With so many smartphone (and tablet) apps on the market that claim to be educational, it’s hard to know which ones to try. As well as the big players, virtually every kids TV show (or channel) has their own app now and many schools are even suggesting apps as part of lessons or curriculum.
So how do you know which of the thousands of apps are actually worth using, and which are just puzzles trying to disguise themselves as edu-tainment? Well, we’re here to help! I’ve done some extensive research (as have my kids, not that they knew that was what they were doing!) and have narrowed down 10 great apps which will genuinely help your little one in their educational development, as well as being great fun.
Where possible, I’ve tried to avoid apps which offer those pesky in-app purchases, though that means that some of them are paid for. Several of them have free versions though, so shop around! Here’s the run-down:
Despite having the appearance of a cash-in targeted at fans of the pink, porcine heroine, this Peppa Pig game is actually incredibly good. Featuring puzzles, colour-based games, mazes, stickers and the famous (at least for fans of the show) Happy Mrs Chicken, which Peppa plays in the show, you get plenty of content for the £1.99 price tag. Great for little ones from toddler to early school age.
Another paid app, this one is based on the popular educational website Teach your Monster to Read, so your child may well be familiar with the set-up already. If your child is/has been learning synthetic phonics in school, this app is a great complement to that particular teaching method.
This app is so well-regarded, it’s even been nominated for a BAFTA! It costs £2.99, but for the outlay you get a very slick and well thought-out little app, which will help your child with maths skills. The beauty of it is, the child thinks they’re playing a classic platform game, but they’re also learning a bunch of new maths skills at the same time. Bonus!
My children both love astronomy, so we’ve tried out quite a few star-based apps. At £2.29, this one provides decent value for money as well as being really easy for kids to use. Not only can you familiarise yourself with the night sky, including constellations and planets, you also get virtual tours of the solar system, short films, a bundle of facts and some extra bells and whistles too.
If you’re familiar with the popular Lumosity brain-training app, this one will ring a few bells. The brains behind Lumosity have put this together with firm sights on the child audience. The tasks are simple yet educational, fun and easy to use. They claim that most of the games are helping children practise core skills key to their development, and from what I’ve seen, they do that very well.
The Cbeebies app gets a pass with me for one key benefit: it’s completely free, and contains a ton of content about all their favourite shows. From Sarah and Duck to the Octonauts, most of the most popular Cbeebies characters are covered and they update the app regularly, too.
Another phonics-based word app, Hairy Letters is award-winning and very popular with parents and children alike. Animated characters help children to learn letters, blending sounds and combining to make words while making most activities in the form of games, to ensure your child doesn’t realise they’re learning while having fun! Always a benefit in my book.
Geography is very popular in our house (we have at least 3 world maps around the house!) so the Barefoot Atlas went down very well with my boys. Featuring a pretty impressive 3D globe, the app lets you explore the world, learning about countries, people and languages along the way. Narration comes from BBC presenter Nick Crane, and the animation is as slick as I’ve seen so far.
Apparently this one gets used a lot in schools, as it nicely mixes Maths and directional learning. It’s completely free, and while it’s pretty simple, that is probably part of the appeal. It also forms quite a simple introduction to programming, teaching children how basic controls work in a digital environment.
If you want your little one to have an introduction to languages other than their own native one, Duo-Lingo is a great place to start and it’s completely free, too. Languages covered include Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Irish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and English, a pretty comprehensive selection to start even the most voracious linguist off!
So there you have it. Ten good apps which should get you started. Obviously there are hundreds, if not thousands of alternatives for most of them, and many more great apps to choose from. Feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments below, I’ll add them to the list for next time!