Article: Role play – kids apps to help kids process a new situation with play

Kids learn best through play and explaining what they are seeing and doing. Recently, every time I turn on the television news or tune in to the local radio, I am prompted things that I know I do not want my child to see or things that I might consider to be scary for them.  Research has shown that children learn best through play — and playing out situations via role play can help them to better process and understand them.  With the recent Hurricane Harvey here in the United States – there has been a lot of news on the television and radio that is overwhelming.  As such, I started thinking about some of my favorite apps that would help kids in these situations. Helping children process traumatic events they seen in the news such as the recent Hurricane Harvey and other frightening news, can be overwhelming.  Many children learn better with play therapy.  Below are a few apps that involve role play, social stories and more to help them process difficult situations as well as explore new situations.   Below is a list of some of my favorites.

Kids learn differently than adults.  Introducing a new situation can be hard.  One of the biggest things I struggle with as a parent is helping my kids understand a new situation.  Helping my kids prepare for new experiences can be overwhelming as.    One of my favorite thing about the MyPlayhome apps is that there are no rules – kids can play and role play while narrating what they are doing.  I love to see all the different games that my toddler comes up with or see my son talking about an upcoming doctors appointment using MyPlayhome Hospital.  Using Social Stories like Kid in the Storybook maker can help kids better understand a new situation.  Dr. Panda has a series of role play apps including firefighters, daycare, school bus and more.  .

My PlayHomeShimon Young is a genius. Shimon is the developer of the universal My PlayHome app and has managed to find a way to keep my iToddler (2.5) entertained for more than just a few minutes. Not an easy task. My PlayHome brings the dollhouse into the digital age by offering an entire virtual home, complete with an adorable family of five that kids can explore and interact with. Also available on the iPhone (Pocket PlayHome!), this app features beautiful hand-drawn illustrations and realistic sounds associated with each interaction. My PlayHome also has a simple user interface very easy for little fingers to control.  This app caters for 2-8 year olds which is appropriate as it’s simple enough for the younger users to play with yet detailed enough to keep the older kids entertained too.” Quite a comprehensive app but still very easy to use by its intended audience. One of the best kids apps I have come across on the App Store!”  This continues to be a top pick of The iMums for kids of all ages.  Read the full review.


My PlayHome StoresWhen iMum Amanda reviewed the original My PlayHome back in 2011 she described it’s creator Shimon Young as a genius, and I have to agree. After being  installed on our iPads for 2 1/2 years my kids still play with My PlayHome regularly, and there are very few apps that retain their appeal long term like that. So when I told my children there was a new My PlayHome app out, to say they were excited is a definite understatement.  My PlayHome brings the dolls house into the digital age with an entire interactive house and garden to play in, and My PlayHome Stores expands the play by adding four shops to explore and shop in. The app stars the same characters as the original app – there are 3 moms, 3 dads, 3 girls, 3 boys and 3 babies from a variety of ethnicities and you can mix and match them any way you like to create the family in the app. The twist that my children really love (and that I have not seen in any other app) is when the family go shopping in the stores they can walk home with their purchases, and if you own My PlayHome they can take their purchases from the stores back to their home.  Read the full review.

My PlayHome HospitalIn the fantastic tradition of the Playhome Software Company, comes the latest My Playhome app, My Playhome Hospital. Fully integrated with the other My Playhome apps (HomeSchool and Store), this new app allows the player to explore all aspects of the hospital experience. When the app is opened, the child is faced with the view of the hospital and an ambulance. No settings tab, no external options, and no parental tab. The only extra button to press is the Tidy the Hospital wheel, which is a great option. It allows the player to actually erase the previous designs created and start fresh. The home page ambulance can be driven to the school, home or store; linking the other apps (one of my favorite features).  An interactive app that familiarizes children with the workings and people in the hospital setting. Multiple different scenes with many opportunities to interact with the objects and characters on each page.


My PlayHome SchoolOne of the best loved toys of all time are doll houses. It brings hours upon hours of enjoyment to boys and girls alike, and it’s only limitation is a child’s imagination. My PlayHome Software Ltd has brought this enjoyment in the most portable form possible in My PlayHome, My PlayHome Stores, and very recently, My PlayHome School.  While my children and I enjoyed My PlayHome and My PlayHome Stores, My PlayHome School far exceeded our expectations. It has almost everything you could find in an elementary school: a receptionist desk, the principal’s office, a cafeteria, boys and girls restrooms, a science lab, an auditorium, a janitor’s closet, lockers, and of course, classrooms.  Read the full review.



Explaining difficult situations to kids or helping them understand something new is the premise of  Kid in the Storybook maker.  This app allows you to take photos of an upcoming event — be it a doctors appointment, new school or even a vacation and use your own words, photos and voice to describe it to the reader.  I loved using Bluebee Pals with my son when we recently did a social story about his new school.

Kid in Story Book Maker:... iconEnuma, designs assistance and play-based learning apps to empower kids to be independent learners. they have a special interest in producing apps for children with special needs.  LocoMotive Labs is located in Berkeley, California and was founded in 2012, its design team includes many of the team who produced the Injini child development suite. Kid in Story was designed to help parents and therapists easily produce their own stories for children. As children with Autism often respond well to social stories that include them, they wanted to include a way to easily add the child into the story.  Read our full review.

