It’s that time of year when we look back at the hundreds of apps that have come across our screens and pick ten favorites. It’s not just iPad and iPhone apps either — some of the best games are available on Android now too.
Don’t agree with our picks? Don’t despair. We’re introducing the Best Kids Apps Readers’ Choice Awards this year – you’ll get your chance soon.
iPad | Age rating: 5+ | Price: $2.99
This truly innovative app delivers what so many others promise (but don’t quite deliver): free play.
Divide various shapes into equal sized pieces. Dividing a square in half? Easy peasy. Dividing a star into three pieces? Therein lies the challenge for brains and fingers young and old. This is not an app for the easily frustrated!
A sweet, old-fashioned couple decides to take a Sunday drive — at least until they run out of gas or drive into a lake. It’s your job (or your kid’s job) to keep them going by making the road literally rise up to meet them.
iPad | Age rating: 1+ | Price: $4.99
Elmo Loves ABCs is a fun and interactive way for your child to learn the alphabet. Trace upper case and lower case letters to unlock 80 Sesame Street video clips. Touch the star and Elmo guides your child to touch letters and find visual word associations.
My two and half year old returns to this app over and over again. The number of different letter and puzzle/video scenarios keep her engaged for much longer than most apps. I call that good value. Keep unlocking videos to discover other Sesames Street characters—Elmo takes the lead, but Bert, Ernie and others from the gang are in there too.
Starting with a series of 20 drawing prompts, which include themes (fast, yucky, messy, hairy, loud, and so on) and elements (water, park, mouth, eyes, and a plate for food, among others), kids draw a picture with their fingers with an intuitive palette of colors.
This is where things get interesting: as your child is drawing, she can narrate. Like this: “The big… hungry… dinosaur… in the flower hat…ATE MY DAD!” The app records both the drawing sequence and the child’s voice, and the video playbacks (which can be exported) are priceless.
Touch the screen to “tuck” the baby birds’ wings in. This helps him go faster downhill and gain momentum. Don’t tuck on the uphill stretches though, or he won’t make it to the end of the level before nightfall. Speaking of nightfall, it’s no big deal. The bird falls asleep. No death or drama that will upset sensitive kids.
Kids fly around with a little mouse called Mozzarella doing things like copying note patterns (by tapping singing planets), making animals dance to the beat, moving notes up and down a staff to make their own music (under the sea, of course!), and picking an instrument to play along with a song.
For the activities with accompanying songs, kids can choose among a handful of the classics. The graphics are perfect and everything is intuitive, replayable, and very fun.
Kids as young as two (and as old as ten) will enjoy discovering the many interactive features built in to this seeming simple but multi-layered dollhouse app. There are no scores, deadlines, power ups, or lives to lose. Just four fun-filled rooms to explore in a sweet and simple house.
There are so many fun surprises in every room! Put in a new CD. Take a bite out of an apple. Fry an egg. Brush your teeth. Pet the cat. Get some cold pizza out of the fridge. Your kids won’t get bored any time soon.
Spacey the elephant is on a train on his way to the circus. Out of his window, he sees objects on the passing landscape. Kids help him remember characteristics of what he saw to earn stars, badges, and (of course!) peanuts.
What color was the object? What was the number? What three things just passed by? No reading required and no voice over (everything is communicated with pictorial thought bubbles) mean that very young children can play in places where they need to be quiet.