Carissa's App Picks for Kids

Carissa's App Picks for Kids

Under Leaves
Reviewed on 01/19/18
Paid

A serene seek-and-find pictures app.  Under Leaves features hand drawn, watercolor collage scenes and with each new level, an animal shows you what you’re looking for and how many of them you’ll find in that scene. The scenes themselves are not flat pictures, but have subtle movement like waving leaves or the underground ripples of water. Once you’ve found the hidden objects (and it’s surprisingly challenging!) you’re rewarded with the most beautifully subtle addition to the artwork -- maybe the ice crystals in the polar bear’s cave begin to twinkle softly pink instead of just blue.  Or perhaps a small school of bright orange fish swims through the deep blue underwater reef you just explored.  There are no time limits, no scores kept, and the only audio is nature sounds unique to each scene.  If you get stuck, tap the question mark, solve a classic slider puzzle and the app will give you a hint to help you find the next object. Gorgeous, relaxing and just so nicely designed, this app is great for quiet times together.

See all apps for age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
For platform: iOS, Windows
Tagged with: Animals, Art, Concepts, Math, Nature, STEM
Gorogoa
Reviewed on 01/12/18
Paid

A unique puzzler game for older kids through adults. Enter the world of Gorogoa and explore.  You’ll find lots of recurring images, a slowly unfolding story full of mystery and intrigue, challenging puzzles that are just right for older kids or for doing together as a family.  There will be moments when you struggle, but when you figure out the solution, you’ll experience a delicious “a-ha!” moment of wonder. The content does include some images of buildings that have been damaged (though the cause of destruction is unclear) and injured people (one person falls from a height, someone is on crutches, someone is in a wheelchair) and some of the music lends a slightly spooky atmosphere, so it might be disturbing for very young children or kids who are sensitive to intense movie moments, but there is no explicitly adult-level content in the storyline.  The beauty of this app lies in the unique gameplay.  Move anywhere from 1-4 tiles around a four-square grid and watch as the image changes.  You can zoom in or zoom out to adjust your point of view and watch for moment when multiple tiles might match up and interact with each other.  A few of the solutions involve timing movements just right and younger children may need adult help with that. The gorgeous artwork, the groundbreaking gameplay and the clean, smooth game design and programming were all done by one single person (amazing!).  Definitely a favorite game of 2017!  *note: this game is also available for Nintendo

See all apps for age group: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
For platform: iOS, Windows
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: Android, 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