Saturday, February 21, 2015

Updated: Sarah's Top 10 (now 15) Basic Concept Apps

Basic concepts are crucial building blocks for vocabulary development and following directions. Preschool and early elementary students are expected to respond to adult directed questions and requests. Basic opposite concepts are embedded in most of these directions like "Stay behind the line" or "Put that on the bottom shelf." Kids also need to learn to use these concepts expressively to describe and ask/answer questions.

As an SLP, I help children develop and understand this type of vocabulary through structured play, highlighting them during everyday classroom activities and, of course, by using apps. Below are 10 (now 15) of my favorite apps to target basic concepts. If you'd like to download any of these apps, please support Smart Apps for Special Needs by using the links provided.

1.  Opposites 1 & 2 by My First Apps

I'm a fan of all the My First AppsOpposites 1 is designed for children 2 1/2+ and features 30 basic concepts pairs. Opposites 2 is designed for ages 3+ and features another 30 pairs of opposite concepts. In each of these apps you get 2 boards for free with 5 opposite pairs on each board. Ten other boards can be unlocked through an in-app purchase for $2.99. The goal of each board is to match the opposites by dragging them to the boxes in the center. The written word pops up when you drag a picture into a box and you can use the record feature to add the word verbally. I have my students record the words for each concept themselves before we play the matching game.

Opposites 1 (iPhone/iPad, Free/full version $2.99)

Opposites 2 (iPad only, Free/full version $2.99)

2. The Opposites by MindShapes Limited

This app is recommended for children seven and up. It starts out with easy opposite pairs and gradually increases in difficulty. Perfect for children working on higher level language processing and general vocabulary skills. Featuring 10 levels, bonus rounds and reward medals, this app makes vocabulary development fun and challenging.

iPhone/iPad, $0.99

3.  Caveman Time Machine by Super Duper Publications

Kenny the Caveman can travel in his time machine to 3 different time periods: Ancient Egypt, The Old West and The Future. There are 15 animated scenes (5 per time period) to explore, reinforcing 54 basic concepts. The same concepts are presented in each time period, but in different ways which helps with generalization. Hidden animations encourage children to experiment. There are 3 concept quizzes to assess understanding of the concepts presented. The results can be printed or e-mailed, but only one student can be assessed at a time. This is a favorite of mine, because it can be used for the discussion and teaching of the skills, but also as an assessment tool.

iPad only, $4.99

4. Splingo's Language Universe by The Speech and Language Store LLC

Help Splingo get home to her planet by following directions including basic opposite concepts. This app addresses basic concepts within 1-4 step directions. Games can be customized to the level your child is working at. It features a progressive reward system that kids will love. Developed by an SLP and a teacher, Splingo can be used to address a variety of language targets including basic concepts which makes it well worth it's $2.99 price tag.

iPhone/iPad, $2.99

5.  Magical Concepts by Virtual Speech Center Inc.

This app is a little more expensive, but it has wonderful data collection features, tracks multiple students at a time, and can be used with older children too. It targets 60 different concepts including temporal, spatial, quantity, quality and social-emotional. You can select "all" or specifically pick which concepts you want to work on for each student. Students work toward a magic show reward and you can adjust the number of questions that need to be completed to earn the reward. This is a comprehensive basic concept app with excellent customization features.

iPhone/iPad, $9.99

6.  Let's Do Basic Concepts by Kids Can Talk, LLC

Designed for children ages 2-6, this app presents 22 basic concepts through a game with receptive identification and following direction tasks.  It also features 7 children's songs.  Teaching concepts through music is fun, and it allows my students to "act out" the vocabulary they are learning. Chez the Monkey is an adorable character who will cheer on your child as they play. 

iPad only, $4.99

7.   Kids Learning - Photo Touch Concepts by Innovative Investments Limited

Kids Learning app features over a 1000 different pictures covering a HUGE variety of basic concepts. It covers temporal, spatial, descriptive vocabulary and more. You can choose to target a few specific concepts at a time or mix them all together. Customization features allow for the audio reinforcers to be recorded with a parent or friend's voice to make it more motivating. The interface of the app is very simple, making it ideal for very young users, but the varied content makes it appropriate to use with older children too.  

