Back to School With iPhone and iPad Apps

I’m sure summer holidays used to last longer when I was young. with lightning speed this summer season seems to be turning from day-trips and holidays to thoughts of an autumnal return to school.

To that end I’ve been having a hunt through the iPad store to find apps that offer some covert education to get my kids in the right frame of mind for their return to school. The biggest challenge here is the sheer number of game- and education-related apps available.

The most successful with my children seem to be those that combine something informative and fun without being too heavy handed on the educational front. My kids still claim that Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds are educational but I’m not buying it.

Frog Dissection for iPad — $3.99 not for the faint-hearted or, it seems, for my oldest son. However, my daughter relished the opportunity to cut up an amphibian. I’m still trying to get my more squeamish kids to try it — “no frogs were harmed in its development,” I assured them with no success.

SimplePhysics — Free this was more roundly approved of in our household. The concept is simple, but a lot of fun. SimplePhysics enables you to create complex structures and then see how they fare in different physical environments — wind, snow and rain.

Evernote Peek — Free (Evernote Requires an iPad 2 with the Apple Smart Cover) The physical nature of this quiz app seemed to draw my kids in well. it uses the Smart Cover on an iPad 2 to simulate peeking at an exercise book for clues about the current question. it made my youngest ask if there was a flick-book app that worked like this — a good idea I thought, but I couldn’t find one.

Britannica Kids: Dinosaurs — $4.99This simple app worked because of the quality of the information… oh, and the dinosaurs. My kids will do anything if there’s a dino tie-in. it offers a series of cute games that test memory and dexterity without feeling too educational.

Garage Band — $4.99 an oldie but a goodie. I had forgotten how good GarageBand was on the iPad until my kids re-discovered it for me. what ensued, though, was some of the most creative time we’ve had over the holidays — apart from our post-apocalyptic themed Lego extravaganza in the park.

[Previously published on]

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