What’s App?

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One of the most asked questions I get is what is on my iPad?  While parents want to limit the amount of time their kids spend on electronic devices, they know that there are a lot of educational apps out there that will motivate their children to learn a variety of things.  And like most everything else, all things done in moderation will not be harmful to your children. 

Below, I share some of my favorite educational apps that I use both at work and at home with my daughter.  The most important thing to me when choosing what apps I put on this list is that they are ones that are easy for families to use.  I especially like when they can work on a variety of skills in way that makes the work seem more like play than “work”.  I also am sure to add as many apps that will encourage language building skills at the same time.  I am always having the kids answer questions about what’s happening or talk about the directions or the sequence of steps before they complete tasks. 

Sago Mini Pet Cafe-this was my first app by the genius’ at Sago Mini and is still one of my favorites for the little ones on my caseload.  Kids learn how to count and sort while interacting with some pretty cute animals in a diner.  There are three different games to choose from: matching pictures, counting and sorting treats and making a colorful smoothie.  This app is also great for working on learning colors, improves visual motor and visual perceptual skills and great for increasing language skills.  An added bonus is that it is available in 15 languages!

Artie and The Magic Pencil-this fun and interactive app by Minilab Studios helps introduce preschool and early school age children to drawing a variety of shapes and early art concepts.  Kids get to play the hero while learning at the same time!  There’s a monster on the loose and he’s destroying the town.  Kids help Artie rebuild the world by tracing simple shapes bringing the town back to life.  For example, trace a triangle and put a roof back on a house  It can be played as a story or you can focus on the same part drawing until they have mastered the shape.  A nice feature of this app is that you can download drawing worksheets so kids can practice drawing with a writing instrument. 

LetterSchool-I have tested out so many handwriting apps that I have lost count.  In the end, I always come back to LetterSchool and continue to recommend it to all parents who are looking for ways to teach their kids to write.  What I love most about this handwriting app is the multi-sensory approach it has for learning all the letters and numbers.  For each letter/number, there are 3 ways to practice:
1.  Tap-this level has kids tap where the lines start and they then watch the letter get formed
2.  Trace-this level kids have to drag the lines from their starting point to end point to form the letter
3.  Write-this level has a chalkboard feel to it and the kids are given a clue as to where to start the letter but the lines disappear and they have to write it from memory
On each level, there are fun visuals to watch the letters come to life which is incredibly motivating for even the most ambivalent student.
In addition to learning how to write letters and numbers, kids can work on improving hand-eye coordination, visual motor and visual perceptual skills and introduces kids to letter sounds and names and learning how to count.

Pepi Doctor-this app by PepiPlay is another that has been on my must have app list since I discovered it years ago.  In this app, kids get to play the doctor to three different patients (Amber, Eva and Milo).  Each one of the kids has the same 5 ailments that need to be taken care of: a cold, a toothache, earache, broken bone and clean up cuts from a fall.  Each ailment requires them to complete several tasks in order for their patients to feel better.  Some of the tasks are putting the bone back together, brushing teeth, putting bandaids on scrapes and many, many more.  This app is great for improving visual motor and perceptual skills, hand-eye coordination, focus, attention and organizational skills.  It’s also a great app to work on improving language skills.

Peppa Pig Theme Park-recently, I have found that so many of my kids are pretty obsessed with Peppa Pig….I can’t blame them!  I remembered from my own daughter having some Peppa Pig apps and how great they were.  There are many of them, but my favorite right now is the Theme Park one because it works on a lot of skills that my younger kids need to focus on.  There are 10 different games to choose from including:
-make Cotton Candy for Peppa and her family….make sure you choose the right color and don’t make it too big or they won’t be able to eat it
-ride in a hot air balloon and collect balloons as you go up and down
-steer a race car around the track…be sure to avoid the puddles!
This game is great for working on improving hand-eye coordination, visual tracking, focus, attention, motor planning and organizational skills.

Endless ABC-hands down my favorite literacy apps out there and kids of all ages on my caseload love it as well.  Endless ABC from Originator is great for introducing preschool kids to the letters of the alphabet and encourages early reading skills.  In this interactive game, kids will learn lots of new and interesting words.  Super cute monsters run across the screen and knock all the letters out of place.  Kids have to match the letters (I encourage kids to put them back in the correct order).  Once they have them all in place, there is a little video that teaches kids about the word. In addition to the aforementioned skills, kids work on improving hand-eye coordination, visual motor and visual perceptual skills, executive functioning skills (focus, attention and organization) and grasping skills.

