My 99: Reviews of iPad Apps for Kids

There are a LOT of apps for the iPad. A LOT. It can be quite a job to sift through the apps that are just for fun, much less evaluate the educational apps for children with special needs.This post will include a short summary and my best attempt to rate the apps we’ve come across. Although I always have Case in mind (since this is his iPad), we have two other children who test many of these apps as well, so at least for us, these ratings are applicable across the board.

My First PuzzlesSources for the list. When Case got his original iPad from the school system, they had already loaded many different speech therapy, educational, and “reward” apps (those apps that are just fun that the child gets to do intermittently between educational apps to reward them for their work). When we began the process of thinking about Case having an iPad 2 that would allow us to change the apps, add Netflix and Skype for traveling with the trial, and basically tailor it to his ever changing needs, I started collecting lists of educational apps and special needs apps, comparing them, discarding some, and finding the ones we preferred. Add to that some recommendations from friends (some of whom are in special education), some free apps I’ve tested, and other non-kid apps that are helpful when you have a child with special needs (or sometimes, any child at all).

Additional advice:

  1. Use the app AppShopper to find apps that used to cost money but have become free, sometimes for a short a time as a day. Set the filters to Free, Price Drops, All, and All Categories. Check it every 1-2 days to start getting a bunch of new apps for free. There are always a lot of games, but it only takes a minute or two to sift through and find new apps for free that you can just delete if you don’t like them. About 10 apps on our list were obtained free from this, although only a few have become hits.
  2. Consider the advantages and disadvantages with jailbreaking your iPad or iPhone. I never intended to even know what this practice was until I was shocked to find there was no way to keep Case from jumping in and out of apps quickly and from going into apps that were too sophisticated for him and where he could wreak havoc. So basically, we jailbroke Case’s iPad solely to use IncarcerApp and Lockdown Pro (see list for description), but I’ve since found additional tweaks and jailbroken apps that are helpful. We’ve not experienced any problems related to jailbreaking and the usefulness of these apps has far outweighed the risks for us. Your decision may be different.
  3. Every child is different, so take these with a grain of salt.
  4. My ratings are an analysis of the value of the app compared to the price for our family – a 4-year old child with special needs and a changing cognitive level, as well as a kindergartener and first grader. You may decide that an app I’ve given 1 * to is fabulous for your child!
  5. New apps are coming out all the time, so this list could be totally different a year from now!
  6. Please comment with additional app suggestions or disagreements!

US iTunes, App Store, iBookstore, and Mac App StoreMy 99. With that being said, below is our list of apps with commentary and our perspective about their usefulness for kids like Case, as well as ratings of 1 – 5 stars. You can (1) click on the name of the app for a link to the iTunes Preview, (2) choose to view the entire list of 99 apps, (3) sort the list by any heading description, (4) search the list, or (5) download the list.

NOTE: Case’s favorite apps are highlighted in red.

