kids need to do and why they need to do it.

    Education

    The app is designed to help kids gain the shape and motion awareness they need to learn how to write. Kids start by tapping on different objects to turn them into something else. For example, they change caterpillars into butterflies. Then the move to other types of activities, such as matching objects, connecting the dots, and tracing different types of lines. There is also a section that allows kids to trace uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers. Parents and teachers can track children’s progress and modify the settings for each child. Modifications include adjusting the width of he lines, changing the picture size, and setting a minimum accuracy rating. In addition to these settings, parents can access and download a selection of related worksheets so kids can continue to build the same skills outside of the app.

    Entertainment

    While much of the app is focused on tapping, pinching, and tracing, each activity offers a little something different to keep kids interested. The app is all full of fun images and kids are reward with stars and cheers when they successfully complete each activity. Certificates and progress trackers also help to motivate kids as they play. There’s also a fun free draw section for kids to enjoy when they’re finished learning.

    Value

    Given the high price of the app and the number of similar apps available, parents may want to explore their options for purchasing this app. However, the ability to set up multiple user accounts and the fact that multiple styles of tracing activities are contained within the app does help the app to stand out from the competition.

    Child Friendliness

    Despite the quality of the content contained within the app, developers failed to make the app entirely child friendly. An unprotected parent area gives children access to external links, which lead to downloadable worksheets, and the ability to rate the app in the app store. Considering parents can also control many important settings in the parent area, developers should consider placing this content behind a parental lock.

    • NO social media
    • NO 3rd party ads
    • NO in-app purchase
    • YES Unprotected parent area
    • YES external links (protected, but visible)
    • YES “rate me” (protected, but visible)

    george

    App Info

    Price: $3.99
    AppStore User Rating: 5
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Head out on an adventure to Yum Yum land with George as he delivers a wooden spoon to the Ice Cream Castle. On the way, learn about healthy foods, build basic counting skills, and meet a host of fun characters. George and the Ice Cream Castle is an entertaining story filled with a variety of activities kids will enjoy.

    Features include:

    • Encourages healthy eating
    • Basic counting games
    • Puzzles and riddles to solve
    • Engaging characters

    Quality

    This app has been designed with kids in mind. The story moves at a good pace and includes plenty of pauses and interactive components to keep kids focused. Throughout the story, paw prints help keep kids focused and arrows guide them from screen to screen. Kids will find plenty to look at and interact with on each screen and many of the screens require kids to complete activities to continue the story. There are a few moments within the app where kids may find things move a little slowly or are too busy for them to figure out what to do next, but overall the app works perfectly for kids’ attention spans.

    Education

    The general focus of the app is to encourage kids to eat healthy food, but other learning activities are mixed in. For example, when kids first meet the apple tree, they must pick five flowers to give to the king. When kids meet the rabbit, they must collect different amounts of fruit to move on to the next part of the story too. There are other puzzles and riddles mixed in as well. All of the activities are simple, but help kids build basic math and literacy skills.

    Entertainment

    Kids will get to know George and the characters in Yum Yum land as they go through the story. Many of the characters in Yum Yum Land are surprisingly hip and modern, making them more engaging for kids. The wealth of interactive activities interspersed throughout the app, including counting activities, puzzles, and ice cream decorating, will keep kids entertained throughout the entire tale.

    Value

    The app is priced similarly to other interactive storybooks for kids. It also contains a bonus healthy recipes section to encourage kids to make healthy snacks in the kitchen. It would be a great value if it were priced a bit lower, but it’s worth a download priced as-is.

    Child Friendliness

    A protected parent area contains a short note to parents and a “rate me” option. Aside from that, the app is full of child-friendly content.

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

    Icon512

    App Info

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

    Overview

    Kids Dreams: Gogo & Gaga Playground is a simple and fun early learning app that little ones will love. With lots of fun games hidden within a brightly colored and enticing playground, children get to enjoy music, animals, and puzzles as they learn simple things like sorting, counting, and shapes. The perfect app for the little one in your home.

    Features include:

    • 6 Mini-games
    • Counting
    • Shapes
    • Easy to use

    Quality

    Children are going to love all that this app has to offer and will instantly be drawn in with the bright colors and fun atmosphere on the playground. The developers have done a nice job overall making the app easy to use for young children as the app uses simple tap and touch functioning to explore the various games. Curious minds are going to love exploring all of the interactive images that are included within the app and if children happen to get stuck, the developers have included a hand that indicates where to tap in order to play. Overall, this app is well done.

    Education

    Kids Dreams: Gogo & Gaga Playground is an early learning app that provides simple concepts for children to learn and explore. Within the six mini-games are, puzzles, counting, shape matching and even a musical scale activity for children to enjoy. Each activity is self-guided and allows children to experiment and learn by trial and error which is perfect for young children as they are naturally curious. While the educational activities are very simple and designed for very early learners, it would be nice to include a few additional activities including the alphabet etc. to provide a bit more educational value.

    Entertainment

    Children are going to love this app as soon as they open it. The main playground offers lots of fun animals, rides, and activities for children to explore on their own. As they tap and touch their way through the interactive images, they are taken into each of the fun activities. With four animals at the zoo, the birds waiting to be fed, and other playground rides to explore, this app is one that children are going to have a great time exploring.

    Value

    Priced at just under a dollar, this app is a great value. With six mini-games, interactive images, and a whole playground to explore, this is one app that offers lots of entertainment for not a lot of money. A great value for parents and children.

    Child Friendliness

    The developers have done a great job of making this app easy to use and completely safe for children of all ages to enjoy. With the easy to use tap and touch technology that is used throughout, children can move through the app on their own with little to no assistance. Should children get stuck, there is a little hand that pops up to guide players to the interactive games within the app.

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

    icone-alphamonstre-full-arrondie

    App Info

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

    Overview

    Alphamonster is an incredibly cute phonics app that helps children learn all there is to know about the alphabet. With lots of fun games and gorgeous illustrations this app offers a fun way to learn letter recognition with both upper, lower, and cursive letters and sounds. This is the perfect app for the little one in your home.

