“Dad, can you buy me a new game? Pleeease?”
Sound familiar? If you’re like me, there has been a time (or two) where you have gone into the App Store and in the heat of the moment selected an app for your kid without really checking it out first. For us, sometimes it has worked out well and Master L (4.5 years old) has liked the game and there is a lasting attraction. Phew! Other times it hasn’t gone so well; either it didn’t contain appropriate content or it was “boring”. Sigh.
After purchasing (free and at cost) several apps now for Master L, I’ve learned to have some basic criteria to run through before deciding on an app.
1) Is it Age Appropriate?
Lately Master L is into superheroes (what young kid isn’t?!) and so understandably wants apps that look anything like it has a masked hero or ninja in it. As a parent who wants to hold off anything to do with fighting for as long as possible, I try to steer him away from these types of apps. Master L knows that he can only get apps that have a “4+” on it. I’m sure he thinks this is because he happens to be ‘4’ so I’m not sure how we’ll go when he turns 5. I’ll come back to you on that in about six months’ time.
For your reference, a “4+” in Apple’s Rating System (as at time of writing) is defined as having no “objectionable material”.
2) Is it Fun?
Yes, I have listed ‘Fun’ before ‘Educational’. Why? Well, firstly I don’t believe that the two are mutually exclusive but I do believe that to hold a kid’s attention, an app has to be fun. We all know our kids and what fun looks like to them. Certainly what is fun for one child might not be fun for another. At the end of the day, kids are attracted to how apps look. Do the screenshots show characters or objects that look appealing or are they scary and off putting? Does the app look easy to use? Make sure you have a good look at the provided screenshots to see how the app is laid out and whether you think your child will be able to use it without too much trouble.
3) Is it Educational?
To be honest, this isn’t always a criteria on my list. With Master L at Kindergarten now, I think it’s important for him to be able to chill out and enjoy a fun app every now and then without the need for an educational element to it. Having said that, if I can find a fun app with an educational element to it, bonus! At the moment, we have been focusing on apps that develop word recognition or simple math concepts. There are an amazing number of apps out there that can teach your kids all sorts of things in a fun and exciting way. It’s great to see developers, parents, and kids embracing a new way of learning.
4) Is it Free or Does it Cost?
I have bought a range of apps in our iPad’s lifetime ranging from free and at cost. I don’t have a preference as it really does depend on what the app is, and what I believe Master L will get out of the app. With free apps, I always make sure I know what I’m getting whether that be in-app purchases (more about that next), pop up ads, or just 3 pages of a book. Any of these things can be annoying if you believe you are getting a full app. However some free apps are great as they give you the option of trying it out before you buy.
With paid apps, I make sure that it’s an app that is going to go the distance with Master L. There is a lot of variance in cost for somewhat similar apps in the App Store and it’s hard to know whether it really is worth the price tag it has. The only real way to know is to look at the screenshots provided, read customer reviews and written reviews from professional app review sites. Only then, can you really make an informed decision.
5) In App Purchases or not?
Before you purchase an app (free or not), make sure you know whether it has ‘In App Purchases’ or not. In App Purchases are anything you can purchase within a game. If an app offers this, it will say “Offers In-App Purchases” in the App Store under the Developer’s name.
Under ‘Restrictions’ in the ‘General’ Settings of your iPad, you can choose to allow or disallow In-App Purchases. That is a blessing for us parents who don’t want to see our bank accounts depleted but it still allows your child to click on the item to purchase and then it tells them to enable in-app purchases to buy the item. This can be somewhat frustrating and confusing for a child who just wants to play the game. I’m generally talking about children who aren’t able to read yet or are of the age where you can’t properly reason with them. There has been a few times where Master L has clicked on something within an app and it hasn’t worked because he doesn’t have enough crystals/coins/food/wood (you get the idea) and he doesn’t understand yet why we can’t just get more.
The above steps might look long and cumbersome to go through every time you want to get a new app, but it is a fairly simple process and can help to ensure that your child gets a great app and make it a fun experience.
How do you go about choosing the apps you purchase and download for your kids?