Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

iPad for Preschoolers #3 Let's Pretend

Some of my little guy's favourite apps are those that allow him to play pretend. He enjoys exploring different roles both in the 'real world' and using technology. We don't set a strict time-frame for screen time (TV, iPad etc) however, we make a point of finding time for other forms of play. The iPad forms only one small aspect of his total play time. In most cases, he would prefer to take down one of his toy boxes and play pretend with actual objects. The iPad version proves most useful when he needs some down-time, or when we are travelling. That said, there are some great apps available which spark the imagination and provide opportunities for children to play pretend and learn while doing so.

Little Charley Bear
This is a simple app and free (at time of writing). It is based on the television program Little Charley Bear which is about a little bear with a big imagination. It contains video segments from the television episodes, with a puzzle challenge mid-way through the shortened episode. I can identify with the narrator in his interactions with Little Charley Bear, and I'm sure my little guy shares the frustrations of Little Charley Bear as the narrator tries to determine the things he is pretending to be/do! My biggest struggle with this app is that it is really just another form of 'watching TV' and while my little guy loves following Little Charley Bear's adventures, it is hard to justify - except as down-time!

Toca Boca Apps
We first discovered Toca Boca through Toca Kitchen Monsters (the lite version of Toca Kitchen) because my little guy loves cooking - both pretend and real. The beauty of these Toca apps is that the children get to cook for someone and see their responses to how it tastes. They select an item from the fridge, prepare it and then serve it. Other apps, such as Baby Chef by MyFirstApp.com, allow children to decorate a meal and photograph it, but it isn't served or eaten. Order Up!! To Go by Chillingo Ltd takes it further than the Toca apps, but is designed for an older audience - thus my little guy needs me to help him with it.
We then tried out Toca Doctor, which allows children to pretend to be a doctor and solve problems to 'fix' the sick person. This involves giving injections, pulling out splinters, cleaning and dressing cuts, removing lice and more!
Toca Store is another of our favourites as we seem to go shopping in the real world on quite a regular basis. This is a great game for two (if you can convince your preschooler to share with you) with one taking on the role of shopper and the other shop keeper. I find it a useful tool for talking about money, numbers and counting as well. My gripe with this app is that if you run out of money, the magic purse winks and gives you more. While I'm sure we would all love a purse like this, it's unfortunately not a reality!
I bought Toca Train as a treat for my little guy, because he SO loves playing with trains. It was a winner! He loves controlling the train, stopping for passengers and reloading the cargo - just as he does when he plays with his wooden train set or Thomas set or Daddy's LEGO trains... (need I go on!)
We got Toca Hair Salon in response to my little guy's reaction to haircuts. We thought that playing with other people's hair might prevent his concerns about having others cut his. We're not quite there yet, but he does enjoy playing with this app and seeing the reactions of his customers when he cuts off all their hair, or sprays it bright colours!
One last app from Toca Boca that is a winner is Helicopter Taxi for iPhone only. It doesn't really qualify for this post, but is worth a mention all the same.

I realise that this post may read as an advertisement for Toca Boca, but this is not the case. They just produce quality products that Preschoolers enjoy. I'd love to see a Toca Builder in the future and maybe a Toca Emergency (eg. Ambulance, Police, Fire Officer).

Have you discovered any similar apps, which provide opportunities for children to role play?

Other posts that might interest you:
Tech Tips Tuesday - iPad for Preschoolers #1 Mathematics Concepts
Tech Tips Tuesday - iPad for Preschoolers #2 Alphabet Apps 

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