AppCategoryPriceDeveloperPurpose5-star rating
10 Pin ShuffleGames$3.99Digital Smoke LLCEasy to use bowling and shuffleboard with up to 2 players, versus computer, or peer-to-peer****
123 Color HDEducation$1.99Steve GlinbergDigital coloring and coloring by matching letters/numbers to certain colors (kind of a digital color-by-number)***
ABA Flashcards ActionsEducationFREEKindergarten.comVocabulary flashcards for speech/language; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Flashcards AlphabetEducationFREEKindergarten.comVocabulary flashcards for speech/language; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Flashcards Earth ScienceEducationFREEKindergarten.comVocabulary flashcards for speech/language; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Flashcards EmotionsEducationFREEKindergarten.comVocabulary flashcards for speech/language; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Flashcards Fruits & NutsEducationFREEKindergarten.comVocabulary flashcards for speech/language; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Flashcards Musical InstrumentsEducationFREEKindergarten.comVocabulary flashcards for speech/language; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Flashcards ShapesEducationFREEKindergarten.comVocabulary flashcards for speech/language; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Flashcards SportsEducationFREEKindergarten.comVocabulary flashcards for speech/language; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Flashcards Things You EatEducationFREEKindergarten.comVocabulary flashcards for speech/language; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Flashcards Things You Play WithEducationFREEKindergarten.comVocabulary flashcards for speech/language; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Flashcards Things You WearEducationFREEKindergarten.comVocabulary flashcards for speech/language; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Flashcards VegetablesEducationFREEKindergarten.comVocabulary flashcards for speech/language; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Flashcards VehiclesEducationFREEKindergarten.comVocabulary flashcards for speech/language; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Flashcards Zoo AnimalsEducationFREEKindergarten.comVocabulary flashcards for speech/language; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Problem Solving: Healthy HabitsEducation$0.99Kindergarten.comSpeech/language concepts; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Problem Solving: What Rhymes?Education$0.99Kindergarten.comSpeech/language concepts of rhyming; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Problem Solving: Which Does Not Belong?Education$0.99Kindergarten.comSpeech/language concepts of what doesn't belong in various types of groupings ; very user friendly for kids.*****
ABA Problem Solving: Which Go TogetherEducation$0.99Kindergarten.comSpeech/language concepts of which items belong together (lamp/lightbulb, etc.) ; very user friendly for kids.*****
Baby Flash Cards 2 HDEducation$1.99Dream CortexFlashcards in various categories**
Balloon Pop ChallengeEducation$0.99Klivin.comPopping balloons by color, odds/evens, and math up the chain of difficulty. Good hand/eye coordination and response time assessor. Great tracking of progress.***
Barney Game PackGames$1.99HiT EntertainmentVery simplistic game that is cute if your child loves Barney, but not too educational.**
Bubble HarpMusic$1.99Scott Sona SnibbeUnique music app that creates music and beautiful lines as you drag your finger around***
Critter CrunchGames$1.99StarwaveFun game of feeding critters to each other***
Curious George and the Birthday SurpriseBooks$3.99Iceberg ReaderBook has autoplay and page turning choices and allows you to record your voice reading the story. Coloring pages also.****
CydiaJailbreak AppsFREESaurikAllows you to find jailbroken apps like IncarcerApp and Lockdown Pro. Automatically downloads with JailbreakMe.***
Doodle BuddyProductivityFREEPinger, Inc.Fun drawing app with lots of stamp effects (that make sound effects) and fun backgrounds****
DropboxProductivityFREEDropboxAllows you to upload and access files from anywhere with a wifi connection; medical records, for example*****
First Words Flash Cards: Around TownEducation$0.99Smart Baby AppsSpeech/language - easy to use flashcards of categories around town (additional photos can be added). One of Case's favorite flashcard apps. NOTE: I cannot find this app on iTunes anymore.*****
First Words: DeluxeEducation$2.99Learning TouchLetter ID and matching*****
Fish School HDEducation$1.99Duck Duck MooseFish make letters, numbers, shapes. Can also work on the alphabet song, colors, differences, and matching.**
Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the BedBooks$2.99Oceanhouse MediaClassic book with read to me, read it myself, and autoplay features. Sound and visual effects.**
