24 January 2012

There's an app for that?!? But is it a good one?



That tagline often gets stuck in my head, but I never really thought about it much.  That is until I received an iDevice.  It is "mine" but I know there are so many cool, educational apps out there--I let the children use it, too.  Do you have one of these handy devices-either the iType or Droid?

What are some of the apps you have - and like and use often?  I have many apps, but try to limit what is available to my children.  They don't usually get to play when we are home, but rather the rare times we are traveling and tied down in car seats.  Some of our favorites are:


  • Alphabet Tracing This is a great, free app for tracing letters and numbers.  The beginning point is shown, and your little one traces the letter (or number) following a train or caterpillar that shows the direction.  The name of the letter is said at the beginning, adding to the learning.  You can choose lower or upper case.  It is easy to erase and start over or skip to another letter.  The full alphabet, in order is available.  There are options to change the color/texture that the finger tracing shows as and to have blank page (purple crayon has a been a fun one....ala Harold).  When the app is in landscape a picture is shown to the left of the letter.  My younger children have all enjoyed this.  When my newly 6 yo son doesn't want to write on paper while the older girls are doing copywork, he "has" to do this instead.  The just-turned 2 yo has even been giving it a go.  The 4 yo thinks it is all hers, though.  This won't replace tactile finger writing for us, but is another great way to get little fingers and growing minds practicing this skill.
  • Geo Walk  This is not a free one, but is well worth the small cost.  Lots of beautiful photographs and short, informational bits introduce you places, animals, plants and people.  You can view a globe with the interesting things marked or you can view "postcards" in a Picture Flow format.  If you want to focus solely on animals, you can easily hide the other options.  There is also a quiz option.  There is not any flashy interaction or excitement.  That is one of the things I like about.  The information is short and enough to want to learn more.  This has been great fun for one to "flip through" alone or several children crowded around the small screen.  The quiz is sometimes frustrating because questions are repeated frequently--even if the correct answer has been given.  
  • Peterson Feeder Birds of North America  This is probably the most used app when we are at home.  It is essentially a field guide, but in such an easy-to-use, interactive format.  Even this in-your-hands book loving family really enjoys using this.  We will go for this app over picking up the physical field guide nearly every time.  There are some fun extras like audio of the songs and calls of many of the birds.  You can easily keep track of sightings with the built-in tracker.  There are so many great features to this app--I know we haven't explored them all.  If you have ever gazed out your window wondering "what is that bird?" you should get this app.
  • Planets Another free one that we use often.  The children especially like to use this one when we are outside to close up our chickens every evening.  This time of year that happens much earlier than in the summer (although sometimes it is so cold I am less likely to linger).  We all enjoy stargazing and locating known constellations and determining which "bright star" is actually a planet.  You can see a live 3D representation of the sky with constellations and planets labelled.  You can choose a 2D sky view as well.  You cannot zoom in on this view, nor is anything labelled so I don't use it as often.  There is also a chart showing the sun, moon and planets and when they are visible.  We really like the features on this app!
Those are just some of the apps we have found that are educational -- and fun.  Share what you have found and use.  I would love to find something for math facts that isn't too game or drill like.  Something interactive, but with little pressure for speed.  If you know of an app that fits, tell me about it!

I'm participating in the Blog Cruise this week on the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.  Check it out for more homeschool-friendly apps.

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