May was a stinker of a month for weather, but another excellent one for top-quality new apps for children. Once again, a mixture of famous names and brand new developers impressed us.
Here’s our pick of the apps we wrote about in May, although given that we mostly only write about apps we think are good, the ones that didn’t quite make the cut are also well worth a look.
- Justin’s World: Goldilocks and the Three Bears (iPhone / iPad)
Loved by millions of children for his CBeebies TV shows, Justin Fletcher released his first app in May: a retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Video of Justin telling the story sits side-by-side with fun educational mini-games with counting and sorting. And yes, he does get into character as Goldilocks and the bears…
- SquiggleFish (iPad)
It appeared from nowhere on the App Store, but SquiggleFish delighted us last month. It gets your children to draw fish with real pens on real paper, color them in, and then scan them into this app using the camera, to swim around a virtual aquarium. There isn’t any gameplay, as such, but the fun comes from kids creating a variety of colorful fish (or, indeed, any object they’d like to see bobbing about).
- Toontastic Jr. Shrek (iPhone / iPad)
The Toontastic Jr. apps get children making up their own stories with virtual scenery and characters. We’ve liked them for a while, but this latest app ropes in some famous characters for the adventure. It includes 12 scenes from the Shrek films as well as Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey to act within them. Children record their own voices reading out their stories.
- Talking ABC… (iPhone / iPad)
Swing a plasticine cat on the App Store, and you’d hit 17 animal alphabet apps. Plasticine? Yes, for this latest example uses wonderfully characterful claymation animals, which turn into letters and back again. Kids can browse the alphabet or play four mini-games, guessing the animals and letters, or just typing their own name.
- Kung Fu Robot (iPad)
This interactive comic book was a marvelous find on the App Store last month. It tells the story of Kung Fu Robot – “the Unicycle Champion of the 3rd Northern District, the world record holder for “ice cream sandwiches eaten in one sitting…” Kids swipe between the comic-style cels to follow the story, while also playing with a soundboard and a whack-a-ninja mini-game.
- Great British Chefs Kids (iPhone / iPad)
Persuading kids to eat a varied range of meals can be tricky at the best of times. Great British Chefs Kids might just be able to help though. Launched alongside an existing app for adults, this offers 105 recipes designed to be not just eaten by children but cooked by them too (with the help of parents, obviously). Photographs, video clips, and clear step-by-step instructions are included.
- Gigglebug (iPhone / iPad)
Laughter is infectious, and never more so than in the case of Gigglebug, an app that asks kids to help the eponymous hero cheer up his grumpy animal friends by tickling them. That means simple touchscreen gestures to make the various animals wiggle, giggle and chortle. It’s based on a set of characters who are starring in their own five-minute TV show episodes. We’re looking forward to seeing more of them.
- Sago Mini Forest Flyer (iPhone / iPad)
When it comes to entertaining toddlers, certain things work: simplicity, sounds and lots of bright colors. Sago Mini Forest Flyer has all of those things in spades. It sees a bird named Robin flying through the forest, finding different animations and activities as he goes. There’s no storyline, as such: just fun exploration for young children.
- Disney Junior Appisodes (iPhone / iPad)
The Disney Junior TV channel is popular here in the UK as well as in the US, and its official app looks set to be a hit. Aimed at pre-schoolers, it offers interactive versions of episodes of specific shows, including Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Jake and the Never Land Pirates. Besides watching the familiar Disney characters, children will be able to “touch, tap, swipe, tilt, shake and talk” through the adventures.
- The Jungle Book (iPhone / iPad)
Not the Disney version, here. This is developer StoryToys’ latest pop-up book-app, designed to resemble a pop-up book in the real world. It tells the famous story of Mowgli, Baloo, Bagheera and the nefarious Shere Khan through animated scenes, accessible mini-games and traditional text pages. Kids will be knocking fruit out of trees into Baloo’s mouth, picking thorns out of a wolf’s paw and other fun.
- My First 101 Words (iPhone / iPad)
This was another app for toddlers, using video to teach them 101 useful words. It stars a boy called Abe and a girl named Myrelle who act out the words, which are also displayed on-screen as writing. A clean and simple design means children aren’t distracted by too many things to tap on – enabling them to concentrate. Well, concentrate as much as toddlers ever do!
- Bloomsbury Pirate / Princess Activity (iPad)
We’re cheating slightly here, including two apps for the price of one. This pair of apps both came from book publisher Bloomsbury, and offer similar formats: puzzles, digital stickers, coloring and other mini-games, based around pirates and princesses respectively. We’d love to see an app combining both pirates and princesses, but whichever your child prefers, they’ll find much to enjoy here.
- Symmetry School: Learning Geometry (iPad)
Looking for good maths apps for kids? Symmetry School is the latest polished product on the App Store. It focuses on a series of symmetrical puzzles to teach geometry, with spatial reasoning, problem-solving and visualization skills all required. An ‘Email Your Result’ feature shows how this is intended for use in schools, not just at home.
- Alphabeasties (iPad)
What was that we were saying about animal alphabet apps? Alphabeasties is another good one, based on a book of the same name. Like its rivals, it assigns one animal to every letter of the alphabet, with activities including digital coloring, dot-to-dot and digital stickering providing plenty of fun for pre-schoolers while they practice their letters.
- My Story World (iPad)
This app came from a company named Mindshapes, which used to run a good digital-storybooks app called Magic Town. This is the successor to that: a collection of stories that include drawing, painting and coloring tasks, with 20 available at launch and five more coming every week. The twist is that parents pay to subscribe: £3.99 for six months, meaning the in-app purchase element is hidden from children.
- My Penguin (iPad)
Disney’s Club Penguin virtual world is huge for kids (175m registered users and counting), but now it’s got an official iPad app. This isn’t the full Club Penguin, but instead, it offers a bunch of mini-games from it: Pufflescape, Puffle Rescue, Puffle Roundup and Ice Fishing, as well as a brand new game called Sushi Drop. Kids can earn (virtual) coins in the app to spend on customizing their penguin and igloo in the main world.
- Jörgits & the End of Winter (iPad)
Something for slightly older children, this: a magnificent sci-fi storybook with a climate-change theme. The story concerns a group of aliens who flee their freezing planet for one that’s warming up: ours. It’s an illustrated novel with animation and some interactivity too, with the serious message never overwhelming the storytelling.
- Elmo the Musical – Storyteller (iPad)
Sesame Street’s Elmo got appy again in May with this storytelling app, which can be compared to the Shrek Toontastic Jr. app. Like that, it gets children making up their own stories, creating scenes with backgrounds, characters and objects from Elmo the Musical, then recording their own voices telling the story. It’s designed to be used by several children (or children and their parents) collaboratively.
- Cartoonitos and the Beanstalk (iPhone / iPad)
Cartoonito is another pre-school TV channel with plenty of fans in the UK as well as elsewhere. Its first official app is based on Jack and the Beanstalk, except here it’s the Cartoonitos characters climbing up to the giant’s lair, discovering 15 mini-games along the way. It’s cute, colorful and very fun, with light educational elements too: shape-matching and symmetry recognition for example.
- Sago Mini Sound Box (iPhone / iPad)
The second app in this month’s Top 20 from studio Sago Sago, this describes itself as a “21st-century rattle” – aimed at toddlers, it’s a collection of cheery sounds triggered by tapping and tilting the device. It’s very playful, encouraging kids to explore the different sounds rather than relying on their parents to tell them what to do.
That’s our pick of May’s new children’s apps, but what have your kids been enjoying in the last month? Let us know by posting a comment!