Sir Isaac Newton was pretty smart, but if he had an Apple iPad (instead of just an apple), his laws of physics might have been even more groundbreaking. Fortunately for your kids born centuries later, there are apps to explain gravity, inertia, and other motion-based principles in the universe, instead of just an apocryphal story of fruit falling from the sky. Here are 9 apps that will get your kid’s gears turning by actually getting them to turn some virtual gears.
Tinybop Simple Machines
The app presents the 6 elements of basic mechanics — levers, pulleys, wheel and axles, screws, inclined planes, and wedges — that are used to solve playful little physics puzzles, like cracking open ice boulders with wedges or using levers to lay siege to a castle. You know, typical real-world stuff your kid might have to face some day. And because it’s physics, and physics is hard, the app offers a downloadable companion, the Simple Machines Handbook, to help you better understand what’s going on and explain it to your children. Or perhaps vice versa.
Meet Science: Force And Motion
If you remember high school physics, then you’re probably a physicist. If not, know that force and motion are a big part of it. This app gets your kid pumped about these 2 guiding principles by learning about them from animated animals and flying space ships. Listen, if your professor was a lion or a rocket, you’d probably remember the Law of Conservation today.
Ages: 9 – 11
Sago Mini Toolbox
Sorry Playskool work benches, you’re going to keep everyone warm this winter. This app gives your kid their own virtual toolbox (the kind that won’t put holes in walls or their head) to build unique creations. The characters act like general contractors too; farting in between projects and generally hanging around unless you’re watching them.
The app title refers to the anthropomorphic balls that kids select to begin the game. Their character then rolls through levels, encountering obstacles that are overcome by creatively applying basic physics concepts (e.g. fall off something, bounce, and land on another thing). There’s no scoring, so kids don’t get competitive – just smart.
Ages: 3 – 8
$2.99 (iOS) (Android)
Toca Blocks lets kids build their own world — everything from obstacle courses, tree houses, and trains. In this open sandbox playground, different blocks have different functions. You can think of it like as a preschool version of Minecraft. Whatever they choose, make sure that they outfit it with a toilet. Indoor plumbing is the backbone of a stable society.
Ages: 6 – 8
A Monster Ate My Homework
This excuse never worked in high school for you, and it probably won’t work for your kids, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make for a fun game. The object of the app is to try to knock out polyhedron monsters without knocking over the school books. Who says that you can’t learn a lesson physics lesson and tip over monsters? Nobody. Nobody has ever said that.
Remember Rube Goldberg? No? Remember Mouse Trap? Yes, that would be the game that you never played, you just set it up to put the contraption in motion. That’s this app. Monster Physics is a playground for building these contraptions, providing a massive amount of building block materials such as tiles, propellers, and magnets. The settings are adjustable as your their skills become more advanced, or as your patience becomes less advanced.
Ages: 9 – 11
This app is heavy on the STEM problem solving, using a bunch of gears (spoiler alert: They’re crazy!) to build complex machines. The good news is there’s almost no wrong way to put these things together. Let them go nuts experimenting in every direction to arrive at their own solution. Parents will also be pleased to see there are tons of fun facts and projects to challenge them — but mostly you — along the way.
Ages: 6 – 8
Super Nano Trucks
The game is simple to pick up and play right from the jump, with colorful graphics that are easy to read even if your kid can’t. Pushing the hard hat prompts players to attempt challenges with questions like, “Do you want to help us pick up dirt?” Do I? Picking up said dirt, laying down roads, and completing other tasks earns players hard hats. However, they can also test the law of inertia by driving around crashing into things and dumping giant rocks everywhere. Sure the forewoman will be pissed, but your kid is on his coffee break.
Ages: 3 – 8