Amazing friends recently gifted us with a new-to-us iPad. We are leaving for a cross-country trip in a few days, and I would love to load it with some child-friendly activities. Do you have any apps that you would recommend?
Oh, yes! We have some beloved iPad apps to recommend. I’m pretty picky about what my kids spend their screen time on, so here are my picks. I hope readers chime in with their own; we are always looking for more goodies.
There aren’t many free apps on my list. That’s because most free apps come with annoying ads or in-game payment opportunities. Both really bad if you are giving your kids screen time so you can have kid-free time. You don’t want them racking up a bill while you nap! Speaking of which, you need to change your settings to disallow in-game purchases, right now.
If you go into your Settings menu and choose “General,” there is a choice called “Restrictions.” In there, on our iPad, I’ve chosen to turn off installing (do this after you’ve purchased the apps I’m recommending!) and deleting apps (that is really easy to do for kids with a heavy finger - once apps start wiggling on the screen, you want to push all the little Xs!). In the “Allowed Content” section, I have all kid-safe ratings, have turned off In-App Purchases, and I require the password Immediately. I’ve turned off Location Services, too. Oh, and I have a passcode lock so that the kids can’t just pick it up and start playing without my permission.
Okay, now that your iPad is kid-safe, here are some great apps to play with!
PopOut Books, by Loud Crow Interactive - We have Peter Rabbit, and Squirrel Nutkin and they are well loved. A bit pricey, at $3.99, but so worth it. The original illustrations by Beatrix Potter are interactive, the background music and (optional) narrator are gentle and lovely. In doing this research, I discovered that Loud Crow has several more interactive books (including a bunch of Peanuts stories! And Sandra Boynton books!) that I want to collect.
Moonbot Studios’ The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is magical.
Whole Foods’ FREE veggie sorting game called AwesomeEats is so much fun, even I play it.
Fruit Memory allows up to four players and from 12-48 juicy cards to play this classic game.
Fancy Nancy, Explorer Extraordinaire is one your girls will like. It uses the illustrations from the book and has some interactive I-Spy type games. Fancy Nancy’s voice is a little annoying, but it’s a sweet little game.
This is one of our favorite app developers. We have collected almost all of their apps as they’ve come out. I like their philosophy that they don’t make games so much as “digital toys.” Their apps are pretty open ended and suggestive. My kids gravitate to this kind of creative app the most, and Toca Boca does them exceptionally well. Here are our favorites:
Toca Birthday Party
Toca Tea Party
Toca Train (a favorite of the 4 and under crowd)
Toca Store (two kids can play interactively with this one)
Toca Doctor (the pulling splinters is their favorite part)
Toca Builders Free for a limited time! (Definitely for the older kids. Littles might mess with it a bit, but the Bigs will actually be able to build cool stuff with it.)
(My kids love Toca Band, and I have to admit it is a pretty neat app, but the sounds they end up creating on that thing get stuck in my head something fierce! Download at your own risk!)
Duck Duck Moose
Another awesome app developer group. Here are our favorites:
Princess Fairytale Maker - can’t say enough good stuff about this one. Totally interactive, can record and save stories…it’s brilliant! (There’s another one called “SuperHero Comic Maker” that is just as excellent. It just lacks…princesses….)
Park Math - my 3.5 year old loves this one. It’s not as robust as I want it to be, but it is excellent quality nonetheless. It looks like Moose Math is the answer to what I felt was lacking with Park Math.
It’s hard to find dress up apps that aren’t full of gross body image stuff or overly branded movie-tie ins. These are good ones:
Paper Town Friends - I love the illustration style here!
Pickle’s Paper Dolls - free, with an in-app purchase to add the other dolls from around the world (which I highly recommend doing). Nice, sweet little girls with modest clothes. No skank here!
Fancy Nancy Dressup - Sweet little pot-bellied Nancy has some pretty fantastic clothes to play with. ;)
TipiTap’s Color and Draw is a very robust coloring app for a buck. There are in-app purchases for extra sets of stickers and coloring pages, which are well worth the extra dollar apiece.
Playtend’s Monster Coloring Book is fun, although it is not truly coloring so much as “filling” with a tap of the finger. However, I love the illustration style and my kids enjoy this one quite a bit.
Paint My Wings by Toca Boca seems kind of lame to me, but my kids love it. It’s that Toca Boca magic, I guess!
Montessorium makes some beautiful Montessori-inspired educational apps. We have Intro to Letters, Intro to Math, and Alpha Writer (which my girls use to tell elaborate stories, of course). They just came out with an Intro to Cursive, which looks wonderful. I love the nod to the Montessori method of sand-tracing the letters!
Endless Alphabet was an instant hit with my 3.5 year old. The sounds are ridiculous, but somehow manage not to annoy me at all. It is a bit pricey at $5.99, but it is a flawlessly executed app, and they are constantly developing it - there are new words added each week. It’s well worth the price.
We just started playing with The Human Body and I am so impressed. I’ve found the navigation to be not so intuitive, but once you figure out how to get what you want to see, the depth and breadth of this app is incredible! You can see the whole digestive process (yes, even that kid-favorite, gas and poop - although very tastefully presented), watch a sneeze, listen to a heartbeat, and see the body layer by layer, system by system. It’s three bucks well spent.
It requires a literate kiddo, but Duolingo looks like a great free way to practice Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, (and English!).
Co-op Strategy Games
These are more for the bigger kids…
Forbidden Island - Work together to collect the treasures and get off the island before it floods! Leslie and I play this together. :)
Ticket to Ride - Build railroads across America (and other nations); race to claim your route before your opponent takes it!
Well, that does it, Harmony. I hope you guys have fun with your new iPad!