Here are ten free apps for the iPad (some work for smaller screen devices like the iPhone/iPod Touch or the new iPad Mini also) that are particularly well suited for Early Childhood teachers and students.
10) PuppetPals HD
PuppetPals HD turns your iPad screen into a puppet stage! The free app allows you to choose up to 8 pre-made cartoon characters and 3 photo-quality backgrounds. Then, tap the record button and move characters in and out of the scene, recording audio at the same time! Pause the recording, change scenes, and keep going! Great for making social stories! A $1.99 “Director’s Pack” add-on lets you put in your own photos for characters and backgrounds.
PuppetPals HD only works with the iPad. PuppetPals Pocket edition is available for smaller screen devices, such as the iPod Touch and iPhone.
9) Doodle Buddy
Turn your iPad screen into a blank sheet of paper. Doodle Buddy lets you draw with digital “markers”, “chalk”, and “spray paint”. You can also use stamps and coloring shields. A variety of backgrounds includes some simple games as well. Allows two people to draw on the same “paper”, using two different devices! Supported by ads and in-app purchases.
- Giggle Gang
- Laugh & Learn Shapes
- Laugh & Learn Animal Sounds
- Laugh & Learn Where’s Puppy’s Nose?
- Laugh & Learn Let’s Count Animals
- StoryBook Rhymes Vol. 1
- StoryBook Rhymes Vol. 2
- Peek ‘n Play Rainforest
Okay, this isn’t one app – it’s eight separate apps. Each of these apps is designed with a fairly low level of interaction required. These can be a great set of apps for very young or very new iPad users, to get used to the concept of working with a touchscreen tablet while introducing basic concepts in letters, numbers, shapes, etc. These apps include familiar characters or toys from Fisher-Price products.
iBooks is Apple’s electronic book reader for iOS devices. Once you have iBooks installed, there is a collection of “Read Aloud Kids Books” that uses a natural voice to read the text, highlighting words as it reads. The user has the option of advancing pages manually, or letting the app do this as it finishes each page. Several of the “Read Aloud Kids Books” (including some classics like “The Tale of Benjamin Bunny”) are free!
The iPad still doesn’t have its own native calculator. Many of the calculator apps that are available include a lot of higher-level math functions, which can be a distraction to early users. Jumbo Calculator gives you just the basics (+, -, ×, ÷) plus square and square root, with nice big easy numbers to push. No, that isn’t a real solar cell for recharging your iPad… sorry!
5) Nook Kids
Barnes and Noble’s Nook tablet took a giant leap forward with its Color version, and a collection of interactive titles for kids. Now, there is a free app for the iPad that lets you use it to purchase, download, and read Nook Kids books. Like iBooks, some of the books available are free (Free “Kids” section Nook titles)!
Each book allows the user to choose “Read by Myself” (no audio support), or “Read to me” (natural voice, no highlighting, user must advance pages manually).
This app turns your iPad screen into a whiteboard. You can load pictures to draw on, or draw on the plain white surface. While you draw, you can record a movie of what you are drawing, including audio. Great for having students draw a picture, and explain what they are drawing as they work! ShowMe’s can be shared with the world, or made private, so that only anyone with the link can view them via a web browser. On the web, showmeapp.com has hundreds of demonstration videos you can use, made with the ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard app.
Take a new picture (or open an existing one), and then talk about it! Fotobabble lets you record a short audio description (user setting, 30 seconds up to 5 minutes), and then send the photo and description via e-mail. Also allows sharing via facebook and twitter.
A “More” feature allows you to do some minor photo editing, and add “sticker” embellishments to the photo.
You say it, then Tom (a cat) and Ben (a dog) repeat it while sitting at their news desk! Nice way to make articulation exercises more fun! Also allows you to incorporate a video stored on the iPad into their “broadcast”. Free version supported by in-app ads. In-app purchases are available in this one, so make sure your Restrictions settings are at an appropriate level. Also, be warned: Tom and Ben will wrestle or use squirtguns on each other when certain buttons are pressed!
Assemble text, drawings, photos, and audio as a storybook! All created stories remain private, but a link can be e-mailed to anyone so that they can access the story online. Tell your own story, or re-tell a familiar story with a few changes (“The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig”, anyone?)!
A collection of resources about StoryKit and some uses for the classroom is available on the appsfortheclassroom wiki.
“Free” price of all apps accurate at time of writing. Price of apps may change without notice.