Since I began my review site, Digital-Storytime, two years ago I have had the privilege to meet many wonderful people in the app industry and develop collaborative relationships with some of the site owners behind the best kids app sites on the web. With 2013 being called (for the 3rd year in a row, perhaps) “The Year of the Tablet”, it seems fitting that I share my list of the very best resources for parents, educators, librarians and anyone looking for educational games, books and more in app form for kids. So whether you’ve had an iPad since April of 2010 or are just getting a tablet for the first time this holiday season, this list may come in handy when researching great apps.
This is the site I began in 2010 and reviews only iPad book apps for readers 2-12. With over 600 reviews so far, it is one of the largest collections of detailed reviews of book apps. Each review includes a 9-point star rating system that includes metrics like Educational Value, Suitability for Bedtime Reading, Originality, Animation, Interactivity and Re-Readability. Every book has an overall rating on a 5-Star system. You can sort the site to see the best apps in any category, as well as filter only for books available in different languages, for different age groups and even by price. Unlike most sites, we have regular price scans four times/day, keeping our prices up to date, even for our oldest reviews. There is also a ‘reviewed books on sale’ page that lists recent price drops from our growing database.
This is the site that evolved from our ‘daily deal page’ on Digital-Storytime.com. Over the first year of our site, we had a lot of requests to promote non-book apps and also discovered a lot of great games, educational apps and even books we were simply unable to cover with full reviews on our main site. As a result, we designed a second database to list our handpicked favorites from the multitude of kids apps that go on sale (often dropping to free) on a regular basis. This site is also set up to automatically scan prices four times/day, making it a great resource for the bargain shopper. A short annotation about each app is listed from iTunes.
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This is one of the top review sites for kids educational apps, games and books. They strive for meticulousness and honesty in their reviews, both positive and negative. Their goal is to be the most complete source for parents and educators looking for reliable info on an app before making a purchase.
I met site owner Ron Engel over a year ago and was immediately impressed with the depth of his reviews of the apps that he tested with his own kids. Each full review is on a 5-star rating scale, and unlike most other sites, they include some very low as well as lots of highly rated apps. So far, I’ve never been burned by anything recommended highly by Ron for my personal purchases for my own child. Ron’s site has since grown to feature many talented reviewers and covers a lot of app territory. They also have a fabulous list of the Top 100 Free Apps as part of their regular “Good Free App of the Day” feature. The site is nicely indexed by age and subject and also hosts a lot of special giveaways.
This site was founded by Jennifer Bogart. She has children ages newborn to 10 years old & is an “app-loving, aspiring geek dedicated to helping you hunt down the best homeschooling apps”. Reviews on her site include everything from Toddlers to Tweens. For homeschoolers, by a homeschooler, is her motto. Her site is a great resource for all parents & educators looking for high quality apps for kids.
I have been deeply impressed by the level of detail and thoughtful testing that Jennifer does with her kids for every app. I also love that her reviews have both a kid and mom rating, as well as an overall rating on a 5-point scale. She is a real mom and does take ‘site vacations’ (something I highly recommend as a site owner myself), but she is well worth waiting for when she does publish new reviews. She is also a talented writer, so it’s a joy reading her posts, including ones she has done for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine online.
This site was co-founded by Jayne Clare, a Special Education teacher, & Anne Rachel, an artist & Early Childhood educator. Their goal is to be a credible resource for quality educational apps. Created to help parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators & anyone else, wade through the vast number of ”educational” apps being introduced on a daily basis. Founded by two lifelong educators, TWA is dedicated to the idea that quality mobile educational apps are the tools of the future but they need to be used responsibly. Not all educational apps are created equal is their motto, something I can definitely agree with!
