I’m not totally anti-iPads and other tablets for children – and I’ve realised from looking around recently that there are some clever and useful apps available to support children’s language development, as well as a huge amount of time-wasting rubbish.
I’ve gone through the Play Store and the App Store, and here are a couple of apps that I can recommend. Both of these are suitable for ages 3 and above with the right amount of adult support.
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Android link – http://tiny.cc/svoapp. The pictures are designed to prompt sentences such as ‘the girl is feeding the cat’ and ‘the boys are playing soccer’. For each picture, the app asks “wh-questions” one at a time (‘what is the girl doing?’, ‘who is feeding the cat?’, ‘who is she feeding’), before asking for the whole sentence.
Turn the sound of the game off (it speaks American English) and ask the questions for your child as they appear at the top of the screen. When your child answers the question, point to the written word he has said and get him to touch that word. He is then asked ‘can you make a sentence from the picture?’. Get him to say the whole sentence with you, and to swipe the words into position (with your help). Model the sentences lots of times. Make it fun, and make sure your child is speaking and listening lots and lots while playing with the game.
This game has four other types of constructions (e.g. subject – verb – place: ‘the boy is reading on the beach’), but to access these you need to click on ‘Full Version’ (£5.27 on Android). Unfortunately there is a bias towards American vocabulary in this app, and some of the pictures are not going to make much sense for young children. The majority are good though. It’s a shame that there’s no mode that uses pictures of the objects / people etc rather than the words.
With the full version you get the chance to build sentences around your own submitted pictures (probably only really useful for therapists, of course).
It will help to develop your child’s sentence structure, their verb knowledge, their use of function words (like ‘is’ and ‘the’) and possibly even their attention skills.
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Android link – http://tiny.cc/sortingapp. This is a subordinate category sorting game. In the free ‘theme’, the child has to sort (swipe) pictures of foods into their correct subcategory (fruits, vegetables and desserts). For 59 pence you get access to two further top-level categories – animals (subdividing into farm, water and jungle animals) and things found in the home (subdividing into things found in the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom). You might be advised to turn the sound of the app off (it speaks American English) and speak about the items together, however there might be some value in leaving your child to play with this one on their own.
IOS link – http://tiny.cc/sortingios. The two additional themes are available for 79 pence for the iPad and iPhone. You could also try the following superordinate category sorting game – http://tiny.cc/sortingiphone (i.e. sorting objects into animals versus clothes, etc). This costs just under two pounds.
Developing their category knowledge will develop a child’s vocabulary as well as the logical structure of their lexicon. It makes them better at learning new words as well.