    Features include:

    • Gorgeous illustrations
    • Animated sound effects
    • Letters (upper & lower case as well as cursive)
    • Easy to use set up

    Quality

    There is no doubt that a lot of time and effort went into creating the wonderful app that is Alphamonster. The graphics that are used are clean, entertaining, and lots of fun for kids to enjoy and the sound effects that accompany each sound are a great addition to the app. The developers have also done a great job keeping the user interface simple to use with simple tap and drag functioning for children of all ages to move throughout the app. Overall, Alphamonster is very well done.

    Education

    There is so much educational material packed into one app for little ones with Alphamonster. Children will not only have the chance to learn the names and sounds of each letter, but they also have the opportunity to recognize upper and lower case letters as well as cursive letters. There is also an activity for children to identify the first letter of the word based on an image. The developers have also taken the time to add an additional educational activity that gives children the chance to see a picture and the corresponding word for each letter. This activity is great as it introduces players to reading. All of the included activities teach children the fundamental skills they need just before they can begin to read making this app great for pre-readers all around.

    Entertainment

    While there aren’t any games per se within the app, little ones are still going to love playing with this app for the fun graphics, activities and sound effects. With that said it would be nice to have an educational game or puzzle that could go along with the theme of the app to give children a more entertaining option.

    Value

    Priced at just under three dollars this app is a very good value. When you consider all of the educational activities, the phonics, and fundamental reading skills that are being built, this app is a steal. Parents are certainly going to appreciate what they are getting for a great price that won’t break the bank.

    Child Friendliness

    The developers have done a nice job overall making this app easy to use for children of all ages. With simple tap and drag functioning and a help option that provides a visual of how to use the app, little ones will have little to no trouble playing this app on their own. With that said parents might want to do assist children the first time they play each activity to ensure they are getting the most out of the app.

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

    image (24)

    App Info

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

    Overview

    Elkonin Boxes helps beginning readers of all ages practice an important foundational reading readiness skill: the ability to segment and blend the sounds that make up words. This app will also help students understand that some letters are silent and others work as a team to make a single sound. The skills are vital for developing reading and spelling proficiency.

    Features include:

    • Three levels ranging from words with two sounds to words with five sounds
    • Two modes including two levels of practice and a quiz mode
    • Clear and well-enunciated narration
    • Accurate phoneme reproduction
    • Photographic images to illustrate each word

    Quality

    Elkonin Boxes is a very high quality app. Developers included a clear and useful set of instructions and even a bit of background about why this skill is useful in overall reading skill development.  The photos used to illustrate each word are high quality and the narrator uses exceptionally clear enunciation for both the words and the individual phonemes when segmented.  The app is simple to use so its accessible to students of all ages and ability levels, and it would be very appropriate for older students as well as the very young.

    Education

    In order to understand how useful this app is educationally speaking, one must first understand a little bit about the development of beginning reading skills.  Reading is a very complex process, and it’s vital that beginning students have a firm foundation in a host of basic skills before they even begin to try to learn to read.  One of these vital foundational skills is called “phonemic awareness.”  Put briefly, phonemic awareness is the understanding that words are made of building blocks that we call sounds. These sounds are discreet units and can be separated and then blended back together to form each word.  The entire body of phonics and spelling learning rests on this key understanding, so it’s crucial that young students get it right and that older, struggling readers revisit these ideas and understand them to move forward with reading.

    Elkonin Boxes actually is a digital version of a teaching strategy by the same name. The idea is to give students something tangible to attach to each sound within a word. Letters don’t do the trick, because there are groups of letters (like ‘sh’) that make a single sound, and there are letters within words that have no sounds at all (think the final, silent E on words like ‘home’). In other words, the relationship between letters and sounds is not one-to-one, so Elkonin Boxes create a one to one correspondence to help beginning readers understand this concept that letters make up words and can be separated and then blended back together again.

    This app does a phenomenal job of providing practice with this vital concept. Developers have taken an activity that is normally very individualized (and hence very teacher-time-intensive) and set it up so that students can benefit from working on their own. The app shows a picture of an item and says the word aloud. Students are expected to say the word themselves, then tap the boxes below the picture to help them separate the sounds. They say the word again when they are done.  At all of its practice levels, Elkonin Boxes provides this opportunity. The words are grouped into three levels with words ranging from two sounds up to five, and the practice level has two modes. In the simplest version, students touch the boxes and hear the sounds, and in the harder version, they hear only a musical note and are expected to generate the sounds for themselves. The more challenging Quiz Mode requires them to tap the correct number of boxes matching the number of phonemes (sounds) in the target word.

    Entertainment

    This app is not being rated for entertainment.

    Value

    This app is a huge bargain at ninety-nine cents in the App Store.  While it’s not really intended for all students, it certainly will help cement the relationship between words and their component sounds for any student that is struggling at all with reading, phonics or spelling. It contains a huge variety of words, including many at a more adult level of vocabulary (such as “pulp” and “mold”), making it a real find for special education teachers and literacy specialists.  It is likely to expand most children’s vocabulary and is very appropriate for mature learners.

    Child Friendliness

    This app is very child friendly.

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

    App-Icon-Square-512

    App Info

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

    Overview

    Name Play is a highly entertaining and educational app that young children are going to love! There are loads of learning activities and games including typing, tracing, and writing their names along with other fun items for children to explore in their very own school locker. Parents and children alike are going to love all that Name Play has to offer!

    Features include:

    • 8 Activities/games
    • Customizable locker
    • Free play environment

    Quality

    Name Play is full of both high quality graphics and sound effects that children are going to love. The user interface is very easy to use for children of all ages and allows players to simply tap, drag and drop functioning to move throughout the app. With a bit of a free play environment, players are encouraged to explore each of of the interactive activities and images throughout at their own speed without any instructions or assistance from parents. Overall the developers have done an excellent job making this app both high quality and very easy to use.

    Education

    Learning how to spell and write your name is one of the first things children learn and Name Play takes that concept to the next level with a variety of educational activities. Not only are children able to practice tracing and writing their name, but they also get the opportunity to practice recognizing their name, spelling it out using a group of letters, typing it etc. These kinds of activities are a great way to introduce children to reading and can be quite exciting as they begin to learn to read their own name. Very well done.

