iPad as pre-kindergarten tutor?
April 22, 2012 9:58 PM   Subscribe

Best iPad educational apps to help a 5 year old catch up before kindergarten? She needs help with basic English, ABCs, numbers.

I'd like to preload a gift iPad with as many good apps as possible. Assume the device won't generally be connected to the internet. Assume little adult intervention. Video suggestions could be good too, if there's an easy way to play them, though the interactivity of apps seems better.

Elmo Loves ABCs seems really good, but what else? Something for numbers? Something to practice new words?

Also, which iPad? Would the iPad 1 be capable enough? Or better an iPad 2?

And, any tips on how to set up an iPad you're giving to someone else? Someone who doesn't already have email, etc.?

If there other things that might be super-useful, as long as they're space-efficient and require little adult intervention, I'd love recommendations!

Context: This is for a little girl, R, who's 5 but doesn't speak English very well, or know her full alphabet or numbers. Her (single) dad isn't a native English speaker, and has a lot on his plate right now. Because of money problems, they don't have a TV these days, which used to be a way she picked up English. For a variety of reasons, she hasn't been in preschool. I'm no professional, but I don't think she has underlying developmental problems, I think she just hasn't gotten the exposure or practice.

R and my son used to play together, and I tried to practice with her as much as possible. But they recently moved away from our neighborhood.

While an engaged adult with time on their hands would be the ideal tutor, under the circumstances I'm hoping I can at least help a little with technology -- this is what all those apps are for, right? I have asked her dad if it would be OK to give R a hand-me-down iPad, and he said yes. (Handed down from eBay, but, well, that's handed down from someone.)
posted by CruiseSavvy to Technology (10 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I know a family with preschoolers who like the Starfall site. Apparently Starfall has some apps of their learning games, tho I haven't seen them in action.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:12 PM on April 22, 2012

My 4 year old son starts kindergarten this year, and his favourite games on my iPhone that might be relevant are:
Peekaboo Barn (cute, fun, practises animal names)
Preschool Monkey Lunchbox (weird name, but a GREAT collection of word, number, color and shape minigames)
First Words Deluxe (extremely easy word game)
Preschool Adventure (another collection of word, number, color, shape minigames)
Throw in a couple of non educational games too, so its not too chore-like. We like Finger Paint (painting) and Tozzle (jigsaw puzzles).

As far as iPads, he is allowed very limited access to Mr Joh's iPad, where he watches/listens to the Thomas the Tank Engine talking books, which are a perfect method for reinforcing language skills for her, although Thomas may not be her interest. I bet there are a ton of other read-along storybooks too. The Thomas ones are particularly well made though, I would try and find similar quality.
posted by Joh at 10:24 PM on April 22, 2012

Searching for "children's books iPad" yields several lists including this best-of children's books for iPad list).

Another random search turns up an app called "Read me stories" which comes with short very simple illustrated books that it will read aloud as the child turns the pages. (These are not classic children's books, but purpose-written stories just for this app.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:32 PM on April 22, 2012

Absolutely any of the Dr. Seuss apps. They're by Oceanhouse Media, and they are excellent for promoting literacy. Another great set would be LetterSchool, CuriousZoo, and Disney's Small World. Superb.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:33 PM on April 22, 2012

There is a series of TOTALLY FANTASTIC apps, called TeachMe. TeachMe: Toddler, TeachMe:Kindergarten, TeachMe:First grade, TeachMe: Second Grade.

The toddler one focusses on shapes and colors and letters (so it's probably a little too young, but maybe not), but you could turn off some of the stuff (e.g., colors) if she knows it already. The first grade does really easy spelling and basic sight words, basic arithmetic. The second grade does more challenging sight words, timed easy addition and subtraction (solve 3 in 30 seconds) and basic 2 digit arithmetic, plus basic spelling. (I haven't spent much time with the kindergarten one, but I'm sure it's really good too.)

I truly can't say enough good stuff about these apps.