Garage BandMusic$4.99AppleUse a multitude of instruments to create real songs. With help, Case loves playing and remixing drums, piano, and audio.*****
GraceEducation$37.99Steven Troughton-SmithCommunication app (nonaudio). Not for Case really.**
Great SingerEducationFREERuixin OnlineAllow you to sing karaoke style to some traditional kids songs, recording and saving your work.***
HarmoniousEntertainmentFREEThe Angry Robot Zombie FactoryDrawing app with unique sketchy paintbrushes***
I Hear Ewe - Animal Sounds for ToddlersGamesFREEClaireware SoftwareAnimal and vehicle sounds**
I See EweEducation$0.99Claireware SoftwareLearning animals as well as a memory/matching game***
iAdvocateEducationFREESyracuse UniversityIncludes strategies for inclusion, responses to school objections, and other resources***
iBooksBooksFREEAppleOrganize files, such as PDFs of medical and other records****
ICDL Books for ChildrenBooksFREEICDL FoundationAllows you to download some free books and search by age group, length, subject, and style. User interface can be complicated and books are often not as engaging as paid options, but once mastered, it is a good free option for unique stories, especially for older children.**
IEP ChecklistReferenceFREENurvee LLCReference chart of IDEA sections related to IEPs, allows you to send a checklist and record the meeting**
iMoviePhotography$4.99AppleQuickly and easily create movies of your child. Effective for IEP meetings, family moments.****
IncarcerApp [Download from Cydia]Jailbreak AppsFREEHannah PapppahAn app for jailbroken idevices that allows you to disable the home button, effectively trapping your child in an app you want them to work on. You can select the function that triggers the app.*****
iPractice Verbs 2.0Education$10.99Smarty Ears AppsFlashcards and ID'ing verbs - present, present progressive, and past, as well as used in phrases and sentences. Navigation is still a little complex for Case.****
iReading HD - Virtue Education Story SeriesBooks$0.99Max Stage10 stories with read, record, painting, games, and postcard options***
Itsy Bitsy SpiderGames$1.99Duck Duck MooseFun and interactive scenes singing Itsy Bitsy Spider (many languages, you can also sing it yourself). If you get only one Duck Duck Moose app, this one seems to have the most things to do on it.*****
iWrite WordsEducation$2.99gdiplusTracing upper and lower case letters and numbers; great for pre-writing.*****
JailbreakMe 3.0Jailbreak AppsFREEComexSimple jailbreak for iPad2 (and almost all iOS devices running versions 4.3 to 4.3.3) that allows you to run apps outside the App store*****
Jigsaw BoxGames$1.99Sparkle AppsLOTS of jigsaw puzzles - from kids 16-64 pieces or adult 36-208 pieces****
JumpStart Preschool Magic of Learning 1Education$1.99Knowledge AdventurePuzzles, memory, size, matching, books. User interface is somwhat difficult for little kids.*
Kiddie QuestionsEducation$2.99LIMNETAsks and answers who, what, where, why, and when questions.***
Kids Can Sing - Old MacDonaldEntertainment$1.99Kids PlaceCartoon version (with some interaction) of scenes singing Old McDonald.**
Letters A-ZEducation$0.99Refresh MediaSimple animated letter flashcards with phonic sound available***
Lockdown Pro [Download from Cydia]Jailbreak Apps$2.99ipadtouchmasterAllows you to set passwords for apps and folders, keeping your child out of non-child apps where they can do damage*****
Magic PianoMusicFREESmuleInteresting music app that rewards tapping the correct spot. Great for kids a little older.***
Matching ZooGamesFREETomato Interactive LLCMemory/matching game of zoo animals***
Miss Spider's Tea PartyBooks$4.99Callaway Arts & EntertainmentReading and listening to Miss Spider books, matching, coloring, and 6-12 piece puzzles.****
Model Me Going Places 2EducationFREEModel Me KidsModel behaviors and sequence at haridresser, mall, doctor, playground, grocery store, and restaurant.***
Monkey Preschool LunchboxGames$0.99THUP GamesMatching, size, shapes, counting, simple puzzles, letters, colors with simple rewards****
My First PuzzlesGames$1.99Alexandre MenardDrag and drop inset and multiple piece puzzles, visual-spatial skills. Case's favorite puzzle app.*****
My First Puzzles: DinosaursGamesFREEAlexandre MenardPuzzles that get more complex as you are required to solve them in alphabetical order (each piece has a letter).****
My First WordsEducationFREEAlligator AppsEasy to use flashcards and can also add your own photos.*****
My Reef 3DEntertainment$2.99raiX UGKids can design a 3D acquarium, pick their fish and interact with them. Cheap pets!****
NetflixEntertainmentFREENetflix, Inc.Movies at hotels and hospitals and everywhere in between [requires a Netflix subscription]*****
Nick Jr.'s A to Z with Moose & ZeeGames$1.99NickelodeonFinding letters in pictures; fun.****
