Archive for the ‘Advice’ category

Jacquie Lawson Digital Advent Calendar Delights Kids

25 Days of Animated Christmas Cheer


by Jinny Gudmundsen, Editor of Tech with Kids Magazine

Last year, we discovered a great digital advent calendar from Jacquie Lawson. It showcased a Victorian town at Christmas and was filled with delightful videos, animated scenes, and interactive games and art activities. Click here to read our last year review. We are happy to report that the Victorian Advent Calendar is available again this year. Click here to go to the Jacquie Lawson site

New Advent Calendar with Seaside Theme

For 2016, Jacquie Lawson has decided to create a new digital advent calendar! It features a seaside town getting ready for Christmas. We purchased our download today (it costs $4.00 for one, but gets cheaper if you buy multiple versions for gifts), and found the first day’s video silly and fun.

It shows a family deciding to brave the snowy cold to run into the ocean for a “Christmas dip.” Even the family dog gets in on the freezing cold swim!








In addition to the 25 daily surprises, this advent calendar offers five activities to explore from the get-go.

jacquie-lawson-seaside-advent-treeKids can decorate a tree (and see their work shown in the town scene), create snowflakes, do puzzles, and decorate a wreath.

Some of the daily surprises are darling animated videos. Other are games. And several allow the player to create something festive to appear inside of the seaside scene.

The Jacquie Lawson Seaside Advent Calendar works on an iPad or iPhone, or on either a PC or Mac computer. Exploring the advent calendar is a browser-based experience, so you need to save the link on your browser. On the iPad/iPhone, you tap on the share icon in your Safari browser, then select “Add Bookmark,” and then push “Save.” On the computer, you need to be using the Chrome browser and save it to your bookmarks. All of this is explained via a Tutorial offered within the calendar.

This digital experience is filled with gorgeous artwork, heart-warming animations, and fun activities that keep kids coming back each day. The Jacquie Lawson Seaside Advent Calendar is a great way to expand your family’s enjoyment of Christmas for a full 25 days!

POKEMON GO – Parents Guide

by Jinny Gudmundsen

August 2, 2016

The app Pokémon Go is sweeping the country and is already the number one free app on both Apple and Android devices.  As the “hot new thing,” Pokémon Go is an app your kids are going to want to play. Since it wasn’t built for young kids (you need to be age 13 to sign up to play or else come in under a parental account), it creates risks parents need to manage.

I just wrote article for USA Today about what parents need to know about this app and how they can best protect their children while they are playing it. You can read my USA Today column entitled “5 Tips for Parents of Pokémon Go Kids” by clicking here.

After talking about the risks of your kids trespassing, talking to strangers, running up expenses using in-app purchases, walking distractedly, and becoming addicted to this game, I end the article on a positive note:

“With Pokémon Go, the good sides of the game outweigh the bad, as we all need more exercise, serendipity, and connection to others.”

But please check out my advice about how to deal with the risks before sending your kids out to snag Pokémon as they attempt to “Catch ’em all!”



Toy Fair 2016: 10 Best Tech Toys

ToyFair2016 Entrancecroppedby Tech with Kids staff

Feb. 22, 2106

Last week our Editor Jinny Gudmundsen was up in New York City to attend the annual North American Toy Fair. Her purpose was 2-fold:

  1. Find the 2016 top tech toys that enhance play for USA Today, and
  2. Determine which new tech toys we should review on this site.

Jinny’s article on USA Today just published today. Click the title below to read:

10 Top Tech Toys coming in 2016

One of the top ten tech toys discussed in the USA Today article is Think & Learn Code-A-Pillar from Fisher-Price. Here is a short video narrated by Jinny showing the clever new toy that teaches preschoolers about coding. It is coming in July, 2016 for ages 3-6.

If you don’t want to wait for these new toys to arrive, here is a list with nine terrific tech toys that won our BEST PICK TECH TOY Award:


Best Book Apps Discussed on NPR’s All Sides with Ann Fisher

JinnyBio2TWK2014The NPR radio show All Sides with Ann Fisher invited our Editor, Jinny Gudmundsen, to be a guest last Tuesday, March 10, 2015 to talk about:

 The Best Book Apps for Kids


Given that March is National Book Reading Month, Jinny and Ann discussed the kinds of book apps that are available and if there were any advantages to reading a book on a device versus reading one on a page. Listen here to the podcast to hear Jinny’s responses. Jinny’s interview starts at minute 17:53 and runs until minute 35:11.

