Kids can operate fire trucks, monster trucks, tow trucks and more. Most satisfying: a crane activity, which lets kids move, lower, and pick up boxes, then stack them in an arrangement of their own design… then a wrecking ball feature lets them knock all those boxes down. More Trucks lets kids explore and discover as they go along, while teaching sequencing, sorting and problem solving.
3-4 year olds:
A truly bar-raising interactive kids book, this app is inspired by real-life drawings of 4-year-old Kalley, who drew a machine she hoped her dad could build. The machine was never realized, but this great app was. Highlighted text and an unbeatable variety of ingenious interactive elements make this a keeper.
Stunningly designed, this puzzle-making app challenges preschoolers to assemble underwater shapes. The look and feel is both cutting-edge and cozy, as the entire environment is made out of scanned pieces of fabric, which gives it both a handmade and high-tech feel.
With the look of hand-painted watercolors, the multi award-winning app has a whimsical, open-ended feel. Kids learn the game as they play, and along the way encounter a series of memory-style flip-the-card challenges that have a great twist: Instead of matching identical images, they unite pairs that connect. Think ice cream scoops with a cone; a ladybug with spots, etc.
This app introduces toddlers to classical music while learning about the seasons. Kids interact by waking up sleeping creatures, shaking pollen from flowers, and other activities. Important to know: No narration mode, so you’ll have to do the reading on this one.
This popular and soothing app is a great way to wind them down for bedtime. A blend of storytelling, interactivity, and animation sets the scene for kids to turn off lights throughout a farm setting, putting animals to bed one by one before the entire app fades to black.
For a first math app, this one is hard to beat. Connecting finger counting with number recognition and early addition and subtraction, kids tap their fingers on the screen as they count. The concept works beautifully when it comes to very simple addition, less so when numbers go above 10.
One of the best book-to-app translations available, it maintains the magic of the original while adding a level of interactivity. The irresistible story line – which urges kids not to turn pages while enticing them to do just that – features a series of hands-on activities as kids untie ropes and dismantle boarded up pages.
5-6 year olds:
With beautiful illustrations and boundary-pushing interactivity that fully immerses readers in the story, the tale is set in modern day with a step-mom and sisters who are more misunderstood than malevolent and a prince who values Cinderella’s kindness over cuteness (hallelujah!). Kids can read the book themselves or hear it told to them through a mix of narration and dialogue, and almost every page has interactive elements that captivate.
A truly great one loaded with 150 off-screen (yes, as in device-free) activities for kids. Select where you are (home, outside, etc), then choose the number of kids playing. The app delivers fun that are clever and unique. Many don’t require much in the way of supplies (think paper, spoons, bowls) and even more only require kids’ imagination. Keep in mind this one requires active parenting to select, assign, and oversee activities – better suited to an airline terminal than the plane itself.
There is no shortage of letter/number tracing apps but Writing Wizard may be the very best. Kids learn how to trace numbers, letters, words, and shapes with this highly intuitive app that also sounds out each letter. Detailed reports give parents and teachers updates on progress, and you can also create your own word lists. Perhaps less appealing is the slot machine-“inspired” sounds that accompany the tracing function.
Making faces out of everyday objects gets kids thinking creatively. By dragging and dropping items like dice and balloons, kids can assemble their own one-of-a-kind creations, then share them via email (hi, grandma!).The skills expand to real life where they’ll never look at plates or buttons the same way.
Taking that concept that little ones would almost always rather play with real objects, this lets kids chop, fry, microwave, and season to their heart’s content. Beautifully animated, it features four characters and 12 different ingredients that can be prepared in 180 different ways. But will the app’s resident creature like the prepared dish? Kids can feed their creations to find out.