Archive for the ‘Our Recommendations’ category


Best Christmas and Holiday Apps for Kids

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By Jinny Gudmundsen

December 20, 2017

Looking for a way to enhance your child’s holiday experience? There are a lot of apps that can add pizzazz to the holidays, whether it be by reading and playing in classic holiday stories, discovering festive games, or exploring holiday-themed creativity projects.

Check out our list of Fun Christmas & Holiday Apps.


Top Earth Day Apps for Kids

by Jinny Gudmundsen, Editor of Tech with Kids Magazine

April 21, 2017

Looking for the best apps to use with your kids on Earth Day? We have two rec lists we would recommend:

Of course, we recommend actually going out in nature on Earth Day, and then, when the kids are ready for some quiet time, fire up some of the apps to reinforce ecology and nature concepts.


Jacquie Lawson Digital Advent Calendar Delights Kids

25 Days of Animated Christmas Cheer

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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!

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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!


How to Turn Sibling Rivalry into Sibling Bonding

April 6, 2016

by Jinny Gudmundsen, Editor of Tech with Kids

My sister is my best friend. But it wasn’t always that way. Growing up, we had our share of fights, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings. In high school, we hated each other. It wasn’t until we were in college and beyond that we were able to forge our unbreakable bond of sisterly love.

When I had my own kids, I was determined not to repeat the pattern of my youth. My two sons are five years apart. When my younger son was born, I told my older son that he was the luckiest kid in the world because he had a brother.

Instill Respect

I explained that friends would come and go, but that his brother would be his best friend for life. Because his brother was going to have such an important role in his life, I told my son that he needed to protect that friendship and to never do anything that would hurt his brother. I repeated this same philosophy to my younger son when he was old enough to understand. To my delight, my sons internalized this idea. They never — I mean never — fought. They never hit each other. They always comforted each other and talked out disagreements. They teased, but in joyful ways, without chipping away at each other’s self-esteem. And boy, did they laugh!
Ted age 8-Peter age 3
They started out best of friends, and now, decades later, are the same. Maybe we were just lucky. But maybe, instilling this idea of why it is important to be best friends with your sibling works.

Play Games

Co-op Gaming listOne of the other ways I encouraged good relations with my sons was through playing games. We played board games (from Winnie the Pooh to Connect 4 to Stratego to Monopoly and Risk, to name a few), card games, treasure hunts in the backyard, and video games.

One of the great things about having a sibling is that you always have someone to play with. Games provide shared experiences, and let kids learn about winning and losing. We discovered that games were a great way to foster sibling bonds.

Nowadays, one of the easiest ways to play games is using apps. There are no small pieces to lose, and they are easy to take with you when traveling. Here are some great ones for two players (and more):

Explore Multiplayer Apps

Best Multiplayer iPad App for Young Children: Match Blitz

mzl.qwylmyck.175x175-75This matching game (for ages 3-8) is unusual, because it can be played with up to four players. Presented on an inviting green nature background, brightly colored objects are sprinkled over the surface.  Grab your kid and fire up your iPad for a fast-paced game of matching shapes — one you can play together!

Link: Our Full Review

Best Fast-Paced Multiplayer Game for Families: Marble Mixer

mzl.qakdwvmb.175x175-75Offering three different games for up to 4 players, this app lets kids shoot and flick virtual marbles onto target boards, into outer space vortexes, or popped into a monster’s mouth. Known as a “huddle game” since the players all crowd around one device, <b>Marble Mixer</b> is a great game to play when your kids are getting antsy.

Link: Our Full Review

Best Multiplayer App for Puzzle Lovers: Take it Easy

icon175x175With multiple modes, this puzzle game is all about placing hexagonal pieces on a board in such a manner as to make continuous colored lines. The more you play, the easier it is to see the lines forming; and the app offers periodic tips on how to play better. These puzzles require players to use math as well as logic.

Link: Our Full Review

Best Game for a Room-Full of Multi-Generational People: Heads Up!

icon175x175A variation of Charades where the group acts out words, trying to help the designated player figure out what is on the screen of the smartphone or tablet that is being held up over his or her head. The secret sauce for this cooperative game is that the app covertly films the group who is acting out the words, and then lets the whole crowd review the silliness by watching the film.

