I’m looking for an app about… starting school (updated for 2013)

Last year I wrote a round up of apps about going to school as part of a link up to the children’s book blog Playing By the Book . This year we have seen a couple of new apps we like, so I thought it was time to update the list – a little belatedly, but hopefully still useful for anyone beginning Reception/Primary 1 or preschool/nursery this autumn.

Topsy and Tim at schoolTopsy and Tim Start School
by Penguin Books

This app features the much-loved Topsy and Tim characters, created by Jean and Gareth Adamson. The main selling point of the app is the way your child can create their own character to star in the story with Topsy and Tim. They can also (with adult help if needed) input the name of their school for the school gates.

The app takes your child through packing their bag, going to school, finding their coat hook, doing classroom activities, playing in the playground, having lunch, and going home. There are six games included – finding the right coat pegs, matching colours and shapes, jigsaws, sorting in size order, matching lunches to children, and copying actions to music. Each has an easy, medium and hard difficulty level. Mr Tall loves seeing himself in the story, and it  really supported his interest and excitement in going to school last year. If I were to be picky, I would like there to be more variety in the puzzles. For example, there is only one jigsaw for each difficulty level. However, the strength of the app is in the personalisation and the realistic portrayal of a typical school day.

Compatible with iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Available from http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/topsy-and-tim-start-school/id379900572?mt=8 priced at £2.99/$4.99 at time of writing.

school_apps_miffyNEW! Miffy Goes to School

by Sanoma/Mercis BV

This app is great fun for Miffy fans, and Dick Bruna’s famous block colour illustrations work brilliantly on screen. Taking us through Miffy’s school day, the rhyming story is accompanied by activities along the way, such as helping Miffy find her way to school, practising curly and wavy lines to help with future writing, using an abacus, building with blocks, and drawing. Tracing the lines is one feature which we hadn’t seen in other apps of this kind, and Little Miss Chatterbox enjoys carefully following the lines with her finger across the screen. Both children also like the postcard feature and have emailed pictures to family and friends.

Compatible with iPad. Available from https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/miffy-at-school/id557151926?mt=8 priced at £2.99/$4.99 at time of writing.

Pre K screen shotHurray for Pre-K!
by Auryn Apps

This is a lovely non-fiction book by Ellen B. Senisi about going to preschool (pre-K in the USA). The text introduces simple preschool routines and activities, while reinforcing fifteen key words such as play, rest, pretend, feel, sing and help. There are many photos to familiarise children with preschool. The only animated elements are the highlighting of words when narrated, and tapping photos to hear and see key words. However, there is one great feature which really stands out – the ability to completely rewrite the text and re-record the narration. You can add in your child’s name, change pre-K to preschool or nursery, or tweak an element to suit your own preschool. We all clean up can become We all clean up when Mrs Smith rings the bell.  Both the original and new versions are stored, and it is very easy to make changes.

Compatible with iPad. Available from http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/auracle-hd-hurray-for-pre-k!/id453873860?mt=8 priced at £1.49/$1.99 at time of writing.

school_apps_bo_giraffeNEW! Bo’s School Day

by Heppi Apps

Bo the Giraffe is the brainchild of Esther Naalden, a writer/illustrator and mum who is behind Heppi Apps. Bo already has a string of apps to his name based on familiar childhood routines and activities, such as another of our favourites Bo’s Bedtime. This app is great value for money with many activities slotted into a simple story about the school day. As well as common matching activities like putting coats away or tidying up toys there is lots of room for play and choice including giving the animal friends different lunches, making music or deciding what the weather chart will say for each day. Bo and his friends are very appealing and Little Miss Chatterbox gets really drawn in to the simple games.

Compatible with iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, Available from https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/bos-school-day/id683757136?mt=8 priced at £1.99/$2.99 at time of writing.

Spot Goes to SchoolSpot Goes to School
by Penguin Books

This is a bright and cheerful app featuring the very popular character of Spot. Although it is called Spot Goes to School, I would suggest it is more suitable for those going to preschool or playgroup. It is a very simple story with lots of dialogue, introducing the various activities Spot and his friends do on a typical day at (pre)school. The narration is activated by pressing the text and speech bubbles. There is also one short game, where the child helps Spot to tidy the interest table. Little Miss Chatterbox really enjoys lifting the virtual flaps on each page to find where Spot is hiding, as you do in the physical Spot books. On the down side, the story is quite short and the interactions are fairly limited. But this will not deter any young Spot fans who will really enjoy seeing their favourite character on the iPad.

Compatible with iPad. Available from  http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/spot-goes-to-school/id383904892?mt=8 priced at £1.99/$2.99 at time of writing.


NEW! Martha and the Bunny Brothers – I ♥ School

by Me Books

Author/illustrator Clara Vulliamy has become a firm favourite in this house over the past year or so, and we were really pleased to see one of our favourite books, Martha and the Bunny Brothers I ♥ School come to the iPad courtesy of Me Books. Me Books specialises in faithful retellings of modern and traditional picture books with extra dialogue and sound effects activated using “hot spots”. Both narration and hot spots can be re-recorded by parent or child. The story of Martha getting ready for her first day at school, and the Happy Bunny Club she creates with little brothers Monty and Pip who will be left behind, is brought to life in the narration by none other than Clara’s own daughter Martha. A hard-to-resist treat – even if, like us, you already own the book.

Compatible with iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Download the free Me Books app from https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/me-books/id534499518?mt=8 and then purchase Martha and the Bunny Brothers or other titles as an in-app purchase for £1.99.

First day of school countdownFirst Day of School Countdown
by Appracadabra

This is not a book, but a calendar game to help children count down the seven days of the week before they start school or preschool. It can be personalised for up to three children with their name, start date and photo. If you set it up more than seven days in advance, dots count down to the seven day marker. Then each day, you unlock a different character in the picture, with a short animation. On the day before school starts, there is a small puzzle to complete, and on the last day the animals all zoom off to school. The illustrations in the app are lovely, it has fun jazzy music, and I love the concept. On the other hand, it can be confusing to work out with no instructions, and it is a little light on content. It has led me to check out Appracadabra’s other apps, on the strength of the fun vibe and Dutch illustrator Caroline Ellerbeck’s beautiful illustrations.

Compatible with iPhone and iPad. Available from http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/first-day-school-countdown/id540430603?mt=8 priced at £0.69/$0.99 at time of writing.

Do you have a  book app about school to recommend? I’d love to hear your suggestions below.