Use of an iPad/tablet doesn’t just need to involve watching the screen. You can also use it to develop listening skills which are a crucial element of language development. There are hundreds of sound based apps which could be adapted for a What’s That Sound? game with your child at home and some are adaptable for pretty much any age.
A few suggested free sound effect apps are listed below in categories.
Some ideas for how to play:
- Which picture? Play the sound first, then
show your child the screen and see if they can pick the right picture. Next, swap round and it’s your turn to guess.
- Name that sound! Play the sound and see if your child can name it.
- Where is it? Play the sound of a household object (e.g. tap running) and ask your child to go and find the source of that sound in the house.
- What does it sound like? Play the sound (especially if your child doesn’t know what it is) and try and describe it using as many adjectives as you can.
Animal and transport:
I Hear Ewe is a great store of animal and transport sounds with pictures. Make sure you go to settings to turn off the verbal descriptions! https://appsto.re/gb/sSbis.i
SoundTouchLite is similar to I Hear Ewe and the lite version has animal and transport sounds but you can pay to unlock more. https://appsto.re/gb/hyBRv.i
Animal Sounds Farm Jungle Forest Voices for Kids has a wider range of animal photos rather than cartoons as with the previous two. And a good one for guessing games as the selected picture does not become enlarged when you click on it. https://appsto.re/gb/ekG2db.i
In the Box is a listening game which can be played independently – the child must touch the box and listen to the sound, then guess which animal it corresponds to. A great idea but I got it wrong when asked to identify a giraffe… https://appsto.re/gb/MVOCI.i
Discover Musical Instruments Free is a long time favourite of mine – photos of several different instruments which play a tune when selected. Note: you need to turn the iPad on its side to access the grid with many different instruments displayed. https://appsto.re/gb/Bckey.i
Shake Musics is a great variation on this where you have to shake the iPad to create a sound. https://appsto.re/gb/VJO6G.i
General sound effects:
SoundEffects has a limited free range of human and outdoor sounds and allows you to record a few of your own. (as opposed to Sound Effects which had too many pop up adverts for my liking). https://appsto.re/gb/3Nqxx.i
100 Button Sounds Has a wide range of buttons including church bells, can opening and animal sounds but you do have to put up with quite a few adverts. https://appsto.re/gb/o3rg-.i
www.freesoundeffects.com is a website rather than an app but has hundreds of different sounds such as ‘creaky door’ and ‘footsteps walking on gravel’. Doesn’t have pictures but does have excellent descriptions of sounds e.g. ‘Garbage truck, hissing of hydraulics, clanging of metal’. It might give you some inspiration for talking about the sound that you hear!
We use language in a variety of ways in our everyday lives – to start conversations, to give opinions, to tell jokes, to persuade people to our point of view, to make other people feel better and to criticise something we do not like. Working with all children, especially those who have Autism, it’s important to think about how we are giving them the opportunity to generalise language skills in lots of different practical situations.
There are lots of food and cookery based apps available. Here are some ideas for how to use them to support meaningful language skills.
Giving instructions to others with Toca Kitchen Monsters (free). A lovely app for giving simple instructions to direct others. Take turns to choose an action e.g. “boil the broccoli”, “fry the steak”, “blend the lemon.” At a basic level, you can encourage the child to give one word instructions e.g. the type of food (e.g. tomato/mushroom/sausage) or the cooking process (e.g. blend/boil/fry/chop). This could work as a paired or group activity.
Teaching someone what to do with Cake Doodle (£0.79). Similar to above but emphasising the skill of giving coherent instructions step by step. The ability to describe steps in a logical way form a key foundation skill for developing narrative. The child can ask what type of cake you would like to make and then tell you all the steps for what to do e.g. “first you squash the banana, then break the egg, then pour the sauce.” Alternatively, make the cake first and ask the child to tell you what they did.
Finding out what someone would like to eat or drink is a basic social skill. In Toca Tea party, you can set the place for three people and encourage the child to ask others what they would like to eat and drink. Chosen drinks and food can be dragged into the correct place.
Photos (especially those taken on the spot) always seem to be an successful resource for communicating with children. It might have something to do with the way that the child can be engaged with the creation of the activity, as well as starring in the results.
I recently wrote a blog on using iPad videos and photos to support language development without the need for any apps. Here are some more ideas for home which involve photo editing apps or apps into which you can insert photos.
A great way of editing photos with speech bubbles, text and colour. This is a creative way of looking at photos of an outing or holiday. If you have photos saved in the photos section of your iPad, it makes it very easy to edit.
You can choose a few photos to make into a grid or choose to work with one at a time. Talk about the pictures by guessing what people in the photos were saying or decide what title to give each picture.
Doodle cast (£1.99)
A lovely app where you can annotate photos which you take on the spot. Start recording and draw pictures on the photo. Then play back the video of it happening.
A lovely one for taking turns to give each other instructions e.g. ‘Draw a blue hat on my head’.
Also try talking back over the video using basic sequence e.g. ‘first, I drew the hat and then I added some red shoes’
Pho.to lab (free)
A range of professional looking special effects for photos including magazine covers, montages and interesting backgrounds. Insert a photo of you or your child into the app and choose a design. You could invent a story around it e.g. ‘how I came to be on the cover of Vogue’ or ‘why my photo is on a £10 note’.
You need a wifi connection while using this one.
Abricot jigsaws (free) – making a photo into a jigsaw. See earlier blog.
