Running a close third after sugary snacks and lack of exercise, tablet screen time is often vilified as an unhealthy way for children to occupy themselves. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend a diet of Candy Crush there are some great educational apps out there which will inspire toddlers to teens (or failing that, lock the little darlings out of the iPad for a bit with the Our Pact app.)
Duolingo (teens – adult)
Considered to be one of the best free language-learning apps you can find, Duolingo provide an easy and rather addictive way to get to grips with a new language. With a good balance between translation, listening, matching, and speaking exercises it beats copying verb endings from a blackboard any day.
Developed by Brian Eno no less, this app is part instrument, part composition and part artwork. By simply tapping the screen Bloom’s innovative controls allow even the youngest children to create elaborate patterns and unique melodies which continue to generate and evolve even when the app is idle.
Scratch Jr (age 5-8)
Inspiring a new generation of would-be programmers, Scratch Jr introduces children to basic coding through a simple drag and drop interface. It provides a rich learning experience for children to build games, make short films and animations. It’s also lot less messy than finger painting or paper mache.
Operation Math (age 5-12)
Can maths ever be fun? Not sure, but Operation Math gives it a good go with its excellent spy game. The player is a secret agent in a race against time to solve maths questions and save the day. Completing missions gains the player bonus spy kits, which keeps the learning entertaining and rewarding.
Brushes (teens – adult)
I was tempted to recommend Pokemon Go (for providing some interesting information about landmarks I’d never spotted before) but instead I’ve gone arty with Brushes. David Hockney is a fan apparently; no doubt he likes the easy interface which makes painting smooth and responsive and the function to record every step in his hi-res masterpieces.