Language Apps for your child and you!
There’s an app for everything these days (except one that will do your laundry). From banking to shopping, keeping track of your fitness and even sleeping!
According to Techcrunch.com May 2017, we are using nine apps a day and 30 a month.
Children’s App creators are well aware of the power and lure of the shiny screens, reinforcing beeps and blips and colourful images. It is no surprise then that children’s educational apps make up a large portion of the app pie.
To help you navigate the sea of children’s language apps, we have put together a list of our top picks.
What we like about it This app focuses on how much language your child is understanding. To them however they are completing the steps to build a rocket ship and send an alien into space. The friendly alien gives instructions on each turn and will repeat what was said if you tap it. This cute little ET also provides lots of encouragement with lovely positive feedback. Once the rocket has been built, the next tasks are to add food, fuel and passengers. The ultimate reward is watching the countdown and then the rocket takes off and flies away!
What can it help with? The great thing about this app is that you can make it easier or harder depending on how much your child understands. Starting with very simple instructions, following just one key word e.g. ‘show me the apple’ up to four key words e.g. ‘give the red balloon to the girl who is jumping’. On this app, children around one year of age are expected to follow instructions at level one, children of two years, at level two and so on. The app focuses on many different aspects of language such as prepositions (in, on, under, behind, next to), pronouns (he, she, they), adjectives such as ‘new, old, wet, dry’ and many other language structures.
As there is a reward at the end, tiny tots might get tempted to swipe away until they get the right answer without processing the information. It is a good idea to sit with your child, repeat back the instruction or encourage them to listen to the alien again and take their time responding.
What we like about it This app is a winner with very young children and creates a lot of interest with older children too, it is even APP-ealing to adults! There are many different scenes detailing the inside and outside of a house, including kitchen, bathroom, garden. The scenes are extremely interactive. Children can enjoy moving around the house and manipulating objects and adding different family members to the scene.
What can it help with? It’s better to ask: ‘What language can this app not help with?’.
Everyday objects are found in each of the scenes, providing enrichment of daily vocabulary. You can also make characters ‘sit’, ‘stand’, ‘eat’ and you open and close the fridge and eat healthy or unhealthy food. You can ‘feed’ the characters or the fish and ‘watch’ the television. Changing the scenes from day to night and back to day again is fun and could stimulate more complex vocabulary such as tomorrow, later, yesterday and the days of the week. In the garden you can have fun ‘jumping’ or ‘swinging’ and talk about the weather. You can go ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’. The app provides almost as many opportunities for language development as everyday life does.
You could try creating different situations and ask them what they think might happen in the scene. For ideas on appropriate question levels, see our blog on Blanks levels of questioning here.
The only thing the characters don’t do is talk, leaving all the conversing up to you and your child!
ACTIONS IN VIDEO
Cost: Starts at 2.99
What we like about it This app is based on the Colourful Semantics method that some Speech and Language Therapists use to support vocabulary and teach sentence structure. Colourful semantics supports children in making sentences by using colours to represent each part of the sentence. Children are therefore able to use the colours in a repetitive way to predict what part of the sentence is needed and can eventually move on to creating sentences independently with no colour support.
It is a fantastic app, with 154 short videos of different people doing every day actions. The videos show real people, making it easier for our little language learners to relate it to their own lives. Once the video is over the child is prompted to choose the correct parts of the sentence by dragging up the pictures to the sentence strip e.g. ‘He is washing’ or ‘She is running’. The activity can be made harder or easier by adding or removing the aid of the colours that correspond to different sentence parts.
What can it help with? The app follows a Look, Match, Listen and Say structure. It can help children with attention and listening whilst developing their knowledge of pronouns (he, she) and vocabulary for a range of verbs (washing, running, cleaning). The app supports children in using the correct word order and eventually in expanding their sentence length, e.g. they may start with ‘he is washing’ and build up to saying, ‘he is washing his face/the dog/’.
As an added bonus, you can record yourself saying the sentence once you have made it. So it makes taking turns and listening to each other lots of fun!
TOCA KITCHEN MONSTERS
What we like about it Cooking with your child can be lots of fun, this app provides a great way to reap the benefits of the language exposure when cooking but with slightly less mess!
Cooking for these two monsters is quite simply hilarious. Even though you don’t have any yummy muffins or cookies to eat when you are finished, the monsters make adorable little noises as you cook up a meal for them which makes the app lots of fun. For those muffins and cookies, you may have to have some real kitchen time when screen time is over!
What can it help with? Just like when you cook or bake for real, this app promotes the vocabulary for a range of food and actions such as ‘chopping, slicing, frying, blending, boiling’. It also stimulates a discussion around what utensils you need to cook e.g. frying pan, knives, blender. The monster will let you know if it appreciated your culinary skills and this can spark a discussion about what you could change or add so the monster finds it more palatable!
TALKING LARRY THE BIRD
What we like about it We often feel uncomfortable when we hear our own voice repeated back to us. Talking Larry repeats back what we say in his own unique voice, encouraging children to practice talking and listen back to themselves and others via this funny bird. As an extra reward, children can interact with the bird by tapping him on the head or feeding him
What can it help with? Anything at all! Although this app does not focus specifically on one aspect of language, it will perhaps encourage those children who are slightly less willing to practice their language targets to give it a go! Use this app to talk about what you see in your environment, name as many things as you can within a category e.g. ‘fruits’ or play association word games where you link words together e.g. ‘apple, banana, yellow, paint’. The bird will chat away till your hearts are content.
Making virtual time valuable
In our blog on Screen time, we talk about sensible exposure to screens such as iPad and computers . Below are some additional things to keep in mind when using language apps to encourage language development with your child. Playing with apps with your child can be a fun and rewarding activity.
- Taking turns will make playing with apps more interactive and ensure that your child isn’t passively playing a game.
- Play out loud! Repeating your thoughts as you play will encourage your child to think about how they play too, e.g. ‘I will get the book for the girl to read’
- Naming some of the things you see on the screen will encourage your child to learn the names of things.
- Playing the same thing a few times will support the learning of new vocabulary and sentence structures.
- Modelling back the correct words and sentences for your child will ensure that they are actively learning e.g. child: ‘She have a book’, Adult: ‘Yes! She has a book’. You can also try expanding sentences e.g. ‘She has a red book’
Happy app time!
Written by Carolyn Fox