Link: Our Full Review 

Best Multiplayer App for Board Game Aficionados: Ticket to Ride

mzm.alikiqvz.175x175-75The popular board game gets a digital face-lift as families vie for railway domination of the map of the United States. Up to five players on the same device can crisscross the United States, claiming possible railroad routes in hopes of building a rail line empire. If a friend or family member isn’t around, they can be brought into the game via the online component (but we don’t recommend letting kids use this to play with strangers!)

Link: Our Full Review

For other multiplayer app suggestions, check out our rec list called: Best Multiplayer Apps for Kids by clicking here. There are six additional apps on that list, and you can find purchase links to all of the apps discussed here from that list.

Here’s to sibling bonding and family gaming via apps!


Best Book Apps to Hook Kids on Reading

Sprinkle your reading with digital fairy dust!

March 17, 2016
by Jinny Gudmundsen, Editor Tech with Kids

Best Book Apps to Hook Kids on Reading

With March being National Reading Month, this is the perfect time to focus on reading with kids. Story times are a great way to connect with children and instill in them a love of reading; and that is true regardless of whether you are a parent, librarian, grandparent, teacher, or other childcare provider.

The key to a memorable story time is a good book. But good books no longer have to be read in a paper format. Sometimes it is easier to access a book on your phone or tablet. And when you do, you will find lots of book apps that are created to be read only on digital platforms. They are filled with bells and whistles that make story time special.

To help you find the best books apps to share with the kids in your life, we have read hundreds, rated and reviewed the best, and then sorted them into several kinds of book app recommendation lists. Here are nine different lists, showcasing over 75 top book apps:

1. Classic Books as Apps 

(click here to see the complete list)

Adults, if you want to share stories you grew up with or already know because they started as paper books, this is the list for you. It contains 16 book apps, including:

The Monster at the End of This Book icon

The Monster at the End of this Book…starring Grover!: Hilarious Grover monster of Sesame Street fame is at his paranoid best in the digital version of the classic book, The Monster at the End of this Book! Plus, the book app version makes your child’s participation even more compelling, since the reader are actively undoing all of Grover’s plans to keep the pages from turning. To read the full review, click here.

Moo, Baa, La La La! iconMoo, Baa, La La La! – Sandra Boynton: A darling, whimsical barnyard romp where toddlers get to interact with hilarious animals. Get more details in our review by clicking here.

 

 

 

2. Book Apps Starring Imaginative Kids

(click here to see complete list)

The 10 books on this list inspire kids to dream big, and include:

Leonard iconLeonard, a book app about a little boy whose imagination takes him on exciting adventures in his own backyard. To read the full review, click here.

 

 

 

Dragon Brush iconDragon Brush, a book app about a plucky young artist who saves his town from an evil ruler by using his imagination and a magical paintbrush. Things he imagines and then draws, come to life! To read our full review, click here.

 

 

Kalley's Machine Plus Cats iconKalley’s Machine Plus Cats, a highly creative app about a fantastical machine designed by a little girl. Click here to read the full review.

 

 

 

3. Best Nonfiction Book Apps for Kids

(click here to see the complete list)

Nonfiction book apps can open kids minds to broader horizons. You will find eight treasures on our rec list, including apps such as:

Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night iconBats! Furry Fliers of the Night: This book app transports your child into the woods at night to learn about bats and even play a game of controlling one as it flies. To read our full review of this app, click here.

 

 

 

Ocean Forests iconOcean Forests: Kids swim in the ocean within a giant kelp forest to learn about its inhabitants in this book app filled with interactive videos. To learn more about this app, click here.

 

 

 

4. Best Bedtime Story Apps

(click here to see the complete list)

With these storybook apps, bedtime reading still means cuddling up together, but now the book has interactivity and great animation. All 10 book apps on this list are special. You might start with:

Nighty Night! iconNighty Night: Kids help farm animals settle in for the night. See our full review of this fabulous app by clicking here.

 

 

 

The Going to Bed Book iconThe Going to Bed Book: Adapted from Sandra Boynton’s beloved board book, this charming app about 10 animals going to bed captivates kids by including them in the silly late-night shenanigans. To read our full review, click here.

 

 

Leah and The Owl iconLeah & The Owl: A magical story about a little girl and her friend The Owl as they travel the world at night. Click here to read our full review.

 

 

 

5. Fantastic Fairy Tale Apps

(click here to see the complete list)

The nine apps on this list are the best of the best in fairy tales. Don’t miss the newest one:

Goldilocks and Little Bear iconGoldilocks and Little Bear by Nosy Crow: This innovative tale has kids flipping their device upside down to hear parallel stories, one about Goldilocks and one about Little Bear, the youngest member of the bear family whose house Goldilocks is ransacking! To read our full review, click here.