Old MacDonaldGames$1.99Duck Duck MooseFun and interactive scenes singing Old McDonald (many languages, you can also sing it yourself)****
Oz SoundBoardEntertainment$0.99PowerSlave DevelopmentsRepeats sound clips from The Wizard of Oz. Case is obsessed with this movie, so we use it as a reward app.**
PBS KidsEducationFREEPBS KidsWith wifi access, allows you to watch clips of 17 popular PBS Kids shows****
Preschool 14 in 1Education$0.99Deepak DemiwalLots of options for the money - words, animals, games, drawing, math, but you are probably better off spending more for apps that are more focused and easy to navigate. Computer voice is also a little annoying.**
Preschool AdventureEducation$0.993DAL, LLCColors, numbers, shapes, body parts, simple matching, sounds, typing.*
Preschool MusicEducation$0.993DAL, LLCColorful but basic keyboard and animal music app*
Proloquo2GoEducation$189.99AssistiveWareBest augmentative communication app around. Can easily organize and add photos or web pics, create a picture schedule, etc.*****
Question BuilderEducation$2.99Mobile Education ToolsPractice why, where, how, and what questions. Child needs to be able to read and select the answer options to use this.*
Receptive Identification - FFC CombinedEducation$0.99Kindergarten.comSpeech/language receptive communication concepts; very user friendly for kids.*****
Ribbit Match 2Games$0.99Joshua WeaverShape matching**
SceneSpeakEducation$14.99Good Karma ApplicationsCreate scenes and cards with audio. Steep learning curve for adult to set-up but we have not yet utilized this much. Looks quite interesting.**
Scribble LiteEntertainmentFREEZintinEasy to use simple drawing app***
Sequencing!Education$0.99Miss Robin's RoomSequencing of 3 cards for a simple story.***
Sesame Street: The PlaygroundBooks$1.99Sesame StreetBook has autoplay and page turning choices and allows you to record your voice reading the story. Coloring pages also.***
ShapeBuilderEducation$0.99Darren Murtha DesignsDrag and drop zigzag puzzles****
Shape-O ABC'sGames$1.99BellamonDrag and drop multi-piece inset puzzles, visual-spatial, OT.*****
Signing TimeEducation$4.99CMGDev, LLCGreat app for teaching and learning simple signs. Also includes some Signing Time videos. Case loved this app.****
SkypeSocial NetworkingFREESkype Software S.a.r.l.Great for live video talking to family and friends while at hotels, hospitals, and other wifi locations. Webcam is not as clear on an iPad as most laptops.****
Sleeping BeautyBooksFREEAppleTree BooksDigital book with autoplay and page turn options and allows you to record your voice reading.**
Sticker SafariGames$1.99MT AppsMatching with simple rewards**
Super WhyGames$2.99PBS KidsPhonics, letter tracing, simple reading***
SwapsiesEducation$0.99Spinlight StudioPutting on the costumes of community helpers, matching.*****
Talking Ben the DogEntertainmentFREEOutfit 7Cause and effect, fun. Animal repeats you and you can make him do certain things.****
Talking Tom Cat & Talking Tom Cat 2EntertainmentFREEOutfit 7Cause and effect, fun. Animal repeats you and you can make him do certain things.***
Teach Me ToddlerEducation$0.9924x7 Digital LLCBEST app for basic concepts of letters, numbers, shapes, counting, phonics, and colors. Great options, rewards, and tracking system. Allows tracking up to 4 students. We have the kindergarten and 1st grade versions too and love them just as much - they have stepped up each aspect as well as the types of rewards and options for each level.*****
The Cat in the HatBooks$3.99Oceanhouse MediaDr. Suess book with read to me, read it myself, and autoplay features. Sound and visual effects.***
The Cat that Wouldn't MoveBooks$4.99Orange BooksBook with limited options. Text is quite small and contains content that might be considered offensive (animated cat is shown peeing in a bowl held by a child)*
Time TimerProductivity$1.99Time Timer LLCVisual timer up to 60 minutes with several modes and display options. Can set and save specific time periods.*****
Toy Story Digital BookBooksFREEDisneyDigital book with autoplay and page turn options and allows you to record your voice reading. Also includes painting, music, and games.****
Tozzle LiteGamesFREEnodeflexion.comDrag and drop shape puzzles.Great free app to see if your child might like these types of puzzles.***
Wheels on the Bus HDEducation$1.99Duck Duck MooseFun and interactive scenes singing Wheels on the Bus (many languages, you can also sing it yourself)****
Wonder MemoryGames$0.99wonderkind AppsMemory/matching game - you can choose complexity from 2x2 to 9x4 and several types of pictures. You can watch the number of tries and time it takes.****

About Melissa

Proud mom of Case (8, MPS II), Tyson (10), and Brock (9). Advocate. Speaker. Writer. Inventor. House cleaner. Babysitter. Taxi Driver.