Find the perfect app for you and your child!
Reviewed on 09/26/16
Free on | iOS
Take a photo, add a mouth, then record your voice to make your picture talk! There are a number of apps available that have this function, but this free app by Duck Duck Moose is the most kid-friendly and appropriate version so far. After you’ve made your talking picture, you can apply one of the funky filters, add stickers (like glasses, hats, crazy hair, eyeballs and, oddly, a fairly large selection of Christmas related images), a fancy frame or write your own words onto the photo. Once your masterpiece is complete, save it to your camera roll, then share it with friends and family. Challenge them to craft their reply in the same app and send YOU a silly talking picture. What will you create? A chatty cat? A silly sandwich? A talking toilet? The possibilities are endless!
Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts
Photo scavenger hunts ready to play on your mobile device! From hunts to keep your family engaged and entertained in the car or at a restaurant waiting for your food to hunts that lead players through the alphabet or inspire them to act out a detective mystery, this app is packed with open-ended inspiration to keep players working together to capture pictures inspired by the list of clues. Once they find something to photograph in response to a clue, they snap a photo then type answers to one or two short questions (yay, literacy!). The app then incorporates their answers in a caption for the photo. Each of the captioned photos can be downloaded to your device then used however you’d like to use them! If you love this app, more hunts are available for purchase, including a grocery store hunt, look in a book, snow day, number and color hunts and many more!
Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Alphabet, Animals, Art, Concepts, Creativity, Early Literacy, Family Play, Games, Google Play, Growing Up, Nature, NBC15, Science, Technology, Things that Go, Vocabulary
A new (not macabre!) interpretation of the classic game of HangMan, plus a story studio and the opportunity to illustrate the words yourself -- this app packs in a lot of value! First of all, they’re reimagined the “hanging man” of the classic game as a person hanging from a monkey bar or chin-up bar instead of from a gallows. If you don’t guess the word in time, the person loses their grip on the bar (rather than dying). Players are also given an illustrated hint that grows more elaborate with each guess to help guide them to the correct answer. Those illustrations have been carefully chosen to reflect our diverse world in the most wonderful way (e.g. “queen” = Cleopatra, “farmer” = Cesar Chavez), but if kids would rather create their own illustrations, once they’ve finished a word correctly, they’re allowed to go into the “word gallery” and create their own artwork to illustrate that word instead (you can also switch back and forth with the original illustration--it doesn’t get lost). And because kids learn words best in the context of a sentence or story, the app developer has also included a Story Studio where you can combine all of the words that you’ve successfully “won” and rearrange them to create a story which you can record yourself narrating. The app also includes a dyslexic-friendly font and users can select either the uppercase or lowercase alphabet which they then trace to practice their handwriting skills. The app’s website also includes a fantastic parents guide full of information about the app as well as suggestions for ways to engage with your child as they use the app.
Seedling Scavenger Bingo
Reviewed on 11/15/15
Freemium on | iTunes
A photo treasure hunt app to play with friends and family! Choose the environment where you’d like to play (your house, backyard, road trip, supermarket, etc.) and the game will randomly assign you some items to find (you can choose to play 9 or 16 items). When you find an item, tap on the icon that matches it, take a picture and then your photo replaces the icon on the board. The game tracks your time and you have the option to “join a nearby game” if a friend has the app on their device and you can compete to find the most images quickly. A premium fee allows users to create their own game (e.g. choose the cat icon, but label it with your own pet’s name!) or access treasure hunts for a few specific locations (Navy Pier in Chicago, Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, etc.). A simple concept, but a fun way to encourage users to get moving and interact with their environment and other people while using an electronic device.
