Educational Apps

Nathalie’s Picks

When we went on our March break trip to NY, the boys had a blast in the hands-on section of the Museum of Modern Art.  Of course, they very quickly gravitated towards the computers, and all three boys (aged 4, 7, and 11) spent half an hour on MOMA’s pick of the best art app: Fresh Paint by Microsoft.  The museum staff told me that they had tried out many apps for making art on both conventional and touch-screen computers, and Fresh Paint was their favourite.  The boys loved it, and would easily have spent a lot more time there, but we had to leave to meet friends.  There is a wonderful palette of colours to choose from and blend, the choice of many media, and my kids loved how they could use the paintbrush to blend and feather their paint strokes.  That MOMA had given it the thumbs up after testing what’s available just sealed the deal for me.

I will give another shout-out to the Handwriting Without Tears app for the i-pad.  It really has been effortless for my youngest to learn how to form his upper case letters with this app, and I feel so assured that he is off to a really positive start with his writing skills.  As is the case with all HWT teaching materials, the app appeals to all kinds of learners: visual, auditory, tactile and kinetic.  The narrator is really speaking to young children, though, so for older kids, it might be best to mute the sound.  It can get annoying!  The app visually prompts the correct stroke order in any case, so the auditory prompts are not necessary for learning.

My older two boys do a math enrichment class after school called Spirit of Math.  An essential part of the curriculum is drills that help students learn to do addition, subtraction, multiplication and division quickly and accurately.  Spirit of Math has an app for the i-pad that is really versatile and user-friendly.  There are multiple ways the user can key in the answers to the drills, which is so important for i-pads because location really does determine how you will hold and use the i-pad, and it may change from lap to sofa to desk!  It’s also lefty-friendly.  (None of us are lefties, but it makes me so happy when I see lefty-friendly thought go into design.  I’ve used lefty scissors, and it’s really hard to use them!  I’m glad someone’s looking out for lefties in the digital world.)  Kids can track their own progress as they get faster, and multiple users can use the same app.  The math skills cover all age ranges, so this is not one the kids will out-grow quickly.  I’m a great believer in drills to help promote speed and accuracy with math facts.  It’s just great to see the kids so confident with their arithmetic.  Since each drill takes only five minutes, it’s a quick and painless way to have a learning “ticket” to the games on the i-pad.

Last, but not least, we’d like to give a shout-out to Kidipede, a kid-friendly and safe site for children 10-14.  The site focuses on history and science.  Karen Carr, the founder of the site, wrote to 4 mothers to tell us about her project:

My students and I started the project that grew into Kidipede way back in 1995, when there was just nothing online at all about the ancient world – it was so long ago that when we wanted to be listed in a directory, I called the lady at Yahoo on the phone, and asked her to add us to the list of websites they had! That was before Google, or Wikipedia, or anything… at first, I remember, we were the only result for “Plato”.

Imagine a day when you spoke to a person from Yahoo on the phone…..

Beth-Anne’s Picks:

Big+Zoo+Fun+-+1The iPad and iPhone are great organizational tools and lots of fun to game with, but are also conduits for reading and early literacy.  I like to balance our iPad with thoughtful stories.  One story that I was recently introduced to is Big Zoo Fun

Big Zoo Fun is a new animated children’s book that is available for the iPad and iPhone.  Follow along as a family takes an exciting trip to the zoo where they encounter all sorts of animals who like to show off their special talents.

While it’s rated 4+, my 2.5 year old son has enjoyed sitting with me on the couch and reading this story over and over.  The animation is both engaging and enjoyable to watch as the zoo animals showcase their specialties.  The disappearing chameleon continues to elicit delightful squeals while the tiger’s roar is often mimicked.

After discovering this app, I contacted the creator Thadeus Rankin, and asked him how he came to create an animated book app.  While he does not have children of his own he says that he has always been inspired by the quality of work drawn or painted by a multitude of illustrators and animators.  As a child he always envisioned the movement of the characters within the stories he would read.  This admiration lead to a mission to one day continue that captivation and to pass down onto others that same level of awe and excitement that he was so fortunate to experience in his youth.

Rankin’s love for animation, childhood and storytelling is evident in his loveable story, Big Zoo Fun.

My boys are getting older and outside influences are starting to make their presence known.  There have been talks in our home about words that are not welcome.  Instead of droning on and on about how these words are “bad”, I tell the boys that these words are not only inappropriate but they are not smart.  I tell them that people use those words when they aren’t smart enough to think of a better word to describe how they are feeling.  Enter the Thesaurus Rex by  This app allows kids to find the perfect words to strengthen their personal lexicon.  Do not be obtuse!  Edify yourself and expand your intellect!

A few months ago we received an email introducing 4Mothers to the on-line interactive math game, Prodigy.  While my boys are fans of IXL, this math game does look like it would appeal to them.  After watching this pre-view video, I have book- marked the site for use over the summer to keep those math skills sharp . . . under the guise of a game that blows things up.  I am fairly certain that will earn me top marks from my boys!


2 thoughts on “Educational Apps

  1. As an Occupational Therapist I’m super happy to see HWT profiled! It is a great program, reinforcing such an essential skill.

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