Book Apps for Kids Discussed During the Interview:



Peek inside the imagination of a little boy who is looking for friends in unusual places.

To read our full review, click here



Refreshing version of Cinderella where the prince falls for her because she is nice. This book app makes good use of tech, including having readers tap on the characters to move the story forward.

To read our full review, click here



A modern version of the classic tale where Little Red is the heroine, and she saves her granny from the wolf. The app lets you choose your own path through the woods, so when you replay it, you can experience several different endings.

To read our full review, click here.



This classic fairy tale is presented in an innovative way that blends gaming and reading so that reluctant readers will be intrigued.

To read our full review, click here.



Grover tries to stop kids from turning the pages of this book app in this hilarious story about overcoming your fears. This classic tale is even better as a book app in showing Grover at his paranoid best. – See more at:

To read our full review, click here.



Toddlers interact with animals in this Sandra Boynton classic that is darling, whimsical, and hilarious!

To read our full review, click here.



Second in a series of graphic novels for kids, this book app explores friendships and some of the issues that can come up, including eating disorders, disputes, being used, and other important topics.

To read our full review, click here.



This graphic novel explores family issues in a manner that’s meaningful to tweens and teens.

To read our full review, click here.


Editor Jinny Gudmundsen Talks Best Kid Apps with NPR’s All Sides With Ann Fisher

JinnyBio2TWK2014On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, our Editor Jinny Gudmundsen spoke on the NPR radio show All Sides with Ann Fisher. Jinny and host Ann had a lively discussion about the pitfalls of freemium apps and how to find the best apps for kids.

Jinny then shared the details about four of the top apps for kids.


The apps discussed were:

Elmo-Loves-You-iconElmo Loves You

A preschool app where kids snuggle up with Elmo to learn the meaning of love.

To read our full review, click here


Peg-Cat-icon175x175Peg + Cat: The Tree Problem

Peg and her pet Cat provide hilarious situations for kids to use logical thinking and math in rescuing the tree-climbing feline. –

To read our full review, click here


Kalleys-Machine-icon175x175Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats

An outrageously inventive story app where kids get hands-on time with a fantastical food-making machine. 

To read our full review, click here



Hoopa City

An adorable and easy city-building sim that rewards exploration.

To read our full review, click here



To listen to Jinny talking on Ann Fisher’s NPR show, click here.


How to Load Your Kid’s Tablet with High Quality Apps

Have you recently added a tablet into your kid’s life? You and your child are about to embark on a wonderful learning adventure.

From "Kiddie" app

From “Kiddie” app

If you are like most folks, you have dipped your toe into the apps marketplaces by downloading free apps. While there are some great free apps (check out our rec list: FREE and Fabulous: Top Apps for Kids), most aren’t really free. Tons of apps are masquerading as “free,” when in truth, they are making money by advertising to your child or enticing them to spend your money with in-app purchases. To learn more about how the world of freemium apps works, read our blog article here.

How to Find the Best Apps for Your Child

Think of the content you are about to put on your tablet as your child’s media diet. The key is to not fill it with junk. You want to give your kids compelling apps that are rich in fun and make them think or learn something new.

Here at Tech With Kids, we play and test thousands of apps every year, looking for the best of the best. We screen out the apps that contain:

We write reviews of the apps we love (and pen a few reviews about the ones you should avoid); and then sort them for you into helpful lists.

When selecting apps for your child, keep in mind your child’s age, interests, and the operating system of your device.

Search by Age

One way to start, is to look at the best apps recommended by age. The key to hooking a child on digital play is to find apps that are right for their developmental age. The following lists are a good place to start:


Search by Interests

Many kids have strong interests or preferences. As parents, we all know that we can use our child’s interests to introduce them to new things. I have a son who went through the “car and all things that go vroom” stage. If I wanted to teach him math, all I needed to do was use a bucketful of cars in the lesson. The same concept holds true with apps. And thus, we go looking for apps based on typical interests of kids. Here are some lists to check out:


Search by Platform

Our site reviews more apps for iOS (the operating system running the Apple devices of the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, which are found in the iTunes App Store) than for Android (the operating system running app found in Google and Amazon app stores). That is because most children’s app developers release in iTunes first. Only when they reach some economic success do most children’s app developers then reprogram their apps to play on the Android system. And interestingly, when they do release in the Android marketplaces, they don’t automatically show up in both the Google and Amazon marketplaces — so make sure to search both.  And sadly, Windows tablet owners, your choices are even slimmer. 