    Entertainment

    Children are going to love the variety of activities and games that are included in this app. In addition to the name play activities, children can use stickers to decorate their very own locker as well as move the items in their locker around as they choose. In addition to the stickers, there are lots of fun games and activities including a name matching game, a laundry activity, lunch time fun, and so much more. Another great feature of this app is that as children play more activities, they unlock more colors and options within the app to decorate their locker. Overall, Name Play is a great app that players are going to love exploring.

    Value

    Priced at just under two dollars this app is an absolute steal! There are loads of activities, interactive images, and fun options for children to explore. Not to mention all of the great learning activities that encourage children to practice spelling, writing, and reading their name. Parents can certainly appreciate the app for the amazing value and fun it offers at a price that won’t break the bank.

    Child Friendliness

    Name Play is a great app for young children to enjoy. Not only does it have an easy to use interface that doesn’t require any instruction at all, but it also has a free play environment that allows children to move through and explore the app at their own pace. The developers have also done a great job keeping the app safe for young children as well, so there is no worry about children getting into areas they shouldn’t be as all parent areas are protected.

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

    image (13)

    App Info

    Price: $2.99
    AppStore User Rating: 1
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    The Pronoun Party offers basic practice with identifying male/female and plural pronouns in subjective, objective and possessive cases.  The app includes four levels of difficulty and each level can be played on four different themes, which vary the scenery and the props that children can “give” to the person referred to in the sentence.

    Features include:

    • 4 levels of difficulty
    • 4 themes within each level
    • Intuitive interface
    • Scoring system
    • Option to turn background music off if desired

    Quality

    The Pronoun Party is a good quality app that young children will find easy to use. Developers kept everything very simple, so there are not a lot of confusing controls. Users simply choose the level of play, choose a theme/background, and then follow the spoken directions to move objects to the correct person or group of people based on the pronoun used. The app did crash a couple of times during its test, and there were a few sentences that did not seem to have their voice over files, which might make use a bit difficult for non-readers.

    Education

    This app is very bare-bones.  The games all work exactly the same way: A sentence using one of the target word is presented in the center of the screen and there is an object referred to in that sentence.  The picture of the object is to be slid to the left or to the right to be “given” to the correct person or group of people displayed.  The level of play controls which words are targeted (girl/boy on level one, he/she/they on level two, his/her/their on level three and him/her/them on level four).  The background controls the types of items to give to the characters, such as beach toys in the beach scene and party food in the party scene.  The location of the characters changes from time to time, so players need to attend to the screen or they will make a mistake.

    The Pronoun Party requires children to listen to those sentences, process and comprehend the pronoun, and then move the item to the correct character.  The characters change sides of the screen from time to time, and there are several different boys, girls and groups that are used.

    One large concern is that many of the sentences are very repetitive, while changing the color of the item to be moved.  For example, at one point, the app asked me to “Give the kite to her” four times in a row, changing only the color of the kite.  Another example can be found in the Beach scene, where the sentence “Give the water toy to the girl” came up many times in succession, while the picture of the toy changed from a sand bucket to a ball to a pair of swim goggles.  Parents should also be aware that this app is Australian in origin, so some of the names of items are different than American children will be used to, such as using the word “biscuit” for “cookie.” There were also a few sentences that did not play their sound files, though this glitch seems to be random rather than associated with any one action in the app.

    Entertainment

    The play on this app is very repetitive and, while it will help young children or disabled children practice deciphering the meanings of pronouns, many youngsters are likely to find it to be boring.  Though there are four themes with backgrounds, these are simply backdrops that make sense with the objects being given to the characters.  There is no interaction with them at all.  The sentences in each level are very similar to one another, so all children need to attend to is the actual pronoun in the sentence.  In this day of glitzy and complex apps that do everything but teach plumbing for the proverbial kitchen sink, this app is very low-key.  It strives to give practice for one specific skill (and does that well if in plain vanilla style), but definitely could be jazzed up a bit to help it hold children’s attention more effectively.  For example, it would be pretty easy to show multiple items in several colors and ask children to “give the red kite to her.”

    Value

    If your child needs lots of practice with understanding and using genders and basic pronouns, then this app will be a good value for family or classroom use.  However, for most kids, there won’t be much replay value, so even the $2.99 price tag may seem a bit steep.  It’s possible to play through the entire app (one scene for each of the four levels) in about fifteen to twenty minutes, and without some sort of score keeping or incentive beyond the “Congratulations you’ve finished the level” screen, that is likely to be the last time a child chooses to open it.

    Child Friendliness

    The Pronoun Party is an extremely safe app for the children to use.  There is no access to the internet or outside sites, no in-app purchases, and no social media.

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

    jungleaddition

    App Info

    Price: $9.99
    AppStore User Rating: 4
    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Parents and teachers looking for a basic math app for preschool through first grade should consider TouchMath Adventures: Jungle Addition. Using the unique TouchPoint number system, kids develop their basic counting, number sequencing, and addition skills. As kids go through the Skill Practice and Adventure Mode sections of the app, they’ll have plenty of opportunities to build their basic math skills. They’ll also get a chance to solve a fun jungle mystery with the help of Newton and his tiger friends.

    Features include:

    • Basic math skills
    • TouchPoint numbers system
    • Fun jungle characters
    • Customizable chapter settings
    • App Dashboard for classroom teachers

    Quality

    Developers have created a high quality app for early math learners. This is evident from the time kids first open the app to reveal the flaming tiki torches and the organized main screen. The quality is further revealed through the settings section, which allows parents and teachers to customize the content kids see, and through the Adventurer Training mode, which shows kids how to use the TouchPoints feature. The math problems kids must solve are also presented clearly and kids can move smoothly from one chapter to another.

    Education

    Jungle Addition covers basic counting, number sequencing, addition, and number comparison skills. The app is divided into seven different chapters. Parents and teachers have the option to customize each chapter by selecting the number of problems (3-10), the order (random or sequential), and the skill or span of numbers. Kids have the option of playing at three different levels: Adventurer Training, Skill Practice, and Adventure Mode. An instructions section explains the TouchMath touch points and multi-sensory approach used in each of the three levels. The Adventurer Training mode simply introduces kids to the TouchPoints on each number, while the Skill Practice mode takes kids through seven chapters of skills. In Adventure Mode, kids solve a jungle mystery while completing math problems. A monkey tour guide, Newton, leads them through the levels and they must score 70% or higher on each level to advance.

