Saturday, May 19, 2012

Some Favorite iOS Apps for Kids

I haven’t conducted a survey or assessment of the significant mass of iOS apps out there for our kids, but there are a few that have passed muster and find a home on my iOS devices: most on my iPad and a few on my iPhone.  I’ll talk about them and tell you why I’ve liked them.  More importantly, these are the ones that are not just “parent approved” but also approved by my son.  I lump all of these into one of two categories:  educational and games.  In several cases, the games also have some developmental or educational value.  Here we go:

abc PocketPhonics + First Words (by Apps in My Pocket).  This is a great little app that teaches letter recognition, writing and sounds.  It also progresses toward reading, writing and speaking first words.  Kids learn by seeing and hearing, then the app guides them through writing the same letters they see and hear.
Osmos for iPad (by Hemisphere Games).  Technically a game.  If your child likes this, they’ll also learn a little physics as they play.  The game is visually stunning and the music is soothing.

The Elements (by Element Collection).  This is a high-end periodic table of the elements.  Your kids will love its interactive nature and the superior photos that accompany each element.  Everything else will be over their heads, but I’m pretty sure they’ll fall in love with with the table and set the stage for the future when they actually learn about the elements.
Star Walk for iPad (by Vito Technology)  An interactive astronomy guide.  This app is amazing.  Making use of your mobile device’s location awareness and accelerometer, you simply point the device at the sky and it shows you in real time what you’re looking at.  It also shows you stellar objects you can’t see with the naked eye.  The database includes stars, planets, constellations, and many of the satellites in Earth’s orbit, to include the International Space Station.  You can even see what’s below the horizon so you know what’s coming into view soon.  Want to know more?  Just touch the object you’re interested in and additional information appears.  My son loves this app and we spend quite a bit of time with it when we’re outside at night.
Super Why! (by PBS Kids)
Gears (by Crescent Moon Games).  Use your finger to guide a ball through a series levels of spinning gears.  Fun to look at and challenging enough to hold attention.
Star Wars Pit Droids (by LucasArts).  I downloaded this because my son wanted “a Star Wars game.”  Frankly it looked too hard for a five year old, but I grabbed it anyway.  Based on the pit droids from Star Wars: Episode 1, the object is to place directional guides to direct the droids around obstacles and into a hatch.  The levels run from a single stream of droids and a single destination up through multiple streams of different colored droids needing to negotiate around obstacles and each other to their own similarly colored hatches.  While he struggles with several of the levels, I was surprised how quickly he learned how to win.
Angry Birds (by Chillingo).  There are four versions of this game out there; get them all.  They’re addictive and will also teach your child a little about physics when it comes to aiming the various birds.  They’ll also learn how different birds have different effects depending on what they strike.  Be ready to regularly lose control of your mobile device.
Cut the Rope (by Chillingo).  A “little cutie guy” as my son says, and a piece of candy.  It’s simple:  cut the rope suspending a piece of candy so that it drops into the cutie guy’s mouth.  Throw in some bubbles and a few spiders to frustrate your good intent and you have hours of fun. 
Flight Control (by Firemint Pty).  Levels range from simple to complex.  The goal is to land a variety of aircraft on their appropriate runways or helipads.  As levels progress, the sky gets pretty full.  Different aircraft fly at different speeds.  Direct their flight paths with your finger and don’t let them collide.  Simple, right?
Labyrinth 2 (by Illusion Labs).  Another game with a simple underlying concept:  Move a little metal ball through a maze to a target and avoid falling in holes, and the unwanted effects of fans and magnets along the way.  Add in buttons you need to trigger to open pathways, and things get challenging quickly.  Played on an iPad, your child holds it flat like a table and tilts it to roll the ball.  Great for hand-eye coordination!
Tilt to Live (by One Man Left).  Speaking of games that require tilting to maneuver, this simple game with simple graphics has you maneuvering a ship shaped like a pointer.  Objects come in from the sides and your child will have to move around to keep from letting them touch your ship.  As time and levels progress, it gets harder.  Another great game that entertains and teaches hand-eye coordination.
Feed Me Oil (by Chillingo).  In this one, oil comes out of a spigot and needs to end up in a reservoir.  The player has to place spinning paddle wheels in the right places to make it happen without spilling too much along the way.
Plants vs. Zombies (by PopCap).  Teaches a little person a little strategy.  Cartoon zombies try to make it across the screen to the player’s house.  A variety of plant obstacles are available for placement along the paths to the house to frustrate and eliminate the zombies.  As levels advance, the player ends up not only with a variety of plants but also a variety of zombies, including dancing zombies!
Tiny Wings (by Andreas Illiger).  Harder than it looks: a tiny bird with tiny wings moves across hilly terrain, picking up flowers and suns along the way.  Meanwhile the sun is setting and the game ends once the sun goes below the horizon.  The goal is to pick up enough flowers and suns to speed the bird along.  But there’s more!  The player has to use the hills to launch our little bird friend into the air.  This is done by touching the screen at the right time.  Touching the screen pulls the bird down and needs to be timed with the downward slopes on the hills, then released to let the bird race up the hills and fly.  An awesome hand-eye coordination game!
Cannon Cat (by Loqheart).  A cat saving birds trapped in little bubbles.  That’s right, saving, not eating!  The player launches the cat from cannon to cannon to fly across the trapped birds.  When timed right, the bubbles burst and the birds are free.  To show their thanks they usually rally around the cat when he sits in a cannon.  Sometimes the cannons move and sometimes they change where they’re pointed.  The player has to pay attention and time when to launch the cat.  Each level is finite and ends with the cat soaring through a portal.  Feedback is gentle if all the birds aren’t freed and the player gets another chance to try again.  When there’s success, the next level is available (similar to Angry Birds).
Give some (or all of these) a try and if you’ve found other educational or game apps for your young one, feel free to post them here in the comments.
It’s great to be a dad!