We’ve all seen catchy music paired with a montage of all the awesome things you can do with an iPad. The iPad—and Apple, in general—is all about the wow factor. Not to be outdone, Microsoft has also released a pretty spiffy tablet called Surface, with tons of entertaining marketing to boot. Then there’s all the techy Android tablets, like the new Yoga and the Samsung Galaxy Note and Tab, as well as the Kindle Fire.
With these gadgets offering so much functionality, mobility, and quintessential coolness, it’s no wonder therapists are bringing iPads and other tablets into their practices. In addition to using these devices for their text-to-speech functionality (for those therapists who prefer to dictate their notes) as well as for documentation and practice management purposes, pediatric OTs can also use tablets to aid in treatment and development. What child doesn’t want to play with an iPad?
Here are some of our fave apps for pediatric occupational therapists:
Fine Motor and Spatial Reasoning Apps
- Dexteria features a set of hand exercises that improve fine motor skills and handwriting.Through the multi-touch interface of the iPad, patients can enhance strength, control, and dexterity with this app.
- POV features a set of activities that teach spatial reasoning skills. Developed by the makers of Dexteria, this app helps patients develop an understanding of left and right as well as math and mapping skills.
- Ready to Print (Apple and Amazon Apps) helps teach pre-writing skills to children in order to build a strong foundation for beginning print writers. The app works on visual-motor, visual-perceptual, and fine motor skills.
- iDoodle Card is a free app that’s great for working on basic visual motor and visual perceptual skills. With 54 different drawing activities—including mazes, coloring, and freehand—the app has six primary-colored markers and an eraser. Patients can save their creations, or you can screenshot them for reference outside of the app.
- iWriteWords is a cute app providing activities that teach children to write. In the process, the app improves fine motor skills and handwriting.
- Cut the Buttons is exactly what it sounds like: an app for cutting buttons. But it’s oh-so-entertaining and very interactive, because it requires users to maneuver virtual scissors—using their thumbs and index fingers—to cut buttons off pieces of fabric to earn points. But watch out for screws, which dull the scissors and reduce points.
- Cookie Doodle gets kids creative—and makes everyone hungry. In this app, which improves fine motor skills, patients can make, bake, decorate, store, serve, and eat cookies. And don’t worry about boredom setting in: according to the app’s site, “Cookie Doodle includes twenty four recipes that lets you actually pour the vanilla, crack the eggs, shake the salt, and interact with the other ingredients.”
- Labyrinth (Apple and Android) is exactly like the traditional game. The user manipulates a ball through a wooden maze by tilting the tablet. The free version has 20 levels of increasing difficulty, but for a few bucks, you can get more than 1,000 levels.
- Fruit Ninja (Apple and Android) is probably already in your smartphone. It’s a super-fun and addictive little game, but lo and behold, it works well in pediatric OT, too. Patients use their finger to slice fruit while averting bombs.
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Sensory and Cause and Effect Apps
- Cause and Effect Light Box (Apple and Android) provides children and teenagers with 21 abstract scenes that encourage the exploration of different touches, taps, and gestures. While the developers originally created Light Box for teens with visual impairments, autism, and intellectual disabilities, younger children—with and without special needs—have found great utility in the app. Check out Light Box in action.
- Fun Bubbles allows kids to create and pop brilliantly colored bubbles on screen, helping children of all ages improve their fine motor skills while having fun.
- Fluidity is an on-screen lava lamp that children can manipulate (by changing the colors, viscosity, sparkle, and momentum) simply by moving their fingers around the screen.
- Pocket Pond 2 (Apple and Android) allows children to listen to the sounds of nature while interacting with fish and frogs on the screen. Using their fingers, the children can scare them, feed them, and watch as they school as well as see the water ripple in response to their touch.
- Heat Pad provides children with a realistic simulation of various heat-sensitive surfaces that react to the heat of their fingertips, thus improving their understanding of cause and effect.
- Gloop “sits somewhere in that improbable space between an interactive lava lamp, foam resting on water, and alien clouds lit by the setting sun,” says the app’s developers. This OT encourages her kids to use their fingers to move the goop on the screen around as well as change the goop color and density.
- Toothbrush Timer runs for two minutes, teaching children how long to brush their teeth. It provides a visual cue for what part of the mouth to brush and even breaks each quadrant into outside, top, and inside.
- Put It Away allows parents and teachers to customize a set of tasks to help children learn to maintain a living space—a skill that is essential to building independence. The app displays a list of items that need to be put away next to a scene with the items misplaced (the scene can even be an actual photo). The child can drag each item to where it belongs in the scene, thus checking off that item from the list.
- DialSafe Pro teaches children how to use a phone and dial numbers through memory, lessons, and challenge lessons. This app also includes a phone simulator, through which the child can have pretend conversations and practice answering common questions a 911 operator might ask.
New tablet apps hit the market regularly. So, fill us in! What great apps did we miss? What do you recommend?