No. of Recommendations: 6
X-post to Computer & Video Gamers:

I know I'm not the only one with a young-ish child that is turning into a gamer. ;)

A friend of mine got an iPad for the holidays, and asked if I knew of any good educational apps for their kids. I thought I'd share it here.

This is my personal opinion and experience, with one child. Standard caveats apply.

Also, as a maker of games and apps, I am obviously biased towards a pretty generous definition of what constitutes a valid and 'educational' game. YMMV.

Also, my child is intellectually ready to be a year ahead, but socially is not, so when I refer to "kindergarten", know that other children might do better with the app in 1st grade.

This covers from pre-k to current (mid-way through 1st grade, with some skills at 2nd-3rd grade levels).

Bad Piggies: build a cart to carry your pig to the finish line. Requires planning, theorizing, testing, refining - the basic scientific cycle. Is goofy and fun, but can get frustrating when you fail and aren't sure what to change. Kids, however, have vastly higher tolerance for that frustration than adults. To them, it's playing. Age 5+
Contraptions: (used to be called Casey's Contraptions) Very creative problem-solving game, using cartoon shaded real-world objects like dolls, skateboards, boxes, and RC cars. Most problems have many solutions, so encourages creative thinking and replay. On the down side, some puzzles you can get VERY CLOSE to solving, but then you need to make pixel-perfect tweaks to get it "just right". Still, overall, well worth the money, high production values, good stuff. Ages 6+.
Count for Kids: teaches coin recognition, but uses completely inappropriate ad popups that confuse kids. ("Would you like to try Blah blah blah, our #1 app?" - Avoid.
DragonBox: Awesome! Teaches the basic concepts of Algebra, without it being actual Algebra. They should give this to junior high school kids. Jayden sat down and played it when he was 6, finished the full version in 90 minutes, and when I asked him a word problem that required "solving for X" (including multiplication), he did. I was such a fan I reached out and met the CEO of the company that did it - they're a great bunch of folks with an innovative way to teach math.
Edge: roll your box around a 3D maze to reach the finish line. Again, stretches the "education" definition, but requires planning, timing, and conceptualizing in 3D. Good skills to have today. Age late-5+
Find It 2: A "what's different between these two pictures" app. He had a lot of fun. Teaches attention to detail, pattern recognition, etc. Age 5+.
Flashcards+: Stay away. I wanted to find a simple, free app to do math flashcards. ("4 + 8 =" type stuff) This app is impossibly hard to use, with almost no elementary-school content. Even at HS and College levels, it's so hard to find anything...just skip it.
GoGoMongo: Made by a friend of mine, so of course I have to recommend it very, very highly. ;) Tilt the device back and forth to help Mongo catch healthy food. The thing I like is that it's about the only app in the store that engages kids with gameplay while secretly teaching them that fruit and veggies make you strong and donuts and cookies make you sick. Age: 3+.
Hanging With Friends: Yes, I let him play these. It let Jayden work on his vocabulary and spelling, while giving them a game to play with Nana across the country. Admittedly, he's moved on, and is uninterested in it anymore. Play as soon as they're spelling and reading.
Hemispheres - Duel Your Brain: challenges you to do math and color problems at the same time. Goal is to see how many you can solve racing against a timer. Didn't really hold any interest, but attempted to teach whole-brain thinking. Meh. Age: whenever they can add.
Huebrix: "draw" colored lines to fill in a maze. Trick - you only have so many drops of each color of paint, and can't paint over another color. Teaches planning and spatial relations, but doesn't hold Jayden's attention very strongly. Age 5+
Ice Math Ninja: Jayden plays this, loves it. Doesn't really teach much other than basic number concepts (ex: 'Don't touch the zero' - then play a 'fruit ninja'-style game where you simply swipe numbers that flip up onto the screen.) He loves it, but it doesn't really teach him much, just lets him see and be comfortable with numbers. Age 4+
Jungle Coins: Good game for teaching money recognition. Pretty good, and Jayden liked it for a while. Age 5-7.
Little Labyrinths: Maze game. He loved this when he was younger. You, however, will hate the stupid sound it makes when the mouse hits the wall. Great for younger kids, but then gets boring. Ages 3-5.
