We expanded our 5 Best Apps Series! Five wasn’t enough when we started using Apple Configurator. Keep reading to find out what we think are the 21 Best Apps for Preschool and Kindergarten.
When we decided to use Apple Configurator to manage our iPads, one of the biggest ramifications was the fact that we would need to pick a set of apps that we felt we wanted to have on every iPad. Since configurating iPads with Apple Configurator is no small task, (read about my experience here) and not something we intend to do frequently, we needed this selection of apps to last for quite some time. Up until this point, I installed apps willy nilly on the iPads we used in the classroom. If it looked good, I’d download it and try it out with the kids. Configurating a set of iPads meant being more selective, and sticking to a budget. Installing a 99 cent app on one or two iPads is relatively inexpensive. Installing 5 copies of a $2.99 app on five different ipads starts to add up. After looking at all of the nearly 200 apps that I’ve installed in the last year, and thinking about which ones would be absolutely essential, I came up with a list. The school had given us $100 to spend on apps for 5 iPads. I didn’t want to blow the budget right out of the gate, so I decided to set a $10/iPad limit. That way I could still have money in case I came across any more “must have” apps over the course of the school year, which was (and is!) a very real possibility. In addition to the paid apps, I also selected a number of free apps to install on our iPads. While I could have installed as many free apps as I wanted, I was still selective as I considered which apps to include. The iPad I received from the school last winter is feeling quite cluttered as it sits loaded with almost 200 apps. I didn’t want my students to be overwhelmed by screens and screens of apps, like I often am these days. (Thinning my own collection of apps is something I should perhaps address in another post…) So without further ado, here are the apps, both paid and free that I selected for our iPads.
This app was an instant favorite of both the students and the teachers. Because it allows teachers to create individual accounts for each student, it is particularly good at encouraging individualized instruction for each student. Factor in the ninety nine cent price tag, and putting this app on all of our iPads was a no brainer. Teach Me Toddler offers instruction at a variety of subject areas, including math, language arts, colors and shapes.
For most of our kids, Teach Me Toddler is the perfect level. We’ve got a few kids though, that really need something more challenging. For them, we wanted access to the next level, Teach Me Kindergarten. Because the Kindergarten classes down the hall love this app as much as we do, we went ahead and used the Apple Volume Purchasing Program to get the 50% discount on 20 copies of the app.
Time and again, when I give my students the chance to choose which app they want to use on their iPad, I’ll find them using this app. They love the journey style of the app. My nine year old daughter has likened it to an episode of Dora the Explorer, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s why they enjoy it so much. The app teaches colors, numbers, letters and the usual preschool content. It doesn’t allow for the same individualization that Teach Me Toddler & Teach Me Kindergarten do, but I chose this app because it so popular with the kids. We had hoped to use the Volume Purchasing Program to also buy the Kindergarten version of this app for all three early childhood classes, but it is not one of the apps offered at a discount through that program.
This is another app that the kids love. They think it’s great fun to help the fish gobble up numbered bubbles. As a teacher, I love the way that the app encourages even young children just learning their numbers to think about addition, subtraction and to develop their number sense. Accounts can be created for more than one student so that their work on the iPad can be individualized.
I like this app for the variety of math activities and games it provides within a single app. One of the many ways we are currently using our iPads is to supplement our math center. Once each child has finished their usual math based activity, we want to extend and individualize each child’s learning. Math is Fun 4/5 works well for us in this way, and the children enjoy it.
This app was not on my list of best writing apps for preschoolers, but it’s the one I ended up choosing when I configured our iPads. It didn’t make my first list because as I was first exploring apps, $2.99 was pretty steep for an app. But, because I was able to convince my Kindergarten teammates that they wanted this app too, we were able to use the VPP to get it for $1.49. This writing app has a number of features to recommend it. One of the major selling points is the fact that it allows you to choose which virtual medium you want to write with. You can choose from 16 different writing substances including shaving cream, pudding, ketchup, pink frosting and many more. That in and of itself ups the fun factor for this app! We teachers love the fact in addition to letter practice, the app also offers word practice. What’s more, teachers can add their own word lists for practice. This app meets the needs of a range of students working at a variety of levels, and makes it a worthwhile investment.
As I looked at the collection of apps I was preparing to install, I realized that I didn’t have any introduction to reading apps, aside from the skills that are included in the cross curriculum apps like Teach Me Toddler and Timmy’s Preschool Adventure. I’d seen this app recommended and decided that for just .99 cents, it was worth a try. I’ve been trying to put together a “five best reading apps” post for my five best apps series, but since configuring iPads took about ten times longer than I expected, I haven’t had the time to thoroughly research reading apps. This app has come up in my initial research, so it gets to be the guinea pig. The kids haven’t tried it yet, but I think they’ll like it. The child or the teacher chooses three sounds to be included in the game for review. A combination slot/plinko machine gives the children the opportunity to match initial letter sounds. It looks like fun to me. I’ll let you know if the kids think so too.