I love Jayne & Anne’s reviews and articles about education and tech. They have really created an inspirational site that has a lot of integrity and top-notch writing. They also review a wide range of apps for kids and talk about how these apps can be used in a classroom setting. The depth of their reviews makes this one of those sites I am eager to read myself, before reviewing something, since they often will catch aspects of an app I might miss. They also host a fabulous weekly Facebook chat for an hour on Thursday nights, 6pm PT/9pm ET on their page for Educators, called “EdAppTalk“. Just request to be a member of the group and tell them Carisa from Digital-Storytime sent you.
Amanda, Alison, Mary and Grace – are four mothers from different parts of the world dedicated to educating parents about the best digital stories, educational apps, fun games & technology products available for children. The four iMums have ELEVEN kids among them ranging in age from 1 to 17 and bring a global perspective to their app reviews with the original iMum Amanda being from Australia, Alison is in America, Grace is from Singapore and Mary is from the UK but is currently living in America. This Australian-based blog has hundreds of reviews of family friendly iOS and MacOS apps and products.
Initially, this site was started by Amanda Powell, who lives in Australia. She began a vibrant site and had the foresight to invite three more moms to help run it with her. The other moms are also great writers and between them, they have nearly a dozen kids, giving them just the right perspective on a wide range of kids apps. I had the pleasure of meeting Mary in person when doing a presentation in San Francisco this fall and had a great time comparing notes about how much work it is to keep a top-notch site up and running. These four moms do a fabulous job covering apps, news about the industry and have lots of great giveaways and promotions going on nearly all the time. Four moms is certainly better than one!
This site was founded by Nathalie van Ee, mother of three and always on the lookout for top educational apps to support her kids learning in a fun way! She is also the co-founder of AppStar Picks, a free app listing top reviews for kids, from a network of trusted websites. She created her site as a way to help parents, educators and teachers discover great apps. Together with her kids, they try new apps on an ongoing basis.
I met Nat through the ParentsWithApps.com forums and was very impressed with how she managed to navigate the industry, being diplomatic and supportive of independent developers, while still providing a great service to her readers by covering a wide variety of kids apps. She also has a wonderful listing of sale & free apps using our software (developed for edapps4sale), so this part of her site is also updated for price four times/day.
My other Favorite Sites:
This is a wonderful and useful site for anyone looking for educational apps. Many of the apps covered by this site include detailed ways that the app can be used in a school setting, with particular attention given to IEP goals that many apps can meet for kids in special education programs. It was started by Siva Kumar, a specialist in educational tech and dedicated parent. He has also recently launched a wonderful sale site called “AppyMall.com” which lists sale apps and hosts lots of great specials for holiday events and regular sales. Siva has been instrumental in starting a series of collaborative “Appy” Parties on Facebook where they give away promo codes and more. You can find out more by checking out his Facebook group, where you also can ask questions about apps for special education use while finding out about great price drops on a variety of kids apps and assistive technology devices.
Heather Leister began this site long before the iPad came out, but she reviews lots more than just iPhone apps now. Along with a team of helpers, this mom of four manages to cover some of the hottest kids apps with detailed evaluations of what she likes and doesn’t like in a way that is easy to read and very informative. She navigates the industry in a way that is so polished and classy, I have yet to find anyone that is a well-regarded by both developers and readers. She also has lots of great freebies to share and has one of the cutest site logos I’ve come across on the web.
Lesley Taylor started this site several years ago and it is one of the most popular on the web. Along with her talented staff of reviews, she covers a wide-range of apps, including top-notch book app reviews. Her site is also a great place to check out for her weekly round-up of FREE App Friday deals. I have been impressed with the depth of many of the book reviews on her site, especially from reviewer Tracy Braatz, who I have become friends with over the past year. Her reviews are thoughtful and refreshing.
Carol Leynse Harpold, began this site after more than 30 years of Occupational Therapy experience in early intervention, school based therapy, acute care, long term care, home health and adult rehabilitation. She has created a site that reviews apps in detail for OT use, and has a Masters of Science in Adaptive Education/Assistive Technology with 15 years experience with evaluating and coordinating assistive technology services in education of elementary, middle school, secondary and post secondary students. Her experience shows in her reviews, providing the kind of depth that OTs and parents/educators with kids in OT programs can find very useful in the selection of just the right app.
