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iPad apps: best apps for teaching, learning and fun

ipad apps for teaching and learning

Here it is–the long-awaited post that I promised months ago: iPad apps for teaching, learning, and fun.

But what better day to share it than on a day when many–many!–families around the world will be ripping open a blank-slate iPad? And the cool thing is that you can find many of the same apps on any android device!

Many parents I know reach out like crazy those first few days, looking for ideas for apps–rather than spend a fortune blindly choosing apps from the App Store–many smart parents reach out to their circle of pals.

So here it is: the best iPad apps (we’ve found) for learning and fun for kids.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • iPad Apps–Best Apps for Learning and Fun for Kids: They can’t all be for learning–some can be purely for fun, right?

So don’t judge, but here are the apps on our iPad (and we’re always open for new ones, so do share your faves please!).

ipad apps literacy and language arts

Starfall ABCs, Spelling City, and Word Mover are some of our literacy faves. . .

Kids Literacy Apps:

  • Starfall ABCs: Just like the amazing website for literacy learning, Starfall ABCs app is rockstar and totally worth your kids’ time.  If you use the site, the games are familiar, so kids can jump right in and learn those uber-important ABCs!
  • SpellingCity: This app is one of my faves because of the complete ease of use–kids can play with word lists of colors, Dolche,  or customized lists.  All of the familiar SpellingCity.com games are here and ready to play!
  • Word Mover: I had a chance to work with this app for readwritethink.org, and it’s seriously fun. Think: magnetic poetry meets the iPad. Love.

ipad apps for literacy and reading

  • Wordball: Just like The Electric Company, this PBS- video in combination with word games = big fun for kids.  Many of the standard rules of language are focused on and featured in videos. A Reading Specialist’s dream.
  • Dabble:  Like Scrabble, but player tries to create a 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5- letter word on each step using the letters provided. Very fun.  Not easy at all, but a great word puzzle.
  • Storia: By Scholastic, this well-known name in the world of literacy and reading has created an app that is really top of the line.  The texts are engaging and relevant and supporting readers of all levels.  Kids can listen to the books being read or read on their own, and activities that support the text are clickable throughout.  Parents can manage books, read reading reports, and assign books to each reader’s ‘shelf’.
  • Ruckus eReader: Classics and contemporary hits, this is an interactive-text app totally worth time and money–but parents must adjust settings so kids aren’t able to purchase every book in the program.  I love how throughout the text kids can find words, answer questions, and really engage–but not all kids like that all of the time.  Parents are able to see kids’ progress by logging into the parent portal.

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ipad apps math

Numbers League *  Sushi Monster * AmericanGirl Shave Ice

Kids’ Math Apps:

  • American Girl Shave Ice:  This is Maddy’s favorite. Players race to complete patterns in the shave ice orders that come through Kanani’s stand. Love. It. It’s fun to see how fast you can go and what you can unlock next, said Maddy.
  • Numbers League: This app is awesome. Fabulous super-hero graphics and an engaging and fun focus, this can be a multi-player game solo game.  It’s about seeing what numbers you get, said Owen. Then figuring out how they work together.
  • Sushi Monster: A math app from Scholastic, this one is a fave of our kids’.  Players can focus on addition or multiplication, and then they choose the sushi plates according to the sushi monster in the middle. For sushi-lovers, this is total fun.
  • Click Sushi:  Players scramble to find the number of rolls that the menu board calls for, and though players have to be able to read–in order to determine which roll is ordered–Cora likes this one if I’m sitting near her.  Perhaps because my kids actually like–and eat–sushi–this is a fave, but I’m not sure how it would go over if the player wasn’t familiar with the sushi rolls?
  • Hungry Fish: Cora likes this one, and I like how it gets her playing with numbers–and helping the fish’s bellies grow as she locates the correct numbers.  Music is tropical, graphics simple, and focus–number play!