Math Tango-I have been on the hunt for a good math app for a really long time and have been mainly disappointed by what’s out there.  That was until I saw that the brilliant people at Originator came up with a math app and I couldn’t have been more excited.  I actually didn’t get too excited until I had my 7-year old daughter test the app out but once she gave it 2 thumbs up, I was sold and have been recommending it to others.  The game is structured in a way that kids have to complete 24 different missions where they earn monsters and other kinds of items that will help them on the island that they inhabit.  While playing over 200 different addition and subtraction games will learn some of the following concepts:
-adding single digit numbers
-adding doubles
-adding near doubles
-making 10 to add 9
-adding 10’s

Trilo Spelling-when my daughter was finishing up kindergarten and preparing for first grade, I started to really panic about her reading skills.  I knew developmentally she was where she was supposed to be but living in NYC, academic expectations are higher.  I had spent a lot of time looking for the right app and each time I thought I had found it, she didn’t like it.  So when we found this one, we were both thrilled!  In Trilo Spelling, there are five levels of spelling and reading fundamentals with each level introducing kids to a different letter blends.  Within each level, there are three different games/challenges they can play.  The graphics and monsters within the app are fun and friendly, motivating children to want to learn how to spell.  In addition to learning how to spell, children can work on improving executive functioning skills, hand eye coordination,

Dexteria Junior-this is a great app for working on developing fine motor and grasping skills with your little ones.  What I love about this app is that the creators worked with occupational therapists to make it.  Perfect for preschoolers and getting them ready for school.  There are three different games:
Squish the Squash-encourages children to use their pointer finger to squish squashes.  There are 15 levels for the kids to work through.
Pinch the Pepper-encourages children to use their thumb and pointer fingers to pinch the peppers.  Great for developing a fine pincer grasp which is important for the developing proper pencil grips later on.  There are 10 levels that become increasingly more challenging.
Trace and Erase-kids can learn how to draw various lines and shapes.  They first trace the lines and then use an eraser after.  Once they finish erasing the lines, they can take a silly selfie of themselves which my kids love.  I have my kids use a stylus with this particular game to encourage proper grasp patterns when holding a writing instrument.
In addition to what I have already mentioned, this game is great for working on hand-eye coordination, visual tracking, focus, attention and planning and organizational skills.

Little Fox Animal Doctor-hands down, one of my favorite apps for my preschoolers and early school age kids.  The characters are adorable and the animations are amazing.  There are 7 different animals with 15 different injuries or illnesses that you have to help cure.  First kids choose their patient and before they can help them get better, they have to watch a short little movie that explains why they are at the doctors.  Once the movie is done, there are visual directions on what kids  need to do in order to cure the animals.  Some of the ailments they will have to help with are: helping a sick animal who has had too many sweets, sewing together a wing that got torn or helping an animal with a cold.  My favorite thing about this app is the short little movie they have to watch before helping the animal out.  This is great for helping with language and organizational issues.  The other thing I like is that the visual directions help kids work on sequencing and following directions.  In addition to those skills, kids also can work on improving fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, visual motor and perceptual skills and executive functioning skills.

Planets Puzzle-this is a great app for older children who need to work on improving visual motor, visual perceptual and executive functioning skills.  In this puzzle game, kids have to put the animal in the right place on the rotating world.  They have to figure out where the animals go by matching their terrain.  For example, place the dolphin in the ocean and the elephant on the grassy patch.  There are over 30 levels of play with increased challenges as they move through the puzzle.  In addition working on the aforementioned skills, this app is great for working on improving focus and attention, organizational skills, logic and problem solving.

Thinkrolls and these two apps by Avokiddo are a huge hit with my older children and are my go-to’s when I have children who need to work on improving their executive functioning skills.  Through this app, kids will improve problem solving, memory, motor planning and organizational skills.  In these interactive logic puzzles, kids learn about different scientific theories such as gravity, heat, buoyancy, speed, friction and so many more.  There are two levels of play for younger and older children.  In addition to the aforementioned, kids can work on improving visual motor skills, hand-eye coordination, focus and attention.  I have found that this is a great app for kids to do together; they have to work together and talk through a plan in order to complete each part of the game.

I always wrap up my app suggestions post with ways you can make screen time as beneficial as possible for the kids.  During my sessions, I always combine using an app with some other activity or skill.  Here are a few things you can do to make the most out of screen time for your kids:

-use a stylus whenever possible.  This is especially important when using any kind of handwriting or drawing app.  Like everything else, it can be confusing to know which stylus is best.  My two top recommendations are the Cosmonaut Wide Grip Stylus and the Crayon Stylus by Boxwave.  These two stylus’ have are wider and encourage a more age-appropriate grasp, especially for those little hands.

-encourage use of language during when playing on the iPad.  One concern parents have about using an iPad with their children is that they observe them to zone out or disconnect from the real world.  When I have kids using the iPad, I am constantly asking them questions and encouraging conversations with them.  Whether it be saying the name of the letter during Endless ABC or counting out loud when playing Sago Mini Pet Cafe, I am making sure the kids don’t have an opportunity to zone out. 

-there are a lot of apps that can encourage social skills.  When I am working with small groups of children who have similar goals, I will occasionally pull out the iPad.  We work on turn taking, cooperative play and being flexible with ideas peers suggest.

-work on a vertical surface when using the iPad (I sometimes lean mine up against an easel and have kids sit on a ball or bolster).  Working on a vertical surface is great for encouraging bilateral coordination, encourages bilateral coordination and helps with improving upper extremity and core strength.

-when at the gym, I have my kids work in a prone position either on the net swing or over a bolster.  This is a good way to work on increasing upper extremity strength.  I have found that my kids who tire easily with this task have more endurance when they are distracted from some fun apps.

These apps are just a handful of the dozens and dozens I have on my iPad.  If you are looking for specific suggestions for your children, I would be more than happy to help you find the right apps for them.   And if you have any great app suggestions for me, I would love to hear them….I am always happy to add something new to my app collection!  I am always a click away and love hearing from you all. 

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