Max & the Magic Marker: Another puzzle-solving game where you have to help Max pick up ink from the world and 'draw' his way past puzzles. Requires some coordination and platforming jumps that could be hard for younger ones. Age 7+.
Meegenius: an app for reading interactive books. The books were too expensive for my taste, but certainly compare to buying an actual book. Also provides for "Read it To Me" and "Read it Myself" buttons, so if your child engages with reading on the iPad, this could be a great way to build vocabulary. Reading age until the books no longer interest them.
Micro Melvin: Not very educational - maybe teaches planning and coordination, but is 98% game. Maybe ok for occupying a 4-year-old for half an hour, but Jayden sampled and moved on.
My Math Flash Cards App - Part of the 'we need to find a simple flash cards app' search, but is very poorly done. Not only are the graphics beyond simple, but there are ads at the bottom, VERY close to where the kid needs to type their answer (very easy to accidentally click on the ad, confusing the child and taking them out of the app), and uses calculator controls to enter the answer. Not recommended. Content is 1st-2nd grade level from what I saw.
Pictorial HD: Rotate the constellation in 3D until it becomes a recognizable shape. Very cool way to encourage 3D thinking. Recommended. Age 6-10.
Pocketphonic: Good for learning letters, writing, etc. Very well done. Kindergarten.
Savings Spree: Earn money, learn about saving, spending, fiscal responsibility, all through fun gameplay. Kids open a cupcake store, earn pennies, and then save or spend them. Age: 5-7.
Scribblenauts Remix: GREAT puzzle solving, though sometimes the challenges can be tough for younger ones. Jayden got stuck on one level because he didn't know what was being asked. Still, trains you on spelling, problem solving, lateral thinking - very good. Age: a very bright 6, most 7, 8+. Fun for adults, too!
Seq: Another 'paint the maze' game similar to Huebrix. Not bad. Age 6+.
Super Why!: Based on the PBS show, helps kids learn to read. Very well done. Kindergarten and up.
TeachMe - Kindergarten and TeachMe - 1st Grade: VERY well done. Teaches math, spelling, words, letters, etc., and rewards the kids with coins they can use to buy virtual stickers and populate their stamp sheets. I recommend setting the payouts to the highest amount (so it takes 9 right answers to get a coin) - Jayden would sit there for a long time collecting coins. Recommended, and has lots of content to span kids' abilities from Pre-K on through grade school.
Time Reading: Has stories that the child reads and it tells you their words-per-minute. Jayden has to do this for school now, so he can practice with this. Reading age.
Tozzle: Interactive puzzles. Jayden LOVED this when he was 3-4. Great puzzle game for younger kids. Recommend for 3-5 year olds.
The Treasures of Montezuma (1, 2, and 3): Ok, these are totally just games, but I like that it teaches him visual pattern recognition and planning to get big "bouquets" (what he calls combos). We use this very sparingly, and not really for any 'educational' purpose, but it's fun, simple, and colorful. Safe for kids of all ages. I recommend starting with #1. If you like that, #3 is a remake with a timer, so more fast paced. #2 is just so-so...not as good as #1. Age 5+ for #1, 7+ for #3.
Where's My Water: dig paths through dirt to get water to the alligator so he can take a shower. It's from Disney, and has very high production values. Doesn't teach much, but does require planning and thinking ahead. Also requires some accurate touching, which can be a challenge for little fingers. Age 6+.
Wild Fables: Another book-in-a-device, and each page has a little interactivity on it. The art quality is lower, but the books are very affordable, and the guy who made this (Ray Wenderlich) is a super-nice guy who shares his knowledge of making apps freely, so I want to support him and his work. Throw him a couple of bucks! Ages 2+ if you read to them, reading age for reading alone.
Words with Friends; See Hanging with Friends.
1st Grade Math: He loved this for a while - it's reasonably well done, though I think their text-to-speech feature is horrible and should be turned off. Like TeachMe, this encourages kids to stay engaged with it over the long haul by giving them fish to play with in their aquarium. As a parent I also like that it emails me a report of what games he's played during the week, how he did, how many he got right/wrong, etc. I'm sure it's gonna get me spammed, but that's why I used my garbage account. Age: 1st grade.
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