Getting App Happy: Apps Geared Toward Learning and Therapy are Worth Smiling About


It’s a lament heard by parents and teachers of students in early childhood all the way through high school: “My kid is glued to their smart technology.” We worry that we are helping to create an entire generation of children and young adults who use touch-screen devices as a means to excuse and avoid practicing good ‘old fashioned’ social interaction, imagination, and learning. But applied in the proper measure and context, smart technology and apps can serve as valuable tools to help implement curriculum, practice elements of occupational therapy, and exercise attention spans.

We sat down and asked ACCESS educators and therapists to share some of their favorite app developers and apps for early childhood and school-age children.

Early Childhood Apps

Toca Boca

This developer has over 35 apps for preschool and early elementary school students. “Toca Hair Studio Me” is a favorite.

Bugs and Buttons

We recommend all of the following: “Bugs and Bubbles,” “Bugs and Buttons”, “Bugs and Buttons 2,” “Bugs and Numbers” and, “Bug Art.” Each app has multiple game-like activities to help children develop fine-motor skills, eye-hand coordination and early letter and number sense.

Duck, Duck, Moose

This developer offers nursery rhyme apps, creativity apps, play apps and curriculum apps. These apps encourage students to learn through their best modality, play, and allow them to interact and create within each activity.

My PlayHome

My PlayHome is the original and best version. Massively interactive, your kids can explore and use everything in the house. The characters eat, sleep, shower, brush their teeth and more. Want the room to be darker? Close the drapes! Fancy a change in music? Pop a different CD into the stereo! This developer also offers “My PlayHome Hospital” and “My PlayHome Store.”


This app developer has a very nice print and cursive handwriting app called “Writing Wizard.” It includes pre-writing skills, letters, and words. This developer also has several Montessori apps that model word and number formations.

School-Aged Apps

Free Cloud Design, Inc.

“Monster Physics” is one of our favorite apps! It is a great way to target higher-level thinking and problem solving skills. This developer also offers fabulous geography apps like “Stack the States” and “Stack the Countries.” It also has a fun app for learning the presidents with “Presidents versus Aliens.”

Tiny Bop Apps

The “Human Body” app has been a big hit with our kids. The interactive playscapes allow children to discover and learn as they explore. Explore the “Digital Toy” app as well.

iMovie and Garageband

Who doesn’t want to produce their own movie or song? The whole family can use these apps! They are great programs for adults and children to showcase their knowledge about a specific topic or explore different musical instruments and music genres. Your child may need a little guidance at first, but these apps are intuitive and easy to navigate. Ultimately, they are fun, functional, and FREE.

Inspiration Maps

This app is a powerful visual learning tool and is often used by teachers and therapists alike, to help students plan, prioritize and organize thoughts and ideas for a paper or project. It allows the user to build diagrams, graphic organizers and outlines with ease. There is a free and paid version of the app. We suggest downloading the free version before investing in the full version of this program. Kidspiration is for younger users of this app.

Motion Math

This company has developed a series of apps to teach a variety of math skills, from basic number sense to multiplication and fractions.

Occupational Therapy Apps


Dexteria is among other award winning apps made by Binary Labs, Inc. The Dexteria family offers multiple different apps geared toward different needs and age levels and all are designed to practice and improve fine motor skills in conjunction with reading and math performance.

Basic Matrix & Matrix Game

This app has a couple of versions and helps to develop visual perception skills, attention and concentration. It also helps individuals understand spatial orientation and principles of classification and categorization. This app also aids in the development of executive functions such as planning and perseverance.

Peekaboo Barn

Developed by Night and Day Studios, Inc., this is a great interactive app. Younger children will love opening the barn doors to find a new animal animation, as they learn about cause and effect and become familiar with animal names and sounds. Older children will enjoy guessing animals by sound, then seeing the animal names, which helps develop early literacy skills. The app includes twelve different language options with purchase as well as a Record Your Own Voice Record feature.

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