As many preschoolers today are younger than the iPad itself (which debuted in April 2010), educational apps to them are as commonplace as pencils, crayons and building blocks were to their parents. Here are five of our favorite apps for the preschool set.
Learn with Homer (free)
Designed with parents in mind, Learn With Homer is a fantastic app for teaching foundational reading skills to children. If you're looking to prepare your youngsters for the rigor of the Common Core Learning Standards, this is a must-have app! The target audience is children ages 3-to-6. Right off the bat, it's easy to see that the bright and colorful graphics will grab their attention, while the fun characters and easy-to-use interface will keep them focused. For context, Learn with Homer is made for children with little to no foundational skills who are just starting off their reading adventures. Instead of practicing skills they already have, children will learn how to read by learning letters and sounds.
Toy Store Delivery Truck (99 cents)
There are toddlers and preschoolers who will stop everything just to watch a delivery truck park, unload, and deliver its cargo. This app is for those children. The gentle, methodical pace does not rush as child players have time to imagine themselves as the one in charge of this color coded and inventoried cargo. In this truck company, the inventory is only 0-10 and comes in the three primary colors of red, blue and yellow to ensure clarity. It's a self-contained kids' app with separate on-line access for interested parents. We would suggest that developers refine one set of illustrations showing inside the loading truck (midway into the game) since these do not offer complete precision, but the rest of this app is "10-4 good buddy"!
BrainPop has great videos on topics in many curricular areas, including life science. The content of the video is very engaging, and the follow-up quizzes provide great feedback on the content. Each week, a free video is provided along with quizzes of different levels. The content stimulates critical thinking skills and provides great topics for discussion. Students are able to make connections between the videos and the related concepts in the real world. Students can enter their names in the quiz results to keep a record of their success.
Toca Band ($2.99)
This app is a delight. Children are presented with a stage and a whole cast of characters appear across the bottom of the screen. When a child places a character onto the stage the character begins their part of the act. Stage placements higher on the band platform have the character playing at an increased tempo. The starring role is the top center spot. Any character placed here is made into a solo act which the child can experiment with and control: changing pitch, playing new notes, etc. Children get to play with music and sound in a very fun and engaging way.
Bug Safari! HD ($1.99)
Children adore animals and are especially curious about animals they don't see very often (or at all). This app gives children a quick introduction to familiar and unfamiliar animals which will lead to hours of great conversation and rich language with you. Having background knowledge and an interest in animals will allow children to make connections to books being read to them and will inspire lots of creative play away from the screen.