Shadow Puppet (free). There are a number of story telling apps for which photos can form a central focus – see my earlier blog on story telling with your child.
One that I’ve recently found is Shadow Puppet. It’s very easy to move between photos and talk about them rather than having to record an individual message for each photograph. For example, I created a mini video about a trip to see the book benches in London by flicking through the photos and recording a voiceover narrative at the same time. Very user friendly.
General tips for using photos:
- Whenever the app asks you whether you will allow access to photo library, say ‘yes’. You will sometimes need to change the privacy settings under settings/general if this is not set up.
Narrative skills are an essential part of children’s language development. Young children learn to structure stories and put events in sequence by talking about things they have done and seen. These skills support their ability to create their own imaginative stories as their talking develops.
Below are some ideas for (mostly) free apps which you can use to support your child’s narrative and story telling skills from a very early language stage onwards. Some of them allow you to record a story bit by bit and play it back at the end and others provide visual prompts to help you let your imagination run wild!
How to use: This app can help develop a child’s story telling skills by supporting them to retell stories of things that have happened. Whenever you are having an exciting day out or doing something interesting at home, think about taking photos/videos on the iPad and creating a story about it afterwards. Make up a story when you get back and tell another family member about what you saw or play them your recording.
- Click on the + and Add New Story.
- Give the story a name and add a photo for the front cover.
- Click on Add new page symbol to add new pictures to the story.
- Click on the microphone picture to add a recording.
How to use: This is a wordless picture book to encourage you and your child to make up a story yourselves.
- Click on Create and choose one of the two free stories available.
- You can either fill in your name and take a photo first, or just go to Quiet Read to start the story.
- Talk about what is happening and swipe left to move between pages.
- Read the story again and again and use new words each time!
Story Time Sounds
How to use: This is a great resource of sound effects which you can incorporate into your stories. A motivating resource for story telling and a few prompts to help develop the plot…
- Choose a category e.g. Space, Lost World etc.
- Choose a sound to mark the beginning of your story.
- Take turns to choose a sound and say what is happening next using that sound!
Cost: free for basic version/ £1.99 to add your own photos
How to use: You can use this app to make up a story about you, your child and fictional characters at the same time. You can record the story while moving the characters around on the screen.
- Either choose ‘actors’ from the menu or click on ‘Add actor from photo.’
- Choose a background scene (you can also Add backdrop from photo).
- Use the scale in the bottom left hand corner to make the picture fill the screen and move the characters about.
- Click the red button to record a story and save to the iPad using the disk symbol.
Suggestions for activities:
- Take photos of you, your child and your home. Create a movie about something you have been doing that week.
- Make a short movie to show your child and then let them do the talking.
- Make up a story using photos of your child’s favourite toys.
- Dress up and take photos of yourselves, then make them into a movie that you can show other people.
How to use: This ‘Spin the Wheel’ app allows you to record a story and helps you decide on a character to talk about next. You can use this app as a tool for creating stories with more than one person.
- Click on Create a Story. You will need to fill in your names before you continue.
- Select a theme from Pirates, Story Teller, Knights and Princesses etc.
- The first person spins the wheel to show a character.
- Record a short sentence or two about this character as the first part of the story.
- Press Next Player and spin again.
- When you have completed creating a story, press Done
- Say Yes to saving and then Listen to Story.
Below are three ideas to get you started at home:
Making a movie (Using language to make plans)
- Plan the shooting of a short ‘movie’ together using the iPad video function
- Talk about Who will be in the movie, What they will be doing and Where it will take place
- The movie can be anything from a short video of your child singing a song or jumping on a trampoline, to an acted out sequence. It doesn’t need to involve any words – it’s the planning that can inspire discussion!
Do and Tell (Using language to give instructions)
- Choose an activity to do together e.g. making a collage, building a tower or baking a cake.
- Take several photos on the iPad which break down the activity into several clear stages and talk about it as you go. Save the photos in a folder with the name of the activity.
- A few hours, days or even weeks later, ask your child to tell another family member how to do it using the photos as a prompt.
The emphasis in this activity is that your child is using their language to tell someone else how to do something but the photos give them a visual prompt and help them describe the steps in the sequence.
What is it? (Using language to problem-solve)
- Take turns to take a photo of something difficult to identify in your house: the underneath of the kitchen table, the inside of a vase or behind a door. The more obscure the better!
- The other person asks questions to help them guess what it might be.
Bizarre situations are brilliant for inspiring conversation among children so I had a look for apps which incorporate this kind of theme. Flip flap farm (£0.99) is an app which tells you what would happen if a number of farm animals were combined with others e.g. a pig + mouse is a Pouse and a goat + turkey is a Gurkey. As well as the whimsical aspect of it, the emphasis on making up words and word play is another great way to develop language skills.
You can swipe both the top and bottom halves of the animal to create a new creature. There’s a poem to go with it but there’s also a ‘read by myself’ setting which might work better if you’re trying to talk about it together with your child. After you’ve shown your child a few different examples, try and pick two animals and guess what the combined word is going to be. Encourage your child to play around with the word and have fun coming up with weird and outlandish ideas.
Another similar app is Herd Absurd (free) which allows you to blend three different animals into one but doesn’t give them a name like in Flip Flap Farm. See if you can concoct some words yourselves!
Look out for other apps which create ridiculous pictures or scenarios – they will always give you something to talk about!