 

6. Children’s Library Apps

(click here to see the complete list)

Do you wonder how to carry a library of kids’ books on your device? You can with the five apps on this rec list!

If you are going on a trip or have an avid reader, downloading a library app is a great way to have access to hundreds of books. One of our favorite library apps is:

Reading Rainbow Skybrary iconReading Rainbow Skybrary: With consummate storyteller LeVar Burton at its helm, this library app presents exciting stories with professional narration. The library contains over 500 books and also houses more than 200 field-trip videos — many featuring the beloved LeVar Burton, the host of the TV show upon which the app is based. Click here to read our full review.

 

7. Spooky Story Apps for Kids

(click here to see the complete list)

If your kids love doors that creak, things that go bump in the night, and ghosts that scare, this rec list should be your first stop. Filled with six spooky-but-not-too-scary book apps, each tells a fun story that has some eerie elements, but none will frighten kids too much. Don’t miss:

Weirdwood Manor iconWeirdwood Manor: A captivating fantasy read told across five books that can be downloaded from within this app. In addition to a great story, the app is filled with movie-like animation and interactive puzzles. Read more of our review here.

 

 

Loose Strands iconLoose Strands: An exciting choose-your-own-adventure book where kids can see the branching of the story with each decision. For older kids, this masterfully designed non-linear book delivers a powerful story about censorship, abuse of power, and the role of regret. Read more of the review here.

 

8. 10 Story Time Apps for Librarians (and Parents too!)

(click here to see the complete list)

This list of 10 apps showcases some of our all-time favorites, including:

Billy's Coin Visits the Zoo iconBilly’s Coin Visits the Zoo: This jaunty zoo romp delivers a delightful rhyming story filled with hand-sewn illustrations and charming animations and interactions. Read more of our review here.

 

 

 

My Beastly ABCs iconMy Beastly ABCs: Friendly monsters and the award-winning voice of Jim Dale combine to create a fun-filled story about monsters for every letter of the alphabet. For more information about this app, read our review here.

 

 

9. Hook Boys on Books with These Apps

(click here to see the complete list)

Four of the five book apps on this list star little boys having rollicking adventures. Some of the apps even embed games within their narrative. They are all outstanding. Don’t miss:

Jack and the Beanstalk iconJack and the Beanstalk by Nosy Crow: This beautiful, interactive book app is revolutionary in the way it combines reading and gaming to attract hesitant readers — especially little boys who will identify with the lead character of Jack. See more here.

 

Pete's Robot iconPete’s Robot: A funny, high energy story about a little boy who builds a malfunctioning robot. Read more about the app here.

 


An Awesome Digital Advent Calendar to Enhance Your Holidays

By Jinny Gudmundsen, Editor of Tech with Kids Magazine

The first of December is always a big day in our household, because it means we can start our yearly tradition of opening the first day to our Advent Calendar. Over the years, the various cardboard lift-the-flap versions inevitably wear out, so I am constantly on the lookout for a new one.

For the past several years, I have been looking for a digital version that was not commercial but was special in what it offered as each day’s surprise. I had not been able to find one I could recommend — until this year. Thanks to a Twitter follower’s suggestion, I checked out Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar. It has everything I had been looking for in a digital advent calendar, with a nice combination of delightful animated scenes accompanied with nostalgic holiday music, art activities, and interactive games. Jacquie Lawson is a brilliant illustrator and animator, and her site is one of the best for beautiful e-cards.

Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar

The theme of this year’s Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar is a Victorian town at Christmas.

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Charming Daily Surprises

So far, I have been charmed by every daily surprise presented in this digital advent calendar. Here is what I have experienced so far:

Day 1: Watch a band assemble in a holiday-festooned Gazebo for impromptu concert. This is an advent calendar’s version of a flash mob.

Jacquie-Lawson-Gazebo-Concert1Jacquie-Lawson-Gazebo-Concert2

 

Day 2: I loved how the calendar invited me to add some color to the constantly changing city scene by designing my own stained-glass window for one of the town’s buildings.

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Day 3: See an animated scene unfold where a bicycle-riding postman mixes up his delivery by dropping a package, and a cute dog saves the day.

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Day 4: Play a game involving matching colored ornaments. The ornaments are beautiful to look at, and this variation of a match-three game works well in this 10-level game.