I knew immediately that Google Drive would be on each of our student iPads. Each teacher at our school has a Google Drive account. We use it for a variety of purposes. I primarily use it for email and to share documents. I wasn’t initially sure how I would use it on our student iPads, but I knew I needed it. Within 24 hours of configuring our iPads, I was immediately grateful that I’d installed it. My first lesson on the iPads involved creating a book with the Book Creator App and then sharing it to each of the student iPads. Google Drive turned out to be the most efficient way to make this happen.
Safari is usually good enough for any web browsing we do with our iPads, but over the years I’ve learned that having an alternative browser on hand is often useful. Since our school uses so many of the Google Drive services, Chrome seemed like the logical choice.
While we haven’t yet had students read many books on the iPad, I like the idea. I’ve written before about how I’ll natually turn to Kindle before I turn to iTunes for books so I wanted the Kindle app for the iPads.
Of course I wanted my favorite Bar Code and QR Code scanner on the iPad so that this year’s group of children could access the various QR Code activities that worked so well with last years group of children.
I’m still hopeful that I’ll find more ways to use Aurasma in the classroom. I loved using augmented reality to put together this number teaching activity, but it was too much work to do on a regular basis. I’m hoping to use real world “trigger images” to simplify the process the next time I create a lesson using Aurasma.
Though I’ve experimented with having students journal on the iPad, I’m still not certain which app is going to work best for my students. These two teaching apps are both contenders, and since they are free, I wanted them on the iPad. Both apps allow you to draw a picture and then narrate the picture either while you are drawing, or after your picture is done. I love that I can have a recording as the children read their writing back to me.
Apps Geared Specifically For Kids
These apps are designed to teach coding skills and thought processes to children. It just makes sense to have some technology apps on our most technological classroom device. England will be teaching every child to code in the next year and there are many educators in the US advocating that we teach more coding in our own classrooms. I still remember learning to write a few lines in BASIC when I was in school. Even though BASIC is worlds apart from today’s programming languages, the understanding of the thought processes behind programming stick with me to this day, and I find myself using them (particularly when I’m trying to parse together some snippet of HTML for this website!) I ended up using the Kodable app for Computer Science Education Week’s Hour of Code. You can read about our experience here.
Last year’s kids loved this app. Since it was free, I put it on the list. It was that simple, really.
I saw this app shared at a workshop. I like the way that the app is driven by student created content. Because I’m wanting to encourage my students to use the iPad to create, and not just sit back and play games, I wanted to add this app. We haven’t officially done anything with it yet, but it seems to have a lot of potential. The version above is the free version. People tell me it won’t take long until I feel compelled to purchase the all access version. I’ve never spent $20 on an app before. It seems like an awful lot, especially when the vast majority of my apps are free. I guess time will tell.
I have a thing for Geoboards. I was introduced to them as a student in the 1970’s and I’ve loved them ever since. As a kid, they’re fun to play with. For teachers, they’re full of potential math lessons. A digital geoboard is almost as cool as a real one, so I put it on the list.
This is just a fun math game that my students seem to really enjoy. It’s on my list of Five Best Math Apps. It teaches counting skills and keeps my kids engaged. We have the free version, and it’s been fine for us.
I fell down on the job on this one. I wanted a drawing app that the kids could use to create pictures and potentially use for journaling. I wanted one with a little more glitz and glamour than Show Me & Educreations. We used one last year that had a “glitter pen” which absolutely enthralled my preschoolers. Unfortunately, when I installed that same app on our new iPads (that had been upgraded with a new OS) the drawing app we’d used before turned out to be terribly glitchy. I think that’s actually one of the downfalls in iPad education. Technology moves so very quickly that apps can become outdated in just a few short months! So now I’m in the market for a new drawing app, preferably with a glitter pen. Free would be nice too. Let me know if you have a favorite.
So that’s what I put on our iPads. For better or worse, those are the apps we’re stuck with for the next while. It will be interesting to see which apps prove superfluous and which ones I end up wishing I’d installed. (Like a second drawing app, for example.) This process reminds me that I’m learning as much as my students as we find our way with iPads. I’m sure I’ll amend this list in the future. Subscribe or follow Technology In Early Childhood on your favorite social networking site to keep up with how this list evolves! (I share all of my content on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ ) You can also find more of our favorite apps on my reviews page.