    Entertainment

    Both Skill Practice mode and Adventure Mode provide plenty of entertainment for kids. While the app does not have background music or sound effects, aside from on the main screen, it does hook kids on the jungle theme through the objects (piranhas, bananas, and other jungle-related items) in the math problems, and through the tiger avatars and monkey guide in Adventure Mode. Limiting each skill to 10 questions also helps improve the entertainment factor of the app and help ensures that kids get enough practice to help them master a skill without becoming bored with the questions.

    Value

    The app offers a unique approach to learning numbers and seven chapters of basic addition skills. It also presents its content in a high-quality forms. While there is a lot of value in that content, the app is priced significantly higher than math apps of similar content and quality. Parents looking for a multi-sensory approach to addition or teachers looking for the ability to manage a classroom full of students may find that the app is worth it.

    Child Friendliness

    The app contains a protected parent area which includes information on how the app was developed, links to social media, and the developer’s privacy policy. Teachers who work with the app’s dashboard option (available with a subscription) can also assign student passwords and login information to help customize the app.

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

    mackthedog

    App Info

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

    Overview

    The down-eared dog called Mack is looking for his teddy bear. He looks in the sink, in the laundry, in the playroom, and all over the house. In every room, Mack becomes covered with something else. When he finally finds his teddy bear, Mack is a mess. This app combines the delightful story of the down-eared dog with focused noun acquisition activities for kids. Unfortunately, its quality and design make it difficult for it to really accomplish its mission.

    Features include:

    • Read to Me option
    • Read to Myself option
    • Animated illustrations
    • Cheery background music
    • Seven learning activities

    Quality

    When kids first open the app, they’ll find a bright and engaging main screen. Icons invite them to choose between “play story” and “learn”. In the play story mode, kids can opt to “play with audio” or “play with text”. In the learn mode, they can choose from seven levels of basic learning activities. While the app is inviting and appears to offer a lot of value, once kids get into it, they will find it lacks a bit of quality. Inside the story, the narration is dull and is accompanied by a bit of an echo and the animated illustrations are sporadic and not good enough to really capture kids’ interest.

    Education

    The app has two main features designed to help kids learn – the story itself and the seven levels of language activities. The story itself is cute and kids who read it will enjoy it. However, the narration and text on the screen is a bit hard to follow. It could be improved by adding text highlighting (particularly for the target nouns the developer wishes to emphasize), breaking up the text into smaller chunks, and choosing a slightly larger font size. The learning activities do have some learning potential. Kids will learn high-frequency nouns and how to group words by functions, categories, and parts. However, a few of the activities could use some improvement. For example, the “Identifying Nouns” activity asks kids to name an object, but just assumes that what they said was correct and does not track their scores. Playing with an adult can remedy this solution, but does not make the app ideal for children who wish to play on their own.

    Entertainment

    While the story is cute and may capture kids’ attention, the narration and illustrations won’t help. They’re both a bit lackluster and may keep kids from reading through the entire thing. The activities, while created with good intentions, are also a bit lackluster. Kids simply listen to the instructions and tap on the correct image, which can get a bit boring after a few rounds.

    Value

    The app is priced comparably to other interactive eBooks. It also offers seven focused learning activities which help add to its value. However, parents should consider the quality of the app and the usefulness of the activities before downloading.

    Child Friendliness

    Aside from the ability to turn off the sound, kids are focused completely on the story and learning activities. The developer has not included any parent area or additional apps.

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

    image (21)

    App Info

    Price: $4.99
    AppStore User Rating: 3.5

    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    LetterSchool presents letters and numbers for kids to trace and then to write independently.  There is a choice of three different fonts, capital and lower case letters,  and numbers.

    Features include:

    • Stores records for up to three players
    • Choice of three popular primary manuscript fonts
    • Three levels of practice for each letter
    • Vivid, animated illustrations
    • Clear, intuitive operation

    Quality

    LetterSchool is a high quality app that will help children practice their letters. Developers did a good job of making the app intuitive to use; the icons for each step change color invitingly when it is time to activate them.  Great job, too, in making the app accommodating for multiple users! This really helps families and even classroom teachers with several kids.

    Education

    This app does an outstanding job of providing on-screen practice for forming letters and numbers. Adults can set the font (D’Nealian, Zaner-Bloser, or HWT) and choose capital or lower case letters, or numbers. Once set, the users can pick which letters they wish to practice. Choose a letter, and the app presents a large, clear picture of it, then gives the sound and a key word while showing a brightly-colored picture.  Next, the letter sprouts clear points where children should “put their pencil” or begin writing. When touched at this level, the letter automatically “traces itself” with a brightly-colored path that changes from trial to trial (a rocket, a train track, a light tube, and more). The second level continues to provide starting point prompts, but now the children must trace the entire line. For the final level, children are given starting points, and the letter disappears once they begin to trace.  The system will not allow them to stray too far from the designated path, though, so it’s impossible to make a mistake.

    Entertainment

    LetterSchool is highly entertaining for young children. The illustrations are colorful and vivid, and most are animated. The app is also full of random sound effects designed to grab and hold the attention of the target audience.  For example, if a child is slow to choose the next letter, one will “laugh” or “woo-woo” as it jumps and spins to attract attention.  The tracing levels of the app are fun, as well. Instead of simply drawing a colored line over the target area, tracing will drag out various coverings, including a rocket that flies along the line, a train track that gets built and then shows a train travelling, and a light tube with bulbs that light up in sequence.  Completing all of the levels for the letter triggers an impressive display of fireworks and dancing stars.

    Value

    Though this app may seem a bit pricey at $4.99, it is well worth the money if your children enjoy it.  It’s engaging enough that most children will keep playing with it, and it provides practice on an important set of skills.  There is a free trial version available if you want to try out some of the features before you invest.

    Child Friendliness

    This app is child friendly. The settings area (where adults can change fonts, letter groups, and access individual user records) is accessible, however. The parent support area, however, is well-protected and hidden.  This area can only be accessed by reading, processing and completing a complex set of instructions.  The area opens in your browser and contains links, social media and information about using the app.

