I have firmly resisted overloading my iPad with educational and not-so-educational apps for my kids and using it as a baby siting device for those times when we are doing something really boring – like sitting in the waiting room of the after-hours GP at 4pm on a Saturday surrounded by children with sporting related injuries.
Maybe I’m just making life hard for myself and yes, given the opportunity my kids jump at the chance to use the iPad, but I like to think that’s because they know it’s on strict rations and that makes it special and fun. And so I’ve tried to choose apps for my iPad that teach them something as well as give them enjoyment. I think the apps work best when you use them as an extra way to help them learn, not as the only way to help them learn.
So, my favourites are:
- My Story – this is a great app to help the kids make their own books. You can draw pictures to add to your words, you can take photos and upload them, or use photos from your own photo library. The kids can record their voices onto pages if they like, to either read the story aloud or add extra sound effects. When you’ve finished, you just click on a button and it is turned into an ebook in your iBooks library, so you can share it with friends and family. It’s a great way to write books with them about when they were younger – the funny things they did, special moments etc – and I’ve found kids love to know stories about their younger selves.
- abc pocket phonics – I think this is one of the best apps for teaching letter sounds, how to write letters and simple sight words. I like it because it teaches the phonetic sound and that’s the best way to begin learning to read. It also has the option of 2 different writing styles, one of which is essentially the same as the Victorian Modern Cursive style of writing that my kids are being taught at school and which I knew absolutely nothing about a couple of years ago. There’s also a free trial version so you can see if you like it.
- MathBoard – this is a great tool for practising maths problems. You can set the level of difficulty to suit your child – for instance, you can set a maximum answer in the addition problems section so that none of the problems totals more than a certain number, such as 10 or 20 if your child is just starting out. There are no animations and fanfares with this app, but it does the job it’s meant to.
- Reading Eggs – this is not an iPad app but I have to include it. It’s a web based reading program that you subscribe to and I think it’s the best program there is for teaching kids letter sounds, words and then sentences. Both my girls (age 4 & 6) love doing this program. It uses just the right level of animation and sound for motivation, without being over the top, and takes the kids through a structured lesson program that means they start reading simple words quickly and feel a real sense of achievement. Be warned though, because it uses flash, you can’t use it on an iPad, you can only use it on your computer.
So, that’s a quick list of a few apps out of the thousands of supposedly educational apps that you can get in the iTunes store. If you know of any others that your kids like, let me know too.