55 best apps for kids

Keep your chil­dren happy with th­ese great iOS apps

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS -

Put a child in the same room as an iPad or an iPhone and they will in­stinc­tively reach for it. Per­haps it’s the bright colours and the feel of us­ing a touch­screen; the sim­plic­ity of the iOS in­ter­face also plays a part. But kids love mess­ing with smart­phones and tablets.

Mo­bile de­vices can do a great job en­ter­tain­ing and ed­u­cat­ing your off­spring. But not all apps are cre­ated equal. Some are ex­pen­sive to buy or

con­tain in-app pur­chases de­signed to tempt kids. Oth­ers aren’t ap­pro­pri­ate for young­sters.

For this ar­ti­cle we’ve trawled the App Store to pick out some of the favourites of our ed­i­tors and their chil­dren for learn­ing, cre­ativ­ity and fun.

Ba­bies and tod­dlers

We’ll start with a cou­ple of sug­ges­tions for the very youngest age group. Th­ese are aimed more at par­ents than the ba­bies them­selves, of course, and we wouldn’t rec­om­mend much screen time for the very young.

1. Baby Feed­ing Log

Price: Free The lives of small ba­bies are en­tirely struc­tured around the twin cy­cles of eat­ing and sleep­ing, and un­der­stand­ing th­ese cy­cles (which will be spe­cific to your child) can make the liv­ing hell that is the first three months of par­ent­hood slightly less hellish. Why is she cry­ing? Ah, it’s been nearly three hours since the last feed. Or she only took 130ml last time. Or she only took 130ml the last three times, and maybe she’s poorly. And so on.

If you’re breast-feed­ing then things are com­pli­cated in a dif­fer­ent way, be­cause you no longer have ac­cess to the vol­umes of milk con­sumed – at which point tim­ing the feed be­comes crit­i­cal. You will also want to re­mem­ber which breast you used last time, and if that seems like the sort of thing that’s easy to re­mem­ber then you haven’t got up for a feed at 3 in the morn­ing. This app is a sim­ple, free and one-hand-op­ti­mised

way to keep track of th­ese fig­ures and tim­ings (de­spite the name it cov­ers sleep and ‘di­a­pers’ as well as feed­ing), and while it isn’t per­fect, we strongly rec­om­mend get­ting ei­ther this or some­thing like it.

2. Sleepy Sounds

Price: Free Fa­mil­iar sounds and songs can act as a valu­able trig­ger, help­ing to in­di­cate to baby when it’s time to sleep. In time you’re likely to end up with a dog-eared mu­si­cal soft toy that adds touch and smell to the ensem­ble of fa­mil­iar­ity, but when start­ing out or vis­it­ing fam­ily, hav­ing an emer­gency mea­sure up your sleeve (or on your phone) can be a life­saver.

Sleepy Sounds is limited, with just four white noise op­tions (the tum­ble dryer is par­tic­u­larly rest­ful) and three sets of na­ture sounds to choose from – we’d steer clear of the some­what abra­sive lul­laby se­lec­tion. But it’s free and helps to ease one of the more des­per­ate sit­u­a­tions faced by be­gin­ner par­ents: bed­time, with rab­bit nowhere to be found.

Ages 5 and un­der

Age rec­om­men­da­tions are ap­prox­i­mate, of course, and you won’t need to be told that kids learn and

ma­ture at dif­fer­ent speeds. Check out our choices on the App Store (have a look at screen­shots, any avail­able pre­view videos and so on) be­fore spend­ing any money, to see if the dif­fi­culty, com­plex­ity and read­ing level are ap­pro­pri­ate for your child.

3. Black­board Mad­ness: Math

Price: Free Got a maths-whizz child who wants a chal­lenge? Black­board Mad­ness is a set of fast-paced, quick-fire maths chal­lenges, tak­ing in ad­di­tion, sub­trac­tion, divi­sion, mul­ti­pli­ca­tions, al­ge­bra, and > (more than) and < (less than) ques­tions.