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

    safari-screeshot

    App Info

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

    Overview

    My Felt World recreates the imaginative props of the old-fashioned felt board in a way that is accessible to any child with a tablet. It includes four scenes to explore, dozens of characters and props, and even a selection of “Fun Facts” about each scene. Players can add sound effects, animate the picture, and add background music as well as capture their creative efforts as screen shots.

    Features include:

    • 4 unique felt worlds
    • 40 felt characters and props
    • Scrollable scenes allow for even more creativity
    • Fun Facts included for each of the scenes
    • Music and sound effects for each scene

    Quality

    My Felt World is a good quality app that will appeal to kids who like to create pictures and tell stories. Users can choose from ten characters and props for each of four scenes by dragging and dropping them to the desired location. Double-tapping causes each to spin wildly, flip or perform some other animated action. Some of the items built into each scene can also be manipulated, but there’s no clear indication of this.  Kids will find out by simply trying to move each one.  Each scene also includes a page of “Fun Facts” about the background, such as interesting trivia about farm animals or the ocean. The app is mostly easy to use, but for some reason was difficult to get the screens to scroll sideways as intended.  There is only one of each of the felt characters available, which may frustrate some young artists who want to create herds of cattle or flocks of penguins. The “Fun Facts” are a cute addition, but may be above the reading level of most of the children likely to want to play with the app.  There are also a few errors, omissions, and grammar glitches in the information, such as identifying a school of fish as a “shoal,” showing a diver in a snorkel saying “I can breathe underwater,” and “Savannas cover a quarter of the worlds land” (The actual figure seems to be about 14% of the world and 65% of Africa, and “world’s” should have an apostrophe.).

    Education

    My Felt World is a wonderful tool to encourage visual creativity and nurture beginning language skills.  Children who play with it will have opportunities to name common animals and objects in familiar scenes, place them where they wish, and tell the story that they create as they bring each scene to life. Many of the items in the background scenes, such as mountains and barns, can be moved from place to place, as well, and double-tapping the felt creatures and props will animate them into flips and spins. The scenes can be animated and have sound effects with the flip of a simple toggle in the menu at the top of each screen, and kids can add background music if they wish. The artwork can be preserved by snapping a quick screen shot using the built-in system.  Drawbacks include being limited to only one instance of each felt character and the difficulty of making the scene scroll from left to right to see all of the background and access the “Fun Facts.”

    Entertainment

    If a child enjoys visual creation, this app will provide hours of constructive play time.  Felt boards have been a perennial favorite with young children for generations, and this app digitalizes the experience, making it more accessible on a regular basis to more children. Kids are also likely to be enthused about the capability to easily snap screen shots of their creations, and with help from Mom or Dad, transfer them to printer, email or other means of sharing. The characters are adorable, and there are a wide array included with each scene. Young users are also likely to enjoy turning sound effects, animations and background music on and off as they share their work.

    Value

    This app is a good value at its $1.99 price tag, especially for families with multiple children or classroom settings. It has enough variety in its four scenes to boost the play value considerably, and developers indicate that more scenes are in the works. Kids are likely to have hours of wholesome fun with this app.

    Child Friendliness

    This app is very child friendly.  The parents’ information section is unprotected, but there are no links included. The only minor concern is that the app accesses the device’s screen shot camera, and there is no way to hide or turn that option off if it is unwanted.

    • Parent area (can contain external links or social media)
    • NO external links
    • NO social media
    • NO in-app purchase
    • NO 3rd party ads

    512

    App Info

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

    Overview

    If you’re trying to get your toddler to go potty, Potty Training Learning with Animals wants to help. This app uses cute animals and a semi-catchy potty training song to encourage kids to use the potty on their own. While the content is cute and likely to entertain toddlers for a few moments, the app itself has a lot of quality issues that make it hard for it to fulfill its goal of helping toddlers use the potty.

    Features include:

    • Interactive potty activity
    • Fun potty song
    • Parent resource center
    • Available in 10 languages

    Quality

    Since this app was first released, developers have worked to add a bunch of improvements. Unfortunately, it feels as if the improvements have only decreased the quality of the app. Parents can access a protected parent area which contains multiple resources including a video on how to potty train kids, a forum focused on potty training, and potty training coloring pages. Unfortunately, the coloring pages are just linked to Pinterest pins, the forum lacks content, and the training video continues playing even when you exit the parent area, playing in the background throughout the rest of the app. The same happens with the potty song kids can select to play from the main screen. In the interactive activity, the quality is a little better and features cute animals and plenty of animation.

    Education

    The idea of the app is to encourage toddlers to use the potty and to teach them proper potty habits. An embedded video instructs kids how to sit on the potty, wipe, and wash their hands. Unfortunately, the same steps are not reiterated in the interactive portion of the app where kids help the animals and other characters use the potty. In the protected parent area, parents will find links to additional potty content, including an embedded video on how to potty train a child, potty coloring sheets, and a forum related to potty training. While a good effort, the content does fall a bit short of being truly helpful.

    Entertainment

    Potty Training Learning with the Animals offers two main activities to entertain kids: an interactive screen where they help different animals go to the potty and a potty song that shows the steps kids should follow when going to the potty. The video is a bit lengthy and not likely to hold a toddler’s attention for long. However, toddlers will likely enjoy helping animals go to the potty and tapping around their homes to make the spiders, mice, and other objects move.

    Value

    Given the lack of quality and basic activities, parents may find this app is over-priced. A lot of the most valuable content is in the form of embedded online videos which parents can access for free outside of the app.

    Child Friendliness

    One area where this app does well is in the area of child friendliness. Strong parental locks protect content in the parent area and keep kids from viewing and downloading other developer apps. The more apps icon is still visible though. Kids can also access the settings area to change the language which is likely to appeal to the toddlers the app is designed to reach.

    • 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)

    carousel_1

    App Info

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

    Overview

    Pacca Alpaca is an incredibly entertaining and educational app that children are going to love. With loads of activities including connect the dots, puzzles, spot the difference and so much more, players get to explore the world with Pacca Alpaca as they play. Pacca Alpaca Travel Playtime is easy to use and great for children of all ages!

