Apps are a fun and interactive way to build language, but with over 2 million apps available in the iTunes store alone, it can sometimes be difficult to find the right one. Here are my top 5 apps (all under $5) to develop language and target specific skills.
1. Doodle Buddy
Doodle Buddy is an art based app, which uses fun stamps (with sound effects that are even more fun!), paint and text functions. This app is a fabulous creative drawing app, but can also be used to target a number of other goals, including:
- As a rewards chart – have your child choose a stamp and stamp on to the page after each piece of work. This works especially well for speech sound practice where lots of repetitions of words and sounds are needed.
- Possessive pronouns – choose animal stickers and then have your child choose a sticker to give to each of the animals. As your child gives an animal a sticker ask them “whose (sticker) is it?”, prompting them to use a possessive ‘s’ on the end (e.g. “frog’s”).
- Counting – stick a number of stickers on to the board, and then, using the paint tool, have your child count the number of stickers on the board, crossing them off as they go.
- Use the speech bubbles and the text function to create conversations between characters – try using questions (e.g. “do you like pizza?”, comments (e.g. “I like your hat!”) and common social phrases (e.g. “hello frog”, “have a nice day”)
2. Splingo’s Language Universe
Splingo’s Language Universe is a fabulous interactive app that focuses on following directions to complete levels and ultimately help Splingo, your alien companion, to get home. The settings allow for easy customisation of directions including:
- Selecting the number of main words in a sentence – A choice between 1-4 main words per sentence, which allows more simple directions for beginner language learners and more complex directions for higher level language learners
- Selecting the word ‘type’ as the main word – Splingo provides the option to include nouns (naming words), verbs (action words), prepositions (position words) and adjectives (describing words) in to the directions. It provides the option to use only one type of word in a direction, or a combination of word types to increase the difficulty and complexity of directions.
Price: Free (Full version can be downloaded for $5.99)
My PlayHome is a delightful interactive game which allows users to choose their family members and interact with them through different rooms in their house. Users are able to move the people around and perform daily activities, including making them sit on chairs, jump on the trampoline and eat food. There are also many opportunities to explore the environment such as turning the TV on and off, cooking eggs on the stove, changing clothes and opening and closing curtains. Additional add-on apps can also be purchased including, My PlayHome Schools, My PlayHome Store and My Play Home Hospital. My PlayHome is a great introduction to many language concepts, including:
- Pronouns – Use different scenes to talk about the people and practice using different types of pronouns such as:
- subjective pronouns e.g. ‘who is eating?’ (s/he is, they are)
- possessive pronouns e.g. ‘whose apple is that?’ (his/hers)
- objective pronouns e.g. ‘who will have the next shower?’ (him/her)
- reflexive pronouns e.g. ‘who is she jumping with?’ (herself)
- Verbs (action words) – talk about all of the different actions the family are doing e.g. ‘eating’, ‘jumping’, ‘cooking’. You can expand on these verbs by exploring different tenses:
- past tense – adding ‘-d’ or ‘-ed’ e.g. ‘what did the man do? he cooked‘
- present tense – using ‘is’ with ‘-ing’ endings e.g. ‘what is the man doing? he is cooking‘
- future tense – using ‘will’ e.g. ‘what will the man do next? he will cook’
Toca Kitchen Monsters is a humorous game in which you cook for and feed one of two monsters. The monster will then let you know if he likes what you’re making or not, with some entertaining noises and faces. Use this app to teach language concepts such as:
- likes and dislikes – talk about what the monster likes and dislikes e.g. when the monster says ‘mmm’ and licks his lips he likes that type of food, but when he spits it out and pokes out his tongue, he doesn’t like that food at all!
- verbs – while preparing food, talk about all of the different actions you are using e.g. cutting, stirring, mixing, shaking, boiling. Why not try using the kitchen vocabulary board from our Kids in the Kitchen blog for extra ideas.
- following directions – use different directions concepts like before/after (e.g. before you cut the sausage, boil it in the water), first/next/last (e.g. first get a lemon, next put some salt on it, last feed it to the monster)
Price: Free (Full version can be downloaded for $7.99)
A clear clinic favourite, Sound Touch is a hit with children of all ages. Press on an image and up pops a photo of that image with sound effects. The full version allows you to choose between farm animals, wild animals, birds, transport, musical instruments and household objects. Sound Touch is fantastic for targeting skills such as:
- before/after – ask your child to follow directions using ‘before’ and ‘after’. Try giving instructions with ‘before’ and ‘after’ at the beginning of the direction (e.g. before you touch the pig, touch the cat) or in the middle of the direction (e.g. touch the elephant before you touch the kangaroo). To increase the difficulty, have your child make up a direction for you to follow using ‘before’ or ‘after’
- receptive identification – practice identifying different items by asking your child to ‘find’ objects on different pages (e.g. ‘find dog’). Expand on this expressively by modelling the names of the objects, or their sound (e.g. ‘woof’) and encouraging your child to say it with you
- ‘what am I?’ – use a ‘what am I?’ guessing game to target a range of language skills. Try using categories (e.g. I am a type of transport) and then describing features (e.g. I go on tracks, lots of people can travel in me, I say ‘choo choo’) while your child makes guesses. Extend this activity by switching roles and having your child as the ‘clue giver’ and you as the ‘guesser’