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ipad apps just for fun

Cookie Doodle * Breakfast *  Teddy London

Kids’ Just-For-Fun Apps:

  • Cookie Doodle: Kids can literally choose recipes, add ingredients in the coolest way possible tilt iPad to add drops vanilla, shake to sift flour etc. Hands down, it’s Cora’s favorite.  You can bake cookies, design them, eat them (not really!), or make a puzzle out of them, she says.
  • Fifa Soccer 12: This is Owen’s real favorite. It’s not a video and not a game–it’s both, and you can play each other. Plus it’s the real teams and the real players on those teams.  Players can actually play soccer using the real guys from real teams. 
  • American Girl Gymtastic: Another of Maddy’s favorites, this one features McKenna, the gymnast, and she twists, turns, and jumps on the balance beam through different challenges.   Great for fine motor and reflexes. Maddy says,  It’s fun to see what moves McKenna will do when she jumps and if you can beat the high score.
  • Highlights Hidden Pictures Countdown: Hidden Pictures amped up in the most amazing way. Players find hidden pictures against the clock.
  • Breakfast: Breakfast. Made on the iPad. My kids love it. Loooove it. And I wish they were really making the incredible breakfasts they created here–but in real life.
  • Teddy London: We found this one during the Olympics, and it’s pretty simple–but they all love it. They create teddy bears. With clothes, colors, accessories. Watch for the ads–they’re heavy–but the teddy making fun is crazy.

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ipad apps draw create

ColorStudio HD * Draw Along * Sketchbook Express

Drawing and Creating Apps:

  • Draw Along: This is a story-video-creation tutorial, and it’s great for little guys –and bigger ones. Drawings come to life while they share a fact or two with little artists.  So cool. Perfect for preschoolers and early elementary schoolers.
  • Sketchbook Express: This is insanity as far as creation apps go–it’s totally incredible what you can do, create, and control here. It’s a lot for even Maddy and Owen, but as they get older and become more savvy, I think this is the app they will turn to for design.
  • ColorStudio HD: By Crayola, this is a top-notch app that you can even spring for a special iMarker (we haven’t gone that route yet–and the app is STILL cool!).  Kids can color animated coloring pages.  Bottom line? Awesome.
  • Kids Doodle & Kaleido: We have the free versions here, and they’re both so cool. Kids can create a picture and then they can animate it. The kaleido one is the same, but drawings look like a kaleidoscope–so fun.
  • PBS Photo Factory: Kids can make photos using the characters from their favorite PBS Kids shows. It’s simple–but fun for little PBS Kids fans.

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ipad apps reference

WorldFactBook * WeirdButTrue * GeoWalk

Fun Fact Apps:

  • WorldFactBook: An encyclopedia app at your fingertips. Every country is covered here (at least I think so), and
    users can search by location, map, and comparisons.  We haven’t used this much, but I love having it on hand in case we ever do–it’s everything we need to know about the world’s countries in one spot.
  • Geo Walk: Honestly, this app may be the most beautiful I have ever seen. The graphics, photos, and layout–aaaahhhh-mazing. Users can search articles by topics–plants, animals, people, plants, history, and beautiful ‘cards’ appear with information and details. Cool.
  • WeirdButTrue: By the National Geographic Society, this award-winning app is new for us, but my family looooves it. It reminds me of days when I’d page through the stacks and stacks and stacks of my grandparents’ National Geographic magazines–but with all of the coolest facts picked out. Graphics: awesome; facts: interesting; layout: easy. You can even ‘heart’ your fave facts or share them.

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ipad apps fun and games

Angry Birds * Memory Matches * Rush Hour

More just-for-fun apps:

  • Angry Birds: We like it. And beyond the physics that kids are learning (c’mon, you know they are. . . ) the characters, challenges, and focus here is totally fun for kids . . . and adults.   We have Angry Birds Rio and Angry Birds Space. I’m not sure why.
  •  Memory Matches: Memory. Who doesn’t love memory? Play alone or in tourneys, choose card size, sounds, and pictures. Best memory game app we’ve found.
  • Rush Hour: I’ve shared the Rush Hour love before, but having it on the iPad–where images are larger, graphics cleaner–is really great.  One of my kids’ faves, hands down.  We also have ChocFix, another ThinkFun app and game.
  • Spider Solitaire: Owen met Spider Solitaire thanks to my dad and sister, but Spider Solitaire is solitaire on steroids–and really, the game of solitaire is luck, sure, but also a handful of strategy and critical thinking. I’ll take it.
  • geek kids Chess: The cleanest and coolest chess game app we’ve found, this one allows players to choose an opponent, his ‘skill’ level, auto moves, analysis, move history, and tutorials. Very cool.

