Oh Those Devices! Gentle Play Apps for the Very Young

I’m betting an awful lot of kids out there received some fancy gadget or another under the Christmas tree. If you’re looking for suggestions about what apps to put on them, Commonsense Media has posted this helpful list of educational apps, listed by device (iPad, iPhone, Android Tablet, Android Phone, Kindle Fire) and then by age.

In our house we’re marking our first anniversary of iPhone / iPad fun. We’ve done a few of the blockbuster competitive games – the ones that focus on working ever upward in difficulty, unlocking new levels, earning points or virtual cash, and always trying for a new high score – but I’ve never been too keen on games that are designed to get you addictively playing them for hours on end. I love the more calming apps, ones that don’t score, don’t have a timer clicking down, and don’t whip kids into a frenzy at bedtime. (or ever)

My favourite discoveries of the past year have been the non-competitive, more creative apps. Here are a few of the ones we have enjoyed… (iPhone/iPad apps)

Toca Hair Salon (Toca Boca)

Toca Hair Salon

Mick (Toca Tailor Fairy Tales)

Toca Tailor Fairy Tales

TOCA BOCA games!

There are lots of them, and they are all way cool. The design is unusual, the characters are funny and appealing, the activities are creative, gentle and non-competitive. (What a nice break from the majority of game apps!)

Some Toca Boca apps, like House, Store, and Tea Party, are designed for preschoolers, with age appropriate activities – simply moving items back and forth to accomplish simple tasks. I particularly like the House one, because it’s all about housecleaning!

Kitchen (Toca House by Toca Boca)

Toca House

Toca Robot Lab (Toca Boca)

Toca Robot Lab

The Hair Salon, Tailor, Robot Lab, and others are aimed at slightly older kids, maybe 5 – 8 year olds, but they are quirky enough to appeal to even older kids and simple enough to entrance the preschoolers as well. These are All-Ages Apps!

In our house Toca Hair Salon has been a particularly enduring favourite with my six-year-old, especially now since they’ve put out a new edition (Hair Salon 2). And I am particularly thankful to this app for diverting her from those dreadful beauty salon apps in which you put makeup on glassy-eyed, Barbie-like supermodels. Oorg.

Toca Tailor also deserves a special mention because it includes the intoxicating possibilities of taking a photograph of a fabric, texture, background, or person, and using it to create your clothing designs. (My daughter became entranced with taking a photo of the girl wearing a photo of herself wearing a photo of herself wearing a… )

(Check out Toca games here.)

My Playhome

My Playhome

This one is not a Toca game, but also great for preschoolers: My PlayHome – A simple playhouse where you move family members and objects around a house. Simple but compelling, and again, a gentle, stress-free app.

Future posts to come: art apps, music apps, math apps, science apps… I don’t presume to review every app out there, but whenever we come across a great one, I will certainly let you know!

Related RKOB Posts

The Land of Apps

More on Gadgetry

Websites and Apps for Kids – Recommendations


All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.