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iPad Apps for Kids

After somewhat reluctantly agreeing to my older daughter getting an iPad mini for Christmas, I've spent the last couple of days hunting down suitable apps. Just finding applications that are reasonably entertaining and/or educational for a 5-year old isn't easy: there are thousands of apps that cost money (with no possibility of testing them or really getting an idea of what they might do) as well as a large number of "free" apps (where "free" is defined as "limited in functionality, or with intrusive ads that can very easily trick a child into buying add-ons and the like").

I've found that the majority of "Kid's Apps" appear to be targeted towards pre-school kids, with very simple games and educational efforts around learning to identify letters, colors or shapes. While this will be nice for my younger daughter in a few months, many of the apps I've found are too simple for my 5-year old, who I completely objectively consider to be a genius of extraordinary intellect.

Changing your App Store's Country

What makes this task even more difficult is that my daughters are trilingual (English, Spanish, German), and I would like to have books, games, and other apps in all three languages. More importantly, I want them to get authentic apps, natively written in all languages. But due to brain dead DRM procedures, legal obligations and who knows what other reasons, it's not possible to simply browse another country's app store catalog. It's not uncommon to hunt down an app from some recommendation only to find that your app store can't find it.

Now it's possible to get around these restrictions -- and it's not particularly difficult either. All you need to do is change the Country associated with your AppleID. The fact that this, while cumbersome, is really easy to do makes this restriction even more frustrating. Here's how you do it: App Store ID

  • open the app store
  • scroll all the way down, and select your Apple ID
  • "View Apple ID"
  • select "Country/Region"
  • "Change Country or Region"
  • select the suitable country store
  • agree to the 34 pages of terms of service (which absolutely nobody has ever read)
  • select "None" for your credit card information -- (obviously, you won't be able to purchase apps, but I believe otherwise you'd have to enter the credit card information for a credit card with an actual billing address in the given country)
  • enter a billing address (any billing address) that looks slightly valid for the given country (having the correct number of digits in the country's zip code appears to be mostly sufficient)
Et voilà, you now have your foreign country's app store set up.

Every time you want to install an app not available in this particular app store, you have to again perform this whole dance. It gets old real fast, and infuriates me much like the brain dead DVD country-codes business.

While searching for German or Spanish apps, I've found that the available ones are frequently just the English versions, some of them translated (and poorly so, at least in some cases). The percentage of original content in these languages is very small. I suppose the number of developers in these markets is smaller, while the greatest possible profit remains in the US market, so that even German or Spanish developers focus on releasing English apps in the US app store. That is disappointing.


Not strictly restricted to the iPad, here are a few websites my daughter visits regularly:

  • Die Seite mit der Maus -- a number of videos and games as well as the occasional full TV episode of "Die Sendung mit der Maus"; up until recently one needed to make a connection from German IP space to watch the TV episodes (I've done that with selected Tor exit nodes), but it seems that at the moment this restriction no longer applies
  • Die Seite mit dem Elefanten -- weekly free episodes of this great children's show, my daughter started watching these when she was around 3 years old or so
  • Sesamstrasse -- games and videos; includes a number of classic clips from when I was a kid
  • Sesame Street -- the same in English
  • Plaza Sesamo -- the same in (American) Spanish
  • Barrio Sesamo on YouTube -- Spanish Sesame Street videos
  • Es war einmal das Leben videos on YouTube -- they mostly require me to watch them with my daughter, but I find them entertaining enough
  • La Gallina Turuleca, and other similar songs. We discovered these a few years ago, and my 15 months old now starts to find them entertaining.
  • Friv -- a collection of mostly annoying or dumb-looking games. Good to keep the little one quietly occupied for a while when nothing else works.


The following is a list of apps I've found -- I have actually reviewed or tested few of them beyond the initial "is this crap?"-check, but perhaps you will find some of these links of interest. All of the apps listed here were free.

Note that the links may or may not open in your app store -- if the app does not come up, you may need to change your store's country/region as explained above. (See what I was saying about it being a colossal pain in the ass?)


iPad Books In addition to these apps, I've installed a Kindle reader (for books we actually purchase), the Scholastic Storia app (bookshelf with five free books), and the wonderful International Children's Digital Library app (many books in many different languages).




iPad Games



Well, "learning", really...
  • 8 Planets -- an interactive app to learn spelling etc. using the planets
  • Brain POP -- a supposedly educational daily video
  • MathBoard Addition -- a learning app that can be expanded
  • Lük -- the German learning system has an app; presumably one buys additional material for it? (German)

As I said, I haven't really carefully evaluated the apps above, but they seemed to be less than damaging to my child's development. I've found this page useful for finding possible German apps (though virtually all reviewed there do cost money); for Spanish apps, was helpful (though many apps reviewed there were actually in English and/or cost money). Finally, if you value your own sanity, don't install Talking Tom. It's beyond annoying.

If you have any apps to recommend, especially German or Spanish ones, I'd love to hear about it. Email me, leave a comment or tweet me.

December 31st, 2012

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