 All of our rec lists feature iOS apps. A great list to start with is our:

 20 Best Kids Apps of 2014

That list was created at the very end of 2014, and it identifies the best of the best apps that were released in 2014. So this list gives you a way to find the most current top-rated apps. It is displayed by age, with the apps for young children listed first and the ones for older children at the end.

We have just recently created three lists that pull together the Android apps which received our highest ratings. We divided the lists by ages into:

Top Android Apps for Kids Ages 5 & Under (2015)
Best Android Apps for Kids Ages 6 to 8 (2015)
Amazing Android Apps for Kids Ages 8-up (2015)

Back to School with Apps

Back-to-School-with-Apps-Border1-700x81With kids settled into the routine of going to school and their minds switched into “learning” mode, this is a good time of the year to download some high quality learning apps to keep kids on the path of acquiring knowledge. The key to kids playing educational apps — especially at home — is to find the ones that make learning fun.

Our rec list 20 Terrific Back to School Apps does just that! On our list you will find apps that secretly teach Algebra (DragonBox Algebra 5+) and Geometry (DragonBox Elements) by putting those math concepts into progressively more difficult puzzles. There are also apps that teach the ABCs (AlphaTots, Endless Alphabet) and ones that make learning the 123s fun (Little Digits, Bugs and Buttons 2). And one that covers Preschool Learning (Leo’s Pad).

Some of the apps make Vocabulary Learning a game, such as:

But that is not all; there are also apps to teach:

We set up the list to go from the youngest users to the oldest. If you have very young children, we also have specific rec lists by ages, including:

And for kids in older grades, please use our search boxes. You can sort apps by grade. We would recommend putting in the additional search parameter of a star rating of 4 stars or up, so that your search return gives you the best apps in our database.

Do you have a favorite back to school app that we didn’t include? We would love to hear about it. Just use the comments section to add your recommendations, and please tell us why you like it.


NPR’s ‘All Sides’ Talks Roadtrip Apps with Jinny Gudmundsen

Jinny Profile2 2014Our Editor, Jinny Gudmundsen, was a guest on the NPR show All Sides with Ann Fisher on July 29, 2014 to talk about the best Apps for Traveling Kids. If you want to listen in, here is the link.

You can also read our reviews of the apps talked about on the radio show by checking out our Best Picks Apps List:


Apps-For-Traveling-Kids-ListLeadApps for Traveling Kids

The apps discussed on the show were:

How to Find the Best Free Apps for Kids


Downloading free apps can be a dicey matter when kids are involved. Free apps entice us with the promise of mobile fun at no cost. But it doesn’t usually work that way. Most “free” apps have a way of making money. And that way is not always good for kids.


Free apps fall into four categories:


The first two categories above — Apps with Ads and Freemium — are frequently bad for kids. Here are two examples to show why:

Apps with Ads


Flow Free Free (Big Duck Games LLC, for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and Windows phone) is a nifty logic puzzler about connecting colored dots by adding pipes to a grid. Sounds perfect for kids. The problem is that this free app makes money by hosting ads at the bottom of your screen. Thus the price of “free” is direct, in-your-face marketing. But it gets even worse, after winning a few levels, the app “rewards” you with a free download of another app – a casino-themed one. It goes so far as to lock your screen unless you download. I had to quit the app to get away from the promotion. You can pay $.99 for one of the many packs to get rid of these ads; but, as you can see, this free app is then no longer free.

Apple-Store  Google-Play



Plants vs. Zombies 2 from PopCap is an alluring puzzler about growing warrior plants to stop hordes of hilarious zombies. This freemium game (for iOS and Android) sucks you in by providing nicely balanced levels in the first of three worlds. But, by the time you reach the middle of the second world, the puzzles get hard, thus enticing players to spend real money for power-ups. This free-to-play game becomes a pay-to-win game. And parents have to deal with frantic requests to spend money on in-app purchases while their kids are in the middle of an undead battle.

Apple-Store  Google-Play



The better route to go when kids are involved is free apps that are genuinely free or free-to-try apps where the additional content is offered as an in-app purchase presented only to parents (meaning the offer-to-buy is behind a parental gate where parents need to answer a question that allows them into a “Parents-only” area of the app.) That way kids can enjoy a free app without suffering through hidden or aggressive in-app marketing.

To find the truly free and good apps for kids, we have created a Best Picks List just for that purpose entitled: FREE and Fabulous: Top Apps for Kids

On that list you will see examples of truly FREE such as:

The list also has Free-to-Try examples such as: