We believe apps should be fun for children to use, however wherever possible we recommend choosing apps for children that have some developmental benefit and/or encourage other types of play such as active, social or imaginative play. We are firm believers that everyone, even children, need some downtime in life and in these brief periods use of apps that are just fun is fine. However, if these are the main use of screen time then we believe parents are missing a great opportunity to help their children learn and develop. To qualify apps don’t have to be ‘educational’ necessarily – they can help develop a child’s softer skills like social skills or even encourage exercise. There are many, many fabulously fun educational games/ developmentally beneficial apps out there that children will be only too happy to play, the challenge is to find them and that’s where we can help.
If you’re trying to choose the best apps for your children we would recommend:
- Choose apps that are age appropriate: To support their development and ensure children have fun playing apps it is important that they are well targeted to the age of your child. For example, apps we have approved for each age are available here:
- Choose apps that support development: to be really beneficial apps need to challenge children just enough to make them fun without being too easy or failing to teach them anything new. Ideally it’s great to find apps that help children master skills they are on the verge of developing or practice newly acquired skills. There are apps out there to support development of a huge range of skills, see some example of apps we have approved here:
- Choose apps that encourage active play, social interaction and creativity: apps are often criticised for encouraging children to become coach potatoes and insular, what better way to counter that argument than to look for apps that get your child active (see our article coming soon), are fun to play together with friends or parents, encourage social development and creativity and beyond.
- Choose apps that support learning at school: whilst I’m sure the last thing many children want to do outside school hours is what they consider to be ‘homework’, if learning is part of a fun game, children will happily play and learn without complaint! We particularly encourage finding good apps to support reading skills. Whether your child is just starting to learn to read or extending their vocabulary, ebooks and interactive books can be extremely valuable. Good Maths apps can also be extremely popular with children despite their clear educational aim, as can good science apps, good geography apps, good history apps and beyond. Think of a subject that your child is passionate about and look for an app that supports his/her learning in this whether that is about volcanoes, tudors, trucks or princesses!
- Apps for holidays/trips away: Using a tablet to keep children occupied while you travel? Trips whether in the UK or abroad, or even day trips, provide huge opportunities for children to learn. See if you can find apps that encourage your child to think about geography, history, cultures, religions, languages, currencies related to the places they go as well as about transport and local cuisine! There are apps out there that help develop understanding of the world in most of these areas and beyond.
- Be willing to pay for good apps: whilst there are a lot of free apps out there, generally the best apps come at a small price which can often be as little as 69p. Given the quality of content this really is an exceptional price point and one you would never see offline. If you’ve checked reviews and know the app is good, or if you’ve tried the free ‘lite’ version and like it, don’t be put off by a small price tag.
- Check reviews: whatever apps you are considering we strongly recommend you look at independent, expert reviews (and there’s no better place than our website of course!) before you download. These can really help you to determine whether they are appropriate for your child.