    Features include:

    • 50+ Activities
    • Connect the dots
    • Puzzles
    • Building blocks

    Quality

    The images used within this app are brightly colored, engaging, and very well done. The developers have also done a great job with the sound effects and interactive features throughout each activity making this app highly entertaining for children of all ages. The user interface is quite simple and doesn’t require a lot of instruction or assistance for children to enjoy. With simple tap and drag functioning little ones can easily enjoy Pacca Alpaca Travel Playtime on their own.

    Education

    While this app doesn’t include any of the traditional educational activities, it does include activities that will inspire children to use logic and problem solving skills to complete puzzles, connect the dots pictures, and find the difference activities. There is also an opportunity for children to learn about a variety of countries since each activity is connect with a new place. For instance, the Giza Pyramids, Sydney Opera House, and the Statue of Liberty are all included in addition to many other well-known attractions. Players also have the opportunity to learn the flags for each of the 23 countries that are included as they are displayed and named within each activity.

    Entertainment

    There is no doubt that children are going to love playing Pacca Alpaca Travel Playtime. With over 50 activities to enjoy players are likely to stay entertained for hours. There is a nice variety of activities including drawing/coloring, connect the dots, building blocks, and sticker pages that children can explore. Spot the difference, hide and seek and the puzzles included are also sure to bring a lot of joy to children of all ages. The developers have done a fabulous job making this app highly entertaining and engaging for children of all ages, ensuring they come back to play many times over.

    Value

    Priced at just under two dollars this app is an absolute steal! With over 50 activities and the ability for children to learn about different cultures, flags, and practice their problem solving skills this is one app both parents and children can appreciate. Simply put, Pacca Alpaca Travel Playtime is worth every penny and then some.

    Child Friendliness

    Pacca Alpaca Travel Playtime is not only lots of fun to play but also extremely child friendly. The developers have created an app that allows children to easily move through the activities without a lot of assistance from parents using an intuitive user interface. With simple tap and drag functioning, little ones can explore, play, and learn independently for hours.

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

    icon_512

    App Info

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

    Overview

    There’s nothing better than spending a cool Saturday morning fishing and making memories with grandpa. Now all kids can enjoy the experience and learning something at the same time. Fishing with Grandpa takes kids through a series of learning activities, many of which involve fish. They get the chance to learn some of the basics, such as identifying colors and numbers, but they also get to learn about different types of fish and a little bit about the art of fishing at the same time.

    Features include:

    • Number, color, and word recognition activities
    • Fishing-related activities
    • Puzzles and mazes
    • Friendly grandpa as narrator

    Quality

    From Grandpa’s slightly raspy, but encouraging voice to the country background music, the app really captures the relaxed feel of fishing with Grandpa on a Saturday morning. When kids first open this app, they’re invited to go fishing with grandpa. Once they touch the boat, they get the opportunity to go through a series of learning activities with the help of a friendly grandpa. At the beginning of each activity, kids are given clear instructions. A single word off to the side of the screen also provides a reminder for kids who can read, but kids who can’t read must turn their sound on and listen closely to the instructions at the beginning of each activity. Parents can customize the types of activities kids enjoy via the settings screen.

    Education

    When kids go fishing with Grandpa, they’ll encounter a variety of educational activities. Many of the activities focus on basic skills, such as tapping all the fish of a particular color or tapping on groups of fish that contain a certain number. Kids will also get to help a crab find its way through a series of mazes, hand Grandpa some of his fishing supplies, and figure out which animal is different. After completing a series of activities, kids get the opportunity to choose a lure, cast the line, and catch a fish. Once they successfully catch a fish, they’re told the type of fish they caught and get the opportunity to measure the fish before adding it to their collection.

    Entertainment

    The app keeps kids interested by presenting them with a variety of learning activities, but it is Grandpa who truly hooks kids to the app. His positive praise and energetic spirit keep kids playing. Even if they get something wrong, Grandpa responds with a subtle reminder that encourages them to try again. When they play, they’ll really feel like they’re fishing with a friend, especially when they get to give Grandpa a big high five after they catch a fish.

    Value

    Fishing with Grandpa is priced comparably to similar apps. It is a worthwhile app to add to your collection, particularly for children with an interest in fishing and nature. Parents who are not fans of fishing can customize the settings to take advantage of the learning activities without letting kids fish.

    Child Friendliness

    The app contains a more apps section with a video-based add for an app featuring Grandma. However, access to the additional apps and feedback forms are protected by a parental lock. A parental lock also keeps kids from accessing the settings area where parents have the ability to customize some of the content kids see.

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

    image (10)

    App Info

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

    Overview

    Wonster Words: Spelling with ABC and Phonics by Puzzingo uses entertaining, silly videos to introduce young readers to pattern words and word families by having them match letters to their outlines to spell the words on the list. Each list contains eight words that have the same ending pattern or a matching phonic element such as th, sh or ch sounds.

    Features include:

    • Includes word lists as well as mini-games
    • Letters make their sounds as they are being put into place
    • Each word includes a silly animation to teach its meaning
    • No stressful quizzing or scoring
    • Play each level repeatedly (replay value)

    Quality

    Wonster Words is a high-quality app that is intuitively designed. Players will have no trouble understanding what to do for each game.  The animations begin immediately after a word is correctly spelled. The app includes a wide array of words that will challenge and entertain students at a range of skill levels.

    Education

    This app does a good job of reinforcing many different phonetic elements, including word families, rhymes, consonant digraphs, dipthongs and more.  Each element is demonstrated with a list of eight words.  Students spell the words on the list by dragging letter “ghosts” to the outlines of the letter.  The app developers incorporated a clue that two letters are making one sound by decorating them differently and causing them to respond as a unit when the child puts the letters into their proper places.  The single letters have two eyes, and the letter groups share a set of eyes peering through eyeglasses.  It makes a nice subtle method of helping the kids realize that the letters work together to make a single sound.

    Once the letters are in place for the word, the app shows a quick animation and sentence that explain the word’s meaning.  This is great, because the words on the list are at different reading levels.  For example, the list for –ap family words includes the expected “map” and “nap,” but also includes “clap” and “trap,” and even “giftwrap” and “madcap.”  Younger students will be expanding their vocabularies as well as learning to read and spell the words.  The app also includes “stories” that allow kids to play some mini-games and follow a plot.

