The best apps and games for primary schoolers
Kids tend to like the outdoors, hence many parents finding a collection of pine cones and tiny grubby handprints in their house after a walk in the woods. But the weather doesn’t always like kids. When it’s being uncooperative, you can feed interest in plant life with Namoo.
This interactive book has a gorgeous minimal art style and succinct text. Most importantly, the scenes encourage play and exploration, such as a proddable plant cell that makes beepy sci-fi noises, and a fertilisation section that leaves you with a futuristic-looking angular apple you fear would break your teeth if you bit into it.
Download Namoo for iOS (£3.99)
Download Namoo for Android (£2.69)
Weather by Tinybop
Given that the British are legally obliged to complain about the weather at least 50 times per day, you might as well start your kids off early learning about all things rain, wind, sun and snow.
In Weather by Tinybop, you tap icons, to discover hot-spots that unlock little interactive scenes you can fiddle about with. Kid in a good mood? Watch as they melt ice to help someone fish, or cool things down for a panting dog. A tiny Trump in waiting? Get concerned while they rip apart a house with a tornado, while laughing maniacally and yelling something about climate change being a hoax.
Download Weather by Tinybop for Android (£free + IAP)
Goldilocks and Little Bear
Nosy Crow’s interactive books have long been among our favourite ways to spend child-centered time on the iPad, and its latest is no exception. Goldilocks And Little Bear, which follows the likes of Cinderella and Snow White on to the digital shelves, is a gorgeous thing: beautifully drawn and animated, with no end of lovely details for curious eyes and fingers to discover.
The story is just as special: yes, you’ve heard it before, but Nosy Crow manages to make it sound modern and natural without being gimmicky and naff. It’s also fully interactive; though the very young (or lazy) can just sit and listen as the story is read to them, they’ll get more enjoyment by dragging and swiping around the pages, helping Goldie to clear up the mess she’s made and the bears to eat their porridge. And as they get older, they can read the whole thing for themselves.
Minecraft is great, obviously, but it’s also vast, slightly intimidating and hard to master for the younger end of the gaming spectrum. Toca Blocks is none of those things, while still offering a creative sandbox within which youngsters can let their imaginations run wild.
Like Minecraft, it’s all about digging and building, but because it’s all in 2D it’s a lot easier for younger kids to visualise where their blocks should be placed. Blocks of different types can be very easily combined - just mash them together - to make all manner of different textures and objects and one world can very quickly end up looking completely different from another.
There’s no objective as such, no survival mode, no dangers, so it probably won’t hold their attention past about age five or six – but that’s hardly a problem, as they’ll be ready to level up and move on to Minecraft then anyway.
Download Toca Blocks for iOS (£2.99)
Download Toca Blocks for Android (£2.99)
If you’ve played Underworld and Orbital 24/7 for months, attempting to brainwash your younglings into making electronic music, chances are dumping them in front of ProTools will merely result in bafflement and wide eyes. Enter: Loopimal, essentially ‘My First Sequencing App’.
You drag coloured shapes to empty slots, which trigger canned loops performed by a cartoon creature. Master that and the screen can be split, enabling an animated Fab Four to smash out oddball beats. There’s no going wrong, all songs are in C-major so others can play along, and the funky bass-playing octopus and stompy mammoth need their own record contract immediately. And if you’re hungry for more – or want something a little more advanced – check out the equally awesome Bandimal.
Download Loopimal for iOS (£3.99)
Toca Life: Office
You can’t go wrong with Toca Life apps, which offer a range of scenarios, but Toca Life: Office is our favourite, enabling your kids to imagine what their parents get up to when they go to that exciting-sounding place called ‘work’.
Unfortunately for you, Toca Life: Office is almost certainly more exciting and colourful than your own office, with dozens of objects to muck about with, and discoveries to make. For toddlers, there’s the basic joy of dragging things around, but older kids can revel in messing about with a photocopier, finding secret exits, and hopping into the office helicopter.
Yeah, their office has a helicopter. Jealous now?
We admire the ambition in DNA Play. It aims to introduce kids to the concept of DNA, by way of a puzzle-based interface that results in a monster receiving constant mutations. In reality, we imagine the nuance will be lost, but that doesn’t mean DNA Play isn’t fun to mess about with.
Once your monster’s got all of its parts, further pokes and prods result in radical transformations. Monsters can be further messed with by plonking them on skateboards, scaring them by turning out the lights, and having them dance flamenco (presumably while actual monsters look on, slowly shaking their heads).
Download DNA Play for iOS (£2.99)
Download DNA Play for Android (£2.59)
If you’re concerned your kids spend too much time glued to screens, Foldify cleverly makes them think beyond glass and aluminium. The app kicks off with you selecting a template – such as a blocky human form, car, or arcade cabinet. You then use the app’s tools to decorate your creation.
Whether you’re importing photos, painting like a junior Picasso, or adding more eye and mouth stickers than any one person reasonably needs, Foldify patiently builds up a 3D model of your masterpiece that can be twiddled with a finger. The best bit: you then print it out, cut and fold, and it exists in real life.
Download Foldify for iPad (£3.99)
Download Foldify for iPhone (£2.99)