Archive for the ‘Recommended App’ category


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.

Jacquie-Lawson-Advent-2015-screenshot2

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.

Jacquie-Lawson-Advent-2015-screenshot6Jacquie-Lawson-Advent-2015-screenshot8Jacquie-Lawson-Advent-2015-screenshot7

 

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.

Jacquie-Lawson-Advent-2015-screenshot12

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.

Jacquie-Lawson-Advent-2015-screenshot13

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

Jacquie-Lawson-Bear-Quintet

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.

Jacquie-Lawson-Carolers1 Jacquie-Lawson-Carolers2

 

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.

Jacquie-Lawson-Hatstore1 Jacquie-Lawson-Hatstore2

 

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

Jacquie-Lawson-Train2

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

Jacquie-Lawson-Advent-2015-screenshot3 Jacquie-Lawson-Advent-2015-screenshot4

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.

Jacquie-Lawson-Mail

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

Jacquie-Lawson-Art-Gallery

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

Jacquie-Lawson-Advent-2015-screenshot11Jacquie-Lawson-Advent-2015-screenshot10

 

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:


Want to Teach Your Child the ABCs? There’s an App for That!

In the old days, we used flashcards to teach ABCs — now there are apps! With apps, the alphabet learning becomes interactive, animated, and personal to your child. In other words: exciting!

Here’s a list for the top ABC apps:

AMAZING ALPHABET APPS:

ELMO LOVES ABCs for iPAD

Adorable Elmo serves as your child’s cheerleader while he or she explores the letters of the alphabet. Kids will trace the letters, learn their beginning sounds, and play games with the letters. Elmo energizes the learning with his silly antics.

Elmo-Loves-ABCs

ALPHATOTS

When each letter of the alphabet is introduced, kids get to play a game that reinforces the letter sounds. They will build a robot with the letter “R” and kick the soccer ball with the letter “K.” This app turns learning the alphabet into hands-on learning.

AlphaTots Screen 2

AVOKIDDO ABC RIDE

This app takes kids on a bike ride to find the hiding letters of the alphabet. At 26 different locations, kids first find the hidden letter and then enjoy silly antics with it, such as jumping on jiggling jelly!

Avokiddo-ABCRide-Screen3

FACES iMAKE -ABC

Puzzle play is what sets this ABC app apart from the others. Each letter has a fun puzzle that kids put together.

Faces-iMake-ABCs

METAMORPHABET

This ABC app is the most visually exciting of the ones on this list. It mesmerizes children (and adults) with its dazzling transformations and intriguing animations. Each touch of a letter produces something new. Don’t miss this one.

Metamorphabet4

ENDLESS ALPHABET

Silly monsters act out the meaning of words that start with the letters of the alphabet. The animations are great and hilarious.

Endless-Alphabet-Screen5

MY BEASTLY ABCs

My Beastly ABCs uses mythical creatures and beasts to demonstrate each letter of the alphabet. Told in a book app format, this tale about a timid boy playing with monsters is told by the master narrator Jim Dale of Harry Potter fame!

My-Beastly-ABCs-Screen1

 

 

 


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:

 

LEONARD

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

To read our full review, click here

Leonard2

CINDERELLA by NOSY CROW

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

Cinderella-Nosy-Crow-Screen5

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD by NOSY CROW

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.

Little-Red-by-Nosy-Crow

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK by NOSY CROW

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.

Jack-Beanstalk

THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK…starring GROVER

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.

Monster-At-End-Book

MOO, BAA, LA LA LA – by SANDRA BOYNTON

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

To read our full review, click here.

MooBaa-Boynton

MIDDLE SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL 2: REAL FRIENDS vs. THE OTHER KIND

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.

Middle-School-Confidential2-1

MIDDLE SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL 3: WHAT’S UP WITH MY FAMILY?

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

To read our full review, click here.

Middle-School-Confidential3


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-icon175x175

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.

 


BEST OF 2014: KIDS’ APPS, TECH TOYS, & GAMES

As the year draws to the close, we here at Tech With Kids have been busy compiling our BEST of the BEST lists. We review children’s tech products all year long, and post reviews of the ones that represent the best the industry has to offer or those that are getting a lot of buzz.

This week we named our:


Why Updating Apps Is Important: How Hoopa City went from 4 Stars to 5 STARS!

I love it when app developers listen to reviewers and their audience to make their apps better. That is exactly what happened with Hoopa City, an app we originally rated at 4 stars. Today, we upped that rating to 5 stars and here’s why.

HoopaCity1

The original Hoopa City app was a unique city-building game where kids as young as age five could play. With seven building elements dangling at the top of the screen, kids could easily decide which element would fill a square in their city grid. The app encouraged kids to explore by having them select a second element and then re-tap a square to see it morph into something new. As a consequence, Hoopa City earned our Best Pick Award; but we held back on awarding it our top rating because there were a couple of things missing.

The missing items were:

In a recent update, TribePlay addressed both of these issues by:

HoopaCity6

Because of these updates,  we changed our rating and are now excited to award Hoopa City our top rating of 5 stars. You can read our updated Hoopa City app review here.

Congratulations to the development team at TribePlay!