Reviewed on 05/31/15
Freemium on | iTunes
Learn Spanish vocabulary words, hear both the (Spanish) name of each letter in each word and the sound it makes as you spell it, the hear the word used in a Spanish sentence. Originator has created a Spanish-language version of their popular app, Endless Reader. The new app offers the option to choose between two modes: Spanish Immersion or Spanish with an English translation. Fans of Endless Reader might recognize some of the humorous animations (e.g. they’ve used the same sentence for the word “casa” in this app as the word “house” in Endless Reader), but the opening credits and the little animations between segments are all new for this app and have fun cultural references (a pinata! a bull chasing the little monsters!). There’s even a new mascot monster! Whether you are a Spanish language learner or a native speaker, you will surely love and learn a lot from this fantastic app! (includes more words as an in-app purchase.)
Hooked on Phonics--The Big Reading Show
Reviewed on 05/13/15
Freemium on | iTunes
This app is divided into thirteen “episodes” each featuring two letters of the alphabet (so all 26 are covered) and a lot of laughs. Episodes are organized around themes (Pirate Day! Castle Day!) and each episode has 9 segments which are unlocked as each segment is completed the first time. The animated segments include three check-ins with the perky bird and rhino co-hosts of the show, Lou and Ella, doing sketch comedy related to the theme of the episode, games with a comforting amount of repetition that will reinforce the lessons found in each, and hilarious animated musical videos that had us both giggling out loud. The songs are all very catchy and well-sung and the lyrics are clever enough to encourage close listening. The game also incorporates some “coins” and “stars” but they aren’t a large focus of the app and are used constructively (not just to “buy” stuff within the app). Overall, a really well-made app with a ton of quality content, this app reminded me of the PBS shows of my youth, but with interactive elements that actually require kids to respond, strengthening their potential to learn the content. Well worth the in-app purchase price!
Reviewed on 03/25/15
Paid on | iOS
Get out a pad of paper and a pencil, it’s time to play Drawnimal! A great app for combining real-world play with your digital device. Lay your device on a piece of paper (or other surface you can draw on), then choose a letter of the alphabet and draw a few squiggles around the edges of the screen to make it look like the example they’ve given you. Then, press play to find out what animal you’ve created and tap the screen for an animated surprise. This app is available in 6 languages, so once you’ve explored all of the options in your own language, learn the names of animals in another language!
Reviewed on 03/06/15
Paid on | iOS
There are approximately eleventy jillion alphabet apps available on the market today, so it takes something very special for one to catch my eye. App developer Vector Park is a designer that can pull that trick off. Using clean, modern design and clever animations, users can explore the alphabet and see each letter come to life representing several words that it begins with. (A personal favorite is the capital letter "Y" looking back through a window at lowercase "y" for the word "yesterday." Deep.) One of the nice things about this app is that it is interesting enough to keep the attention of adults, encouraging exploring the app together with your children. I also appreciate their use of “rare” words (like “amble”) that will help to increase your child’s vocabulary. The app is simple to navigate (though sometimes figuring out what to tap on in order to continue through to the next letter can be a bit of a puzzle--in a good way) and full of amusing surprises.
Gappy Learns Writing
Most letter-writing apps encourage kids to trace letter shapes but no matter how squiggly their finger traces the pre-determined line, the app creates a perfect-looking letter. Not the case with Gappy Learns Writing which shows the exact lines that that user’s finger has drawn in all its shaky, scratchy, not-quite-right glory. This gives kids a better sense of their progress and a greater sense of accomplishment as they can see their own improvement over time. The app also includes a coloring page element which also doesn’t auto-fill shapes with a block of color, but allows users to color them in with scribbling just like a crayon or marker on paper. Within the settings menu, users can customize their experience not only by choosing between upper or lower case, but also 3 different font options. There’s also an encouraging voice that walks users through the app, step-by-step with gentle prompts. A well-designed app for teaching letter formation.
Reviewed on 10/30/14
Paid on | iOS
Customizable alphabet flash cards. Use the simple, modern illustrations that come with the app, or add your own photos to customize your own alphabet cards. Parents can work togethe with younger children to collect the photos, older kids might enjoy the challenge to “find and photograph something that begins with M!”