Apps - recommended

With thanks to: Emma Goto, Lynne Berry, Alison Clark-Wilson, Cally Kuhne*

Overview from research

Early Childhood education should be rooted in play (Moyles, 2015; Bird and Edwards, 2015; Palaiologou, 2017) and support the development of communication (Whorrall  and Cabell, 2016), creativity and imagination (Eckhoff and Urbach, 2008). Practitioners should develop learning environments that develop and enhance children’s play (Palaiologou, 2017). Opportunities are required for early, open ended, exploratory play with technology, if children are to become more purposeful in their use of technology, developing communication and forms of representational play (Bird and Edwards, 2015). Educators should encourage playful interactions and exploration of technology (Yelland, 2011). The Technology and Play Report makes a number of recommendations for apps that promote play and creativity. Some types of apps that are likely to encourage playful and creative approaches include ‘Open-ended apps, which enable children to experiment for themselves and focus on the process rather than an end product…., Apps that embed problem solving, critical thinking and abstract reasoning activities ……Apps that stimulate children to ask questions and/or set challenges, ……Apps that foster co-production of content (with peers or adults)’ it is also useful to note here that they advise ‘Imaginative use of the tablet itself or the properties of the tablet may enable children to become more involved in the app e.g. through inserting their own photograph or voice’ (Marsh et al, 2015:37).

It is essential to remember that alongside the types of apps chosen, one must consider how they are used.

Whilst an app could have the potential to encourage communication and collaboration, if it is provided to the child in isolation, with no opportunities for interactions with others, that potential is not likely to be realised. As in other aspects of Early Childhood Education, educators have a significant role to play in supporting and enhancing children’s learning, in terms of open questioning to promote communication and the fostering of ‘shared sustained thinking’ (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2009: 25).

Table 4.3 Examples of Apps in the English language recommended by educators
• Draw and Tell by Duck duck moose (best Early Years app in Emma Goto’s opinion)
• Teach Your Monster to Read
• Busy Things have got lots of apps (all of which are good)
• Poisson Rouge have lots of apps (paid for but not terribly expensive) the aquarium one and ten green bottles are particularly nice.
• Book creator for EYFS children as it gives them lots of opportunity to communicate by combining photographs and the spoken word.
• Mini Mash, Puppet Pals App, Tiny Tap app, Scratch Junior, Beebots, Code a pillar, pro bots. TTS have some great products.
• Chatterpix kids, Shadow puppets edu, Feltboard, Puppet Pals, Mash Cams App, Little Bird Tales, Make a Scene: Farmyard and Under the Sea.
• One billion apps - - reading app and maths apps -
 (Jamie Stuart <, Dochka Hristova
• Toca Boca suite of aps  (we used some of these with children at the special school in Thailand):
• Collins Big Cat apps
• Kid in Story Book Maker:
• Farm animals by Photo Touch

This app, is for older children but it demonstrates the kind of ap that has been developed for free use in South Africa. It could be adapted for other countries.

Much More Than Counting

Maths app for Grade R teachers (MathsUp, which you could find on the Google store - android only at the moment). Teachers have loved using it in our pilot groups and it would be great to hear whether you would find this a useful tool.

*Recommended by Dr Alison Clark-Wilson, UCL Institute of Education, London; member of the MESH Maths Editorial Board and Emma Goto, University of Winchester;  Lynne Berry, Liverpool Hope University and Helen Caldwell, University of Northampton. Emma, Lynne and Helen are members of the Association for IT in Teacher Education, one of the founders of MESH.

Bird, J. and Edwards, S. (2015) Children learning to use technologies through play: A Digital Play Framework. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46, (6), 1149–1160.

Eckhoff, A. and Urbach, J. (2008) Understanding Imaginative Thinking During Childhood: Sociocultural Conceptions of Creativity and Imaginative Thought. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36, (2), 179-185.

Marsh, J., Plowman, L., Yamada-Rice, D., Bishop, J.C., Lahmar, J., Scott, F., Davenport, A., Davis, S., French, K., Piras, M., Thornhill, S., Robinson, P. and Winter, P. (2015) Exploring Play and Creativity in Pre-Schoolers’ Use of Apps: Final Project Report. Available at: [Accessed 9 January 2018]

Moyles, J. (2015) The Excellence of Play. 4th edn. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Palaiologou, I. (2017) Assessing children’s play: reality or illusion? The case of Early Years Foundation Stage in England, Early Child Development and Care, 187, (8), 1259-1272.

Siraj‐Blatchford, I., Taggart, B., Sylva, K., Sammons, P., and Melhuish, E. (2009) Towards the transformation of practice in early childhood education: the effective provision of pre‐school education (EPPE) project. Cambridge Journal of Education, 38, (1), 23-36.

Whorrall, J. and Cabell, S. (2016) Supporting Children’s Oral Language Development in the Preschool Classroom. Early Childhood Education Journal, 44, (4), 335-342.

Yelland, N. (2011) Reconceptualising play and learning in the lives of young children. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 36, (2), p.4-12.