We make at least 3,485 decisions a day for our kids: what to feed them, how to dress them, which activities to try with them, how to discipline them … and that’s just before lunch time. Why do I then need to decide between 25 brands of diapers and 117 different sippy cups? As if my time and energy weren’t already in short supply. While I know that I’m extremely fortunate to be able to have so many options for my family, sometimes I wish there were just one good choice for everything, to take just a few decisions off my plate.
And now this high-tech world of convenient, “smart” devices offers ways to make our lives better at every turn, while what it really does is give us another whole slew of choices to slog through: Game apps, drawing apps, music apps, learning apps … there are gazillions of them. How do we know what’s good, what’s fun, what’s worth the money? Here are the questions I ask myself to cut through the clutter and find apps for my kids that are worthwhile.
1. Does it offer some sort of educational or creative value?
2. Is it beautifully designed and easy to use?
3. Does it require my child to be interactive (vs. just “watching” something)?
4. Is it safe (no in-app purchases, collecting of personal info)?
5. If it costs money, does it offer enough for my kids to want to use it repeatedly?
How to find the apps that meet these standards? That’s the harder part. Here are 5 quick ways:
1. Get trustworthy recommendations. Check out what your friends have downloaded and what their kids seem to like. Take a look at some reputable blogs that feature kid-focused apps like Moms with Apps or media review sites like Common Sense Media. Find FamilyEducation's top picks here.
2. Start with free versions. Many apps have free or “lite” versions of their apps. Before you make a purchase, download the free version and give it a test run with your kid.
3. Look at featured apps. Whichever app store you choose, there is a featured or recommended selection of apps for each category. Read the app description to see if it meets your standards.
4. Read customer ratings. When deciding between apps that do the same thing, look at the reviews and ratings. See how parents like you feel about the product.
5. Revisit kid-tested brands. If you and your child love an app you have already downloaded (Toca Boca, anyone?), keep an eye out for additional releases from the same app publisher.
Ok, now to decide what to make for dinner …