Take Five for Family Engagement: Early Learning Apps from the Fred Rogers Center

| February 22, 2014 | 0 Comments

Take Five – Quick Ideas for Family Engagement

This month’s “Take 5” post features five free iPhone apps (plus one free Android app) created by the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. With these fun apps, designed for young children and their families to use together, you can go on a photo scavenger hunt, enhance family routines and engage in active, outdoor play.

The Fred Rogers Center website also is a stunning resource for early learning, with a wonderful blog and great tips for caregivers and early childhood educators. Of special note is their new early learning environment, ELE, designed to guide the use of digital media to support early learning and development.

Five FREE iPhone Apps for Families with Young Children

Alien Assignment

Greetings from the Gloop family and the Fred Rogers Center!  Alien Assignment is a fun game that encourages problem solving and discovery. The Gloop family’s spaceship has crashed and they need your help to repair their spaceship! Take pictures of your world to help the spaceship computer remember how to fix the ship and fly this lovable family of aliens back to their home planet.

Follow a simple Scavenger Hunt and snap photos of everyday items using the camera on your mobile device. Listen closely as Gleep and Glop give you fun clues that will have you up on your feet and searching for that perfect item to photograph. Then, review your photos with a grown-up to fix broken parts of the spaceship with each picture!  Have fun!

Alien Assignment provides a lot of chances for adults and children to play together. When children show-off their photos or hand the phone to their grown-up, adults can use that moment as a chance to talk about what their children took photographs of, and why. You may be surprised by some of the creative answers!

Developed by Fred Rogers Center Early Career Fellow Craig Schatten. Click here to download Alien Assignment through iTunes.

Everyday Grooves

Everyday Grooves are musical alarms that help to establish routines and structure in the everyday lives of parents and young children for daily events such as reading, brushing teeth, and getting dressed.

Using Everyday Grooves is simple – the app helps users set up musical prompts throughout the day to help children transition to new activities. When the alarm goes off, turn the volume up so your child can hear and sing along. Or, just play the songs when it is convenient for you!

Each piece is an original song in the style of popular music on the radio, and lyrically walks families through suggested steps for the routine.

12 songs are included for these everyday routines: Wake Up!; Brush Your Teeth!; Get Dressed; Get Ready, Let’s Go; Let’s Read!; Love You!; Clean Up; Say Goodbye; I’m Thankful; Let’s Eat!; Bath Time!; and Let’s Rest.

Developed by Fred Rogers Center Early Career Fellow Adam Blau. Click here to download Everyday Grooves through iTunes.

Go NiNi

Go NiNi is a game for children ages three to five that helps young children and their caregivers understand the importance of healthy food choices and active play. Children help NiNi run, jump, and stay active over the course of a day by choosing from a range of available foods. Children become familiar with different foods along a Go!-Slow!-Whoa! continuum (adapted from theCATCH Program). GO foods are good to eat anytime, SLOW Foods are only good to eat sometimes and WHOA foods are only good to eat once in a while. The app also encourages conversation between adults and children about healthy food and daily activity.

How should I use this app?
Play Go NiNi before meals or snacks in order to help children understand the importance of healthy eating. Talk to children about how some foods are good to eat all of the time (like fruits and vegetables), and some foods should be eaten sparingly (like high-sugar desserts). Remember – it’s ok to eat treats once in a while! Before or after playing, discuss the foods that your family eats and explain that when children eat well, they get the fuel they need to play and be active all day long.

What are some questions to ask children when playing Go NiNi?
Here are a few questions to get started: Which food do you think will make NiNi run fastest? What food will make NiNi slow? What happens if we eat too many ‘Whoa’ foods? What are some Go foods that we eat at our house? Follow-up your questions by asking Why do you think that? to get children into the habit of giving reasons for their thinking.

Developed by Fred Rogers Center Early Career Fellow Niloufar Behrouz. Click here to download Go NiNi through iTunes.


Out-A-Bout is an iPhone App intended to encourage physical activity, outdoor play, early literacy, and parent-child interaction, for children ages 3 to 5.  Parents and children receive prompts to perform certain outdoor, physical activities (e.g., running, jumping, climbing).

Using the phone, parents take still photographs of their children engaged in the activities, and the photographs are uploaded into a pre-developed story narrative for subsequent viewing, reading together, and conversation. (Out-A-Bout was developed for optimal use with iPhone 3G.)

Developed by Fred Rogers Center Early Career Fellows Mary Gillis and Julie Polvinen. Click here to download Out-A-Bout through iTunes.

Super Home Hero

Oh no! The laundry has taken over the house!
Super Home Hero provides your family with opportunities to explore math, science and critical thinking concepts while doing an everyday activity- the laundry. Discover super hero pretend play, interactive games and suggestions for simple activities or in-depth discussions along the way. Your young child will use super hero abilities in order to complete each cycle of the laundry with your help. But be careful! There are silly dirt monsters and water blobs lurking about. Only your little one can unlock each laundry cycle and collect badges to save the day!

How should I use this app?
Play Super Home Hero before doing the laundry in order to prepare young children for the experience or bring the app out on the road to encourage children to participate and make connections in real time. Use the in-game questions as a way to have interesting and fun conversations with your children. Be sure to ask, “What makes you think that?” You may be surprised by some of their creative answers!

Developed by Fred Rogers Center Early Career Fellow LaToye Adams. Click here to download Super Home Hero through iTunes.

For Android:

Nina & Peanut

Meet four-year old Nina and her best friend Peanut! Nina & Peanut: Make the Animal Sounds is an interactive storybook that can help young children develop English and Spanish vocabulary. Nina is visiting her grandparents’ ranch where everyone speaks Spanish, including the animals. Nina needs your help to learn all the animal sounds in Spanish!

Read with your child and help her recognize the animals on a ranch and how to make their sounds in Spanish. Children can participate by recording and playing their own animal sounds to call the animals! Learning about sounds in different languages is a unique way to introduce children to bilingual language learning.

Developed by Fred Rogers Center Early Career Fellow Belinda Arredondo. Click here to download Nina & Peanut through Google Play.


For more information, visit the Fred Rogers Center website.

Category: All About Apps, iPads in Education, Take Five, Top 10 Lists

About the Author ()

Carisa Kluver is the the editor of Digital-Storytime.com, an iPad children's book review site. She has a BA in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and an MSW from the University of Washington. Before starting this project, she was a school counselor, health educator and researcher in child & maternal health.