Four years ago, I began to review educational apps in an attempt to help Beijing families locate quality apps for their children. I uncovered many hidden gems, often produced by parents who felt frustration at the lack of available educational content for iPads and other mobile devices. Unfortunately most of the creative independent app developers whose apps I reviewed have given up on the business because it is so difficult to make a great app and get it successfully into the hands of enough children.
Fortunately for parents seeking apps that help kids improve letter recognition, penmanship, and spelling, L’Escapadou is still creating fun, Montessori-inspired learning tools to help kids begin to master the essentials of reading, writing, and even arithmetic.
At first glance, the award-winning Writing Wizard is deceivingly simple. When I handed it to my three testers at the back of a school bus, (a boy and two girls ranging in ages from 6-9). They all said it was too simple for them. Despite this, they didn’t want to put it down. Writing Wizard helps children learn to recognize and write letters accurately. Once they have mastered letters, kids can go on to three-letter words or you can create your own customizable word lists. There is also a “5 Stars” mode that requires kids complete the task five times as it becomes progressively more difficult; eventually the trace outline disappears. In both free and 5 Stars mode, after each successful completion of a task, kids (or parents when the kids are not looking) get a chance to interact with a visual and auditory reward. It is so effective, that older kids are willing to practice penmanship just to have a go at it.
My test subjects quickly deduced that the app would be more age appropriate for them if it were for cursive writing. That’s when I sprung a copy of Cursive Writing Wizard on them. For the rest of the journey, they refused to put down the iPad as each student eagerly waited for their turn to “test” the app.
With both writing apps, it is best for the parent or teacher to go into the settings and customize things for each child with respect to difficulty, font size, and word lists (you can even record audio for each word). In return, there is a parent section where adults can see reports of how the kids have been doing. Both apps allow for tracing with a finger, but eventually it is a good idea to purchase a stylus so that the experience feels like writing with a pen or pencil.
Writing Wizard won the 2014 Editor’s Choice award For Excellence in Design from the Children’s Technology Review. Thankfully, there are no add-ons or links to take kids away from learning. The app is rated for ages 4+ and is available for $2.99 for the iPad and iPhone at the App Store.
Cursive Writing Wizard is made for ages 6-8 and is available for USD3.99 for the iPad and iPhone at the App Store.
I strongly suggest parents also check out L’Escapadou’s other award-winning titles: Montessori Crosswords (also available on Android), Monessori Numbers, and Word Wizard. All of these great apps have been designed and developed by a husband and wife team working together to help educate their own children and kids around the globe.