Leo’s Pad: An educational gem for children on iPad

Leo's Pad icon

While there are many educational apps available for the iPad based on kids television shows and movies, there are even more apps that have nothing to do with popular characters. These are the apps that get the most play in my house. However, every now and then an app comes along that has nothing to do with any television or movie characters and my son loves it. Leo’s Pad Appisode 1 by Kidaptive, is one of these games. Not only did my son love it, I loved it too.

While the app is not based on any popular characters, it is like watching an episode of a TV show made exclusively for the iPad. The story follows a young boy named Leo (Leonardo DaVinci) who is making a birthday present for his friend Gally (Galileo Galilei) and taking it to him. Leo also has a little pet dragon who tags along as his sidekick. As the story unfolds there are a variety of activities your child has to complete. These include building the telescope (which is the present), launching and flying Leo on his glider, and more. The activities are fun and educational at the same time. I’d say the entire game took us about ten minutes to complete.

What really sets this apart from other apps I have seen is the graphics, animation, and music. The graphics in the apps are fantastic. The artwork is beautifully rendered and the animation that goes with it is smooth and well done. The music in the app is a nice support to the story and the voice work was great. It truly felt like watching an interactive television show.

Screen shot from the Appisode 1
Screen shot from the Appisode 1

As of right now there are three appisodes in the Leo’s Pad series. Appisode 1 is free at the time of this writing and well worth downloading. Appisode 2 cost $1.99 and is definitely worth it. After finishing Appisode 1 my son was so engrossed in the story that I immediately downloaded Appisode 2, which is equally well done and fun. Appisode 2 continues the story of Leo and Gally with a third friend Marie (Marie Curie). The story leaves off where the first stopped and your child helps the friends build a rocket and go into space. Just like the first appisode, this one is a combination of story and activities that move the story along.

The only disappointing part of the second app is that the third part of the series is not available yet. I would have bought it right away and will be buying it as soon as it hits the app store. If you are a parent of a preschooler this is one app series you don’t want to miss.

Great PBS Kids apps for your preschooler

In this guide, I’ll show you some great apps for iOS published by PBS Kids. These are all winners and based on current PBS Kids shows. Some are free while others are not.

PBS Kids Video

I have to start with a great free app called PBS Kids Video. This app requires an internet connection, but once connected you and your child will have access to clips from many great PBS Kids shows. In some cases there are full episodes. It is also easy enough for your child to run on his/her own. There are clips from Dinosaur Train, Sid the Science Guy, Sesame Street, Curious George and more.

PBS Kids Video
PBS Kids Video

PBS Kids Photo Factory

Another freebie is the PBS Kids Photo Factory. In this app your child can take his or your picture with a PBS Kids character. The picture can then be stored on the device, emailed, or printed. I do have to say this app did not have much staying power in our house. It was cool at first and then interest was lost. However, for free why not try it?

PBS Kids Photo
PBS Kids Photo Factory

Super Why

If your child is a fan of Super Why there are several great apps in the app store, ranging from painting to apps that help your child learn to read. The current favorite in my house is SUPER WHY ABC Adventures: Alphabet. In this app your child travels around the world in different environments collecting treasures and learning to read at the same time. These apps start at $1.99 and go up. Do a search for Super Why and you’ll see all the great apps for this show.

Super Why
Super Why

Dinosaur Train series

Another popular series with several apps is Dinosaur Train. These apps are also paid apps and start at $1.99. There are activities dealing with finding dinosaur eggs, coloring dinosaurs, sorting dinosaurs by size, and pattern matching. You can’t go wrong with any of these apps. The only disappointing part about these apps is that they don’t show enough of my son’s favorite dinosaurs from the show. My son is constantly asking where are other dinosaurs. That aside, these apps are great and I definitely recommend for the Dinosaur Train fans.

Dinosaur Train
Dinosaur Train

Daniel Tiger

Not to be left out, the new kids on the block Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood already has an app. For those unfamiliar with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood it is a cartoon spinoff of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. It has all the old characters I grew up with in a new form. In Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Play at Home with Daniel, your child will help Daniel with everyday activities like getting ready for bed by brushing his teeth. This app is $1.99 and more for the younger age group.

Daniel Tiger
Daniel Tiger

Bert’s Bag

Finally, I can’t write this article without mentioning the king of PBS Kids shows: Sesame Street. Doing a search for Sesame Street in the app store will give you a slew of apps and interactive books. Most of these apps are paid apps, but they are well worth it.

