Saturday, February 28, 2015

App Happy

I have had a really hard time keeping up with my blog these last few months.  Between the holidays and being buried with paperwork and reports, writing has been put on the back burner.  I'm happy to have a little time on this chilly Friday afternoon to write a quick blog about some of the fabulous apps I have been using at work these days.  I'm not sure if its the weather or the time of the year, but I basically got bored of every game, app, etc. that I have been using and if I was feeling bored, I can't imagine how the kids were feeling.  The following apps are ones that the kids love but also work on a ton of great skills.

Metamorphabet-this interactive alphabet app came out a few weeks ago and not only have the kids loved but every grownup I have showed it to as well.  My husband and daughter spent nearly an hour going through each letter one night.  Metamorphabet is a playful and interactive alphabet app appropriate for all ages.  With each letter there are several surprises that unfold as you poke, prod, drag and spin the letters around.  It is a wonderful educational tool, motivating kids to learn their letters in a playful way that makes it seem like more fun and less work for them.  Learning the alphabet has never been so much fun!  There are several ways to make this more therapeutic and educational if you want to use it at work.

Labo Paper Fish-another interactive game that the kids are loving!  Labo Lado has several create and play apps that all look fantastic and that I plan on checking out very soon!  Paper Fish is great because it works on improving visual motor, visual perceptual and organizational skills.  First kids get to choose one of 16 different fish templates that they will need to "cut" out; they need to trace the
lines of all the different parts of the fish in order to do that.  Once they are all cut out, they need to put the fish back together.  I like that if you go too fast while tracing, it stops and makes you go back; this is great for those kids you work with who rush through their work.  They can keep the fish simple or decorate it themselves to make their very own fish.  After they are all done creating the fish, there are 5 different games that can be played.  Each mini-game is fun and I like how they all work on different visual motor and visual perceptual skills.  My favorite is when you have to take pictures of fish while underwater; a picture of a fish will show up in the top right hand corner and you have to scan the sea to find the matching fish, drag the camera over and take a picture of it.

Pepi Ride-there isn't an app by Pepi Play that isn't a big hit with my kids.  Pepi Ride is no exception and is especially popular with the boys on my caseload who have a need for speed.  This app allows children to choose a character and create the car they will ride in.  They can make it as simple or complex as they want.  Once their car is complete, they can take the car out on the road for some adventures.  There are 9 different driving courses and as you go through the map, the difficulty level increases.  While this isn't complicated, it's a great app for helping kids make choices and really think about what they want to do.  So many of the kids I work with have a difficult time with organizing their thoughts/work and I like that this app can help them work on that.  Some of the racing games out there are super fast paced and have a time-limit which tends to be difficult for the kids I work with causing them to get frustrated and upset with themselves.  This is a nice racing game for younger kids because the goal is simple:  finish each course and pick up the 3 presents along the way for extra points.

Shape Arts: Geometry Creations-I can't tell you how hard I have been searching for a great tangram app (I love Osmo but I wanted something else as well).  Lighthouse Learning has a bunch of great math apps for kids of all ages and I am in love with Shape Arts.  Not only are there hundreds of puzzles for the kids to complete, there is also an option to make their own puzzles.  There is a template provided and each one has 7 shapes that must be moved into the puzzle to complete it.  Some fit in perfectly while others may have to be rotated before it fits in.  This app is not only educational, it is also fun while working on improving visual motor, visual perceptual and executive functioning skills.  While it says that this app is for children 7 and older, my almost 5 year old daughter was able to play it with minimal help from me.  

Toco Pet Doctor-this is not a new app but continues to be a big hit with the kids that I work with, especially the younger ones.  And for those of you familiar with Toca Boca, you know that there isn't a single app of theirs that isn't amazing.  There are 15 different pets waiting in the vet's waiting room with a variety of ailments that need to be tended to.  Choose an animal and make them healthy.  You may need to clean and bandage up a cat's ear, pull gum off a bird's foot or brush the messy teeth of a hamster.  Once they are all taken care of, you have to feed them.  None of the activities are overly challenging but require children to maintain their focus and attention on what needs to be done.  Great for working on improving visual tracking, visual perceptual and visual motor skills and can be worked on individually or in a group of two or three kids to work on improving social skills.

I know that there are still many therapists who don't agree with using an iPad in their sessions which I totally respect and appreciate.  I have found that when used in moderation and with other therapeutic interventions, it can be a highly effective and motivating tool.  I have found it to be most helpful with teaching handwriting to my more resistant kids because it is so interactive that they forget that they are actually working.  I never just do the handwriting apps alone but will have them practice the letter on the iPad and then immediately have them do it on the Boogie Board, dry erase board or on a piece of paper to generalize the skill.  There are so many wonderful apps that really address improving visual motor and visual perceptual skills in a fun way.  All of the apps I discussed above work on that skill.  In addition to what I have already mentioned, the iPad can be used to work on the following things:
*work on increasing upper body strength by playing the iPad while lying prone on a net swing or on a bolster
*work on improving grasping skills by requiring a child to use a stylus whenever it is appropriate to. iCreate crayon by Fred & Friends and the Mini Retro stylus by Kikkerland Design
 I will stop kids during play to encourage them to switch their grip.  My favorite stylus' are the
*work on improving bilateral coordination skills by making sure kids hold the iPad with one hand and use their dominant hand to play the game
*work on improving social skills by having kids play appropriate apps together
*work on improving executive functioning skills such as organization, attention/focus, working memory, sequencing, etc.

I love using the iPad at work and especially love when I find new apps to share with my colleagues and the parents I work with.  It's an easy way for parents to be able to work on some of the things that we work on in therapy and get them more involved in their child's therapy in a fun and less stressful manner.

Do you have any new apps that you just can't live without?  I'm always looking for new and interesting ones and would love to hear what's hot with your kids and I am sure many of my readers would love to hear as well!  Please share your favorite apps...I'm just a click away and love hearing from you all!

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