Apps for children are often, understandably, criticised for encouraging sedentary play and preventing them from more active play, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It is possible for apps to encourage children to get moving – we have provided a few examples below.
Excessive screen time is a serious and growing problem. To a large degree this is because of what children aren’t doing while they are staring at a screen. A balanced play diet in which active, imaginative and social play dominate a child’s free time is so important to their development and wellbeing. This is difficult to achieve however, if your child is looking at a screen for the majority of their free time.
While I’d love to see children playing outside with their peers as much as possible, I know realistically that apps play an important role in children’s lives today, making those that get children active a great compromise. Interestingly I often find these kind of apps naturally encourage more social play too.
A balanced play diet in which active, imaginative and social play dominate a child’s free time is so important to their development and wellbeing
Here are some of my favourites
Charlie & Lola: I’ve Won – This board game app includes a number of activities to get children moving, including encouraging them to hop and dance. Hopping is particularly great at the target age as it’s a tricky skill they are often still learning, so a nice challenge. Even though the device can’t tell whether the child is taking part or not, the encouragement got children off the sofa in our testing and it was lovely to see how accurately they tried to copy Charlie’s dance.
Happy Studio – The free McDonalds app for children includes the mini-game ‘Be a musician’, which challenges children to move their tablet or phone to keep in time with a rhythm or turn their device like the handle of a music box to get the music going at the right speed. Not only is this a fun, unique way to get children moving it also helps them to learn about music. Developing a sense of rhythm is a great foundation for learning any instrument or simply to ensure they can hold their own on the dance floor one day. Bias Disclaimer: I was part of the team that created and continues to help evolve this app.
Kurio Tab Motion – if you own a Kurio tablet, their range of body motion apps are a fantastic way to get children moving. These apps get children running, jumping, swimming, skiing – performing all the actions in front of their tablet. These apps monitor your movement so the kids can’t get away with doing nothing – the more active they are, the more they are rewarded.
Shake and tilt: A number of apps encourage movement of the tablet or device as part of the game, whether that’s to steer around the course (like CotBot City) or feed a Lion (like Virry) while this obviously is no substitute for running around outside, it does help to avoid children being in a fixed, still position. Apps that get children to make these movements also require accuracy and can often require quite careful concentration.
Sneak: This unique game from Made in Me is a wonderful example of using apps a bit differently. Children are challenged to sneak up on their device really quietly so the monster on screen doesn’t hear them coming and take the monster’s photo. Such a lovely idea and makes a great family game.
Tree Fu Tom Squiggle Quest: This has always been a wonderful TV show for getting children moving and the app has transferred the idea into this interactive book. As with the show, fans can be seen leaping off the sofa to do the moves to turn their magic on at a moment’s notice.
The additional options for active play introduced through the new 3D experiences of virtual reality appearing on the market (through things like Google Cardboard) are also worth keeping an eye on.
If I’ve missed any that you love, please do let me know and I’d be delighted to review them as time allows.