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Day 5: Listen to a quintet of teddy bears playing string instruments.

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Day 6: Watch as Christmas carolers sneakily assemble on a doorstep, with a new one appearing each time a person or a vehicle passes by.

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Day 7: Peek in on a hilarious scene inside of a hat shop where a fussy feline fashionista directs her owner’s selection of a new hat.

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Day 8: Be entertained by a vignette involving two dogs uniting at a train station.

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Day 9: Create your own Christmas Card to appear in the stationery store’s window.

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Day 10: Observe an adorable animated scene about how animals help a little girl to reach the letterbox so she can mail her Christmas card.

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Day 11: Visit an art emporium and see reproductions of famous artwork depicting winter scenes.

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Day 12: Contribute to the townscape by decorating a hot air balloon that you see lazily gliding over the town.

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How to Download This Advent Calendar

This delightful Advent Calendar can be downloaded on the Jacquie Lawson website for $4.00. The site offers a discount for pricing if you buy more than one, making this a great gift to send all of the kids on your Christmas list.

I had a terrific experience when playing it via a browser on an iPad or from a computer. But when I tried to download the file to my computer, it didn’t work for me on either my Windows 10 or iMac since it comes in an “.air” format. I would encourage you to go the browser route.

More Holiday Fun with Apps

For more holiday fun with apps, check out this rec list:

 

Christmas-Reclist-Lead

Fun Christmas & Holiday Apps for Kids

 

 

 

You might also want to check out DAY 8 of the 31 Days of Play found on the Toca Boca site. I wrote that article about using holiday apps with your kids.

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NPR Talks Kid-Coders with Jinny Gudmundsen

Nov. 4, 2015 by Jinny Gudmundsen

Jinny Profile2 2014

Tech with Kids’ Editor Jinny Gudmundsen

On November 3, 1015, the NPR show All Sides with Ann Fisher invited me to talk about the “hot trend” of teaching kids to code. I was Ann Fisher’s first guest in the segment, called “Tech Tuesday: Kid Coders, Robot Myths, Apple TV,” which can be listened to here.

On the show, I explained that teaching children how to write code is important because it enhances their understanding of how computer science is used to make things work. If we teach kids how coding works, they can use that understanding to build new things. As a side benefit, learning to code requires kids to think logically, and to use math and reading skills. An easy way to interest kids in coding is to turn the learning into a game.

These coding games work well with children because they employ specially-designed programming languages that are visual and intuitive to kids. Many of the recent products have been created as part of the global kid-coding movement called Hour of Code hosted by Code.org and thus they are FREE.

Now in its third year, the Hour of Code movement has reached more than 180 countries and over 100 million students. The idea is to have students try one hour of computer science class so they get a taste of what it means to learn to code. Partners include Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and many more. Even President Obama is on board. Obama on Hour of CodeThe next Hour of Code events are scheduled to be held during December 7-13, 2015; and Code.org told me via email that they already have 67,000 registered events planned worldwide for 2015.

During the radio show, I discussed:

What are your favorite learning-to-code apps, websites, or games for children?

We would love to have you suggest good choices in the comments section below.


Tech with Kids Launches YouTube Channel

by Jinny Gudmundsen, Editor of Tech with Kids

October 30, 2015

We are excited to share that Tech with Kids has launched its YouTube channel called:

TECH WITH KIDS – EXPERT REVIEWS OF KIDS APPS

In addition to writing reviews, we are now also creating video reviews of kids apps to SHOW you why we rate an app the way that we do. Our video reviews are narrated by an expert reviewer and use video footage from within an app to show what it is like.

Check out the above video review of the new app: Toca Life: School. If you want to read about why we gave it “Straight A’s” (in other words, our top rating of 5 stars!), you can read the review here.

And if you like our video review, we would love for you to subscribe to our YouTube channel!


Best Halloween Apps for Kids

SagoMiniMonsters1-175x175 SagoMiniMonsters2-175x175SagoMiniMonsters4-175x175

 

By Jinny Gudmundsen, Editor of Tech with Kids

Downloading good Halloween apps is an easy way to set a spooky — but not too scary — mood for the upcoming holiday. Ghosts, werewolves, zombies, witches, beasts, and other things that go bump in the night — we got them all featured on our rec list:

Halloween Apps for Kids

While we love all the apps on this list, some stand out because they are so creative and different. Here are a few we want to draw your attention to:

 

SpeakorTreat-icon175x175SpeakorTreat

This app is special because kids get to have hilarious conversations with 5 famous “scaracters”: Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein, a witch, a ghost, and a werewolf. What makes it fun is that each of the scary characters needs your child’s help. Read our review here.

