by WARREN BUCKLEITNER
(updated December 28, 2010)
There’s good reason Apple’s iPad ranks up there with a pony on your child’s “most wanted” list. Kids are adapt at sniffing out authentic play opportunities, and when loaded with the right apps, the iPad delivers. But it’s far too easy to clutter a high quality screen with low quality apps. In order to help, here are ten or so of the best, listed from young to old.
BOOGIE BOPPER ($2, ages 1-3) puts an eight-note xylophone on your screen, with both free-play and follow-along modes. The song library includes such classics as Bingo and Mary Had a Little Lamb. This app is the latest from the Tickle Tap Apps series, specifically engineered for a positive first iPad experience.
Boogie Bopper: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id390958265?mt=8
INTERACTIVE ALPHABET ($1, 2-up) starts with a colorful alphabet strip that is so simple a grownup could use it. Touching any letter launches a skit that includes the letter’s pronunciation and a sentence. For the letter F, children see a fan, with the words “F is for Fan.” A second touch blows the words off the screen. Interactive Alphabet http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/interactive-alphabet-abc-flash/id383967580?mt=8
POPOUT! THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT ($3, 3-up): My current favorite eBook is this interactive retelling of Beatrix Potter’s famous story, with touch-and-hear text and old-fashioned-looking pull-tabs that make each page a delight to explore. Stick with the iPad version, though. The pages are microscopic on an iPhone-sized screen. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/popout-the-tale-peter-rabbit/id397864713?mt=8
WINNIE THE POOH PUZZLE BOOK ($1, 3-up): Loaded with a good story and self-correcting jigsaw puzzles, you can also record your own narration. A second new release, Lightning Was Here: My Puzzle Book ($1, 3-up) is based on the Disney Pixar movie Cars and follows an identical design.
PARK MATH HD ($2, 3-8): A seven-pack of games was inspired by a pieces of playground equipment. You can swipe on the swings to count, or drop mice on a seesaw to balance a simple equation, gently introducing the core number concepts that lie at the root of mathematical understanding.
MOTION MATH ($1, 6-12): For elementary children deal with the demon called math facts, here’s a perfect way to shape your understanding. By learning left or right, you steer a bouncing ball toward a target answer on a number line. The worse you do, the more hints you get. For those seeking old-fashioned drill, try either Rocket Math ($2, 5-up) or Math Bingo ($1, 6-up) each some sugar, in the form of arcade-style games, to help the medicine go down.
Motion Math: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/motion-math/id392489333?mt=8
Rocket Math: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rocket-math/id393989284?mt=8
Math Bingo: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/math-bingo/id371338715?mt=8
LITTLE THINGS ($2, 6-up): One of the many hidden object games that work so well on the iPad’s generous touch screen (see also Pictureka and Where’s Waldo HD in Hollywood). The “little things” are hundreds of household items, like tools, animals, cars and toys. Your child’s job is to touch “six spoons” or “four sheep” before the time runs out, and a clever hint system gradually narrows the field view.
Little Things: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/little-things/id382821388?mt=8
MAGIC FIDDLE ($2, 7-up): First check to makes sure your neighbors aren’t watching, and the place your iPad on your chin, pick a tune, and start plucking a real-sounding three-string fiddle. Content includes lessons, a song book and a sharing mode so you can listen in on other players in real time, providing your Wi-Fi connection is working. If you’ve never used a Smule app, start your child with Magic Piano. It’s easier to play and share and the latest version contains holiday songs.
CUT THE ROPE ($free/$2, ages 7-up) joins the ranks of Doodle Jump ($1, 5-up) and Angry Birds HD for its potent mix of problem solving and humor. A piece of candy is suspended by multi-length ropes. Strategically “cut” each rope with a finger swipe in order to get the candy to a hungry frog.
Cut the Rope Free: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cut-the-rope-holiday-gift/id406513121?mt=8
Smack Talk ($1, 2-up) turns your iPad into an echo chamber. Your voice comes back through lip-syncing animals; Noby Noby Boy ($2, ages 5-up) is fun for finger doodling, featuring a stretchable rubber band character that floats around the screen.
Holiday-themed apps abound. If your child liked the movie, she’ll like the app, in the case of Kung Fu Panda Holiday Storybook ($1, 2-up). Other holiday themes are in 123-ABC Talking Coloring Book ($2, 3-up) with a paint-by-number format and both Christmas and Hanukkah art, and Cookie Doodle ($1, 7-up) that comes with real recipes and the ability to tilt the screen to pour the batter.
Three more children’s ebooks worth the download include Nash Smasher! ($3, 4-up) about a young boy with an anger management problem, told with pull tabs; and for older kids Bartleby’s Book of Buttons ($3, 7-up) tells the story of a quirky world explorer. To get to the next page your child must experimenting with combinations of switches, buttons and sliding controls. For the future scientist the Solar System for iPad ($14), from the same UK studio that made The Elements, puts the whole world at their fingertips. Finally, for mom and dad, I found Pac Man Lite for iPad ($free/$5, 7-up), with the first level of the classic arcade game. It looks and sounds just like the ’80s on the iPad’s screen. Kids might need to explain why the quarters aren’t necessary.