    One minor concern is how the app handles words that have letters that do not make their usual sounds.  When the children move the letters into place, each one makes its primary sound.  This is great when the H in “hike” says /huhhuhhuh/, but could be confusing when the E at the end of the word announces “eheheh” as it is being dragged into place.  The problem also cropped up with some words having AW and AL combinations where the A makes more of a short O sound, but the child will hear the short A sound as the letter is being moved.

    Entertainment

    Wonster Words is entertaining for young children.  The characters are all friendly-looking monsters, and they star in funny animations in the defining sentences and also in the stories.  Kids will want to play again and again, and are sure to find their own favorite characters in the cast.  The stories contain mini-games, as well, that students will enjoy.  These play like various arcade games, and will be quite engaging for players.

    Value

    This app is free to download, and comes with 2 packs of 8 words and one story.  There is also a “Word of the Day” feature that can be accessed.  Additional packs of words and stories are available for purchase.  Word packs are 99 cents each, and users can purchase various bundles ranging up to an “all-access pass” for $14.99 that opens up all of the content.  There are currently 11 packs of words and 2 stories.  Developers note that more words, word packs and stories are coming.

    Child Friendliness

    This app is child-friendly.  The parents’ area and purchase areas are well-protected.

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

    fred

    App Info

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

    Overview

    Sleepy Fred wants to go to bed, but before he does, he has a lot of tasks to complete. With a “scurry-hurry, scurry-hurry, quack quack quack,” will he get them all done before he falls asleep? This rhyming book takes kids through Sleepy Fred’s traditional bedtime routine and helps build their early reading skills at the same time. The cute story line and colorful illustrations along with the vocabulary and comprehension activities will help engage kids and make building their reading skills fun.

    Features include:

    • Read with Text
    • Read with Audio
    • Animated illustrations
    • Vocabulary and comprehension activities

    Quality

    The story of Sleepy Fred is a cute one with well-placed rhymes to get kids’ attention and help them read along. The story itself does contain a few errors in capitalization and punctuation. While these will largely go unnoticed by the book’s young audience, developers still should’ve taken the time to get it right. The story also lacks voice audio prompts on the main screen which may make it difficult for kids to get to the audio version of the text or a particular comprehension activity. Within the text itself, kids will find cute pictures of Sleepy Fred and his mom. These pictures contain a small amount of animation, such as a clock ticking and a bee flying, but the level of animation could be increased or made interactive for a more engaging experience.

    Education

    The app bills itself as an app for early language development, however it lacks many features that support language development. For example, there is no text highlighting in the audio version of the story and the comprehension activities lack text to help kids truly build their beginning vocabulary skills. For example, the first activity, labeled “Matching Nouns,” shows kids a picture and instructs them to “Find one like this” in the picture from the story. While all of the items in the pictures are recognizable (plants, cups, bananas, etc.), it would vastly improve the app to say the name of the object at some point during the activity. This isn’t to say that the activities are bad, just that they could be improved. Some of them, such as identifying functions, identifying categories, and identifying parts of an object or animal are good activities to help kids learn to look at objects in new ways.

    Entertainment

    The story itself is what will engage the kids the most. It is a cute story with a fun repeating rhyme on every other page that will hook kids’ attention. The activities, while simple, are also the type of activities that beginning learners seem to enjoy.

    Value

    This app is priced slightly higher than other ebooks, many of which are more interactive and of a higher quality than this one. While the story is engaging and kids will like the vocabulary activities, the app doesn’t have an extended value. Once kids have read through it all, they’re not very likely to pick it up again.

    Child Friendliness

    Aside from the lack of audio narration on the main screen, the app earns points for child friendliness. It does not contain any ads, social media, or even a settings screen that will pull kids’ attention away from the story and activities.

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

    icone-android-hd

    App Info

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

    Overview

    Vocabubble is an artistic early learning app that aims to teach children the alphabet and a variety of vocabulary words. With great artistic images, an easy to use interface, and a unique set up, this app allows young children to have a bit of freedom and fun as they learn.
    Features include:

    • 4 Languages
    • Alphabet practice
    • Vocabulary words

    Quality

    Vocabubble is a pretty unique app that allows little ones to practice their alphabet while learning new words as they play. The developers have done a great job of creating an app that is easy for young children to play as it appeals to the natural way kids tap and touch the screen to move through the app. The user interface also adds some interest as the letters and images move around the screen as children tilt and move the device they are using, which is fun. There are also some great images taken from Pictorial Webster’s Dictionary that help players connect each word and image as they move through the app.

    Education

    The basic idea behind this app is to help children practice their alphabet while teaching them new vocabulary words and corresponding pictures as they move through each letter. Players move through the app in sequential order (A, B, C etc.) and as they tap the screen the letter appears. When they touch and hold the letter, an image appears and the narrator reads the word aloud. As players tap and hold the image, the word appears and is read aloud by the narrator which offers another way for children to connect the letter, image, and the word. Overall, this app offers a great deal of educational value for children as they expand their vocabulary and practice the alphabet.

    Entertainment

    While this app doesn’t include any additional games or activities for children to enjoy, the learning interface is set up in a way that helps to keep children engaged. As players tap the screen and letter and picture ‘bubble’s appear, they tumble and move around the screen as the device is moved. This unique set up is a fun way to keep young children engaged as they learn. With that said it would be nice for children to have an additional game, puzzle, or coloring activity to give them something else to do to stay engaged as they learn. Adding an activity or two would definitely increase the entertainment value of the app overall.

    Value

    Priced at just under three dollars, this app is priced quite well for what you get. When you consider the fact that there are a variety of words and pictures associated with each letter, parents are sure to appreciate the opportunity for players to add lots of great words to their vocabulary in an easy to use app.

    Child Friendliness

    In addition to having an easy to use interface with narration options, the developers have done a great job making this app completely safe and secure for children of all ages. All parent only options are protected and kept in the ‘parents corner’.

