Freelance writer, amateur photographer and qualified in Environmental Science ... I'm also a mum and a lover of all things Melbourne :)
Published September 4th 2012
Great free or cheap ipad apps to entertain the kids
I purchased an iPad not too long ago, mistakenly believing that due the hard work I had put in to be able to afford such a purchase, it would indeed be 'my' iPad. It wasn't too long after bringing it home however, I realised it was in fact my five year old daughters iPad. She could use it with greater accuracy and speed, find all manner of use for it and have hours of fun with applications on it I'd never heard of (and would unlikely know how to operate if I had). Besides that, if there was any remaining delusion, she told me it was hers.
Childs Play - photo courtesy of photopedia.com
We have since agreed it is at least 'ours'. In assisting her in enjoying 'our' new device I have been enlightened to the world of iPad games for kids. It's a confusing world if you have, like me, grown up in a world where 'Kings Quest' on PC or a Sega 64 is the pinnacle of technology in gaming. The major difference is the ability to be constantly connected to an online world.
The main stumbling point for the unfamiliar is downloading a 'free' game, rubbish in quality, where all, let's say, strawberry patches' for your child's 'virtual farm' can be downloaded at a few clicks for, not virtual money (known technically as in-app purchases). I luckily have a child too young to know mummy's credit card details or password, but it still wrecks the fun of the game when we have to have the argument of why mummy will not pay for pretend strawberries.
One of my daughters 'haircut photos' - Image courtesy of toca boca.com
So I have, through trial and error (not to mention rigorous testing from a five year old child and friends) discovered some of the better iPad games on offer. They're either free or not too expensive (and don't have any requirements for pay per strawberry patch) and are suitable for 4 to 7 year olds.
First and foremost is the Toca Boca range of games. I blame this game set for getting my daughter interested in the iPad in the first place, she got onto the 'Toca Hair Salon' at the Apple Store and didn't want to leave it. Toca Boca has great sharp, colourful graphics and very kid-friendly games. They are $1.99 per game and provide hours of entertainment.
They seem to have put thought into the kinds of games young kids like to play. They can be play make-believe by being a hairdresser in Toca Hair Salon where they can: cut, colour, comb, shave and blow-dry of different characters, and take a photo when they're done. If they fancy playing a doctor or nurse, they could try 'Toca Doctor', where they examine a patient and fix anything from band-aids on sores to killing germs. If they would like to play with friends 'Toca Store' is great for playing shops, and 'Toca Tea Party' is very cute for having a mini-tea party on the screen. Also if they'd like to play house there's 'Toca House' and 'Toca Kitchen' that can let them have a go at cooking and cleaning, I'm working on transferring the skills learnt in this game! Lots of choice and lots of fun from Toca Boca.
A wonderful home-grown game available for free download is the Playschool 'Art Maker'. This game allows kids to easily create pictures with a choice of eight backgrounds, animate a movie with the Playschool toys or make a story slideshow. It's a great way of letting them express their creativity and I now have 'movies' my child has created with her voice recorded that I can keep and play back to her on her 21st. If they have enough of doing all the hard work creating, they can also watch Playschool episodes from the application.
Finally, there are a number of offerings from Disney that are good quality and make use of the interactive capabilities of the iPad. They're also free to download and free from advertising or in-app purchases.
Disneys Mickeymouse Clubhouse Road Rally is the most inventive in terms of its interactive aspects. The game leads the kids through a series of road race challenges in a similar set up to a 'MickeyMouse Clubhouse' episode on TV (it's often called an 'appisode'). The kids are encouraged to cause actions in the game through 'talking' to Mickey, through sound recognition technology, the game will wait for a response before continuing. They also need to touch, shake, and use swiping and dragging motions to complete activity. The benefit learning wise is that the activities are diverse and require counting, problem solving, shape recognition and memory skills.
If all else fails they can have great fun with the camera!
There's also Disney's 'Jake's Neverland Pirate School', which begins with kids creating their own pirate character. This involves them taking photos of themselves and placing this face shot on a girl or boy pirate. The game involves completing a number of 'pirate classes' including sailing, and pixie dust class. It also includes 'pirate band class' which allows them to play a range of instruments and record the song.
So there's a few game suggestions to begin, feel free to suggest any other ideas below. Obviously it's not something you want young kids spending all their time on, but every now and then it's nice for a bit of fun. Plus, if we work with them now, maybe they'll help us understand how to use the new technology when they're teenagers! In the meantime, my child and I shall share 'our' IPad, and hey, now we've found the good quality free games, we could even afford our own REAL strawberry patch!
Great article! Thanks.
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