As a parent, there is often a lot of guilt and worry around letting our young kids have screen time. I feel it too. I hate the thought of my 2 and a half year old become a TV or YouTube zombie, mindlessly staring at a screen. I worry when the first thing she says in the morning is “Morning Mommy! Can I watch TV?”.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think TV is bad. Sometimes kids do need some quiet time sitting and watching something interesting. My daughter has definitely learned a lot watching TV. She’s met friendly characters who model appropriate behavior, she’s learned new songs and dance moves, she’s learned colours and numbers, and has been exposed to all kinds of new vocabulary. But, at the end of the day, less TV time is my goal. If she wants to look at a screen, I hope to engage her with some fun and educational apps on our iPad.
There are so many apps out there geared towards children that claim to be educational. I’ve downloaded and tried so many of them, even paid for some hoping they would be everything I wanted and more. Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher, but most are pretty disappointing. Either they have annoying ads my child ends up clicking, or they aren’t really educational at all.
After lots of trial and error, I thought I would share the 4 apps we use most often at home.
Writing Wizard for Kids
I use this app a lot in the classroom. Writing Wizard for Kids has a free and paid version, but I highly recommend paying the $6.99 for the full version because this app can be used for years! It’s great for teaching early letter and number recognition, and for fine motor development from ages 3 to 5. It also includes pre-made word lists of high frequency words, which are great for kids in early elementary grades. But the really cool part is you can also make your own word lists! So even older elementary aged children can use this app for spelling practice.
Ellis still needs help tracing, but I’ve been using it to expose her to spelling her name as well as learning the letters of the alphabet. She loves playing with the letters once she has finished tracing.
ABC Animal Adventures
This app is great for kids aged 2 to 5. ABC Animal Adventures includes simple games that feature cute animal characters. There’s drag and drop spelling, connect the dots, puzzles, alphabet flash cards, tracing, and pretend play games like pet salon and pet doctor. The app is super easy to use and has no annoying bars with ads that can be accidentally clicked. I have the free version for now and it is keeping Ellis pretty entertained. She has access to each game, but not all animals are available. Each game can be unlocked individually for $2.79, or the whole app for $11.99.
Currently Ellis is obsessed with the pet salon game where she gets to wash a dog. It may not seem educational, but she does have to follow the correct sequence to wash the dog. And then she can use her imagination and creativity to dress him up with funny accessories.
Toddler counting 123
This app seems boring at first, but sometimes simple is best. Toddler Counting 123 is a free app that is so simple and has no ads. It teaches the most fundamental math skill for preschoolers: one-to-one correspondence. Basically, when you are counting a bunch of things, you are counting each object only once. It’s how to count things correctly, without double or triple counting the same object. Kindergarten kids practice this skill daily in the classroom.
This app is a great early counting tool. Each time your finger touches an object, it counts out loud. Once the object is touched, it can’t be touched again. Each page is a new group of objects. The free version counts up to 7. I purchased the full for a $1.39 to be able to count up to 20 and to be able to choose the object categories.
Toonia Colorbook is a simple and fun digital colouring book with no ads. What I love about it is once you’ve started colouring in one area, it keeps you from colouring outside of the lines until you lift your finger. So even a 2 year old can colour in a picture without scribbling over the entire thing. It’s great for fine motor practice, and naming colours. It also has a multi touch setting so that you can colour the same picture together. We have the free version which gives us access to 5 collections of 8 colouring pages, 10 crayon colours, and a handful of special colouring tools. You can unlock more pages or crayons for $3-4, or the whole app for $17.99.
So far the free version is all Ellis needs. There are many pages for her to chose from and the standard 10 crayons include all the usual colours.
Do you have any great apps your kids love? Follow me on Instagram, and tell me all about them.