---Kids use their fingers to write! (at least in the first and second grade; not sure about the younger ones, my 3 year old doesn't get to play with them as much) And it's really good at the handwriting recognition. This is huge.

---You can turn on and off various learning objectives, say if you really want to focus on spelling or arithmetic, but I haven't bothered to. I figure the arithmetic practice can't hurt.

---The reward system is really compelling. Answer 3 questions, get a coin. Get some coins, buy some virtual stuff. Say, silly bandz you can put on virtual hands, in various colors. Or fish for a fish tank. Or dress-up stickers for your princess/dinosaur. Or all sorts of stuff that wouldn't be compelling to me, but is great for my 6 year old. Save up for the stuff you really want, or buy stuff now. (For the toddlers, it's answer 3 questions, place a sticker. )

---They seem to have a good handle on age-appropriate questions. The toddler is great for my toddler; the second grade is good for my somewhat advanced first grader (who is basically done with first grade anyway at this point).

They're pretty cheap: I think $2.99/each. They're on sale today for $0.99. I'd buy all four. They're fantastic. In fact, everyone reading this thread should buy all four, since they're on sale! And awesome.
  • Dr. Seuss ABCs is a pretty good book; it can read to you or you can read along, and if you tap the words/letters they highlight and speak out loud.
  • Alphabet Fun might be good, too.
  • You should also buy her the Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. It's not educational, per se, but it's a lovely app. The waterhole app, based on the book by Graeme Base, is also very nice, and helps with counting. Animalia by the same folks is also very nice.
  • You can purchase and download all the Schoolhouse Rock videos. My kids love them.
  • Butt Art is a current big favorite in our house.
If you can get an iPad2, that's probably worth doing. My husband had an iPad 1 (before he upgraded), and he was starting to have problems with developers no longer really developing well for the iPad 1.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:09 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

fosterhood.tumblr.com loaded up an ipad for her ex-foster charge who is now I think 5. Similar mix of educational apps, but what she writes about most often and what seems great is Skype. She has regular Skype chats and reads books over Skype to her. This is of course with her parent's permission. She set it up so the apps can't be changed or installed without a password, ditto for Skype. You need to have someone responsible managing the ipad or it could just get taken and wiped by an adult.
posted by viggorlijah at 11:32 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Piikea has both "Counting Bees" and "Alphabet." Our three year old (nearly four) has known his alphabet for over a year now, in part due to his absolutely adoring Alphabet. Less educational favorites include Bebot and 123 Color HD.

Physical suggestion, invest in an awesome case for the iPad. Griffin makes the Survivor case for the iPad, about $70-$80 most places, but you can feel why this is worth the money once you hold it in your hands.

You will probably want to use iPhone Configuration Utility to install a restrictive configuration template to prevent some of the bad things that kids can do to an iPad.
posted by jgreco at 4:45 AM on April 23, 2012

Lots of great suggestions here. My 6-year-old also likes the SuperWhy app and Scholastic Dinosaurs. The 3-year-old goes for anything with stickers. Both of them will choose to watch videos if given have an opportunity, so no web access might be a plus.
posted by libraryhead at 5:14 AM on April 23, 2012

Motion Math: Hungry Fish is great for low-level math skills (and more as they grow), but it's not really designed to teach the names of numbers. You could download some Dora episodes or similar "educational" TV, but really, activity books and simple verbal games are going to be the best way for her to learn.

On the other hand, I think that kids can learn a ton in a short time, so she might not need to "catch up" in advance of kindergarten -- the main things kids are supposed to learn in preschool have to do with group play and following directions, not actual facts...
posted by acm at 7:12 AM on April 23, 2012

http://blog.thehomeschoolmagazine.com/2012/04/20/educational-apps-for-preschoolers/ has a list of apps that cover these basic skills.

Also, a lot of kids' app developers have facebook pages where they give away free apps. The iMums are a good place to start.
posted by belladonna at 12:02 PM on April 23, 2012

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