Pediatric therapists are increasingly incorporating iPad/tablet use into their practices to help increase participation, education, communication, recreation and independence. “The use of iPads as a therapeutic tool is on the rise due to the ease of access, their versatility, and acceptance by learners whose learning styles the iPads appeal to” (Coutinho et al, 2017). What child doesn’t want to play with an iPad?
The American Occupational Therapy Association found in a recent poll that more than half of occupational therapy practitioners are using apps in the clinic. The apps below have been curated with special need kids in mind and have often been used in therapy sessions, but are perfectly applicable for all children to help increase reading, comprehension, cognition, fine motor skills, acquire life skills, help with self regulation and behavior, engage in self-directed play, and facilitate communication.
Apps listed are appropriate for ages 4+, but many parents and therapists may use them earlier, following their child's readiness and comfort level. Keep in mind, though, according to new WHO guidelines, children between 2 and 5 should be limited to 60 minutes of screen time per day. Children under 2, they say, should not spend any time with screens at all. WHO’s new screen use recommendations are similar to those of the American Academy of Pediatrics's guideline issued in 2016 which recommend that children under 18 months get no screen time, kids between 2 and 5 should limit their use to an hour, and ideally, any screen time should be spent “co-watching” with engaged adults.
1. Tracing & Phonics from ABC Kids. (fine motor and education) Bright and colorful app with a simple, engaging design walks children through tracing activities, showing them how letters are drawn using their finger. Paired with sounds to help teach phonics, this app is a great tool.
2. Kinder Tangrams. (cognition) Using tangrams teaches children spatial skills, critical thinking, and geometry. The colors are bright and the difficulty levels are progressive. This makes the app engaging and customizable.
3. Starfall ABCs. (education) Created to help children learn the alphabet. It’s a great tool for some children with autism. It allows them to progress at their own pace, learning to recognize letters and the sounds associated with them. The app uses bright colors and games to keep children engaged and entertained.
4. Endless Reader. (education) One of the first steps in learning to read is recognizing sight words, which are some of the most commonly used words in children’s books. Endless Reader excels in this, teaching children the words most important in learning to develop reading skills. The app uses colorful monsters and fun sounds to keep kids entertained and engaged.
5. Montessori Numbers for Kids. (education) This app is for students who have difficulties understanding the relationship between quantities and the numbers that signify them. It builds basic math competencies and introduces numeric order, the decimal system, counting up to 1000, comparing quantities, addition and subtraction
6. Pepi Bath 2. (life skills) In this excellent app, kids learn about personal hygiene by helping cartoon characters with their bathroom activities. Pepi Bath 2 has a simple interface and offers pressure-free gameplay.
7. Highlights Monster Day. (life skills) This lovely app nurtures positive values in young kids by letting them guide a friendly monster throughout his day. Highlights Monster Day app helps your preschooler learn about friendship, explore the world around them, and develop compassion, kindness and independence.
8. Sensory Baby Toddler Learning. (sensory) Entertain your baby or toddler in this fun, entertaining, visually stimulating underwater sensory learning app. While also helping to develop your child's hand eye coordination skills. With no ads to interrupt your child's enjoyment!
9. Cut the buttons. (fine motor skills) A snip here, a cut there: avoid the bolts and please beware! Now make a trim, its time to start, make sure to keep your scissors sharp! Entertaining and interactive, it requires users to maneuver virtual scissors to cut buttons off of pieces of fabric.
10. Link that Gugl. (fine motor skills) In Link that Gugl, individuals will have a blast trying to create the longest link! It’s a game that requires players to keep their eyes and finger coordinated in order to create the longest chain of the same color.
11. First Then Visual Schedule. (schedules/executive function) This app is designed for caregivers to provide positive behavior support. For individuals with communication needs, developmental delays, autism or those who benefit from a structured environment; visual schedules serve to increase independence and lower anxiety during transitions through different activities.
12. Choiceworks. (behavior/executive function) The Choiceworks app is an essential learning tool for helping children complete daily routines (morning, day, & night), understand & control their feelings and improve their waiting skills (taking turns and not interrupting). Created with the support of leading hospitals and child development specialists, this app is designed for caregivers to provide clear and consistent support to foster a child’s independence, positive behavior, and emotional regulation at home and in the community.
13. Brain works. (sensory) An app that is loaded with over 200 sensory activities to help take the guesswork out of which activities would be the most helpful to kiddos who have difficulty remaining on task, engaging in social interactions, and may have frequent meltdown. The app provides reminders with which activity to follow to help provide those much-needed sensory breaks!
14. Pocket Pond. (sensory) A Calming entertaining app where you can raise, feed, breed, play with, and sell thousands of different kinds of koi. Decorate your pond and make it beautiful!
15. Proloquo2Go. (language) An app specifically designed for people who are nonverbal, it promotes language development and allows people to communicate through the use of pictures. It’s designed not only for children with autism, but their families, therapists, and educators. It presents users with images they’re most likely to use and has a level-based system for basic to advanced vocabularies.