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

    funnydirections

    App Info

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

    Overview

    Funny Directions helps kids build word recognition skills and learn to follow directions in silly ways. Kids can follow one, two, and three-step directions at the park, at the beach, in the classroom, and in the bedroom. Some of the directions are practical, such as “open the backpack and place the pencil in the backpack.” Other directions are silly, such as “tickle the mouse.” When kids correctly follow the directions, they’re rewarded with animated illustrations and silly sound effects. Kids may not always listen when a parent tells them to do something, but they’ll definitely follow the directions in this app!

    Features include:

    • Four settings
    • 1, 2, and 3-step directions
    • Voice and text commands
    • Animated illustrations
    • Funny sound effects

    Quality

    The main screen of the app features four different settings (beach, park, classroom, bedroom) and next to each setting are three balloons labeled 1, 2, and 3. The numbers on the balloons represent how many steps kids will have to follow. When kids tap on one of the numbered balloons they’re taken to an illustrated scene and are given a set of directions. All directions are displayed at the top of the screen and read-aloud. Parents can turn off the text or voice directions by tapping on the settings icon. While the sounds and text in the app are clear, they lack a bit of quality and polish. For example, there’s a bit of an echo-y feel to the directions and the sound effects. Overall, however, kids will have an easy time navigating the app.

    Education

    One of the developer’s goals is to help kids build their word recognition skills and learn multiple parts of speech. This is particularly clear in the two-step and three-step instructions which require kids to complete more actions and move objects in multiple ways. All three levels of instructions help improve kids’ auditory skills as well, requiring them to listen closely to ensure they follow the directions carefully.

    Entertainment

    While listening to mom or dad can be unpleasant at times, following directions in Funny Directions is always fun. This is because when kids follow directions they’re rewarded with silly sound effects and animations. These range from a car racing around a room to a frog riding a skateboard and from dancing shoes to barking and jumping dogs. When kids complete all directions for a level, they’re given the chance to pop balloons, making the app even more fun.

    Value

    Aside from the slight lack of quality in the audio and overall lack of polish in the app, Funny Directions proves to be a good choice for young children. Toddlers, preschoolers, and even kids in kindergarten are likely to enjoy this app.

    Child Friendliness

    Aside from a basic settings screen, the majority of the app is child-friendly and easy for kids to navigate. At the end of every level, however, an “e-mail results” button appears at the top of the screen and allows kids to e-mail their score report to any e-mail address. This option, while nice for parents, should be protected by a parental block.

    • NO external links
    • NO social media
    • NO 3rd party ads
    • NO in-app purchase
    • YES “e-mail results” option

    image (4)

    App Info

    Price: $2.99
    AppStore User Rating: 5

    Download on the App Store

    Overview

    Juana la Iguana en la Granja immerses preschoolers in Spanish language readiness activities. All written and verbal language in the app is presented in Spanish, and young children can complete familiar activities such as memory, counting, and finding the correct color while hearing instructions, encouragement and vocabulary words such as color names, numbers, letter names, and animal names in Spanish.

    Features include:

    • 5 activities teach animals, letters, fruits, numbers, and matching
    • Voiced narration, instructions, vocabulary and reinforcements all in in Spanish
    • Intuitive design with no confusing menus or buttons
    • Continuous play with each round leading smoothly to the next
    • Rewarding song and dance at the end of every five activities

    Quality

    Juana la Iguana en la Granja is a high quality app.  Developers did a good job of creating an intuitive interface that will guide young children right through the language barrier.  They provided many non-verbal cues, such as the main character’s response to correct and incorrect choices, that will quickly show the player what is needed to be successful.  Each activity flows smoothly to the next so impatient young learners will have no downtime between the rounds.

    Education

    Juana la Iguana en la Granja offers basic preschool readiness activities with a twist-all of the interactions and printed words are in Spanish!  Young children will quickly get the hang of each type of activity based on visual cues and Spanish prompts by the main character, Juana.  Though the children may not understand the exact words, the messages are clear: “You did a great job!” or “Oops, that wasn’t quite right.”

    The five games will be very familiar to most preschoolers.  They include a memory-style game where players find matching farm animals, see and hear the initial letter and learn the Spanish name for the animal.  There is a counting activity that allows young children to hear the numbers in Spanish while seeing the printed numeral and counting items on the screen.  Best of all, it does not matter in which order the child presses the items to be counted! The numbers match no matter which is pressed first.  Another game asks the player to choose fruits and vegetables with the correct color and names these items in Spanish.  Children practice colors and one-to-one correspondence with a game that requires them to drag colored stars to the correct location and has each animal say “hello” in it’s own unique way, once for each star that is in the proper place.  A counting exercise presents pictures of animals that recite the numbers in Spanish in order when touched, and as a reward for completing the other games, players get to choose a gift-wrapped present that plays a Spanish children’s song while Juana dances.

    As children play, they are bound to pick up some Spanish words, both in spoken and written form.  It makes a fun and friendly introduction to the language that will lay groundwork for more serious study later on.

    I do wish there was an English translation for parents, so they could help the child understand the exact wording of the instructions a bit more clearly.  I solved this problem by typing the written version of the instructions into a translation program on my computer, but that did not help with the spoken sentences that were not written down.  Developers also should create a better method of handling players who get into a rush.  At present, the app will stop saying the Spanish word midway through and begin the next if the player clicks through too rapidly.  This could be confusing to some children.

    Entertainment

    This app is entertaining for young children.  Kids will be intrigued by the immersion into the Spanish language, and perhaps will play a bit longer because of it.  Each of the five games is presented with different content and details, as well, which adds to the “staying power” of this game.  For example, the colors activity uses one of several different colors and the counting activity varies the number of items to count up to nine.  Unfortunately, I believe many children will tire of the limited number of activities and the limited number of responses for correct or incorrect selections.  The app would be improved by adding additional games and content.

    Value

    The app is a bit pricy at $4.99 given the limited staying power it’s likely to have.  It does a good job of reviewing a few basic readiness skills, but the main value lies in the language being used.  The concept of immersion into the language is educationally sound, and young children are likely to come away with some new Spanish vocabulary.  The app will also prepare them to learn from more rigorous programs in the future.  For the price, it would be nice to include a few other sets of vocabulary words in addition to the colors, numbers, fruits, vegetables and animals.

    Child Friendliness

    This app is very child-friendly.  Developers did a good job of making it appropriate for the age group.

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