We live in the Golden Age of Apps. For parents, this can be confusing. Kids love apps but many seem like little more than high-tech pacifiers that amuse without stimulating.
To find the exceptions, parents have to evaluate apps as they do other playthings. Is the app developmentally appropriate? Does it promote active engagement or passive viewing? Does your child get excited enough to want to tell you about what he or she is doing?
Apps that encourage creativity are usually winners. These mini-programs encourage your child to explore, think and make things they can share with other people. Obviously, you’ll want to match the app with your child’s aptitudes and interests but here are ten promising possibilities. These programs are available through the Apple I-Tunes store though, in many cases, comparable products are available for other platforms.
1. Pull together a picture book. Tapikeo provides simple grids that make it easy for a child to arrange the photos on a phone and then add narration. Use it to make scrapbooks and picture books or, for that matter, flash cards and slide shows. (Ages 6-10, Tapikeo.com)
2. Fool with photos. ColorSplash adds color to photographs when you brush the screen with your fingers. Zoom in or out by pinching the screen. An undo button encourages experiments. (Ages 2-8, pocketpixels.com)
3. Sketch Critters. iLuv Drawing Animals provides step-by-step instructions for sketching recognizable animals. Forty lessons teach kids to draw everything from cats and dogs to penguins and pandas. The app also provides tools for coloring the drawings. (Ages 4-10, www.learnwithfunapps.com)
4. Doodle with light. Glow Doodle transforms ordinary drawings into spectacular neon creations at the press of a “Glow button.” (Ages 3-8, 99 cents, 2-8, I-Phone or I-Pad)
5. Conquer the keyboard. Jellybean Tunes, an app created by the parents of a young child, introduces musical basics with big, colorful notes. Kids can play the songs in the program or make up their own compositions. (Ages 3-8, www.jellybeantunes.com)
6. Tell a tale. Story Patch unleashes imagination by giving children over 800 images to be incorporated into their stories. Kids can start with prompts—a trip to the zoo, a birthday party—but the tools also make it easy for them to take dictation from their own imaginations. (Ages 4-10,www.storypatch.com)
7. Fingerpaint with music. MScribble is a mash-up of fingerpainting and music composition. The program provides a musical baseline and your child creates the melody just by moving her finger across the screen. (Any age)
8. Toon up. Toontastic is a clever animation program developed with help from educators at Stanford. Kids choose a setting and populate it with characters that actually move the way the child wants them to move. A microphone allows kids to add narration. (Ages 4-10, www.Launchpadtoys.com)
9. Draw what you like. The Drawing Pad app is as open-ended as a sketchbook. In the “desk drawer” at the bottom of the screen, kids have access to a wide variety of “art supplies” including pencils, markers, paintbrushes, roller pens, erasers and stickers. What they make from all of these tools is entirely up to them. (All ages, www.Drawingpadapp.com)
10. Drum for fun. Drum Circle Kids lets little kids experiment with a variety of drums including an American Trap Set, the Caribbean Steel Pan, Chinese Drums, Cuban Conga and the West African Djembe. By tapping on the screen, your child can join the onscreen drummers or create her own beats. (Ages 2-5, www.Spyedesign.com)
Cool as these apps may be, they shouldn’t take the place of more traditional opportunities for creative exploration. Even the most tech-savvy kids should have easy access to fingerpaints and clay, big pads of blank paper and homemade instruments, props that make them want to star in their own stories and music that makes them want to jump up and dance.
Carolyn Jabs, M.A., has been writing the Growing Up Online column for ten year. She is also the author of Cooperative Wisdom: Bringing People Together When Things Fall Apart. Available at Amazon and Cooperative Wisdom.org. @ Copyright, 2017, Carolyn Jabs. All rights reserved.