Moms With Apps was spearheaded by four moms who were developing family-friendly apps and connected over Twitter in November of 2009. What started as a small brainstorming session on cross-marketing soon grew into a much larger and more diverse collaboration of developers. Original founders included Alesha Bishop and Jill Seman from MomMaps, Lynette Mattke from PicPocket Books, and Lorraine Akemann from My Busy Kit. One of our first Dads With Apps, Scott Weiner, set up the first forum, which is now called Parents With Apps.
Lorraine is now the main contributor to this site, sharing a variety of blog posts about the role of edtech in our children’s lives. This site isn’t really a review site, but it’s a fabulous resource for both developers and consumers looking for great kids apps. I’d especially recommend checking out this site on Fridays, for their stellar listing each week for an event they created called #AppFriday. They also feature a great weekly app report featuring new releases and a wonderful assortment of articles that are useful to parents, educators and developers exploring the educational app industry.
Director of Education, Carolina Nugent, is the heart of this site, also known as, “The Educational App Store for Busy Parents”. The KinderTown app transforms mobile devices into powerful teaching tools by finding and organizing the best educational apps for kids ages 3-8 years old. Their mission is to improve early childhood education by empowering busy parents with the tools to be better teachers. They work hard to ﬁnd the best educational apps for children. Each app they select for has been tested and reviewed by educators, parents, and most importantly, children. Not all, or even most of the apps in the market meet their high standards, since they take many factors into account including educational value, ease of use, engagement value, design features, artwork, cost, and shelf life.
I have been very impressed with this site and their free app, which provides excellent curation of top quality apps for kids, as well as a series of thoughtful articles that showcase ways to use apps and expand on the learning in ways that take kids off-line as well. They also put out an annual parents guide, which is an excellent resource for finding out about some of the best apps on the market. Check out the Kindertown Facebook page for special events with tons of free promo codes for great apps, including one this Saturday (12/29/2012)!
This is an excellent resource for parents to bookmark for all types of media and tech use by kids of all ages. It is a non-profit organization with the mission of improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. They started in response to the fact that our nation’s children spend more time with media and digital activities than they do with their families or in school, which profoundly impacts their social, emotional, and physical development. As a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, they provide trustworthy information and tools, as well as an independent forum, so that families can have a choice and a voice about the media they consume.
This comprehensive site covers video games on many formats, as well as movies, apps and other kinds of media. They also have great resource articles about handling social media use by teens, balancing your families ‘media diet’ and other topics to help every parent become tech-savvy.
Touch & Go is a blog from SLJ that focuses on reviews of book apps and is an excellent resource for parents, teachers & librarians. They bring a wealth of experience and insight to the new field of app reviews, focusing primarily on book apps. They don’t review a lot of apps, but they do regularly showcase some of the very best books to come to market, along with the kinds of insights only professional librarians can offer. This site also has a wealth of other great information for parents, educators and children’s librarians.
Founded in 1933, Kirkus has been an authoritative voice in book discovery for almost 80 years. Kirkus Reviews magazine gives industry professionals a sneak peek at the most notable books being published weeks before they’re released. When the books become available for purchase, Kirkus serves the reviews to consumers in a weekly email newsletter and on KirkusReviews.com, giving readers unbiased, critical recommendations they can trust. They now also have iPad app reviews, including hundreds of top book apps reviewed by professional book critics. Their reviews are excellent, with a literary sensibility. They also have a great ‘Kirkus Star’ feature to help you find the very best titles, making this a must-bookmark site for book app lovers. I often check their site before doing the final edit on my own reviews, to see what aspects of a book they liked (or hated).
So, these are my favorite sites … did I miss any that you love? Please let me know in the comments or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be adding new sites to this post as I discover them!