Carissa's App Picks for Kids

Carissa's App Picks for Kids

Stop, Breathe & Think Kids
Reviewed on 08/28/17
Freemium (free w/ paid upgrade)

Introduce your child to mindfulness and meditation through this playful, contemplative app.  When you open your account, you can create profiles for multiple children.  Each time you use it, choose which profile you want to enter, then you can choose from a list of all the possible meditations (“missions”) or you can “find a mission” by selecting up to 3 emotions from a provided emoji-style list which the app then will use to choose a meditation for you. Mission categories include predictable topics like Quiet, Focus and Sleep, but there are also Energizing meditations and ones you can use in case of a Meltdown.  The meditations range from about 2-6 minutes long and a simple animation is shown during the meditation to give kids something to look at and focus on while they’re trying out this technique.  The animations feature different animal characters (plus a cloud, a raisin, and a yeti -- all appropriate images for the particular meditation).  When the meditation is done playing, kids are asked once again to choose three emojis to describe how they’re feeling now and then they are given a virtual “sticker” (which just goes onto a sticker page, more like a badge -- it can’t be moved around). This emoji exercise is a great way to get kids talking about different nuances of emotion beyond just “happy” and “sad.” The app is based on the mindfulness games developed by Susan Kaiser Greenland and if you like what you see in the app, she’s written a whole book of mindfulness “games” for children.  The app is free to download and use over 15 meditation options, but if you want to unlock and access ALL of the meditations in their library, there is a subscription fee.  There is also a web-based version of the app.

See all apps for age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool, Grades K-2
For platform: iOS
Sesame Street
Reviewed on 07/31/17
Free

Tons of Sesame Street videos from the show plus mini-games that engage kids interactively in a way that videos just can’t achieve on their own combine to make this app almost as good as watching the show.  The only thing missing is the overarching storyline to tie everything together.  You can search by favorite character or browse through collections of 8 different “learning areas” such as literacy or emotional development. There are plenty of celebrity appearances and the signature Sesame Street humor.  Bottom line: if you’re okay with (or big fans of) Sesame Street, you’ll love this free app.

See all apps for age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
For platform: Android, iOS
Fox & Sheep Movie Studio
Reviewed on 07/30/17
Paid

Make your own movie using characters and scenery from some of the Fox & Sheep apps! Featuring artwork from Little Fox Music Box, Nighty-Night Circus and Little Fire Station, players can mix and match the characters and scenery, add in some music, the press record while you speak the characters’ lines and move them around to film an original cinematic experience. Finished movies can be saved to your camera roll then shared with friends and family if you want to show off your masterpiece! In-app purchases feature additional special effects, props to add to your scenes and more. Similar to Nosy Crow’s Fairytale Theatre--if you liked that app, you’ll probably like this one as well.

See all apps for age group: Preschool, Grades K-2
For platform: iOS
Pango Blocks
Reviewed on 07/30/17
Paid

Help Pango the Raccoon gather objects by building bridges and ramps!  Players can choose “easy” or “hard” mode, then they can choose which scenario they’d like to help Pango with.  Will it be the baking story where he gathers ingredients for a cake or the garbage story where he collects objects that have spilled from his trash can or one of the other options?  To collect each object, players must use the given set of blocks (squares, triangles, etc.) to build a way for Pango to get across some deep chasms.  Once a path has been constructed, Pango can walk across and pick up the object.  Once all of the objects for a storyline have been collected, players are rewarded with a little comic animation using all of the gathered objects.  The game can be challenging for both kids and adults (a great one to play together!) and it’s great that kids can choose whether they want to start with the first story (with the simplest puzzles) or skip straight to the last story (with more difficult puzzles). Many of the puzzles also have multiple correct solutions! Occasionally the physics is a little inaccurate, but if you don’t mind a little wiggle room in that area, this is an entertaining and nicely designed app.

See all apps for age group: Grades K-2
For platform: Android, iOS, Windows
The Creature Garden
Reviewed on 07/10/17
Paid

Mix and match body parts from all different kinds of animals (including humans!) to create a new creature, then take it for a test run to see how well it works!  This app is set up similar to TInybop’s Robot Factory app, but instead of building something with mechanical parts, players build a creature using a variety of biological bits.  First, a creature body is hatched from a colorful egg, then you choose what sorts of legs, arms, wings, fins, tail, head, eyes, ears, mouth, tusks or horns your creature should have.  A zebra body with 4 sets of kangaroo legs?  A caterpillar body with a flamingo head and a gecko tail?  Why not?  Once you’ve designed your creature, try it out on the treadmill.  Does it move most easily on land, sea or water?  If your creature is really struggling to move quickly, what changes can you make to improve it? Once you’re satisfied with your creature’s design, give it a name, then set it loose in the wild where you can feed it, play a game with it, create a habitat for it or race it against other creatures you’ve designed.  There are so many different levels of creation in this game -- will you spend your time trying to make the fastest animal possible?  The most elaborately fancy animal?  Or will you throw together a few quick hodge-podge creatures and then spend your time playing in their “real world” environment with them? Whatever you choose, this app is rich with potential and inspiration.

See all apps for age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
For platform: iOS