You might remember that during our move from the UK to Australia, I had a pretty horrendous mummy failure moment. I left the iPad with all of DorkySon’s games and apps on it at Dubai Airport. It was particularly bad timing because I knew that in our first weeks here we’d be spending a lot of time standing in queues, sitting in meetings, waiting for estate agents and the like. I’d been planning on using the iPad as a needs-must babysitter for those first few weeks, and had loaded it up with quite a few new apps.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, we survived those first few weeks without the iPad (DorkySon ended up eating his own weight in bribery-related chocolate buttons instead), but we did eventually, miraculously, get it back.
Since then, DorkySon has been enjoying some of the new apps that I’d installed for him before we left, and I thought I’d pull together a roundup of some of the best ones.
1. Henri le Worm: It’s so obvious when a lot of love, thought and care has gone into producing a kids app, and Henri Le Worm definitely falls into that category. Created by Raymond Blanc’s son Olivier, the app includes recipes from Chef Raymond, and a voiceover by Simon Pegg. As you follow the adventures of Henri and his sidekick Derek the Ladybird as they try and retrieve a stolen cookbook, there are lots of wonderful bright graphics, plenty opportunities for exploration and interaction, stories to listen to, and interesting little facts about food and nature. Apparently this is the first app in a series of Henri Le Worm ones, and given DorkySon’s joyful reaction to it, we’ll be downloading the others as soon as they are released.
2. Dip Dap: I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I play around on this app myself, even when DorkySon isn’t with me. It’s absolutely brilliant. There’s something about the simplicity and humour of Dip Dap that’s absolutely timeless – he reminds me a little of Morph, who used to appear on Tony Hart’s art programmes for kids when I was little – and he often has DorkySon rolling off the sofa with laughter. You can use this app in several ways – you can watch videos of DipDap without interacting at all, you can become a part of the story by drawing objects that he needs to move the narrative forward, or you can have free reign to draw what you like, and upload it to the DipDap gallery if you want to share it. Definitely an essential app for any preschooler, regardless of whether or not they’re familiar with the show through CBeebies.
3. Wombi Hippo Shower Time: Wombi are one of our favourite app developers for children’s apps. They’re quirky, beautifully designed, and perfect for those queues and waiting rooms where you just need something that’ll keep you entertained for five minutes. Hippo Shower Time takes the elements of several traditional board games and translates them onto the screen. Any number of players – from one to six – take it in turns to switch on a tap and direct a stream of hot water at the grubby old hippo to get him clean. The question is, who will be the cruel one who accidentally turns on the cold tap and sends him shooting right out of the tub?
4. Petting Zoo: This app is an absolute delight; an interactive book from Christoph Niemann in which you poke, prod and pull various animals to wonderful effect – stretching limbs, changing colours and provoking moods. After dozens of times playing with it, we are still discovering new things every time. It is beautifully illustrated and very funny – it fills my heart up with joy that traditional illustrators are crossing over to produce quality apps for children.
5. Richard Scarry’s Words that Go: We are gigantic Richard Scarry fans in this house. His vibrant, busy illustrations of towns and cities packed with activity can keep DorkySon occupied for hours at a time. So we were super chuffed to find out that there’s now an app based on his books. Words That Go is a fun way to teach children about letters, spelling and phonetics – get the word right and the vehicle waiting at the red light will be allowed through. My vehicle-mad son is a huge fan of this one, and if he’s picking up some literacy along the way then all the better.
So those are the five favourite apps that we’ve downloaded recently for DorkySon (who is four). If you’ve recently got a tablet and you’re looking for a good number of other preschooler-appropriate apps to download, some that he enjoys using on a regular basis – ones that tread that tricky line between education, imagination and entertainment – include all the apps from Toca Boca, Dr Panda, Duck Duck Moose and Shoe the Goose, along with the Barefoot Books Atlas App.