Can it possibly be true that at one time we adults had to get up from our couches to change channels on our televisions? Or that every telephone was once tethered to a wall and that you usually had to share it with other people? Or that when you wanted to research something, you couldn’t find the answer right away (no Google!), but had to plan a trip to the library instead?
Well, it’s all true.
Yet today we live in an age when very young children use iPads.
And developers are building new apps for those and other devices at a breakneck pace. Many of these apps are silly and involve monkeys riding on pigs and/or vindictive birds. But many of them are extremely useful. In fact, in the past few years, there’s been an explosion of new apps for children who have disabilities and even more specifically for very young children – preschoolers. So we have searched the horizon, checked out a bunch of these apps and come up with a list of 25 of the very best.
Some of these apps were developed specifically for children with disabilities, while others were created for a more general audience but are still especially well suited for these children. And we’re focusing primarily on low-cost or free apps that won’t break your budget.
We hope you find the list helpful.
This app was built by a speech-language pathologist and helps children practice their speech. It’s designed to be used by children either with their parents or an SLP or other therapist. Filled with bright colors, stories and sounds, Articulation Station is extremely engaging for young children.
PRICE: It’s free for the basic version, but then you make in-app purchases for particular sounds. So the cost can add up – and this is far and away the most expensive app on our list – but it’s also so highly ranked that it may be worth the price for its target audience.
Baby Rattle Toy is meant for very young children. Its multi-sensory world ensures repeat play and its combination of music, images and touch help children develop and practice fine motor skills while they learn about cause and effect relationships within their game play.
Bob Books is actually a series of apps that helps very young children make their first steps toward reading. Featuring actual hand-drawn imagery, this app has the feel of an old-fashioned storybook. And its simple drag-and-drop functionality makes easy and fun to use.
This app helps children develop their motor skills and improve their handwriting readiness in preparation for kindergarten. Featuring the usual array of colorful and engaging multimedia elements, Dexteria Jr. also has the benefit of not relying on in-app purchases and it has no advertising within the app.
Draw with Stars! is an open-ended creativity app. Children who might not be able to hold a pencil or paintbrush – and really anyone else who likes to draw – can use it to build lovely images with a soundtrack featuring music and engaging sound effects.
This app helps children learn about the alphabet and develop their spatial skills. It features an array of collages that come apart and then are put back together by children. In this process of re-building the collages, children develop an awareness of letters and the sounds they make… while they’re having fun.
Feel Electric! uses content from the series, “The Electric Company,” to help children understand and express their emotions. It features three fun games that teach children emotional vocabulary and helps them develop ways to talk about their feelings. It also includes plenty of opportunities for creativity and a digital diary.
First Words Animals is, as the developers say, designed for “the littlest of fingers.” It helps children gain an awareness of letters and sounds, and it develops their fine motor skills. It features large, bright and engaging animal images and also has levels so that children can advance after some practice within the game.
Glow Coloring is a creativity app that features a wide variety of colors and brushes that children use to make their own beautiful images. One nice feature of this app is that you can scan into it images from coloring books or anything else that children might want to use as a background for their creations.
This cool-looking app was designed specifically for children with autism, but can really be used by all children. Its game play helps children notice the similarities and differences in the features of the objects around them – a skill that many children with autism find especially challenging.
Injini features games, puzzles and tracing games that help to develop language, motor and other kinds of skills. It was specifically developed for children with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and developmental delays. One benefit of the game is that it can also promote independence, as many children can play it without assistance from adults.
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox is a set of seven games that help children learn about colors, letters and counting. Its bright graphics feature a wacky monkey (who doesn’t ride on a pig) and some great motivation tools like animated stickers that children get when they succeed in the game.
This storybook app features Grover from “Sesame Street” in an interactive setting with lots of built-in activities. It helps children gain awareness of letters and words and improve their listening and spatial development skills. The basic theme of the story – being brave and expressing emotions – is a relevant one for all children.
This app features terrific animal images and helps children build awareness around cause and effect as they learn about animal names and sounds. The app’s fun interactive game play also engages children as they develop their very earliest literacy skills. A free “lite” version introduces children to three of the thirteen animals available in the full version.
This app includes more than 200 puzzles in its iPad incarnation and teaches children about shapes, colors and sizes as it helps to develop their perceptual skills. A nice feature of this app is that it features a “training module” where the youngest children can learn the basic shapes that may already be well known to older children.
In Starfall All About Me, children create a virtual version of themselves while they learn about making choices and are exposed to lots of new vocabulary. While the app is intended for a general audience, it has also been useful for children who have autism.
This app was specifically developed for children with cortical visual impairment (CVI). The interactive game play involves tapping and expanding animal images as they float across the screen. And the cause-and-effect element can make the app engaging even for children who do not have CVI.
That’s How I Feel uses simple, easy-to-understand imagery to help children express their feelings. Again, while the app was developed for a general audience, it may be especially useful for children with autism or various kinds of cognitive impairments.
Things That Go Together is a multi-sensory matching game that helps children develop both their problem-solving and early language skills. One nice feature of this app is that parents can record the prompts themselves, so all the audio cues will be in the familiar voice of the child’s mother or father.