Date Wheel Date Calculator by Creative Algorithms – Review

What we love…

super easy to use date calculator that lets you countdown to dates; figure out when follow up appointments should be and more!

What we’d love to see…

ability to integrate with iOS calendar; calculate by years as a countdown


Overall this is an easy to use date app which helps you calculate the time from period in a variety of ways.  It does include a “rate this app” in iTunes link but because it’s primarily for parent’s this isn’t a problem.

Our Rating

Date Wheel date calculator  Date Wheel by Creative Algorithms is a great app that lets you calculate from one date to another using business days, weeks, months and regular days.  It has made scheduling my life as a mom so much easier.  The app is very straightforward and easy to use and it easily calculates date duration without complicated math or even having to look at a calendar!   How many times have you stood looking at a calendar trying to figure out when you need to follow up with your kids doctor or schedule your next haircut?  Other apps by Creative Algorithms include Recipe Manager which I love to use near the holidays.

To use the app, first you click on the start date – this can be a date you can enter or you can click the button for “today”. From there you set the duration and pick the type of duration it is ranging from months, weeks, days or business days. The app will fill in the end date for you at the bottom.  Alternatively, you can fill in the start date and end date and it will tell you the duration in between – we used this as part of a back to school countdown for my kids. I can tell you how many times I have stood at the counter of my kids doctors waiting for them to schedule a follow up appointment in X weeks.  Schedulers will often say the doctor has availability at X and I usually took it at face value because I wasn’t doing the calculating at the moment – now with a quick date entry I can figure out the number of weeks and if the date is in the ballpark.  We also used the app to count down to the solar eclipse that recently occurred near us.

iPhone Screenshot 4I really like how easy the app is to use – and the flexibility of the app.  Being able to calculate by months, weeks and days is how I normally use it the app.  You can also use it for project planning as well.  At the bottom you can save and have a number of date trackers running all at the same time should you be using it to track milestones or you can simply use it and not save it.

My son used it this summer to track the number of days he had left in his summer reading program.  He also used it to count down to the end of the summer and plan for us to buy school supplies.  You can easily enable or disable sound as well as have the end date included.  You can also easily keep track of calculations by clicking hte list in the lower right hand corner.  Other ideas include: when to schedule your next dental cleaning or haircut; count down to important days; and even calculate when an item will arrive.  I also like the lock function so you can lock things like the start date, duration and end date.

In terms of improvements, I would like to be able to calculate by years in a future update.  Another would be integration with the iOS or Android calendar to remind me that I need to do x task in the future.

Overall this is an easy to use date app. It does include a “rate this app” in iTunes link but because it’s primarily for parent’s this isn’t a problem.  Under the “i” there are online links including Facebook, Twitter and various contact me items.   If you want to try before you buy, you can test it on the web.  You can also check out some other great productivity apps on our site!

Date Wheel date calculator Date Wheel date calculator by Creative Algorithms

Price: $2.99 USD

Date Wheel™ is an award-winning date calculator that calculates time between two dates in months, weeks, days, & business days. ● Save calculations for future reference. ● Countdown to an important.

Grandma’s Beach Fun by Fairlady Media – Review

What we love…

fun beach themed app with seven mini games and two interactive mini games which have kids learning and having fun all at the same time!

What we’d love to see…

beachball themed activity, naming of objects in the sand art or even storytime at the beach


Overall, this is a fun beach themed app which is great for the summer or perhaps even a snowy day when kids are wishing for a nice sunny day.  It has good educational content which has kids learning and having fun at the same time.  Best for preschool or early elementary school ages.

Our Rating

Grandma's Beach FunGrandma’s Beach Fun by Fairlady Media is a fun new beach themed app which has you joining Grandma and Grandpa on a trip to the beach – sans the sand in your car on the way home!  The app has seven educational games ranging from: find the beach gear, beach art, word rhyming, umbrella matching (fun twist on typical picture matching), math (shake the coconut trees to add numbers up to 12), word find (beach themed!) and my kids favorite tide pool critters.  This app, aimed at the preschool and early elementary age children includes math; literacy via reading, spelling, rhyming; water sports, art using beach shells and fireworks.  Skills practiced include fine motor, working memory, cause and effect.

This is a cute app which had a lot of enjoyment for my kids.  Grandma and Grandpa are back again – this time with a great beach themed app – perfect for anytime especially those long car rides during the summer or perhaps a rainy day outside.  There are seven educational games which include: math, literacy, memory, creativity and more as well as videos about beach animals and water sports, make your own fireworks and help Grandpa avoid obstacles while water skiing!  One of my favorite things about Fairlady Media games is the parental control which allows you to turn on and off specific mini games if they are too hard or too easy for your child – this meant that my older son who has mastered the addition and found it “too easy” was still able to enjoy other mini games like the airplane rhyme, waterskiing jump, and even the beach themed crosswords.  My older son enjoyed the waterskiing jump and airplane rhyme the best out of the mini games .  When we packed Grandma’s beach bag we also talked about why each item was important like sunscreen, a towel or even a pail and shovel.  My kids really like this series of apps, although I personally can’t imagine my grandparents going water skiing.  The umbrella matching was a fun twist on a typical memory match game with the umbrella animating to display the item and then the umbrella’s disappearing as the items were matched.   The app interspersed more fun activities like waterskiing, the touch tank and art with harder activities like the word find or math.which kept my son interested.  He liked that you could touch and drag across to highlight the words within the app and as a mom I liked that you could turn the hints on and off.  The fireworks activity was a fun way to cap off the app.

