If you’re looking for some open ended apps that foster creativity and imagination, you’ve come to the right place! If you’re tired of games that are all about winning and losing, competition, and points, look no further! Yes, these are the games my children between the ages of 5-8 have enjoyed, but many of these are really great for all ages…even adults!
1. Monument Valley ($3.99)
This plays like an intricate, moving, 3D puzzle where you have to go from one level to the next guiding your little figure through whimsical architecture and hidden pathways that must be unlocked.
There is just something magical about this game. I love watching my children play this, and they can get lost in it for a long long time. Each movement is beautiful and the music and sounds are peaceful and tranquil. The problem solving necessary isn’t overwhelming, but just challenging enough to make it satisfying.
2. Easy Music ($3.99)
Just like learning to speak, learning to read, and learning how to do math, there is a logical progression to learning music. This app teaches notes, pitch, rhythm, and melody using beautiful landscapes and peaceful sounds. In one section, you can practice these music skills and in another you can make and record your own musical ensembles.
As soon as I introduced this game to Ruby (6) and Elliot (5), they were completely hooked. Elliot LOVES music and immediately began creating intricate melodies and beats focusing on melody and rhythm. Ruby explored it more tentatively, learning and testing things out with careful thought and planning.
3. Sago Mini Doodlecast ($2.99)
It all starts with a simple drawing prompt, like a pair of eyes or some icicles (or you can start from scratch). The app records the entire drawing process, including everything you say, and then you can watch them back! This is a great way for children to express themselves through both art and conversation. *Only available on iOS devices.
When I introduced this to Ruby (6), she disappeared for like two hours, reemerged to get her brother, Elliot (5), this app on his iPad, and then they both disappeared again for what seemed like forever!
4. Colorfy (Free, in-app purchases)
This is actually an adult coloring app, but my 6 year old daughter LOVES it. It keeps her busy for hours as she zooms in to color intricate pictures in the categories of: florals, animals, famous, messages, cats, gardens, patterns, mandalas, oriental, exotic, places, zodiacs, special dates, there’s even a way to create your own!
There are a certain number of free templates in each category that would certainly keep a little one busy, but you can buy a membership as well, but that can get pretty pricey ($2.99/week, $7.99/month or $39.99/year). You can do a trial version for 7 days, however, to see if a paid subscription would be worth it.
5. Pixie 4 ($9.99)
Pixie 4 is a really great drawing tool for kids that is super simple and easy to use. All options can be chosen using easily understandable graphic icons, and reading is not really required. You can choose different writing tools, thicknesses, and colors. There’s shape icons that you can use to make word bubbles, a really cool symmetry feature where you can make really cool designs, text boxes that you can use to write, a huge library with a variety of backgrounds and stickers. You can also easily import images from a Google image search (just copy and paste). The possibilities are really endless.
That being said, I’m a much bigger fan of downloading this onto a desktop computer rather than using it as an app. It costs $19.95 for the home edition or you can free 30 day trial (don’t get the $39.95 academic edition made for school use).
6. Minecraft ($6.99 iOS)
I know that there are plenty of people out there complaining about their kids being addicted to Minecraft, as if this is a bad thing, and I am just not one of those parents. Yes, my 5 year old son Elliot likes to play this game for a ridiculous amount of time, but we work to set reasonable screen time limits, we have a behavior management system in place in our house where our kids listen and respect our rules and limits, and I think this game is an excellent outlet for creative and imaginative play.
Elliot mostly enjoys playing this game in creative mode where he can build to his hearts content without any limits or restrictions and no real threat of dying (unless he jumps into a void). In survival mode, you have an inventory, need to collect items to build things and eat things, and your character has to be in shelter at night or the zombies and creepers will get it. If you want to learn more about Minecraft, check out this very helpful Minecraft wiki. I don’t really know a lot about it except for that my son LOVES it and has no problem navigating it on his own. He also LOVES watching these Pat and Jen videos where you can watch them play Minecraft and talk about it as they’re playing.
There are lots of different ways you can play Minecraft. You can download it and play it on your computer for $26.95 or you can get it for your iOS device for $6.99. There are randomly generated worlds and fewer options, but it’s still a great mobile experience. We have enjoyed both versions equally.
7. Geometry Dash ($1.99)
In this nearly impossible to beat game, you jump and fly through obstacles while some catchy rhythm based music plays in the background, but that’s not the creative part of the game. Using the level editor, you can build and share your own levels. Our 5 year old son, Elliot, LOVES this game!
8. Zen Studio (Free, $1.99 to unlock all templates)
Using a grid divided into triangles, you swipe your finger across either a boundless canvas or guided templates using a variety of colors to make different pictures. Relaxing music accompanies each stroke of the finger.
This is definitely a peaceful, tranquil, and zen like app that allows chubby little fingers to make beautiful pictures and designs using a variety of easy to select colors. (Our 2 year old daughter, Ophelia, loves it!) With the free version, you get a few free templates and for $1.99, you can unlock them all.
9. Bebop Blocks ($2.99)
Adorable little creatures play and sing inside blocks that are built into shapes like trains, elephants, and submarines. Using 12 interactive musical puzzles, you can make unique music by playing and muting blocks. It helps develop problem solving skills, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills. *Only available on iOS devices.
This game is made by the same creators as my favorite Endless Alphabet app (check out these apps and more in my post: Best Teaching Apps for Preschoolers) and it has the same silly, educational, and engaging feel to it. This is kind of like an early version of doing more challenging tangram puzzles like this one for kids with no rotation (free with in-app purchases), or this more challenging one (free with in-app purchases).
By doing some research and helping your children to find games that combine creativity with technology, they won’t get lost in a sea of Candy Crush Saga and other such mindless games. I like to create rules and routines about the use of technology in our home and when they do use it, I like to know that what they are doing is stimulating, engaging, and fun. Every child is different, so by sitting alongside your children, you can help to customize the content they are exposed to based on their interests.