This is a great test of men­tal maths skills, logic think­ing and re­ac­tion. It’s like Live Math­let­ics on speed. You have to slash the cor­rect an­swers be­fore they drop off the black­board. There are kung fu sound ef­fects to make you feel like a mar­tial arts maths black belt. Don’t give this to a child just start­ing out on maths as the pace is pretty fre­netic, but men­tal maths re­ac­tion speed is a great skill to teach more ex­pe­ri­enced maths stu­dents.

As with any de­cent chal­lenge game there are high scores and player statis­tics to track per­for­mance, achieve­ments and badges as re­wards. We en­joyed Black­board Mad­ness. It’s free. So why not try it?

4. Di­nosaur Park Math

Price: 79p Di­nosaur Park Math is a fun way for chil­dren to learn ad­di­tion and sub­trac­tion from 0 to 20. Kids need to an­swer sums cor­rectly in or­der to chisel

away at rocks that hide di­nosaur fos­sils within them. Kids can learn di­nosaur facts while they’re learn­ing maths, too. There are also some less ed­u­ca­tional but equally fun games to play within the app.

We’d sug­gest there’s a risk that kids will get into the habit of guess­ing, though, as there are no ma­jor con­se­quences to get­ting the ques­tions wrong.

There’s a free ver­sion of the app too, so you can try it out and de­cide whether your kids will en­joy it be­fore up­grad­ing to the paid ver­sion.

5. Dino Tim

Price: Free Dino Tim is a great way for younger chil­dren to get to grips with colours, shapes and their first words. Dino Tim’s fam­ily has been ab­ducted by witches, and kids have to solve var­i­ous ed­u­ca­tional puz­zles in or­der to save them. The game in­volves solv­ing colour and geo­met­ric

shape puz­zles, as well as run­ning, fly­ing, jump­ing and even a lit­tle bit of magic.

The aim of the game is to teach kids to recog­nise ba­sic geo­met­ric shapes, as well as to learn about colours and even their first words. The game has been fully trans­lated into a num­ber of lan­guages (French, Span­ish and Ital­ian to list a few) which pro­vides your child with a great op­por­tu­nity to learn a for­eign lan­guage in a fun way, from a young age.

6. Doodle Crit­ter Math: Shapes

Price: £2.29 Doodle Crit­ter Math: Shapes teaches your chil­dren ba­sic shapes such as tri­an­gle, rec­tan­gle, square, hexagon and cir­cle. Kids learn to draw dif­fer­ent shapes by touch­ing the ‘crit­ters’ (small an­i­mals). A range of tasks in­clud­ing sort­ing, match­ing and mem­ory games, make learn­ing fun. Doodle Crit­ter Math is de­signed for kids aged three to five and is an­other great way that young chil­dren can use the tech­nol­ogy on the iPad to learn ba­sic skills.

Ele­phant Art! Paint­ing Room

7. Price: Free/£2.29 It’s im­me­di­ately clear this isn’t a typ­i­cal art app when you prod a but­ton and an ele­phant’s mas­sive foot crushes a banana, splat­ter­ing it across a can­vas on the wall. Fur­ther but­tons pro­vide ad­di­tional de­struc­tive ca­pa­bil­i­ties, oblit­er­at­ing all man­ner of house­hold ob­jects that mag­i­cally be­come trans­formed into paint and flung at the art­work, cre­at­ing a kind of ab­stract mas­ter­piece.

It’s all very silly and a world away from vir­tual crayons, but the de­vel­oper notes that is the point. Ele­phant Art isn’t about recre­at­ing the real world, but cel­e­brat­ing colours, magic and art.

