I’m always on the look out for great kids apps and try to keep up with what’s out there and what my own kids like. What’s out there seems to be a vast and growing collection of children’s apps, varying in quality and suitability.
I tend to avoid free apps which offer in-app purchases and have mixed feelings about fremium apps for chidren. When buying apps for my children, I prefer to purchase apps with the Know What’s Inside seal of approval. In story apps for young children, I look for lively, memorable text – often rhythmic and rhyming – and for illustrations which are original or quirky and appealing to a child’s eye. Interesting use of space and the effect of colours chosen both have an impact. I have accumulated quite a collection of interactive story apps now and have my particular favourites. In the past, these stories have been useful when we are travelling, waiting in queues or just ‘chilling’. From a practical point of view, it is so much easier to pack an iPad than a huge pile of picture books and games. Although I often do both!
I wrote ‘Time For Bed Little Ted’ as a calming bedtime story. We have a huge collection of picture books in our house and I can’t imagine them ever being replaced by story apps, but there are times when a story app is the bedtime choice. Very deliberately, the interactive features in the ‘Little Ted’ app have been kept to a minimum. The illustrations for the ebook were planned to use more of the tones which are thought to be non-disruptive to the body’s production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. The story app uses primary colours but thought was also given to the colour palette used and, of course, light can be manually dimmed on the device itself or f.lux used to change colour tones. The new interactive story app includes much more detail than the original ebook and has some fun interactive features. These features and activities are relevant to the story, and include some random variations in the touch interactions to make for a more interesting experience.
The story is supportive of the early years curriculum in the UK and includes many personal and social discussion points e.g. washing hands, dressing etc. Those familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy will recognise implicit aspects of the early years curriculum, as the story provides opportunities for the child to describe, list, explain etc. I have also been cognisant of the common core standards in the US, whilst working on some teaching resources, so hope they are now embedded in the back of my mind too!
Research and thought about the use of electronic devices with children is mixed, changes regularly and evolves as we learn more about their prolonged use. I think moderation and sensible use is the most effective strategy, coupled with looking at our own ‘computer habits’. Children often learn more by what they see us doing, than by what we say! But it is a changing world, and how we use technology in our daily lives is constantly evolving. Most parents I know seem to agree on their own guidelines or media rules and ‘tweak’ them as they go. I certainly feel that tablets can provide many exciting and educational experiences and when shared between a parent and child encourage social interaction and aid learning. Of course, there has to be a balance, and recently there has been much talk of the effects of prolonged screen time on children’s behaviour and academic achievements.
I am particularly interested in apps which support and are mindful of children with any kind of special need. Bedtime stories, whether in a traditional book or on a device, provide a valuable shared experience, encouraging closeness and reducing anxiety. My youngest son, who has pda, has favourite songs, picture books and now story apps that he will read and re-read, delighting in the animations and touch sprites in these latter. With the story apps he also gets great pleasure and comfort in controlling what is on the screen/in the story. Time For Bed Little Ted gives children an opportunity to rehearse aspects of the bedtime routine, as part of a story.
‘Time For Bed Little Ted’ the Kids Kindle ebook, is no longer available on Amazon. The story app is set to be released early January 2016.
Finally, here are some thoughts on bedtime from the original ‘ebook Little Ted’ and his friends. The illustrations are the original Kindle ones. I decided to keep this rather amateurish video as it shows just how far I’ve come since then, in terms of my tech skills!
I wanted to add the links to the autism resources I have included on the Autism page as I know there are parents who will find them useful.
Thank-you to caring4our kids https://anonymouslyautistic.net/tag/caring4ourkids/ for the suggested websites below. The site itself has some really interesting and useful links and I would recommend checking it out. I’ve found the articles on anxiety particularly interesting.
Autism Resources for Families
Sesame Street Autism Resources for Parents
Reduce the Noise: Help Loved Ones with Sensory Overload Enjoy Shopping
CDC Autism Links and Resources
Operation Autism for Military Families
Academic Accommodation Resources
Temple Grandin’s Teaching Tips
Taking your Child with Autism to the Orthodontist
Estate Planning for Parents of Kids with Autism
Another recently discovered website is MyGrants.co.uk. This website is easy to navigate and includes a whole range of useful grants for disabled adults and children. I have used Family Fund to buy sensory equipment for my son but was unaware of many of the other grants listed here. There are some great links, all easy to follow – wish I’d found this site sooner.