It seems like just yesterday I was writing about the school year beginning. Somehow, this year has
gone by faster than seems real and I am doing summer scheduling and helping families who will be out of the city for the summer come up with activities to keep their kids busy and learning. I have several kids on my caseload who will take the summer off but need to remain a bit focused on what we have been working on in occupational therapy all year so when they come back we don't have to spend too much time reviewing things.
Every year, parents ask me what they can do with their kids over the summer. They don't want to spend too much time focusing on academics but they also want to make sure that their kids don't lose any of the skills that they have worked so hard on acquiring over the course of the year. So many of the families I work with spend a lot of time traveling so I like to give them a list of apps that they can work on while in the car, planes, etc..
It's a proven fact that kids are motivated by an iPad. I can't tell you the number of things I have been able to accomplish and get kids to work on when presented to them in app form first. For those of you who read my blog, you will know that I don't believe that the iPad is the end all and be all of things. When used in conjunction with more hands-on activities, it can be a tremendously motivating tool. There are so many great apps out there that can work on a ton of occupational therapy skills, especially handwriting and visual motor/perceptual skills. I highly recommend setting up a folder on an iPad for each of your kids with the apps that are best for them. I think it is also important to note that using an iPad can not only be good for learning, but can be good for encouraging social skills and language development. Kids should always be supervised when using the iPad...not only to make sure that what they are playing is appropriate for them but also so adults can step in and encourage kids to be social if they are using it together.
Whenever appropriate, I have my kids use a stylus when using the iPad. This helps on working on fine motor skills, especially proper grasping skills when using writing instruments. My two favorites are this crayon stylus by Fred & Friends and this mini stylus pen by Kikkerland. Both are the perfect size for little hands!
Here are a just a few of my favorite apps and a brief description of what they will work on:
LetterSchool-one of my favorite and definitely my go-to app for handwriting. Whether you want to begin working on teaching children how to write their letters or if you want to review what they already know, this is the best app out there. It comes with three options: uppercase, lowercase and numbers. There are two levels of play for lots of practice. For each letter and number, you work through 3 games (tap, trace and write) in order to earn stars. Once you have completed both the silver and gold levels of play, you can then unlock the opportunity to do free-form writing.
Toonia Differences-I blogged about this awesome app by Toonia a couple of weeks ago here. This app is similar to those Spot the Differences games you have may have played at some point. You have two pictures side by side that are almost exactly the same and you have to find the 8 things that are different about the picture. This is a great app for working on improving visual perceptual skills, especially visual scanning and visual attention. You can read more about this app here.
Toonia Storymaker-another great app by Toonia. This one is a fun and educational app that encourages children to be the author of their own story. They are allowed to choose their own characters and scenes to tell their own story. They can change colors, shapes, size, posture and emotions while creating their story. This app encourages creative thinking, sequencing, organization and focus and attention.
Dexteria Jr.-I've had this app on my list of favorites for a long time. This occupational therapist created app is a set of hand and finger exercises that help develop fine motor skills and work on getting kids reading for handwriting. It's great for children as young as 2 years old and can be motivating enough for those as old as 8-10. There are 3 games with multiple levels of play in each game. Squish the Squash works on pointing skills; I am pretty strict with the kids about using their pointer finger during this game. Pinch the pepper works on developing in-hand manipulation skills, specifically pinching using the thumb and pointer finger. The last is game is Trace & Erase and kids work on graphomotor skills by tracing lots of different lines and shapes. Once they are done tracing, they have to erase the lines and then the built-in camera will take a silly picture of the kids. It's a simple game that works on visual motor and visual perceptual skills as well as improving focus, attention and concentration.
Pepi Play-it's hard to choose just one of the apps by Pepi Play. I have all of their apps and they are big favorites with the kids I work with. They are incredibly interactive and within each app, there are several games for them to play with. Right now, my kids are really loving Pepi Bath 2 and Pepi Doctor. Pepi Bath 2 has 6 different bathroom or cleaning situations. It's the kid's job to help their character (3 to choose from) get all cleaned up: they may help them go to the bathroom, get cleaned in the bathtub or get their clothes cleaned after some dirty play! In Pepi Doctor, the kids help their character "get better"; they may need to help them get better from a cold, after falling off their bike or scooter (I ask the kids to tell me what they think happened to the kid and how they got hurt) and getting lots of scrapes and dealing with an aching tooth. These apps are just two of the several that you and your kids will love playing together!
Tiggly-Tiggly has created two interactive games and several apps that work on fine motor, visual motor/perceptual, eye-hand coordination, early literacy and math skills. Tiggly Shapes are rubberized shapes (circle, square, triangle and star) that children can use for learning and play with three different Tiggly apps. The shapes have a soft plastic cover and silicon touch points that interact with the iPad screen. They are incredibly durable and can withstand crazy toddlers but gentle enough that they are safe for the iPad screen. Read more about Tiggly Shapes here and find out all therapeutic fun your kid will have with them. You can read more about TigglyMath in an early blog post here. Rumor has it that Tiggly will be releasing a third learning system next week....just in time for the summer! I can't wait to see what they have in store for all of us. It's sure to be both educational and fun!
Endless Alphabet/Endless Numbers-Originator Kids is another wonderful studio creating fabulous apps for kids. My two favorite are Endless Alphabet and Endless Numbers. Endless Alphabet is a fun way for kids to get ready for early reading by being introduced to new words. Kids have to match the letters of the word and then get to watch a short little video with some really cute monsters once the letters are all placed in the right spot. Endless Numbers is a really fun way for kids to learn numbers, sequences and quantity. It is incredibly interactive and fun so the kids don't even realize that there is a tremendous amount of learning going on at the same time. These are just two of the great apps by Originator. Be sure to check out all the others, especially the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head Create and Play apps!
Bugs and Buttons /Bugs and Bubbles/Bugs and Numbers-Little Bit Studios may be one of my favorite app designers for children. First of all, the games are fun and educational at the same time. Each app comes with 18 different games which means that your kids can be entertained for a really long time. The likelihood of them getting bored quickly is pretty slim which leads to lots of learning as the explore all the mini games. Check out this blog post here that talks about just how amazing Bugs and Buttons (original and Bugs and Buttons 2). If you want a real bang for your buck, then I highly recommend any and all of the apps by Little Bit Studios!
Avokiddo Apps-I wrote about this amazing company extensively in this post from March 27th. So far, there are 5 different apps to choose from and they work on a variety of skills ranging from learning the letters of the alphabet to recognizing emotions to problem solving and several executive functioning skills. The graphics are just amazing, the music is soothing and because of that, the kids I work with are totally motivated to play, explore and learn when using them. I know when apps are really amazing when the kids I work with constantly ask for them and that is what happens with all of the apps by Avokiddo!
So, these are just a handful of the many apps I would recommend for summer learning. As I was going through my iPad that is chock full of wonderful apps, I had a hard time choosing which ones to share with you all. I ended up picking ones that kids are most likely to be independent with....they won't have to ask their grownups for too much help. I also chose ones that I thought would be good for kids to play together in order to promote important social skills like turn-taking, compromise and conversation skills.
I would love to hear from any of you with some of your favorite apps. If you have specific questions about apps that would be good for your children or ones that would work on specific goals, I would be more than happy to help you find the perfect ones. I am always a click away and love helping parents and professionals identity apps that are better than others. It can be a daunting experience going through the thousands and thousands of apps out there and since I have done so much research, let me be the one to help you as you figure out what would be best for your child.