My husband gave me an iPad mini for Christmas several years ago, and the first apps I downloaded to it were games in French for my four-year-old. That daughter is now seven, and she and her four-year-old brother love any opportunity to play on our iPad. They only get iPad time once or twice per month for an hour or so, but of course they can't take their eyes off it when they get the chance to play these games! The following are their top five favorite French game apps. These apps are designed for children who already have a decent grasp of French, though four of these apps are available in English as noted. (The prices are listed in dollars but will be in Euros if you buy from the French iTunes store.)
4-7 years; free download of 1st game; additional in-app purchase of $3.99 unlocks 3 more games.
Hands down, this is my children's favorite French game app. It's pure entertainment--it follows Polo the dog through his other-worldly adventures, interacting with musical toys and overcoming physical challenges (like undersea diving and cloud jumping) along the way. Be forewarned, though--there is no audible dialogue or written script; this is really only a "French" app because Bayard Presse based it on the wordless graphic adventure books by French illustrator Régis Faller. (You may find them at your local library!) Because Les Mondes de Polo is a skill game and isn't an educational app in a strict sense, I initially discouraged my children from playing this game very often, but it's creativity and simplicity have won me over.
4-8 years (younger children will enjoy the story but will need help with some portions); $5.99.
Gallimard Jeunesse makes some amazing apps, and while we love many of them, Jacques is the one my children play the most. Like Gallimard's other fairy-tale based games like Cendrillon, this one takes readers through a comical, skill-challenging version of each stage of the story, and there are plenty of skill games along the way. Players have a choice of listening to the narrative dialogue while playing or simply playing and reading silently, but the characters always speak aloud, often with speech bubbles, so the spoken and written French content is very high.
French publisher Nathan created this series of three apps to help French children work on math, reading, and writing skills through amusing activities. Skill-building activities help children recognize vowel sounds in French words, count and match quantities, recognize and match printed words, and trace (in the grande section app) cursive letters with their finger. Though the activities are brief and simple, they are also fairly challenging for the target age group. My 4-year-old son enjoys both the PS and MS apps.
6-8 years; 3 scenes free; in-app purchases: $3.99 per complete subject pack, or $14.99 for all 5 packs.
Dokéo is an interactive encyclopedia divided into 5 subject packs (nature, history, the human body, the modern world, the earth & the universe); each pack contains 9 different interactive scenes that can be explored through touch-animated images and educational narration. The main interactive game mode in each scene can be switched to quiz mode to test what players have learned. I like the high amount of facts given through spoken French here, but there is no writing or reading involved, so younger players with a good grasp of the language could enjoy this just as well. I initially purchased two packs and have now bought 4 of the 5 packs because of the decent span of educational content.
6-8 years; free 1st game; in-app purchases of additional 3 games for $5.49.
Jeux pour lire purports to help children learn to read with a theme of amusement-park style games that focus on syllable recognition. This is a simple app with four basic levels; the lowest level has the player select all the objects whose name contain a given phoneme (such as "TA"), while the highest level requires the player to form a word by putting three scrambled phonemes in order (such as "PY," "JA," & "MA"). For the price, there's not a lot in this app, but my son loves the themed games enough to play it even when he doesn't yet understand the concepts. It's not going to teach him to read, but it may help him develop a stronger concept of phonics while having fun in the meantime.
We have several other French educational apps that are worth mentioning, but I'll save those for another post. If your child has a French game app that he or she enjoys, do tell me about it in a comment!
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