If you have been reading our site for some time now, you’re probably one of the very few parents who are constantly on the look out for the best new apps that might suit your juniors’ learning journey. Sometimes I feel like we’re a bit overwhelmed by the crazy amount of high-quality new apps being introduced every month. I’m really glad that some of the best new apps released this month try to push the boundaries of what’s possible, leading the way for the industry.
The three apps that I want to highlight today can be considered as the apps that define what’s possible in their own respective sub-categories. I expect other developers could learn a thing or two from these very successful apps.
The first app on our list is quite predictable: Toca Builders. I’m sure by now most of you have already had it, or at least heard of it. After all, it’s not just the latest iteration of toy apps from Toca Boca, but it’s actually the first app in their collection aimed towards older kids.
In a recent interview, Toca Boca CEO stated that they’re planning to add more complex toys to their collection:
"We’ve been doing a few slightly-riskier, more difficult-to-make apps. Toca Builders is one of them, and there’s another one coming out after the summer. We wanted to give them a little more depth and complexity." - Bjorn Jeffrey
I really like it when developers work on ambitious projects and try to solve really hard problems, because in the end, parents and juniors can really benefit from their work. Toca Builders is a perfect example for this. Many people agree that it can be regarded as a version of Minecraft that’s appropriate for kids. I’ve witnessed my eldest son Philip playing it for countless hours every day, replacing Amazing Alex which has been occupying his creative time for the past year.
It’s amazing to see how young juniors can adapt very well to the intuitive controls that are built for each builders in Toca Builders. It really doesn’t take them too long before they can be proficient and start building their own creations. I hope other developers can learn how to design complex toys for younger juniors from Toca Builders. I think the way Minecraft’s complexity is divided into six different builders is really working.
Finally, if you’re looking for more inspiration as you and your juniors play Toca Builders, I’d suggest you to search for #tocabuilders on Instagram or Twitter to see what others have created. You can also watch some tutorial videos that the team at Toca Boca has created. If your juniors love to play construction toys, Toca Builders is a must-have. I even think it’s a strong candidate for the best apps for 2013. Not just because of its intuitive control design, but because of its impact on the lives of many juniors.
Meet the Insects: Water and Grass Edition
The second app on our list is actually the last app in a mini-encyclopedia trilogy on insects. The first app in the trilogy is Meet the Insects: Forest Edition, the second one is Village Edition, and the last one is Water and Grass Edition.
Each edition brings a new set of interesting facts about insects, presented in ways that make it easy for juniors to learn on their own. In fact, I believe many parents can learn a thing or two from these apps. For example, I didn’t even know that there are insects that live in the water, how the compound eyes of a grasshopper works, or why beehives take the shape of a hexagon before I tried Meet the Insects: Water and Grass Edition.
I think the trilogy is a high-quality series of apps that are worth collecting. Each of them has excellent photos and videos that can make your learning experience really immersive. I hope many developers would explore the opportunity to create other mini encyclopedia series that focus on other topics.
Caspar Babypants Music Time!
The final app on our list is also a special one in its category: original music for kids. It’s quite rare to find professionally-arranged music for kids, even with the existence of iTunes. The Music Time! app proves that great artists like Chris Ballew a.k.a. Caspar Babypants also faces this discovery problem.
The iPad app is not merely a kids juke box, but a good way for parents to discover the extensive collection of 120 songs that Chris has written in six Caspar Babypants albums. The app highlights 12 songs (two from each album) that you can sing along to and even learn to play.
The developers have cleverly added a way to detect your iTunes collection of Caspar Babypants albums and allow you to play them in the juke box if you have it on your iOS device. I hope other artists who have written songs for kids can take a hint from this app and bring their works onto the iPad platform so parents can have a better chance to discover them.
I’m really happy with the new apps introduced this month. The three apps above show a great example of artists, designers, and developers who were brave enough to explore a new category and push the boundaries of what’s possible in an iOS app. I can’t wait for other developers to take a similar bold move and take us to a new future filled with new types of apps for kids.