One of my son’s favorite apps was Bert’s Bag. In this app, Bert dumps his bag of bottle caps or paper clips and you help count them. A simple concept that has kept my son busy for small chunks of time. There are even apps that have Sesame Street characters like Elmo making a customized “phone call” to your children. There are probably enough apps for Sesame Street to have its own article.

bert
Bert’s Bag

Conclusion

I could go on an on about PBS Kids apps. There are a ton of them, and I have only touched the surface. A search for “PBS Kids” in the App Store will reveal even more apps. I didn’t even mention the great Clifford’s Big Birthday which teaches your child reading skills. Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat Color and Create! is a fantastic and fun paint program based on The Cat in the Hat.

The great thing about all of these apps is that they are teaching will your child is having fun. Some apps teach math, others reading, others colors and writing. Whatever the subject, your child doesn’t even realize they are learning something because they are to engaged in the game or activity. That is the best type of learning and well worth the few dollars an app might cost.

Just a side note: some of the apps like those based on Sesame Street, Clifford the Big Red Dog, or The Cat in the Hat are not necessarily published by PBS Kids even though the shows fall into the PBS Kids category. I suggest just searching for the show title to make finding what you are looking for easier.

Buyer’s Guide: iPad mini vs. Leapfrog LeapPad for your preschooler

This holiday season many parents will be purchasing the LeapPad 2 from Leapfrog for their children. For those who don’t know what the LeapPad is, it is Leapfrog’s iPad/tablet device for kids. It costs $100 and the original LeapPad was a top-selling toy last holiday season. In fact, you could not find them in the stores.

You might wonder why I’m comparing a iPad mini and not an iPod Touch or a full iPad. Those are great options too, but for the purpose of this article I am discussing the iPad mini since it is comparable in size to the LeapPad and, in my opinion, a great sized tablet for a preschooler.

As a father whose child has the original LeapPad I would argue that the iPad mini is a better option. Yes, it is a lot morning money (starting at $329), but my opinion is it comes with much more value. In this article, I’ll tell you why.

Price comparison (including content and games)

Game cartridges for the LeapPad are about $24.99 (unless you find a deal). If you buy nine cartridges, the price difference would come close to price of the iPad mini, but most games for the iPad mini are free or 99 cents. Some games can be more expensive, but the most I’ve seen a kids app cost is $6.99 for a Disney interactive book. Therefore, once you reach that $329 price for the games and LeapPad the game pricing becomes a better deal on the iPad mini.

You can also download apps for the LeapPad, but it is more difficult and the apps are much more expensive (usually $4.99 or more – and the good games are even higher). Personally, I’d prefer to take my chances on a 99 cent app that might not get much playtime instead of $24.99.

LeapPad 2 (image from www.leappad.com)

More games are available on the iOS platform

The amount of great games on the iPad mini far exceeds the games for the LeapPad. Yes, there is a lot of junk for the iPad, but there are a lot of gems too. There are far more apps based on characters your child might know like Disney characters, PBS kids characters, and Nick Jr. characters. Plus, there are tons of great apps without these characters like those by Shoe the Goose or Duck Duck Moose. You could buy most, if not all of the apps by these two companies for the price of a single LeapPad app.

iOS offers more non-game content as well

Overall, the iPad mini just has more content available for it besides the games. You can load it with video and music from your iTunes library. You can also fill it with children’s books from the iBookstore. You can stream content to it from apps like Disney Junior or PBS Kids or Netflix (if you have a membership). Video content is available for the LeapPad and interactive books, but they generally cost more money and there are not as many available as there are for the iPad.

Future-proofing your purchase

The iPad mini will grow with your child. As your child gets older the iPad mini has a range of apps that are for the older child. The iPad can also double as a computer for word processing and other tasks if you hold onto it long enough. The iPad also has a great camera if your child is into photography. The LeapPad has a camera too, but it does not compete with the one on the iPad mini.

By the way, did I mention you will get more use out of the iPad mini than a LeapPad 2? Why not claim the iPad when your child isn’t using it? Surf the internet, read books, play game, etc. in your spare time; take advantage of having the iPad mini in the house.

Conclusion

Now, this may seem like LeapPad bashing, but it is not meant to be. Leapfrog is a great company and they make great educational products. My son loves his TAG reader and the LeapPad is a great product for the right family. I personally think it sparked the trend of making kid-specific Android tablets that are popping up all over the place.

However, when it comes to the LeapPad or the iPad Mini, I think the mini gives you much more for your money and will provide more fun and productivity than the LeapPad.