8. End­less Al­pha­bet

Price: £4.99 Although more con­ven­tional than Me­ta­mor­pha­bet, listed else­where in this fea­ture, End­less Al­pha­bet proves that di­alling down the sur­real doesn’t mean an app about let­ters has to be bor­ing. On the con­trary, End­less Al­pha­bet is a lot of fun as you choose a word, watch the let­ters scat­ter, and drag them back into place.

The let­ters come to life when touched, wrig­gling un­der your fingers (dou­bly so when us­ing Force Touch on a mod­ern iPhone), and once the word is com­plete, you’re treated to a lit­tle an­i­ma­tion that ex­plains what the word means.

9. Geo Walk HD

Price: £2.29 Geo Walk HD is es­sen­tially a dig­i­tal ver­sion of an old world en­cy­clo­pe­dia. You can spin an in­ter­ac­tive

dig­i­tal globe and touch lo­ca­tion-based flash­cards to learn more about the world, or you can take quizzes about your knowl­edge of the peo­ple, places and things lo­cated in the app.

10. In­tro to Colors, by Montes­so­rium

Price: £3.99 With In­tro to Colors, your child learns the ba­sics of colours through a se­ries of match­ing games. So it starts out white match­ing red, blue and yel­low be­fore mov­ing on to sec­ondary lev­els and gra­di­ents. Kids learn to mix and match paint to cre­ate colours, as well as how to learn to spot and name dif­fer­ent colours. It’s a pretty app, which is one rea­son we like it, and it makes use of the iPad to de­liver some­thing chil­dren would not get from other more tra­di­tional means.

11. Lego Du­plo Train

Price: Free Your tod­dler will love to drive a colour­ful Lego Du­plo Train from sta­tion to sta­tion. Choos­ing and load­ing wag­ons, build­ing bridges, stop­ping at cross­ings, re­fu­elling and lay­ing new tracks around pesky rocks. A tod­dler’s dream.

12. Lit­tle Dig­its

Price: £2.99 Back when the iPad first ar­rived, peo­ple were ex­cited to learn it could in fact recog­nise all ten fingers touch­ing the screen at once, yet few apps took ad­van­tage of this. Lit­tle Dig­its rea­sons that kids of­ten count by us­ing their fingers, and here they can do so by prod­ding an iPad. Ev­ery

ad­di­tional digit used up­dates the on-screen num­ber ac­cord­ingly (num­bers here be­ing rep­re­sented by in­ven­tive, colour­ful beasts); and once ev­ery­one’s fa­mil­iar with how the app works, there are ba­sic count­ing and maths puz­zles to try.

13. Math­let­ics Stu­dent

Free. Re­quires an­nual sub­scrip­tion Rec­om­mended by teach­ers and par­ents is Math­let­ics, a sub­scrip­tion-based on­line sys­tem of maths learn­ing. For £39/year the child can run through adap­tive-learn­ing, level-staged maths tasks and games via com­puter or iPad app. Stu­dents learn at their own pace.

Math­let­ics is fun and fea­tures a great re­wards sys­tem for kids, who win Bronze, Sil­ver and Gold cer­tifi­cates by scor­ing points in a wide range of maths ques­tions. Th­ese ques­tions are pre­sented in a fun and colour­ful way with an­i­ma­tions to brighten things up but also to show how to reach the cor­rect an­swers. Par­ents will learn a thing or two, too.

Live Math­let­ics sets the child up against other Math­let­ics play­ers across the world, and is a great way to learn sim­ple num­ber bonds and in­crease the child’s’ re­call speed. Times Ta­bles Toons helps teach chil­dren their times ta­ble through song and an­i­mal an­i­ma­tion. There are also weekly progress emails to mon­i­tor progress via a Par­ent Cen­tre.

My daugh­ter has been us­ing Math­let­ics for over a year now, and it has un­doubt­edly helped her with her maths, and me un­der­stand­ing/re­mem­ber­ing/ learn­ing along­side her. We sit down a few times a week for short pe­ri­ods of time, or for one 30-minute ses­sion that should be long enough for her to score her 1,000 points and earn a new cer­tifi­cate. She loves it, too.

