Our Favorite Apps!

Christmas has come and gone and I bet many of you (and your children) have new tablets. How exciting! At our clinic, each therapist has an ipad and boy, do we use them!  It can be a fun and motivating way to teach and reinforce new skills.  We have already had many parents ask us for app recommendations, so our therapists have compiled a list of our favorite, most loved and used apps to share with you.

But first, here are a few things for parents to keep in mind about tablets.  For young children, playing with good old fashioned toys is the BEST way to learn, so limit screen time especially for this age.  Also, if you download lots of apps that aren’t educational or appropriate, your child will likely discover these and may prefer them to the more educational apps.  And you will be amazed at how easily and quickly young children learn to navigate an ipad and open all the apps.  So, try to download only apps you want your child to have access to and you won’t have to battle them over which games/apps they will play. You should also invest in a protective cover if you haven’t already.  Tablets are expensive and children are prone to dropping things so protect your investment!  We use Otterbox Defender cases and they have worked well for us.


Simple apps for young children and early learners:

1.  Kindergarten.com apps are great for introducing new vocabulary with simple, beautiful photos.  Our favorites are Actions, Emotions, Play, Wear, Eat, Which Go Together, Receptive Identification by Class, What Rhymes.  Many are free!

2.  Peekaboo HD is a barn/farm animal app says the animal name and makes the animal noise as the child touches the tablet to uncover the animals.  Also teaches cause and effect.

3.  Kids Songs has great songs for children and we do love music at our clinic.  If your child is learning to sign or talk, teach them to sign or say music to request this app.  Or, after each song teach them to sign or say more to request more songs!

4.  Pocket Pond-children are fascinated by this app!  Touch the water for water sounds and scare the fish away.  A great reinforcer.

5.  Musical Hands

6.  Tap a Tune

7.  Doodle Buddy

8.  Doodle Dots

9.  Blow Bubbles/Bubbles and Balloons

A few of our favorite interactive books:

1.  Monster at the End of This Book is a classic book and the interactive version is just plain funny and will make your child giggle!

2.  Tickle Finger (pocket story)

3.  Pete the Cat is a fantastic book with great music and a wonderful message about the power of positive thinking.  As you’re reading these interactive books with your child, ask questions about the book.  What is happening in the pictures?  Where is Pete?  What is he doing?  I should specify that this is a book, not an app.  There are Pete the Cat apps that go along with the book, but the book is not included in the apps we have tried.  You can download this book through itunes and find it in your iBooks.

Fun Preschool Apps:

1.  Monkey Preschool Lunchbox

2.  Toca Boca apps-We LOVE these!  Toca Tea Party, Birthday Party, Hair Salon, and Toca Kitchen are our favorites.  These apps are fun and language rich!  So much to see and talk about.  Play these with a friend or family member and talk about what’s happening.

3.  Bugs and Bubbles, Bugs and Buttons-These two apps include SO many fun games in each app.  Lots of bang for your buck.

4.  Easy-Bake Treats, Cake Fun-So many foods to make and talk about.

5.  Puzzle Farm, Puzzle Pals

6.  Nick Jr Draw and Play

Apps to encourage speech and language skills:

1.  Different Roads To Learning-What goes together, Cleanup are two that we use a lot.  Helps children learn language by function, feature, and category.

2.  All About Sounds is an inexpensive app that is good for articulation practice.  Pick your sound and play a matching game.

3.  Injini-a great, comprehensive app with many games and language skills targeted.

4.  Buddy Bear apps by LinguiSystems are marketed to children with autism spectrum disorder, but are great for any child who is working on answering questions, problem solving, etc.  A very simple yet popular app.  There is a LITE version you can try for free to help you decide if it is worth the money for the full version.

5.  Talking Friends-Talking Tom Cat, Talking Ben are a few.  Pick your favorite character.  If you haven’t seen these apps yet, you MUST try one.  A fun way to get people of all ages talking!

6.  Alligator Apps Flashcard app has many language cateogories to choose from including animals, emotions.

7.  Cotton Candy Maker, Milkshake Maker are fun apps that teach food/kitchen vocabulary, actions, and sequencing and more.

