After being pitched with a bunch of apps to review in the past few months, we’ve handpicked a few that are both fun and challenging for kids under 5. All are available on iTunes for iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch.
Ben 10 Alien Locator £1.99
Being a typical 5-year-old Ben 10 fanatic, Ezra was literally buzzing with anticipation as the app loaded. The aim is to click on pictures of aliens as fast as they load. There are 15 levels and you can challenge multiple players. Ezra played for about 10 minutes, before he was ready to switch because he found it too hard. When I explained he could stay on Level 1 and improve his skills, (he’d already jumped ahead to Level 2) he was happy to play again.
Why we APProve: Great for building hand-to-eye coordination, this is a sure hit for boys especially. You’ve got the need for speed coupled with a satisfying crunching sound as you match each target. ‘I like it when you smash the aliens,’ says Ezra. ‘It sounds cool.’
What could improve: It’s fun but doesn’t offer much in the way of variety.
I’ve mentioned this app before, but just had to give it another shout-out. It’s an interactive counting app that’s essentially 20 apps in one, with each number you choose (from 1 to 20) offering a fun game like a marble run or bubble popper or, the boys’ favourite, two cars racing around a track.
Why we APProve: TallyTots is smart, inventive and will delight both toddlers and pre-schoolers. If I could only choose one app for the kids to take on a trip, this would probably be it. ‘Yay, TallyTots, I want to play it!’ (that’s my 2-year-old talking).
What could improve: My kids love the games, but already know their numbers 1 to 20, so an option to skip the counting would be useful.
Rated 4+ but suitable for ages 18 months & up
Tati’s Hotel Magic Muddle £0.69
We don’t generally tune into CiTV so were unfamiliar with Tati’s Hotel, but Ezra certainly enjoyed the game. It’s basically a series of jigsaw puzzles where you have to rearrange each picture of characters from the show by swiping pieces into place.
Why we APProve: Ezra got into this instantly and had a good time sorting the puzzles. It’s helpful for improving cognitive awareness and easy to navigate, so you can match the puzzles to your kid’s age and skill level.
What could improve: Like the Ben 10 app above, it’s a bit of a one-trick pony.
If you ever enjoyed swapping outfits on those cut-out dolls as a child, this one’s for you (and your kid will like it too). There are 8 different characters ranging from Astronaut to Doctor and you have to match their outfits correctly. Of course this allows for multiple (3000+) silly combinations – the boys get a giggle out of making space cowboys and policemen with builder’s tools.
Why we APProve: This app not only teaches a range of occupations but with boys and girls of different complexions doing the same jobs, it’s also ticking boxes for racial and gender equality. How PC!
What could improve: We hope they add some new occupations soon.
Rated 4+ but ideal for ages 2 and up
ABC Expedition £1.99
This absolutely charming app will appeal to design fiends with its gorgeous illustrations of letters and animals. Enter Captain Wallace’s Alphabet Zoo and meet animals as obscure as Narwhaal and Urial. Touch the big letter to hear an adult voice and the small letter to hear a child’s version and click on the zoo to hear all the animals make their sounds.
Why we APProve: This is simple enough for a toddler to operate, with visuals that are arresting for babies and grown-ups alike. And the animals are funny – Ezra and Jed always crack up at the roly-poly Turtle and the Owl that catapults itself off a branch.
What could improve: My boys would prefer more interactivity (Ezra keeps swiping away at the animals, hoping something else will happen), but I find ABC Expedition engaging, original and a welcome escape from the noise and pace of other apps. I can’t fault it.
Rated 4+ but aimed at ages 1 to 4