14. Mix­i­mal

Price: £1.99 There’s noth­ing es­pe­cially in­no­va­tive about Mix­i­mal – it’s yet an­other of those slid­ing games, where you make strange com­bi­na­tions of an­i­mals. But what sets Mix­i­mal apart from its peers is the sense of craft and care that’s gone into the app.

The style is very car­toon­ish, yet all of the an­i­mals are very recog­nis­able. Each is an­i­mated, too. Tap one of the sec­tions and it moves and jig­gles. Fash­ion a ‘com­plete’ an­i­mal and it will

of­fer a cel­e­bra­tory al­ter­nate an­i­ma­tion. Ad­di­tion­ally, if your child won­ders at any point what strange mixed-up crea­ture is cur­rently on the screen, a quick tap of the play but­ton will give you (and read out) its name.

15. The Mon­ster at the End of This Book... Star­ring Grover

Price: £3.99 This up­dated and im­proved ver­sion of the Se­same Street­themed book is a lot of fun. As Grover per­forms, the words ap­pear on the screen, high­lighted as they’re spo­ken. And you can in­ter­act with the app by touch­ing a knot, for ex­am­ple, to make it un­ravel. Tap Grover to tickle him.

16. Mon­ster Min­gle

Price: £2.99 There’s a lot to be said for ex­plo­ration and play when a child is de­vel­op­ing. Mon­ster Min­gle’s free-play na­ture makes it ideal for such things. You cre­ate your own friendly mon­ster by drag­ging parts to it that are lying about the place, and said mon­ster can then am­ble about, dive into the ocean or soar into the air. The world fea­tures all kinds of strange crea­tures to dis­cover and in­ter­act with, and the goal-free na­ture of Mon­ster Min­gle makes for a stress-free and highly en­ter­tain­ing time.

17. Mon­u­ment Val­ley

Price: £2.99 One of the most beau­ti­ful and cap­ti­vat­ing games ever re­leased, Mon­u­ment Val­ley isn’t cheap (for an app) at £2.99 but it will keep chil­dren and adults en­gaged for hours work­ing our how to help the silent princess Ida through mys­te­ri­ous and mind-bend­ing, fan­tas­ti­cal ar­chi­tec­ture, un­cov­er­ing hid­den paths, un­fold­ing Escher-like op­ti­cal il­lu­sions of im­pos­si­ble ge­om­e­try, and out­smart­ing the bark­ing Crow Peo­ple.

Mon­u­ment Val­ley is both sur­real and serene ex­plo­ration and will surely go down in game his­tory as one of the unique greats.

18. Mr Thorne’s Times Ta­ble Terra Mr Thorne’s Di­vide + Con­quer Mr Thorne’s Ad­di­tion Space Sta­tion

Price: £1.49 each or £2.99 for the Maths Uni­verse Bun­dle Lon­don teacher Christo­pher Thorne must be one of the coolest Sirs on the planet, and he uses the plan­ets as the theme for his three maths apps: Mr Thorne’s Times Ta­ble Terra, Mr Thorne’s Di­vide + Con­quer, and Mr Thorne’s Ad­di­tion Space Sta­tion. The apps are sim­ple and look gor­geous – sure to be a hit with boys as well as girls.

When you score 10 out of 10 on a par­tic­u­lar ad­di­tion, times ta­ble or divi­sion test you get to keep a space sta­tion or planet, de­pend­ing on the app you’re us­ing. There’s a mys­tery chal­lenge when you’ve un­locked all the tests, which is an ex­tra in­cen­tive – and dif­fer­ent to the Squee­bles and Math Bingo re­ward games.

Each game has three lev­els: Be­gin­ner/ New­comer, First Class/Elite and World Class/ Leg­end. The top level is go­ing to test adults, too, so you can join in the sum fun.