iPhone/iPad, $0.99

8.  Comparative Adjectives by Innovative Investments Limited

Ready to take your basic concept work to the next level? Challenge your kids with this app. The interface is similar to Kids Learning - Photo Touch Concepts with great quality photographs and the ability to select specific targets. Instead of identifying between 2 opposite concepts like big/little or old/young, children will have to determine which animal is bigger or which dog is older. In settings, you can customize the error and success sounds or turn off/on a hint. This is a great app for working on basic concepts and describing skills.  

iPhone/iPad, FREE

9.  Opposite Day by Synapse Apps, LLC

This app was developed by an SLP and organizes the basic concepts into 4 groups: nouns, verbs, prepositions, and adjectives.  There are over 150 comic book-like illustrations and solid data collection features available.   I like that you can browse through and discuss the concepts receptively and expressively or quiz students to check for understanding.  Concepts can be presented in both English and Spanish which makes it great for bilingual students.

iPhone/iPad, $1.99

10. Opposites - A Montessori Pre-Language Exercise by Rantek Inc.

This app presents 30 different opposite concepts side by side through photographs or illustrations. The pictures appear in a sort of film strip across the top of the screen. The opposite words are printed underneath and you must press the red button to retrieve the corresponding picture. The yellow button presents each word verbally. Children can explore the concepts on their own or you can have them guess which picture is needed. You receive one set of words for $2.99 with the option to purchase 2 other sets through an in-app purchase. Personally, I'd like to see all the words available for one price, but this app is well developed and useful.

iPad only, $1.99

11.  Preschool Game - Photo Touch Opposites by Innovative Investments Limited

Uses real, quality photographs to teach over 25 sets of basic opposite concepts. Customization features allow you to add your own voice or a child's voice and even your own pictures to make the game more personal and motivating. Great for ELL students as you can edit any picture to practice in another language. Despite the name, I like that this app can be used with a wide age range of students. It makes it more than worth the tiny price tag.

iPhone/iPad, $0.99

12.  Cricket Kids: Opposites by SlimCricket

Designed for children under seven, these adorable little bugs demonstrate the relationships between two concepts with adorable interactive features. Rated a solid 4 stars by Heather in this review, Cricket Kids: Opposites teaches basic vocabulary and concepts with humor and whimsy. Features 15 interactive pages, 13 games and is available in six languages. The original music can be turned on/off and there is a quiz at the end to assess what your child has learned.

iPhone/iPad, $1.99

13.  Peepers: I Say...You Say by Once Upon an App

My students can't stop giggling during this app based on the book, "I say... You say: A Zany Peep at Opposites" by Sandy Pugh. These crazy birds teach concepts in a creative and fun way. This app is great for working on riddles, describing and inferencing as well as basic concepts. Want to learn more about these silly Peepers? Check our Sandy Pugh's website at

iPhone/iPad, $1.99

14.  Autism iHelp - Opposites by John Talavera

This is part of a a series of apps developed by parents of a child with Autism and a speech-language pathologist. Features real-life photographs with a choice of practice or game play. Settings can be adjusted under "options" to best meet the needs of your child. It also has a progress report to help see a child's progression. One set of concepts is available for free and the three additional sets can be unlocked through in-app purchase.

iPhone/iPad, Free (full verson $2.99)

15.  Basic Concept Skills Screener by Smarty Ears

If you are looking for a quick and easy to administer assessment of basic readiness skills, look no further. Given our highest rating of 5 stars here, this screener assesses knowledge of spatial, quantitative, comparative and temporal concepts. Features a quick or full version and can be used with preschool children through early elementary school.

iPad only, $24.99

We'd love to hear from you! Tell us about your favorite apps to work on basic concepts.


Sarah rarely wears socks during the day (even when it's freezing), but absolutely cannot fall asleep without them. How's that for an opposite?

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