Carissa's App Picks for Kids

Carissa's App Picks for Kids

Color Clues
Reviewed on 12/15/17
Free

A treasure hunt using color clues that gets your family up and moving! In this free app, users can use pre-designed hunts like “a hunt towards bedtime” or they can create their own hunts.  To design your own hunt, simply record your voice giving as many clues as you want to give.  Then, once the clues are recorded, the app will assign each clue a sequence of four colors.  You can print out the color sequences on strips of paper with your printer (or simply use crayon and paper to make your own color sequence strips) and hide the color strips in the locations your clues direct the kids to.  When you hand the kids your phone and the first strip of colors to start the hunt, the app will be open to a page that shows only six different color blocks.  Players tap the colors on the screen in the same order they’re in on the slip of paper and that will unlock your recording of the clue.  When they follow the clue to the next spot, they’ll find another strip of colorful squares and the hunt continues.  This app is so open-ended and versatile and does a great job of encouraging family members to play together!  What creative ways can you think of to use it?  Note: the app maker plans to add a shape for each color in a future version of the app to assist colorblind players.

See all apps for age group: Preschool, Grades K-2
For platform: Android, iOS
Sago Mini Snow Day
Reviewed on 12/14/17
Paid

Canadian developer, Sago Mini, really knows how to have fun in the snow!  This app, similar to their previous apps, Road Trip, Planes and Boats, begins by users choosing a vehicle -- in this case a sled, but of course there are lots of silly options in addition to the usual sled designs.  Perhaps you’d like to ride on a unicorn sled or a donut sled? Once you’ve selected your ride, choose which of your favorite Sago Mini characters to take on a ride down the snowy hill.  Once you’ve picked your drivers, it’s whoosh and down the hill you go!  You’ll encounter lots of snowy day fun along the way-- perhaps you’ll stop to decorate a snowman or a tree, or maybe you’ll run into the ice cave or run into some ice sculptures?  When your (surprisingly long) ride is done, you’ll see a photo snapshot of something fun that happened along the way, then it’s back to the starting line to go again (and you don’t even have to drag your sled all the way to the top)!  As always, Sago Mini delivers a delightful, exploratory app that will bring a smile to the face of kids of all ages.

See all apps for age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool, Grades K-2
For platform: iOS
Toca Life: Hospital
Reviewed on 12/14/17
Paid

The Toca Life series tackles the sometimes difficult topic of hospitals in this very well-made app.  As in all Toca Life apps, it’s all about open-ended play.  There’s a location (the hospital, with 5 levels), people (everyone from newborns to elderly in various medical states of health) and stuff to play with (bandages, extra body organs, radios, glasses of water, pretty much everything you’d expect to find in a hospital) and users decide what’s going to happen by moving the characters around within the space and handing them various objects or putting them on beds (or toilets or whatever) and creating their own stories. Unlike most “doctor” apps for kids, Toca Life is brave enough to even allow space for talking about death and dying by including two different quiet spaces with candles (one indoors, one outdoors) as sort of reflection/meditation rooms. If you are anticipating a hospital visit (new baby? Ailing grandparent? Sick kiddo?) or if you find yourself at the hospital or even if you just want to give your child the opportunity to play within that environment before life requires that you spend time in an actual hospital, this app is a really great way to do that. This would be an excellent app to play side-by-side with a grown-up who can talk to the child about the different (and sometimes mysterious) items they’ll encounter in the app (like the MRI machine).  Be sure to also discover the ability to make your own mini-movies within this app!

See all apps for age group: Preschool, Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
For platform: Android, iOS
Hupsi
Reviewed on 12/14/17
Paid

A very simple, but extremely charming app for younger players. This app follows young Hupsi (a young woodland creature -- not sure exactly what kind of animal he is) as he takes a little jog through the woods around his home. The music (featuring singing in a made-up language) is excellent and will likely not annoy parents or get stuck in their heads, but is calming and pleasant to listen to. The entire progress of the game will run by itself with no interaction from kids if they choose not to touch the screen, but if they DO tap the screen, each item will add to either the development of the story (e.g. feeding snacks to Hupsi’s friend) or the music (e.g. Tapping woodpeckers adds a little staccato beat that fits in well with the rhythm of the song). The game ends when Hupsi returns to his home where he tells his parents about the things he saw on his run. There’s no stressful time limits, points or ads in this app. There’s not even really a particular goal and older players will lose interest after only one or two plays, but very young players will enjoy the music and the super cute illustrations and parents can feel safe playing this app even with babies. At the end of the app, when Hupsi is telling his parents about the things he saw (through drawings in speech bubbles), take the opportunity to talk with your child about each of Hupsi’s memories (“do you remember that dinosaur with the headphones on? What do you think was Hupsi’s friend’s favorite food that we fed him?”). Talking together about what’s happening in apps is a great way to build vocabulary and relationships! This app can also be played for free online, but not on mobile devices. See www.playhupsi.com for details!

 

See all apps for age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
For platform: iOS
PEEP Family Science: Ramps
Reviewed on 12/05/17
Free

Learn all about ramps with PEEP and the Big Wide World.  This app introduces 8 mini-lessons about ramps using video from the television show PEEP and the Big Wide World.  First, users watch a short video clip (less than 10 min) of either PEEP and his friends using ramps (slides, sleds on a snowy hill, etc.) or a video of children playing with ramps and slopes.  After the video is done, there are some discussion questions to talk about together and then a hands-on activity where kids can make their own slope / ramp and to play and experiment with.  This app would work well in a preschool or early elementary classroom as well as at home with an adult working together with a child. There is also a Spanish version of the app as a separate download called “PEEP Ciencias en familia: Rampas.”  The movies have been dubbed in Spanish and the questions and instructions have all been translated into Spanish, but oddly the letter to parents is still (unfortunately) only in English.

See all apps for age group: Preschool
For platform: Android, iOS