Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Thoughtful Apps for Thoughtful Pre-Schoolers

Thoughtful Apps for Thoughtful Pre-Schoolers

(thoughtful, as in "absorbed in or involving thought" not "how thoughtful of you to share that iPad with me"...)

Our new iPads are school tools, so I've got to keep it that way even when little Miss Ruth is using one.  She's got her own little folder of Apps to choose from, same rules apply to her as the boys, and I feel pretty confident that the times she's spending on the iPad is worthwhile.  So, worthwhile educational  apps that are perfect for pre-schoolers???  I share them with you... 

Here's what she's using...

TeachMe (Toddler) - simple games to master colors, numbers, letters, letter sounds, etc...  A cute Mouse Teacher encourages and corrects!  You can set up different players and can track their progress, but there is no customization feature.

TeachMe: Toddler
The Math Tree - by Bellamon - cute scrapbook-y (?) graphics - Birds and fruit are the manipulatives of choice for practicing addition and subtraction.  Practice counting and learn the basic concepts of adding and subtracting.  

The Math Tree, from Bellamon

Shape - O!  ABC's - Bellamon again.  This app is like a dream come true for me because it's just like the types of toys we actually have in our home... You build pictures using shapes, and spell corresponding words using scrabble-style tiles.  (You can change the settings to hide the letter "hints" for the advancing speller in your family.) Oh, PS - one of the other nice things about the Bellamon apps is that the music is nice and not annoying!

Shape-O ABC's, from Bellamon

Beck and Bo - this app was a border-line purchase for me.  It's not educational.  It encourages building pictures and completing scenes so that the characters, Beck and Bo, can have fun... in the park, in the snow, in the grocery store, etc...  It's not objectionable, there's just not a ton to it.  However, it's those darn style of graphics that I like - artsy-craftsy.  So Ruth uses it and she likes it.    
Beck and Bo

Bugs and Numbers / Bugs and Bubbles / Bugs and Buttons - I LOVE these graphics - really creative combination of industrial-style photographs and graphics with realistic insect animations. The games are nearly all educational or involve thought processing and/or motor skills (ex: "pulling" back a slingshot to launch a bee towards a moving flower-target.)  A couple of the games were confusing to figure out at first, so I "played" all of them ahead of time so I'd be able to tell her how to enjoy each one.  Oh, and the music????  So sweet, not annoying, and on at least one of them, I've heard strains of the Pachelbel Cannon in D, a Bach Brandenberg Concerto and some Tchaikovsky.  Can't go wrong there.

Bugs and Buttons

Bugs and Numbers
Bugs and Bubbles

Sam Phibian - a funny counting practice game.  Sam the frog is hungry for lunch and it's your job to feed him the exact right amount (and type) of bugs.  If he eats too many bugs, or if you feed him the random items that float past, he may get a little too big to balance on his lily pad :)   

Sam Phibian

The last here are repeats from an earlier post I wrote on apps we've used for school... but they're worth repeating because they're appropriate for varying ages and Ruth has enjoyed them a lot!

Monkey Math School Sunshine - decent Math practice with a silly monkey guide.

Monkey Math School Sunshine

Monkey Word School Adventure - allows you to select varying levels of difficulty for up to four players.  So little kiddos can play the simpler phonics games and still feel like a bigger kid.

Monkey Word School Adventure

Word Grab - practice spelling, vocabulary, and phonics with this funny-looking monster.  (Unfortunately, he sounds funny too - a little more like a moan than a roar.  Weird, but not a deal breaker.)  

Word Grab

Rocket Speller - has a setting for younger kiddos, wherein the word that the player needs to spell is written in light gray and the player has to place the correct matching letter on top.  This game and it's various levels is a favorite of all three i-pad using kids.

Rocket Speller

Aaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnd, finally...

Reading Rainbow - Oh, my love of Reading Rainbow runs deep.  I grew up on this stuff and have scoured the public library system to borrow all the available DVD's of the old show.  Bravo, and "thank you," Lavar, for resurrecting one of the best kids show concepts out there!  Even though we don't do books on ipad, we do Reading Rainbow.  The books are not animated - that's one of my big things-to-avoid, - and in fact, they are so by design.  At RR, the books speak for themselves, without animation or enhancements.  (with the unobjectionable exception of things such as, when you click on George Washington's horse in the book on George Washington, you hear the animal neigh and gallop off.)  The book selection is mostly fabulous, and the videos are so fun.  Recently, Ruth has been alternating between listening to the National Geographic book on Sharks and watching a video on how Crayola crayons are made.  I'm a happy mom, indeed!

While the subscription to Reading Rainbow is a little pricey, ($9.99 a month or $6 a month if you buys 6 months at a time - go for that option!)  the subscription covers your multiple devices.  I made the mistake of letting more than a month go by with only having it on one ipad because I thought I'd have to pay again to put it on the others.  Not so.

It took Ruth a little one-on-one time with me to figure out how to navigate through the app - how to check out books and return them when her backpack was full and she wanted another.  But now she is able to choose the books that interest her and she can "take a look" to her heart's content.

And if you loved Reading Rainbow too when you were a kid... click here and have some warm fuzzy retro feelings.  My gift to you.  

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