Top Ten iPad Educational Apps for Preschoolers and One I Avoid
1. Starfall- This is a great app with both a free and pay version. We have only used the free one, but my son loves the phonics “books” which also come with little songs about letter sounds that can be played beforehand. This app has done so much to encourage his reading. I love it. The phonics section also includes letter and sound games that he really enjoys. There is also a little tiny bit of math available, but it isn’t nearly as good as the phonics.
2. Khan Academy- Holy Addition, Batman…this app is awesome. It’s not as flashy and colorful as something like Starfall or the PBS apps, but it has great content. The math videos alone are worth the download. I also like how structured and orderly it is. The math section goes from preschool- calculus which is amazing. This has been very valuable to me since I am not a math fan, and my son loves it. I had taught him a few things on my own, but this lays it out in logical steps and covers things that I would not have thought of like the inverse addition property and place value. My son also really likes the competitive part of earning points as he completes task, and the fact that you can click on the squiggle symbol to us “scratch paper” for each problem.
The app covers other things such as different sciences and humanities, but we have stuck with math since the other things are not offered at his level. We will likely try some of the humanities offerings soon since they are mostly connected with major museums and institutions. I love the idea of a virtual field trip even if he is just enjoying the pictures at this point.
3. PBS Measure Up App- This is such a fun app. PBS has done a great job. It features a lot of kid’s favorite characters like Pegg + Cat and The Dinosaurs Train crew. There are learning video clips and multiple measuring games. The app takes you to a map with three sections. Kids can pick from a volcano which has games a videos about capacity, a forest which features height and length games and videos, and a cave area dealing with weight.
4. The Nick Jr. App- This app isn’t as directly educational as many of the others, but it does offer a lot of room for creativity. There are episodes of your kid’s favorite Nick Jr. shows, games, coloring sheets, and sticker pages. It is a lot of fun and your kids will be engaged. I like the Rusty Rivets games because they allow my son to “design” his own vehicles or robots. I wouldn’t want him to spend all day on it, but it has some value.
5. The Sesame Street App- This app is ok for my five year old, but he is starting to outgrow it. My 18 month old loves the Elmo clips; it is the only way she will sit still to get her hair done. All of the main characters have their own video “channel”. There are also a few games. You can visit Elmo’s room which has a train set that can be changed, a radio for you to have a dance party with Elmo, and a few other cute shape games. This would be a good app for younger Preschoolers like two or early three year olds.
6. Paper- This is an art app with sketch books that kids can fill up. The free version comes with a full color wheel, calligraphy pen, marker, pencil, water color, and eraser. The upgrade seems to allow cutting and a paint roller. My son really likes this app, and I like how the tools seem to produce more authentic lines. The water color behaves like real water color and so on. This is great because I don’t think kids spend as much time creating as they used to.
7. Pixel- My son calls this his robot game, and he isn’t far off. It’s actually a beginner coding game. He loves to play around with it and see what the face on the screen will do. I love that he is working through cause and effect, and becoming comfortable with coding.
8. Planet Geo- The free version offers a world map with major world monuments. You click on a continent and try to pin the monument to its location. Your score is based on how close you get. It’s cute and reminds me of my childhood watching Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. Harrison likes looking at places that he would enjoy visiting, and we talk about them. We are hoping to see some of the closer attractions at some point.
9. My Math App- This is lower on the list because the graphics are not great. It is basically digital flash cards. I do like that it offers addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. You can also set it to work on a specific number. I do wish that you could set a number range instead. It is a nice app, and will likely be more useful as he moves on in school.
10. The Lego jr. App- Harrison loves this, but I was considering not adding it as an educational game. I put it at ten because it has some value because there is counting and some creativity in design involved. I would rather him play this than Fluffy Fall, but I don’t want him to spend all of his time on it. He loves all things lego so it’s a hit in his eyes.
The App that I don’t recommend is Kids YouTube. I had high hopes for this app when I first downloaded it. My son is always full of questions, and we had looked on regular YouTube together to find videos of things like bees building hives and robotic surgery. I thought that the voice input and parental controls would allow him to find those types of videos and answer his questions. This did not happen. The app blocked things that I would not have had a problem with him seeing like how a kidney stone is formed. He was curious because he heard that knew someone had one. However it allowed him to watch endless toy openings which have no value beyond being extended commercials. I wish the parental controls allowed more flexibility. I ended up removing the app.