Friday, December 11, 2015

Recommended App Gifts for Kids

Recommended App Gifts for Kids
by Susan Stephenson,

With Christmas not far off, parents’ and relatives’ minds often turn to gifts they can buy for kids. You’ll find lots of suggestions in my recent article, Bookish Christmas Gift Suggestions for Kids, but today I want to focus more on iPad and some Android apps.

Many people agree with me that an app need not be a shallow toy, but can be something both fun AND educational. I especially love to find apps that encourage kids to create. If you have an iPad, take a look at the little beauties below and consider downloading some for your child. I have also noted down some Android equivalents but have not trialled these.

Toc and Roll (iPad): There’s something so wonderful about being able to make music. While babies will happily bang away on saucepan lids, older children will appreciate the way Toc and Roll allows them to create their own real tunes with a range of different instruments.

From my review: “Toc and Roll is a little like Garage Band for kids, offering them the opportunity to mix different instrumental loops into a multitrack. They can choose from guitar, bass, drums, piano, glockenspiel, percussion, trumpet, sax, and violin. They can also record and add their own voice.”

Little Things (iPad, but see note below): This app would make a great one to pair with a puzzle book like I Spy or Where’s Wally? In it you will find collaged images made up of lots of tiny “little things”. The puzzle tells you what you must find, and the game increases in difficulty as you go.

From my review: “This is something the whole family can do. I see grandparents and toddlers sharing the puzzle, and siblings co-operating in blissful silence until an object is spotted.”

Note: The similar Little Things Forever app is available in Android on Google Play.

Little Fox Music Box (iPad and Android) : If you’re looking for an app that’s educational AND fun, this is it. Not only is it a music box where children can listen to and interact with three songs, but there’s a sound studio where kids can record themselves singing along.

From my review: “Wittlinger is a lovely illustrator and the interactivity is truly plentiful and so cute. It's the sort of interactivity that enhances the app, and will keep kids engaged for a long time. Tap on people in London Bridge and see all sorts of action - the guy paddling by in a bathtub suddenly guns it into a speed boat, an old lady in a wheelchair nudges a fellow into turning his body into a gap-filler for London Bridge so she can trundle across.”

ShapeKit: (Full review published 2016.) Kids can put shapes together to create characters and creatures, then bring their creations to life via a short animation. I love the comprehensive “fingers- on” tutorials that explain how to use the app.

Find ShapeKit app on iTunes Australia or iTunes USA. Find other puzzle apps in my Listly List.

Alphabear: (iPad and Android) How could anyone resist a combination of word play and cute growly teddy bears? If you’re looking for a fun word game to play WITH your primary/elementary aged kids, or one with lots of gaming elements like power-ups to suit teens, take a look at Alphabear. Be aware there are in-app purchases available.

From my review: “As soon as you open Alphabear, there’s a quick tutorial explaining what to do. Tapping on letters to spell out words is not a new concept in gaming, but Alphabear has fun extra gaming and social elements built in to make it appeal to a wider range of players. While the word play is most important to me, the art work is very appealing too, with a lovely palette of colours.”

If you’re interested in word game apps, you’ll find more of them in this article about my favourite word game apps.

Paper by 53: While I initially had some issues with Pencil, the stylus you can buy to use with the app if you want, I don’t hesitate to recommend Paper by 53. It suits a range of ages but may well be something your teens can get most out of. It can be used for sketchnoting, drawing quick plans or diagrams, or just creating with the pencils, watercolours, markers etc. Younger children might like to draw and keep a record of their drawings in an unlimited supply of sketch books.

From my update review: “I hope you and your students enjoy Paper by 53 as much as I do. It's definitely one of my favourite apps, especially when I need some creating time, or a quick and moooving way to illustrate a blog post. In all honesty I can't say that my drawing has improved much, but the pleasure I get from it just keeps increasing!”

If you are interested in drawing apps, check out my article, iPad Apps for Drawing.

Thinkrolls: (iPad and Android) Let’s face it, kids love to play games. I know plenty of adults who do too! What I like about this game app is that it’s actually educational but kids will never realise that. It’s a physics puzzle with mazes to be navigated as kids solve problems involving many scientific principles.

From my review: “Best of all, I appreciated the thought that had gone into making the game just right for young players: not too hard so as to frustrate them, earlier levels training them in the game, opportunities for learning from mistakes, and learning to plan ahead logically with causes and effects.”

You can find all my iPad app reviews on Pinterest

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