Recently the writers at 148Apps chose some of their most used apps of 2013. Although I focus on apps for educational interest and storybooks for children, I was given the opportunity to list applications that I personally use and could not live without as an adult. Here is my embarrassing confession: I really don’t use my iPhone and iPad much in that capacity. If I were to be asked to name a well-known utility, lifestyle or entertainment app, I would be at a loss as I find my devices are best served when I need my son safety tucked away in his room as I make important phone calls or do other errands without distractions. To me, these are productivity apps.
No parents are proud of the fact that they sometimes ask their child to give them enough space to prepare a meal, call a plumber, or put out other daily fires, but in my world this is an unpleasant necessity. Because of this I have a list of apps - here focused on releases from 2013 - that will engage my child for a nice stretch and where I can feel comfortable with him spending his precious time on. These apps don't necessarily have to be educational in the most concrete way of thinking, but must further some aspect of his development such as logic or creativity.
The first apps I think of are the apps by the UK developer Busythings who has a whole catalogue of problem-solving puzzle apps that we love in our family. They have an incredible sense of whimsical style that I greatly appreciate as children work out what can amount to complex problems that need impressive reasoning skills to complete. These universal apps play great on both the iPhone and iPad and are my son’s go-to apps when I need him to be patient in public while in situations that may make even adults fray at the seams. Path Puzzler and Falling Wall are two of my boy's favorite apps - a maze game and app that teaches about symmetry and spatial awareness, each including a vast amount of levels that will entertain adults as well as children; making them surprisingly cerebral apps great for all ages.
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Paint and Play HD is an app for iPad that allows children to add details to Mickey, Minnie and their clubhouse with a wide array of options that vary from simple colors and art supplies to unique patterns and other options while transforming into 3D before their eyes for a wonderful effect. Content-rich and as detail-oriented as the user, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Paint & Play HD has allowed me prolonged time to do work around the house and complete other chores - it's especially impressive as coloring and arts and crafts apps can be very hit or miss with my son.
Preschool Maze 123 is one in a series of lovingly styled interactive maze apps by GiggleUp that my son enjoys curling up with. Mazes are great for strengthening problem-solving skills, and maze apps are great as there is no need to erase mistakes made. Simply drag one’s finger back from the area of difficulty. Preschool Maze 123 is an easy recommendation as each of the included puzzles has a distinct look and unique details that children will find utterly appealing. I was impressed but not surprised by my son’s eagerness to complete these puzzles in one extended sitting, and he continues to work with these sections; giving this app nice re-play value.
Toca Boca has always been our go-to developer for apps that will keep children interested, and two new and popular apps of theirs around our house are Toca Builders, which as the name may imply, is a building app that may take some getting used to, but my child has really taken to it and gets lost deeply in the world he creates for himself as he controls robot-like characters who in turn build structures and the like from bricks. Toca Cars allows one to drive cars around a landscape decorated by cardboard buildings ripe for crashing into. I appreciate the choice to use cardboard - not just as a nod to the cardboard blocks we have scattered across our living room but for the violence-free collision fun that this provides.
My last selection that my son really looks forward to is spending time with is Dr. PetPlay; a wonderful app that allows children to role-play as a veterinarian and take care of sick stuffed animals they may have. This app leads to lots of creative play that goes beyond the iPad as children are privy to many of their stuffed friends' vital health issues, creating scenarios that one or more children and their adults can have fun with.
Although my son is a little older than the target age of Twinkle’s Little Stars, I have thoroughly enjoyed this interactive app for young children that is rich with music and animated details. Although geared towards toddlers, this is certainly an app that older children can appreciate as well; keeping children of many ages content as they explore together. Please note that a Christmas-themed version of this charming application is also available for free, a lovely gift for this season.
I look forward to see what new children’s apps the new year brings. Soon I will need to make room on our iPad for new titles, being sure to save space for our old favorites.