Put the “hAPPy” Back Into your Holidays

It’s the time of year when I (and pretty much every tech blogger on the planet) give some recommendations for apps that you may want to install on those new iPads some children received for Christmas. This list has a few limitations: the apps are mostly iOS, I can only attest to their appeal to kids in the elementary age bracket, and I’m sticking to apps that encourage creativity this year.  For app lists from prior years, you can check out my 2013 post and my 2012 one.

I’m giving you a shorter list this year, but adding some resources. That’s because my experience has shown me that students often don’t get a lot out of creativity apps without some examples and encouragement from an adult.  Don’t expect to just load these on your child’s mobile device and walk away.  With some input from parents and/or teachers, kids will learn more and become more adventurous and creative than they will with no guidance. Otherwise, they tend to quickly return to apps that require less thought.

We’ll start with some free ones today, and I’ll recommend some of the few paid apps I like tomorrow.

Learn how to make a snowflake with the Hopscotch app and video tutorial.
Learn how to make a snowflake with the Hopscotch app and video tutorial.
  • Hopscotch – This programming app has been revved up in the last six months, and it really took off with my students during the Hour of Code.  You can find a lot of other tutorials on their YouTube channel here, such as how to make a snowflake.  Once your child does one or two of the tutorials, he or she will be ready to make some games and other masterpieces.  Here is a recent post I did on using Hopscotch in the classroom.
  • Lego Movie Maker – Kids love to make stop motion videos.  I have some students who would be perfectly happy if they could spend the entire school day producing these short films.  Don’t be fooled by the “Lego” part of the name, because you do not have to use those building blocks to have a great time with the app.  However, it is nice to have some around!  For a wonderful resource on how to use this app with your child, check out this great post from Melody Lopez.  If you’re a teacher, you may want to get some ideas from Ms. Mitchell.  Another free alternative app that my students in Maker Club enjoyed was Goldieblox and the Movie Machine. (However, you cannot export the Goldieblox to the Camera Roll as you can with the Lego app.)
  • ChatterPix Kids -This app continues to be a student favorite.  Here is a post I did on it awhile back.  Basically, you can make any still picture talk by drawing a mouth on it and recording your own voice.  Here’s a link to a ChatterPix Pinterest Board of ideas, which I got from a post on Fractus Learning about the app.
  • PicCollage -This app is actually available on iTunes and Google Play.  It has so many uses at home and in the classroom.  If your child takes a lot of pictures, then this app is awesome for collecting them to make into simple scrapbook pages.  Kids can also make comic strips and posters using it.  It’s very versatile, as you will see if you Google it.  Here are a few ideas to get you started if you are a parent introducing your child to this app for the first time. Canva is another fun way to make collages, and they recently released an iPad app.

Of course, there are many other free apps that are well worth downloading.  I highly recommend that you visit iPad Apps 4 School for even more ideas.  But these are my top suggestions for making sure your child’s tablet is used for creating and not just consuming.  Check back tomorrow for some more ideas!

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