Free Disney apps for iOS and your toddler

As I mentioned in my last article, Tablets and your pre-schooler: Is it a good idea?, I will be doing an ongoing series about apps for the preschool age student available for iOS devices. These articles will cover apps that are played with constantly in my house and that are educational (no Angry Birds suggestions here).

To start this series I am going to discuss several Disney apps which are fantastic and free. Yes, I said free. Free apps are nothing new, but the quality of these free apps from Disney makes them must haves and easily something I would have expected a cost of $4.99 or more. These apps are also universal, so they will work on your iPhone, iPod, and iPad natively.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Road Rally

If your preschooler is a fan of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse TV show, this app is a must have. It takes the “Road Rally” episode and turns it into an interactive app full of activities mixed with video from the show.

My son’s favorite part if when you have to yell into the iPad for several activities. For examples, when Pete is riding his bike you yell “Go Pete Go!” to make him go. The name and description of the app suggest there are more of these apps from Disney coming. Hopefully they will be free, but I suspect this might be the free “taste” and the next app will have a cost.

Jake’s Never Land Pirate School

Jake’s Never Land Pirate School is another app that gets a lot of play time in my house. My son is a big Jake fan and in Pirate School you go through four classes (each with multiple levels) in pirate school. Your child (or you) can learn how to sail Bucky, play different instruments with Sharky and Bones, search for treasures with Jake and Cubby, and fly with Izzy and Scully. (If your child likes Jake those names will have meaning.)

After each activity your child has to dig for doubloons in the sand before time runs out. On completion of all the activities your child will receive a Never Land pirate certificate.

Disney Fairies Fashion Boutique

Disney Fairies Fashion Boutique is an app for the Tinkerbell fan in your house. This is not played in my house but it appears to be another great app that should be charged for but is not.

In this game, your child becomes the “owner” of a fairy clothing boutique and designs outfits for the fairies.

WATCH Disney Junior

I can’t write this article without mentioning this app. Through the WATCH Disney Junior app your child can watch select episodes from Disney Junior shows like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Doc McStuffins, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Jungle Junction and more.

If you are a customer of Xfinity (formerly Comcast) or Midcontinent Communications you gain access to the live channel and more current episodes. The app started as Comcast/Xfinity only, so I am hoping more providers join the group (in my case Verison FIOS would be nice). Even if you aren’t a customer of those two providers this app has great free episodes. (For older children similar apps are available for the Disney Channel and Disney XD.)

While I don’t recommend letting your preschooler play on your iOS device 24 hours a day apps like these can be fun and educational. I always find the apps with familiar characters are the ones that get the most play time in my house. Plus, who doesn’t like free stuff?

Coming up next time: Great PBSkids apps for iOS.

Tablets and your pre-schooler: Is it a good idea?

While writing here at Techerator I plan on covering a lot of tops related to the Mac and iOS. After all, that is what I know when it comes to technology. Part of those articles will include a series about iOS apps for the preschooler and toddler. Basically these articles will be recommending apps that have been a hit in my house. However, before I get to those articles I wanted to write an article about the benefits (and downsides) of letting your preschooler use a tablet or phone or similar device.

Tablets for kids are popping up all over the place. There is the Leapfrog LeapPad (now in its second-generation version). There is a new kids-only tablet from Toys “R” Us. Tablets are hitting the kids market and hitting it fast.

There will be many people out there that will say a kid should go nowhere near a tablet device. There are also many people out there who say a young child should not be watching television (don’t get me started on this one). I disagree on both counts. In moderation, and with parent supervision,using a tablet can be educational for a young child – not to mention fun.

There are apps that teach writing, reading, and arithmetic. There are apps that teach patterns and spacial reasoning. There are apps for the artist child. In many cases these apps are reinforcing what a child will be learning in school. In other cases the app might be teaching the child something new and giving him/her a head start.

My son loves playing games that are based on his favorite characters like Dinosaur Train and Clifford the Big Red Dog or Team Umizoomi.  We also read books on the iPad and there are a lot of fantastic interactive book apps out there. Through these apps he is having fun learning. He is also learning how to type and learning how to use a tablet device, which I think will be the future in schools over laptops (but that is another story).

Don’t get me wrong, too much use of a tablet is not good. In fact we limit usage heavily in my house. My son is on the iPad no more than 20 minutes per week. I also don’t let him play any apps except the educational games (some are based on characters and others are not).

The bottom line is that there is definitely a place for tablets and preschoolers, and if you monitor a child’s usage it can be a great learning tool.