8.  Elmo’s Monster Maker is updated each season.  This is a wonderful, funny app that targets so many things including body parts and actions.  Make your own monster by touching the screen then talk about what your monster and Elmo are doing….dancing, laughing, scaring, etc.

9.  Choice Board Creator.  Create customized photo choice boards in minutes.  Perfect for children who are not yet verbal.

10.  Smarty Ears Oral Motor app is a fun way to practice oral motor exercises at home.

A few apps for older children:

1.  Feel Electric by the Electric Company introduces children to 50 words related to emotion such as stressed, anxious, astonished.  This app incorporates games, photos, facial expressions, and much more.

2.  Model Me Going Places has videos that model and discuss general social skills such as going to the grocery store, mall, doctor.

Sign Language Apps:

1.  Baby Signs ASL app uses videos to teach signs.  If you are signing with your child, how convenient to have this app at your fingertips when you need to look up a sign quickly!

2.  Signing Time ASL dictionary flashcards.  This app uses pictures/photos rather than video.

What’s your favorite app?  Please share with us in the comments below!  We’d love to hear from you.

Holiday Activities to Encourage Your Child’s Development

Christmas is a magical time of year for most children.  Make the most of these last few weeks before Christmas by trying a few of these activities with your child.  These are kid and therapist tested and approved!

1.  Have a snowball fight.  It rarely snows where we live, so we have to improvise.  Snowball Fight in a Bucket is available for purchase (such as the one seen below) but you could easily make your own with balled up paper or socks and use any bowl, basket, or bucket you have on hand.  You will find older kids as well as young kids enjoy this activity which targets some great gross motor skills.  It also encourages eye-hand coordination and turn taking, an important prerequisite to expressive language.  You might find the adults enjoy this game just as much as the children!  Oh, what fun!

snowball fight

2.  Make Cookies.  So many language and motor goals can be targeted when making cookies.  Use your hands to stir, pour, roll, sprinkle, and press into shapes.  Parents can facilitate language by describing different shapes, tastes (hot/sweet/rich/chewy/crunchy) and action words as you are baking, stirring, eating, pouring, smelling, etc.


3.  Make snowflakes.  This is another activity that has been around for a long time but kids STILL LOVE IT!  Yes, it makes a mess but you can quickly sweep the bits of paper away.  Just fold plain white paper and cut out small slits, triangles, squares, etc.  Some children may enjoy decorating them further by drawing on them with markers or crayons.  Hang them up and decorate your home!  This activity targets cutting with scissors, an important fine motor skill, and will keep your child busy for HOURS.  Talk about your snowflakes and describe them using words such as big, small, white, round, etc.


4.  Visit Santa.  If your child is old enough, have her write a wish list for Santa.  This targets many fine motor goals such as handwriting and proper grasp.  Now, go visit Santa with that list and target those communication goals by TELLING him what you want for Christmas.  Don’t forget to encourage your child to make eye contact, tell Santa hi/bye/thank you important social skills for young children to learn.  


5.  Play with nativity toys or holiday sets.  Nativity and holiday toy sets such as those sold by Fisher Price Little People and Melissa and Doug facilitate holiday vocabulary and imaginative play.  Target holiday and Christmas vocabulary such as reindeer, Santa, Christmas tree, snowman, baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, wise men, shepherd, angel, etc.  Put them away when Christmas is over and pull them out each year and it will feel like a brand new toy each year!  

nativity toy

6.  Pass out gifts.  It is tradition in my husband’s family to have the children pass out the presents under the tree.  This is so much fun for young children, even those who can’t read (with a little help)!  And what a great way to target listening and following directions (“Give this to Daddy”).  Who passes out the gifts at your house?


7.  Decorate the tree.  So much to do and talk about when trimming the tree.  String popcorn for garland, make homemade ornaments, target holiday vocabulary such as lights, ornament, tree, garland, tinsel, tree skirt, star, etc.  Tell your child about the special ornaments on the tree.  Turn on the Christmas music!

8.  Make a gingerbread house.  Target vocabulary can include household vocabulary such as door, window, roof, shutters and action words such as spreading, tasting, decorating.  You can also target colors, candies, basic concepts such as top/bottom, more/less, mine/yours.

gingerbread house

Do you have a favorite holiday activity for young children?  Please share in the comments!