I’d love to see a fun beach ball themed activity – one of my favorites with my kids when we go to the beach is to toss it around.  We also enjoy building sandcastles – similar to the art where we were able to take different objects to make a picture. It would be great if the different objects, like shells or driftwood were named as you made the art.   I’d also love to see a beach themed story of some sort added to the app so kids could either listen or practice reading it.

Overall, this is a fun beach themed app which is great for the summer or perhaps even a snowy day when kids are wishing for a nice sunny day.  It has good educational content which has kids learning and having fun at the same time.  Best for preschool or early elementary school ages.

Grandma's Beach Fun Grandma's Beach Fun by Fairlady Media

Price: $2.99 USD

Join Grandma for fun in the sun! Choose rhyming words to cause airplane acrobatics, match up items under the umbrellas, go waterskiing with Grandpa, solve some coconut math, create crazy beach art, find.

NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.  Links in this review may earn us affiliate income which helps to support The iMums.

Dr. Panda Train by Dr. Panda Games – Review

iPhone Screenshot 2

What we love…

fun train themed app with great sound effects that encourages role play, creative play, counting and more

What we’d love to see…

ability to back the train up, a ticket that displays the passengers destination visually, other methods to power the train or even a subway


Fun train themed app that includes sharing, following directions and more!

Our Rating

Dr. Panda Train All Aboard the latest app from Dr. Panda Games this time with a train theme!  In this fun themed train app your kids serve as conductor and they drive the train and tour one of three landscapes which includes jungle, desert and a beautiful countryside scene.

Within the app, your child can drive the train either from a first person perspective inside the cab or from a distance.  They also can stop and visit the passengers to give them food, snacks, reading material and more.  My son even found some great tech to give the passengers.  Shovel on some coal to stoke the fire and make the train go faster to it’s next destination or simply blow the horn as the countryside goes by.  I liked that my kids could take turns playing with the app or putting passengers on and handing out items to them.  As you complete more of the game you earn extra items to give to the passengers – my kids favorites were of course the tech!    My kids also loved loading the cargo and carrying it from station to station.  While we loaded it we practiced counting or even deciding which item to load first – should we load the jelly beans or the chicken?  What happens if we don’t load any cargo.  I loved their responses which ranged from – “the passengers will be sad” to “will the chicken lay an egg?”  My toddler loved speeding up the train within the app or making it slower which shows cause and effect – although that concept was a bit difficult to explain.  As you get to each station stop, a thought bubble pops up looking for a specific passenger or item to be loaded on the train.  There is a maximum of four passengers, so if you have more, someone extra must exit the train prior to it moving.  Safety first!

As a mom, I loved that there was great role playing – should we be the conductor, the passenger or the person loading the cargo.  Tell me about their job.  What happens if there are too many passengers, how do we decide who gets on?  It was great for storytelling and having my older son describe his actions within the app.  At the station, it was great to unload the cargo and then pass it along to the proper recipients like the pig who wanted the chicken.  Each time you complete a task, you earn additional items to play with in the game which made my kids want to play more and more to see what else they would earn.  There are twelve different train stations throughout.  My son also enjoyed dinging the bell

In terms of enhancements, it would be fun if each passenger had to submit a ticket prior to getting on the train which would get stamped with their destination, currently once they are on the train you can punch the ticket but it does not show the destination.  That way, kids could prepare for which station they are getting off at.  My son also wanted to “back up” the train a few times to go back and look at scenery or to pick up something he might have missed.  I would also love to see other methods for powering the train – perhaps it could be electric and run on above ground power like the T does in Boston or maybe it could run like the subway does with a third rail.  My kids also thought it would be fun if each of the train stops coincided with other Dr. Panda Games like Daycare, Firefighter, Home etc.

There are no in-app purchases and there is a parental gate which requires year of birth.  You can turn off a splash screen which advertises other Dr. Panda apps in the parent area as well as turn on and off music and sound.

Super fun train themed app that kept my toddler enthralled for hours.  He kept finding little secret items and enjoyed loading and off loading the cargo.  Bravo Dr. Panda – or should that be Toot Toot!  Can’t wait to see what else you have planned in the future.

Dr. Panda Train Dr. Panda Train by Dr. Panda Ltd

Price: $3.99 USD

Dr. Panda Train has pulled into the station! Put on your conductor hat and take passengers on a journey full of fun and discovery!

All aboard Dr. Panda Train! Show your passengers.

NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.