Mr Thorne’s Ad­di­tion Space Sta­tion has 42 men­tal maths tests, which in­cludes adding mul­ti­ple num­bers, dec­i­mals and frac­tions so is suitable for chil­dren aged five to 11.

Mr Thorne’s Times Ta­ble Terra fea­tures 60 tests based on ba­sic mul­ti­pli­ca­tion and times ta­bles. They also fea­ture video tu­to­ri­als from Mr Thorne.

Mr Thorne’s Di­vide + Con­quer has 50 maths tests based on divi­sion and in­verse times ta­bles.

I rec­om­mend all the Mr Thorne maths apps, as they’re sim­ple to use, look great, and should re­ally en­gage kids in th­ese maths ba­sics.

19. My Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar

Price: £2.99 The Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar has munched its way through count­less books, a telly an­i­ma­tion, and even the odd ac­tiv­i­ties-based app. But My Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar takes a dif­fer­ent ap­proach, trans­form­ing the rav­en­ous larva’s sur­round­ings into an in­ter­ac­tive game.

The re­sult’s not un­like a no-lose Tam­agotchi, with you feed­ing the cater­pil­lar, play­ing with it, help­ing it doze un­der a leaf, and watch­ing it grow. Even­tu­ally, like in the orig­i­nal story, the cater­pil­lar trans­forms into a beau­ti­ful but­ter­fly, at which point a new egg is laid for the ad­ven­ture to be­gin anew.

20. Num­ber Mon­ster

Price: £2.29 One for the very early learn­ers, Num­ber Mon­ster (from Wombi) is a sim­ple app that teaches kids to recog­nise num­bers – from one to 20. It’s friendly and easy for kids to pick up. Par­ents can turn on and off vis­ual clues as their child pro­gresses. It doesn’t go much fur­ther than that so is a lit­tle ex­pen­sive for what it of­fers.

There’s also a Shape Mon­ster games (at the time of writ­ing this was of­fered for free). Like Num­ber Mon­ster it’s easy and friendly, and can be set at dif­fer­ent lev­els up to hexagons and pen­ta­gons from

a start with squares and cir­cles, and so on. Wombi also of­fers Colour Mon­ster and Let­ter Mon­ster apps, and a sim­ple telling-the-time app called Around The Clock.

21. Nurs­ery Rhymes

Price: £4.99 (Down­load Nurs­ery Rhymes Bun­dle) This set of three apps reimag­ines fa­mous nurs­ery rhymes as tiny in­ter­ac­tive scenes. In ‘Hey Did­dle Did­dle’, there’s a fid­dling cat, leap­ing cow, grin­ning moon, and crock­ery elop­ing with cut­lery. Ev­ery item on the screen can be tapped to make it wob­ble and emit a sound ef­fect, and the rhyme is sung through when the words are tapped. Nav­i­ga­tion be­tween rhymes is by way of large ar­rows at the top of the

screen, en­sur­ing the Nurs­ery Rhymes col­lec­tion is suitable for even very young tod­dlers.

Note that the three vol­umes are also avail­able in­di­vid­u­ally, and there are sep­a­rate free ver­sions, too. Each of those has a sin­gle un­locked rhyme, the rest be­ing avail­able via a sin­gle IAP.

22. Peek-a-Zoo

Price: £2.29 There’s an el­e­gant sim­plic­ity at the heart of Peeka-Zoo, and it might at first ap­pear a bit too sim­ple. But any time spent with the app and a small child will dis­miss any lin­ger­ing con­cerns. You’ll grow to love the gang of sweet car­toon an­i­mals, and the sim­ple ques­tions for the child to an­swer: Who is wink­ing? Who is dressed up? And so on. You soon re­alise that although this app is very straight­for­ward, it’s cun­ningly teach­ing your child all kinds of things, from iden­ti­fy­ing an­i­mals to types of cloth­ing and ac­tions.

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