Continuing our series of the best educational apps, we round up our favourite story-telling and creative writing apps from nursery to KS2.
With so much focus on reading and spelling within the primary literacy curriculum, creative composition often takes a back seat. Equally, with tablets and TV offering so many interactive entertainment options for children, it is increasingly hard to motivate kids to want to dream up their own stories at all. Give a child a blank sheet of paper and many have no idea where to begin and little enthusiasm for the task.
Yet creative writing remains an integral part of children’s language development (and the National Curriculum) and fostering a love for dreaming up stories, cartoons and characters can make them more likely to persevere with handwriting, spelling and developing the stamina to create longer written compositions. Here are some of our tried and tested favourite apps that use the appeal of the iPad to help inspire wider creativity and practise storytelling.
1. This is My Story (And I’m Sticking To It)
Best for: Ages 2-4
Available on iOS for iPhone and iPad (£1.49)
With bold, bright graphics and a simple drag and drop interface (designed to replicate a sticker book), this is a fun app for getting pre-schoolers engaged in basic story-telling, while improving common word recognition and learning simple sentence structures. Kids create their own variations of a story by dropping items around the verb that is fixed for each page, and then listen to their creations via the playback mode. There’s also a more straightforward matching game mode for very young children. If you are insistent on fostering only the Queen’s English at the home though be warned that this has an American voiceover (and uses Americanisms such as ‘sneaker’).
2. Noisy Neighbours
Developed by Tate Gallery and based on the popular picture book by Ruth Green, this app tells the story of Sid the snail whose noisy animal neighbours won’t let him sleep. But unlike your average animated/narrated story app, children can decide which creatures feature as the story progresses and, best of all, can draw and record sounds for their own characters for Sid to encounter. One of The Guardian’s Best Children’s Apps of 2014, this beautifully illustrated and well designed app was one of the first to take the leap beyond the interactive story app format and allow kids to craft their own unique narrative.
3. Superhero Comic Book Maker
Often overlooked in favour of ‘proper books’, comics can play a great part in improving literacy skills, particularly in reluctant readers or visual learners. Although not text heavy, comics require kids to make logical sense of narratives, absorb and assimiliate both text and visual prompts concurrently and introduce concepts of character development and story arcs as books do. This app, from the always excellent Duck Duck Moose developers, allows kids to create their own graphic rich, animated cartoon-style stories.
It is simple and intuitive to use, but is packed with features and seemingly endless characters and scenes to animate, as well as colouring pages. There isn’t much reading or writing to be had here – kids record the dialogue to be added to the final animated sequence – but there is plenty to stimulate creativity, plot and character development. Parents with younger kids should also check out the excellent Draw and Tell from the same developers.
Got Older Kids? For those with kids 8+ who want to get a bit more stuck into cartoon creativity, check out Comic Life 3 (£1.49 for iPhone/iPad, with a desktop version available for £10.49) or Strip Designer (£2.29 for iPhone/iPad), both of which are loaded with editing features to turn their own photographs (or other images from around the internet) into super-slick comics.
4. Rory’s Story Cubes
We are huge fans of the original, award-winning dice game from The Creativity Hub and, as with the dice, the beauty of this app is its simplicity and open-ended nature. Kids shake the device to roll the dice, each of which has a simple picture on it, and the aim is to tell a story that encompasses all of the items. There are no ‘rules’ (and no winners or losers) so the game can be played however you want – individually or in a team, with time limits, or even to practice a foreign language.
It’s possible to reduce the number of dice in play, and re-roll individual die. The basic app comes with the original cubes and the new Clue set, but further dice sets, such as intergalactic, pre-historic and voyages, are available as in-app purchases. A particularly good option for playing on the move as there’s no risk of lost dice (only lost smartphones).
Kate Douglas-Hamilton is Mr Fox co-founder. A recovering lawyer, she now writes about food, art and kids technology. She has one son, aged 4. Find her on Twitter @katedh.