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 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.
My daughter 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 my daughter 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 my daughter 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.
This app was gifted to me by Little Ten Robot along with a few others and I’ve got to say I love their apps! Alphatots reviews the letters of the alphabet. Each letter reviews the sound it makes, gives a word that starts with the letter and includes a little problem solving game. My daughter loves the little games and repeats her favorites often. It’s a great app to help your child prep for Kindergarten.
* 2020 Update
My daughter will be 4 soon and going to school next September, so I have been on the hunt for apps that support more math concepts. I recently discovered Moose Math, a completely free app with no adds that teaches counting, addition, subtraction and sorting. There are 5 games included that increase in difficulty as each level is mastered. And there is also a “report card” section for parents to track progress and review areas of strength as well as skills that need to be improved.
Currently my daughter loves the Moose Juice game where she has to follow the recipe card to create smoothies. As the difficulty increases, she will practice adding and subtracting ingredients.