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My kids know that this screen is their screen–and they are permitted to use anything inside.

Phew!Now how to organize all of these crazy apps? Simple: folders.  To create a folder, all you do is drag an app icon onto another. Then start grouping and label the folder.

Our folders are labeled: games; watch; play & read; games 2; draw & create; and fun facts. And everything inside is organized accordingly.

My ‘watch’ folder has Feel Electric; PBS Kids, Disney Channel, and Disney Junior, and with permission, they can watch what they want, when they’re on the Game Time Ticket clock.

And that’s it–our family’s favorite apps for teaching and learning–and fun!

A whole lot of teaching and learning and fun app talk–but what’s your fave?  Let me know–I’m sure I’m missing a ton!

fyi: This is a totally unsponsored post, but I often consult friends, family, and colleagues on their favorite apps–and many have allowed me to try out apps on freebie codes.  That in no way influenced this list; these are our faves, on our iPad right now.

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  1. I love this, I always wanted to create such list but why would I, if you did it much better than me? Thanks so much! :)

    Reply
  2. This is a great list. I wrote down about 8 apps to look into. Thank you!!

    In the interest of giving back, faves on my iPad include:

    Math Bingo – My 6 year old son, and a lower functioning 4th grader I work with both love it. It covers addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They enjoy the bingo, and the “Bingo Bugs” they earn for completing the game.

    Bobo Explores Light – This is an amazing science app. It’s not the cheapest ($4.99), but it’s worth every penny. I’ve never seen a kid (or adult) who didn’t completely enjoy interacting with it.

    Toontastic – A great story creating tool. They have some free stuff (still fun), and then there are packs you can buy to create even more animated stories.

    LetterSchool – A great app for learning how to write the ABCs. My son has been able to write his letters for a while, but loves the animation and sounds so much, I hear him on the app at least once a week.

    Thanks again for sharing your iPad favorites!!!

    Natasha

    Reply
    Natasha Mallone
    27/12/2012
    • thank you thank you thank you Natasha!!! Will check them out–thank you so much for reading and for taking the time to write!!

      Reply
  3. With full disclosure that it’s mine, I believe Paint My Cat seriously ups the ante on the apps listed in the Drawing section.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0ri1mQ1mmo&feature=plcp

    Not only can kids bring their colouring pictures to life and play with them in full 3D, but it even works with real, physical colouring, and the same paper, pens, pencils, crayons etc that you loved as a child, so you can keep some traditional family craft time too!

    Reply
  4. Thank you for all of the recommendations! My kids are close in age to yours so these should be great!

    Reply
    Sarah
    29/12/2012
    • You are so welcome! Hope the help–and if you find anything else that works for you, let me know!

      Reply
  5. Great article!! There are also some great apps for children to learn foreign language like “Learn Spanish for kids – bilingual child”.

    Reply
    • thank you thank you!! will check it out–didn’t even THINK about language learning. .. gulp!

      Reply
  6. Very helpful to hear your thoughts on this – I never know where to start when looking for an app for a particular subject area, other than asking my sister (who is also an early childhood educator).

    Reply
    • thanks, my friend!! PLEASE let me know if you have any other ideas or insight–or find any ‘post-worthy’ apps! I’m always up for learning!

      Reply
  7. Thanks for the list! Please incluse Jot on your list. It’s a very nice whiteboard app with exciting features!

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/jot!-whiteboard-free/id371937922?mt=8

    Reply
  8. A few of these we have, a few of these we don’t. So thank you for sharing! I look forward to downloading some learning apps :)

    Reply

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