 

 

Mask-Jumble-Halloween-Icon Mask Jumble Halloween

One of the cleverest Halloween apps, Mask Jumble Halloween turns your phone or  tablet into a dress-up mirror. Your child sees his or her image reflected on the screen. By  tapping on her virtual nose, chin, ears, and forehead, your child can make mask parts  magically appear. With just a few taps, children can see themselves as a witch,  Frankenstein, and so much more. Read our review here.

 

Haunted-House-3D-iconHaunted House – 3D Pop-up Activity Book

Presented in the format of a 3D pop-up book, kids play with an adorable group of Halloween characters — including a zombie, a skeleton, a Frankenstein monster, a witch, ghosts and more. Read our review here.

 

 

SagoMiniMonsters-IconSago Mini Monsters

We love this decorate-a-monster app because it puts kids in charge of designing their own spooky pal. The process of decorating is so simple that a two-year old can do it, but the result is so visually pleasing that a 5-year old will also want in on the monster designing. Read our review here.

 

 

Plants-vs-ZombiesHD-iconPlants vs Zombies HD

If your kids have yet to experience Plants vs. Zombies, Halloween is the perfect time to introduce this app about fighting zombies who are trying to invade your home. In this tower defense game, you fend off the always-silly-never-scary undead by planting cute and funny zombie-killing plants in your front yard. This award-winning strategy game is great, even for kids who think they don’t like zombies, because it’s so hilarious to explore. Fighting the undead has never been so much fun! Read our full review here.

Parents, don’t be lured into selecting the newer and free version called Plants vs Zombies 2. In this situation, newer is not better. Plants vs Zombies 2 is a freemium game where your kids will always be asking you to dip into your wallet to spend more. The first app, while a paid app, provides a better, robust play experience for kids.

We have two other Best Pick Rec Lists that might be of interest:


Google Play Taps ‘Tech with Kids’ for Expert Picks

Google Play is currently featuring us — Tech with Kids — as an expert in selecting the best apps for children. You can find our Expert Picks on the front page of the “Family” category in Google Play until Oct. 15, 2015. Wonder which apps we think are best? See our picks by clicking here.

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When Google asked us to curate our favs among the family-friendly Android apps, we immediately pulled up our own Best Picks Lists relating to Android Apps:

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

We quickly realized that we couldn’t include all of these great apps on Google Play, so we tried to find a balance between hidden gems and blockbuster favorites. Every one of the apps on our Google Play Expert Picks list has earned our Best Pick Award and has a full review on our Tech with Kids site.

After submitting a list to Google Play, we discovered that some of our top-rated Android apps had not opted into Google’s “Designed for Families” program, so they couldn’t appear on our list being showcased on Google Play. We didn’t want you to miss out on these great apps, so we decided to share them with you here instead:

Moo, Baa, La La La! – by Sandra Boynton

MooBaa3Toddlers interact with animals in this Sandra Boynton classic that is darling, whimsical, and hilarious! — Read our full review here

Bugs and Buttons 2

Bugs and Buttons 2 Screen1Kids explore 18 different activities that teach early learning concepts such as counting, patterns, shapes, logic and more. And they do it while playing with realistic-looking bugs. — Read our full review here.

My Friend Scooby-Doo!

My-Friend-Scooby-Doo-screenshot1Zoinks! Scooby-Doo wants to romp with you in this virtual pet sim filled with mysteries! — Read our full review here.

Blueprint 3D HD

Blueprint-LeadThis collection of over 300 levels presents the player with a mass of seemingly unconnected dots and lines to rotate until you start to see order out of the chaos. — Read our full review here.

Heads Up!

HeadsUp LeadA variation of Charades where the group acts out words, trying to help the designated player figure out what is on the screen of the smartphone or tablet (which he is holding up over his head.) — Read our full review here.
Monument Valley

Monument-Valley5A visually arresting puzzle game filled with landscapes that would have made M.C. Escher proud. — Read our full review here.

Plants vs. Zombies

PlantsvsZombiesHD-LeadIn this tower defense game, kids fend off the undead by planting hilarious zombie-killing plants in their front yard. — Read our full review here.

We want to thank Google for asking us to curate Android apps for them. And parents and teachers, we hope you will find some favorites among our Expert Picks List!

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