Toddlers are literally growing up alongside touchscreen devices. They embrace the technology so quickly because they are not beholden to older ways of consuming and interacting with information. There is a new generation of applications that embrace this phenomenon to promote creativity and exploration in preschoolers. Here are five of the best.
PolyFrame ($1.99 iPad)
While PolyFrame may appear simple at first, the learning opportunities that can happen when you team up with your child to create beautiful pictorial collages are incredible. This app allows children to select a template for a frame and then select pictures from the camera roll or take pictures to add to each individual section. Use this app to engage your child in the world around them. Play a game of eye spy and record your "spyings" with PolyFrame. Send your child on a scavenger hunt and be amazed when they return to you with a beautiful collage of what they found. Then share, print or save these images with ease.
Toca Band ($2.99 iPad)
Great fun and giggles are guaranteed with Toca Band, which promotes auditory play at its best. This is an excellent open-play app for youngsters and the young-at-heart. Children are presented with a stage, and a whole cast of characters appear across the bottom of the screen. When a child places a character onto the stage, the character begins their part of the act. Stage placements higher on the band platform have the character playing at an increased tempo. There are a variety of characters to mix and match into your band. They squeak, whistle, and play the song with great animation and fun. Kids can make any character the solo star, and manipulate the part it plays in the band.
Puppet Pals HD Director's Pass ($2.99 iPad)
Puppet Pals teaches digital storytelling in the simplest of ways by setting kids up and the letting them play and explore. Start by choosing one or more characters (you can choose up to eight). Next, choose the background that you like. You can choose more than one, great for stories that change settings. Next, you record your story. With each background you can move multiple characters on or off stage. Press record to tell the story of the scene, and your story is created. Purple Pals is way simple while still giving plenty of control over the story elements they select.
Stop and Go! HD (99 cents iPad)
Do you have a future mechanic on your hands? A pilot maybe? Or just a curious little one? This app teaches about many different modes of transportation, how they move, and what they sound like. Children also experiment with concepts such as day and night, rain or shine, and stop and go. This is a fun app to explore and experience together and will allow for new words and concepts to be explored together even when away from the iPad. The Department of Transportation should officially endorse this app but even if they don't, your youngster sure will!
Soundbrush (free iPad)
This is one of those apps which is not designed for use by young learners, but it is such fun for them. Paint lines and dots or even letters and then listen to the music your drawing makes. This is an open-ended tool which could be used from three to 93. Children seen using this app seem to delight in "scribbling" music at first, and then later move toward drawing letters or simple pictures to hear what they sound like. Some children try little lines and dots to hear how notes combine. There's so much open exploration and a bit of a cacophony of noisy learning. No mistakes - only creativity and exploration.